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From notes to a paragraph

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This guide looks at how to organise the information you have collected into well-constructed paragraphs.

To start with, let’s say that you’ve got the following essay question:

Tourism is overwhelmingly beneficial to a country’s development. Choose one specific country and discuss to what extent you think this statement is true.


You’ve decided that you’re going to tackle the question by first describing how much tourists spend on holidays to the Cook Islands as shown below:
Introduction arrow Paragraph 1

the tourist expenditure
arrow Paragraph on the money not going to locals arrow Paragraph on social problems with tourism arrow Paragraph on environmental problems with tourism arrow Etc
You’ve also collected the following information from your sources:

Source: Tourism Council of the South Pacific

Reasons why tourists visit the Cook Islands (1991) (with %)

Type of Activity %
Beach 35
Natural Scenery 27
Entertainment 19
Folklore and Cultural Experiences 17

Source: Myles (2004)

Total amount of tourist expenditure (% of total expenditure)

Amount Spent %
Accommodation 50
Restaurants and bars 20
Transport and Tours 20
Entertainment 10

Based on: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=10588

Your first job is to decide on a position that this data above will support. For example, the question is asking how much you agree with the statement that tourism is beneficial, and this information is showing you that tourism might be beneficial to the Cook Islands. We can therefore create a sentence that gives direction to Paragraph One. For example:

Turning first to the economic benefits of tourism, we can see that in the case of the Cook Islands, there is a variety of sources of income from tourist receipts.

This sentence (partly) answers the essay question. However, the sentence is a statement about the benefits of tourism without any support. To support the statement sentence, we need to be able to give evidence or explain it, so we’re going to bring in the information you collected, as shown below:

Paragraph One

(1) Turning first to the economic benefits of tourism, we can see that in the case of the Cook Islands, there is a variety of sources of income from tourist receipts.
Statement The first sentence:

Gives the direction of the paragraph.
(2) According to a 1991 visitor survey (Tourism Council of the South Pacific, 1991), after beach activities and natural scenery (62%), visitors to the Cook Islands are looking for entertainment and folklore and cultural experiences (37%). Support The second sentence:

Gives information about what people do on holiday in the Cook Islands.
(3) Tourists contribute to the local economy by spending money on travel to and around the country, as well as on accommodation, food, entertainment and souvenirs. The third sentence:

Discusses that tourists spend money when they do these activities.
(4) Myles (2004), for example, found that close to 70% of total tourist expenditure was on accommodation, restaurants and bars, with a further 16% on transport, tours and entertainment. The fourth sentence: 

Gives evidence about how much they spend.
(5) Tourists are thus helping to create jobs which are based on making them feel welcome and at the same time they put cash into the economy directly by paying for services. Final sentence:

Gives a conclusion that partly answers the question in terms of the topic of Paragraph One.

Source: Based on http://www.victoria.ac.nz/llc/llc_resources/academic-writing/sample-essay.html Reproduced with permission from the author.

So the process for constructing this paragraph was:

Decide your position for the topic of that paragraph (based on your notes)
Start by putting forward your position statement
Support your statement with more explanation and evidence (from your notes).

Summary

In this guide we have seen how you can use a collection of notes and data on a particular aspect of your answer to create a good paragraph. You might now want to practise these steps for an essay you are actually working on:

  • Identify what the topic of the paragraph is,
  • Decide your position on that topic (based on the evidence from your notes).
  • Start with a clear first sentence that sets out the direction of the paragraph.
  • Support this statement with more explanation and evidence (from your notes).

Also, work through the next guide on Developing a critical argument very carefully. This guide looks more closely at constructing paragraphs which express an argument. This skill is extremely important because most academic writing expects you to express your own arguments based on clear analysis and interpretation of evidence. This is a key critical skill you will develop throughout your degree.

For more background on the critical approach expected at university, see Developing your critical skills.

For more general guidance on organising your essay into paragraphs, see Structuring your essay.

For a more detailed look at writing very clear sentences within your paragraphs, see Very clear writing.