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Video Transcripts

Academic Paragraphs: Introduction to Paragraphs and the MEAL Plan

Last update 11/13/2017


Visual: Walden logo at bottom of screen along with notepad and pencil background.

Audio: Guitar music.


Visual: The video’s title is displayed on a background image of a table with a computer, notebook, and phone. The screen opens to the following slides: Paragraphing


·       Paragraph

·       Paragraph

·       Paragraph


Audio: Paragraphs are the building blocks of your paper; in an academic paper, each paragraph represents a separate idea.


Visual: The following is added to the slide:

Organize and Categorize

Audio: When thinking about paragraphs, it’s important to think about how you’ll organize and categorize your ideas and information into those paragraphs. The organization and focus of your paragraphs might be clear to you right away when you start writing a paper or it may be something you’ll refine as you write and revise your paper.

For example, if you have a paper about three strategies for improving employee performance, you may be able to easily write one paragraph per strategy.


Visual: The following is added to the slide:

You might find that you will rearrange and develop your paragraphs as your write and revise.

Audio: But if you’re writing a longer paper or if you’re writing about a more complicated topic, you might find that you will rearrange and develop your paragraphs as your write and revise.

Either approach is okay, but just be aware that the extra refining might be necessary. It’s smart to think about this ahead of time so you can build in time to revise your paragraphs and their focus and organization. Additionally, prewriting activities like outlining can be very helpful for writers in envisioning their paragraph organization before they start writing.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Paragraph Structure

Main idea:

─      Introduce the focus of the paragraph, like a mini thesis


─      Support the main idea with source information


─      Explain and analyze the source information

Lead out

─      Conclude the topic, like a conclusion paragraph


Audio: In the Writing Center, we use what we call the MEAL plan to help students conceptualize paragraphs, so let’s talk a little more about the MEAL plan.


Visual: The following is added to the slide:

a template for paragraphs

= a way to conceptualize the elements in most paragraphs

Audio: The MEAL plan isn’t a template for a paragraph; it doesn’t mean each of your paragraphs should have one sentence per letter—all of your paragraphs won’t have just four sentences in this particular order. Instead, think of the MEAL plan as a way to conceptualize paragraphs. This means that generally, each of your paragraphs should have each of these elements.

M is the main idea, also called the topic sentence. The topic sentence introduces the focus of the paragraph, and normally it doesn’t have a citation. This is because it doesn’t include specific information from your sources, but is instead a general introduction to the paragraph. It’s sort of like if you were introducing someone to a friend—You wouldn’t just jump right into the details of their life story, but you’d give a general introduction to get the conversation going, right? The same needs to happen in your paragraphs with this topic sentence.

The E is the evidence, or the examples that you use to support and develop the main idea. This could include specific information about a theory or ideas in your field; it could also include statistics or findings from studies. Essentially, any sentence that you cite in the paragraph—because it comes from a source—is a piece of evidence.

The A is the analysis; it connects your evidence back to the main claim for your readers through discussion. Think of analysis as your explanation of the evidence and your addition to the evidence. For example, maybe you are discussing the lack of broadband Internet access in your state’s rural areas; you might include statistics about how many people have broadband Internet access—that would be your evidence—but then you’d want to explain why this statistic is important or what it means to your reader—that would be your analysis.

And then the L is the lead out. We also sometimes refer to it as the concluding or wrap-up sentence of the paragraph. This last sentence is where you give closure to the paragraph. This might mean you repeat the main idea of the paragraph (similar to a conclusion paragraph) or you might combine some sort of wrap-up with some analysis, giving the reader an overall conclusion for the paragraph. The main point here is that you want to avoid an open-ending to your paragraph or ending your paragraph with evidence.

Now that you’ve learned the basics of paragraphs and the MEAL plan, be sure to watch our next video “Examples of the MEAL Plan” to learn how you can implement the MEAL plan in your own paragraphs.


Visual: The screen changes to end with the words “Walden University Writing Center” and “Questions? E-mail”