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Paragraphs: Length and Scope

Length and Scope

As you write, think about paragraphs in terms of their scope, not in terms of their length.  For example, if you are writing a brief evaluative paper about electronic medical records, you might write a long paragraph on the benefits of that system:

Electronic medical records (EMRs) have numerous benefits to patients as well as medical personnel. EMRs promote patient satisfaction in their ease of access. Certain programs allow patients to view their medical records in a password-protected online environment, print out immunization records, and perform other necessary tasks with an immediacy that paper records do not allow (James, 2011). The convenience of immediacy spans also to healthcare professionals who may need to transfer records to other medical institutions for a patient's procedure. Rather than spending the time and money copying, faxing, or printing records, healthcare professionals can simply transfer information via the EMRs programs (Hunter, 2009). EMRs also save physical space. With laws regarding the number of years medical institutions are required to maintain records, EMRs can retain past patients’ charts without taking up any physical space (Johnson & Johnson, 2010). Beyond that, because EMRs organize and save materials, the risk of human error in losing or misplacing charts is lessened. 

This choice would be a stronger one than writing a series of very short paragraphs on each benefit you have identified:

Electronic medical records (EMRs) have numerous benefits to patients as well as medical personnel. EMRs promote patient satisfaction in their ease of access. Certain programs allow patients to view their medical records in a password-protected online environment, print out immunization records, and perform other necessary tasks with an immediacy that paper records do not allow (James, 2011).
The convenience of immediacy spans also to healthcare professionals who may need to transfer records to other medical institutions for a patient's procedure. Rather than spending the time and money copying, faxing, or printing records, healthcare professionals can simply transfer information via the EMRs programs (Hunter, 2009).
EMRs also save physical space. With laws regarding the number of years medical institutions are required to maintain records, EMRs can retain past patients’ charts without taking up any physical space (Johnson & Johnson, 2010).
Beyond that, because EMRs organize and save materials, the risk of human error in losing or misplacing charts is lessened.

Each of these paragraphs is too short to make an effective point; the evidence does not provide sufficient support of each benefit. However, in a longer paper on the same topic, a series of longer, more substantial paragraphs on the benefits of electronic records would be appropriate.

You will grow more comfortable gauging appropriate paragraph length the more you read and write as a scholar. Like any other aspect of academic writing, practicing is the best route to perfection!