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Webinar Transcripts

Writing Effective Academic Paragraphs

Presented May 30, 2019

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Last updated 7/12/2019

 

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Housekeeping

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    • Now: Use the Q&A box.
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  • Help
    • Ask in the Q&A box.
    • Choose “Help” in the upper right-hand corner of the webinar room

Audio: Alright, hello everyone and welcome to today's webinar entitled writing effective academic paragraphs. I’m Michael Dusek and I’m a writing instructor in the Walden writing Center. I’ll be working behind the scenes of today’s webinar. Before we began and I hand this session over to today’s presenter Beth, let me go through the few housekeeping items.

First, we are recording this webinar so you are welcome to access it at a later date via our webinar archive in fact note that we record all of our webinars at the writing center so you're welcome to look through that archive for other recordings that might interest you as well.

Furthermore, we might mention a few webinars that would be a helpful follow-up to this webinar during the session. So, feel free to explore the webinar archive at your own leisure.

Also, whether you are attending this webinar live or watching a recording, note that you’ll be able to participate in any polls that we use, files we share or links we provide. You can also access the PowerPoint slides Beth will be sharing which are located in the files pod of the bottom of your screen.

Lastly, we also welcome questions and comments throughout the session via the Q&A box. I will be watching the Q&A box and I’m happy to answer questions as Beth is presenting. You're welcome to send any technical issues you have to me although note, that there is a help option at the top right corner of your screen. This is Adobe’s technical support so that's really the best place to go if technical issues persist. Okay, with that, I’ll hand over the session to our presenter Beth Nastachowski.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the title of the webinar, “Writing Effective Academic Paragraphs” and the speaker’s name and information: Beth Nastachowski, Manager of Multimedia Writing Instruction, Walden University Writing Center

Audio: Beth: Thank you so much Michael and hi everyone and welcome. It's great to have you this afternoon and I hope you all are doing well as Michael said my name is Beth Nastachowski and I am calling in from St. Paul Minnesota today where we are very happy for some sun. We’ve had a lot of rain especially over the long weekend. It looks like summer is arriving finally in Minnesota so we're happy for that.

I'm a staff member within the writing center also contributing faculty for the academic skills center’s CAX writing courses. I really enjoy being able to talk with students live in this sort of group format here, so I'm really happy that you are all here today. Our focus today, I hope this isn’t news to you but our focus today is our academic paragraphs so the title for our session is writing effective academic paragraphs. Throughout the whole hour today we are really going to dive into what is a paragraph and what makes a successful academic paragraph and revision techniques that you can use to make sure that you have successful academic paragraphs as well.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Learning Outcomes

You will be able to:

  • Understand the purpose of a paragraph in an academic paper and why/how paragraphs can vary
  • Identify the necessary components of a paragraph
  • Revise paragraphs to add missing necessary components

Audio: So, these are the learning outcomes for our session today. Essentially what we really want you to walk away from this session knowing is first the purpose of a paragraph in an academic paper and how they can vary or why they may vary. I really want to be able to have you identify the necessary components of a paragraph, what makes a paragraph successful identify those, so you can identify those in your writing. And then understand some techniques for revising paragraphs to add in missing, necessary components as well. So that’s our focus for today.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Components of a Paper

Paper’s Focus: Thesis Statement

  • Paragraph’s Focus: Topic Sentence
  • Paragraph’s Focus: Topic Sentence
  • Paragraph’s Focus: Topic Sentence
  • Paragraph’s Focus: Topic Sentence

Audio: So, we will dive right in here. I think it's helpful sometimes to just kind of go over how we conceptualize a paragraph in academic writing because oftentimes we kind of say we know what a paragraph is when we see it. It’s kind of a sense that we have. But it's helpful to sort of articulate that or to put it into words. One of the things to remember is that paragraphs are really the body, what we are talking about today are the body paragraph within your paper. So, an academic paper is usually composed of one paragraph to start which is the introduction paragraph. Your body paragraphs which will range in number depending on the length of your paper. And then a conclusion paragraph to kind of bookend the paper at the very end. We are focusing on those middle paragraphs.

One way you can think about it is that your paper as a whole should have a thesis statement that articulates the argument you're making in your paper and that thesis statement goes at the very end of your introduction paragraph, so at the first paragraph it goes at the end there and it sort of sets up the paper, it’s sort of a promise to reader, this is what I'm go to show and prove in my paper and in my writing.

Your paragraphs then should all relate back to that thesis and should all be individual points or ideas that then support for what we might call further the thesis statement it develops that thesis statement so the thesis statement is your promise and then those paragraphs is your delivery on that promise. Each paragraph itself will have a topic sentence within that paragraph and that topic sentence is a thesis statement for the paragraph it tells the reader what that specific paragraph is going to talk about. What main idea or main point or factor, thing you're going to talk about in that paragraph.

I hope that this is helpful in thinking about how paragraphs fit within your paper as a whole and how they individually sort of relate to that overall purpose of the academic argument because it's really important to remember that while we’re going to talk about individual paragraphs, individual paragraphs themselves all relate to a larger argument so you might have really well-developed individual paragraphs but if they don't relate as a whole that's something that you also need to take a look at. Let me go to the next slide here. Oops sorry, I went to the next slide, I didn’t realize it.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Components of a Paper

Paper’s Focus: All of the resources on the Writing Center’s website are useful, but the interactive modules are most effective for students looking to quickly brush up on specific writing skills.

  • Paragraph’s Focus: APA modules
  • Paragraph’s Focus: Scholarly writing modules
  • Paragraph’s Focus: Grammar modules
  • Paragraph’s Focus: Plagiarism prevention modules

Audio: Just to show you again how this kind of relates and contextualize this more, I have an example thesis statement at the very top. And then I have individual topics for our paragraphs here. My thesis statement says, all of the resources on the writing Center's website are useful but the interactive modules are most effective for students looking to quickly brush up on specific writing skills. So, if I was writing a paper with this thesis, that is my promise to the reader, I'm going to talk about the writing centers modules and show how they are most useful for students wanting to brush up on their writing skills. That's my promise to my reader.

I might then have four individual paragraphs within the body of my paper that talk about these different topics. First, maybe APA modules, then the scholarly writing modules, grammar modules and plagiarism prevention. So, I might go through each of these topics and you can see how each of those fit together or form an overall picture together for the reader. And relate back to that paper's overall focus and that thesis statement.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Paragraph Focus

               One paragraph = one unit of a paper

  • Focuses on one main idea or point
  • Is made up of around 4-6 sentences (or more…or fewer…)
  • Contains both evidence (source information) and analysis (explanation) that relate to the main idea or point

Audio: One paragraph really is one unit of a paper as we’ve talked about and should focus on one main idea or point. Sometimes students will ask me, what is the minimum or the limit for the number of sentences in a paragraph. And oftentimes I'm hesitant to give a number because I don't want to latch onto this number at all but I do think it's helpful to get a sense generally and generally I’ll see oftentimes students are around 4 to 6 sentences for a paragraph but I will say that there are many, many, many exceptions to that. I can see having a paragraph that’s a little bit smaller depending on the focus and I can also see paragraphs that might be a little bit longer depending again on the focus or the scope of that paragraph. I would say if you're not sure, 4 to 6 sentences is a general thing to kind of shoot for. And then you can deviate from there based on what you're writing and the paragraph you're working on.

The other thing to note is your paragraph should contain both evidence for the most part and analysis and those relate to that main point of the paragraph, the topic sentence. And we’re going to talk more about what that looks like and give you examples and explore that more throughout the rest of the session.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Paragraph Focus

Chat: How do you respond to this paragraph as a reader?

        One thing educators can do when creating paper-and pencil assessments is consider the stated objectives of the unit. Writing the stated objectives first, and then basing the paper-and pencil assessment questions on those objectives, saves time for teachers and helps them ask the big picture questions of the unit (Laureate Education, 2010). At the beginning of a unit teachers should introduce the learning goals and stated expectations; this lets students know what is expected of them and provides direction for their learning. Letting students know the expected outcomes allows them to be responsible for their learning by providing them with opportunities to create goals and achieve those goals. Another thing that educators can do for their assessments is revise according to past results and current lesson plans. From year to year it is possible that course objectives and student comprehension may change, and previous assessment results can reveal gaps in the curriculum (Helakoski, 2016). With this additional consideration, educators can work to enhance student learning and improve grades on paper-and-pencil assessments. Through examining previous results and making adjustments, educators can help students meet learning objectives.

Audio: So, we have our first chat here and I’d like you to take a moment and read the paragraph and I will give you a couple of minutes to read through it on your own. And then in the chat box respond to this as a reader. What do you find helpful or unhelpful about this paragraph?

[silence as participants respond]

I’m going to interrupt for minute and just say as your reading through this, and you’re responding, try to think about it in terms of paragraph structure and ideas and don't focus too much on anything like grammar or APA or word choice, focus more on what you might think or how you might respond to this in terms of paragraph.

[silence as participants respond]

Y'all have identified some really important things about this paragraph. What I'm saying is, it's a pretty long paragraph. And as you will note if you looked at the actual sentences you might see that it's actually eight sentences long so beyond the 4 to 6 sentences. That's not too much of a concern. Eight sentences isn't too bad for a paragraph although it is getting on the long side, so that’s certainly true. Many of you are mentioning a couple of things. It's difficult to follow, a little incoherent, seems to be rambling. And mainly what I think you're identifying here is there are two main ideas in this one paragraph. We are moving… the scope itself is too big for one paragraph. Right?

So, what you all are identifying is exactly what I would have commented on in this paragraph and it’s important to keep in mind in terms of focus and scope. When we are reading this paragraph what we are really responding to or seeing is that it's too unfocused it doesn't have a specific focus and the scope is too broad.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Paragraph Focus: Revision

              One thing educators can do when creating paper-and pencil assessments is consider the stated objectives of the unit. Writing the stated objectives first, and then basing the paper-and pencil assessment questions on those objectives, saves time for teachers and helps them ask the big picture questions of the unit (Laureate Education, 2010). At the beginning of a unit teachers should introduce the learning goals and stated expectations; this lets students know what is expected of them and provides direction for their learning. Letting students know the expected outcomes allows them to be responsible for their learning by providing them with opportunities to create goals and achieve those goals.  

              Another thing that educators can do for their assessments is revise according to past results and current lesson plans. From year to year it is possible that course objectives and student comprehension may change, and previous assessment results can reveal gaps in the curriculum (Helakoski, 2016). With this additional consideration, educators can work to enhance student learning and improve grades on paper-and-pencil assessments. Through examining previous results and making adjustments, educators can help students meet learning objectives.

Audio: So, we could revise this paragraph by splitting apart in this way. We might start with that same topic sentence; one thing educators can do when grading paper and pencil assessments is consider the stated objectives of the unit. But then we move some of that information into a separate paragraph and add a topic sentence. Another thing that educators can do for their assessments is revise according to past results in current lesson plans. By doing that we have smaller paragraphs, right? That are a little bit more manageable as quote end quote chunks, right? And they are more focused on specific ideas. Again so, I hope this is a useful explanation for seeing what a scope of a paragraph might look like and then also how you can revise that paragraph.

So, if you're in encountering paragraphs in your own writing that have sort of broader scope than they might need to be, you can separate those two different, those scopes out and those ideas into separate paragraphs just making sure you have new topic sentences for each paragraph. We are going to talk about what topic sentences are next more. Again, I hope that this is useful in showing you that scope and that focus of paragraphs. Thanks so much Michael.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Academic Paragraph Structure

Audio: Let's move on then. We’ve talked a lot about focus and scope and purpose of paragraphs within our academic writing and now we're going to focus on paragraph structure. How we can consider the components of a paragraph. You can see here we have a picture of a blueprint, so sort of thinking about what the blueprint of a paragraph might look like. One thing I want to emphasize before I go to the next slide and I will probably say this again because is a really important point, is that we're going to be talking about components of a paragraph and I say components because what I mean, each paragraph should have something that relates to these components. Sort of like a house. You wouldn’t build a house without floors and walls and roof. You need those components. But what they look like in practice differs from house to house. My roof, my walls and my ceiling, and my floors look very different than yours in your house. Those components are the same but the way they look are different. That's the same with paragraphs. You need these components in each of your body paragraphs and you will have these components and your fellow classmates will have them but how they actually work or look in practice will differ from paragraph to paragraph and writer to writer as well so I really want to emphasize that.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: A paragraph is like a sandwich:

  • Main Idea
  • Evidence
  • Analysis
  • Lead-Out/Wrap-Up
  • Or we can talk about it as the MEAL plan.

Audio: So, a paragraph should be like a sandwich. You’re going to start with the main idea or topic sentence, you’re going to include in the middle of your paragraph evidence and analysis and you’re going to end with a lead out or wrap-up sentence. And we can refer to this, you might have heard this in the past as the meal plan. It's something we talk about her way to think about or conceptualize paragraphs. It's a way to think about the components of a paragraph. You'll want to have at least one of M. E. A. L. throughout the paragraph and what they look at throughout the practice will differ from paragraph to paragraph but you’ll want to have one of each of these within your paragraphs themselves. And we’re going to talk about each of these components [indescribable].

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Topic Sentences

Audio: So we are going to start with the main idea. We often refer to these as topic sentences. Topic sentences is the more writing term for these. Because of the meal plan, it works to have the capital M and acronym which is the main ideas of that's the start of the sandwich paragraph. This is what I talked about before to establish the focus of your paragraph and it's like a thesis statement for the paragraph and it should be a direction for your readers saying, this is the focus of this particular paragraph, this is the topic I'm going to talk about.

Note that most of the time topic sentences are from your voice and your perspective as the author. They usually don't include citations although I will say never. There have been good topic sentences that include citations but if you need a topic sentence or as a general rule, I would default to including to not including citations in that topic sentence.

And then as I was mentioning before that topic sentence and should relate directly to your thesis statement it should further that thesis statement and further the purpose of your paper.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Topic Sentences

       Considerations:

  • Is the topic sentence too narrow that I cannot spend at least three sentences illustrating, explaining, or analyzing?
  • Is the topic sentence so broad that I need whole pages to fully develop the idea?

Audio: Considerations for topic sentences you want to make sure your topic sentence isn't too narrow so you want to make sure that it’s something you can spend at least three or four sentences explaining and using evidence to talk about and further and develop the paragraph so you don't want to be too narrow. But you also don't want it to be too broad. So, we had that previous example paragraph where the paragraph focus was too broad. So, we also want to make sure we can cover the entire topic and it's not too unwieldy in one paragraph as well so those are things to keep in mind for topic sentences.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Topic Sentences

Instructional scaffolding is one of the most effective strategies for increasing student understanding and learning.

       The rest of the paragraph should:

  • convince instructional scaffolding is most effective and
  • discuss how it increases student understanding and learning.

Your topic sentence is like a signpost directing your reader.

Audio: And then here's an example of a topic sentence. We’re going to be using this to build out a paragraph in our next slides. This is my topic sentence. Instructional scaffolding is one of the most effective strategies for increasing student understanding and learning.

In this topic sentence, we have our topic, instructional scaffolding and we’re going to talk about how it’s the most effective strategy for increasing student understanding and learning so from the topics that she can imagine what the rest of the paragraph might talk about. Or what we expect the paragraph to talk about. That's a helpful topic sentence. Also note the topic since does not include a citation so it's from me, my voice as the author introducing the topic and does include specific information that I need to cite yet. That will come next in my next sentences.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Topic Sentences

  • Ineffective: Too Broad

As a teacher, I employ many different strategies. First, I explained to my students the difference between the words affect and effect. Then we read sample sentences together and corrected the use of these words. Finally, I asked the students to write their own sentences using affect and effect appropriately.

  • Ineffective: Quote

Johnson (2010) stated that “instructional scaffolding can lead to deeper learning” (p. 45). First, I explained to my students the difference between the words affect and effect. Then we read sample sentences together and corrected the use of these words. Finally, I asked the students to write their own sentences using affect and effect appropriately.

Audio: Here are a couple of other topic sentences. You can see how these are a little bit ineffective, so these are ineffective topic sentences. So, on the left I have as a teacher I employ many different strategies for this topic sentence is a little too broad, too general. It could be applied to maybe multiple different paragraphs so that would be a too broad of a topic sentence. This is also an ineffective topic sentence because it's a quote. In this paragraph, we're starting with source information directly and we are not introducing the topic of the paragraph with the topic sentence so those are two things you also want to avoid in your academic writing.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Topic Sentences

Effective: Specific & Author’s Voice

                 Scaffolded instruction, in my own experience, has proven to be an effective tool in the classroom. In fact, Johnson (2010) saw the effectiveness of scaffolding in his comment that “instructional scaffolding can lead to deeper learning” (p. 45), which I recently observed in my own classroom. In a lesson for my composition course, I used instructional scaffolding to help my students differentiate between the commonly confused words affect and effect. First, I explained to my students the difference between the words affect and effect. Then we read sample sentences together and corrected the use of these words. Finally, I asked the students to write their own sentences using affect and effect appropriately. At the end of the unit a few weeks later, students were able to recall this lesson with more accuracy than others that had not been scaffolded.

Audio: Again, here's another example of a topic sentence, sort of a revision of those two previously scaffolded instructions in my own experience has proven to be an effective tool in the classroom and throw the paragraph here this author expands on that idea. We have the quote that previously…

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Topic Sentences

  • Ineffective: Too Broad

As a teacher, I employ many different strategies. First, I explained to my students the difference between the words affect and effect. Then we read sample sentences together and corrected the use of these words. Finally, I asked the students to write their own sentences using affect and effect appropriately.

  • Ineffective: Quote

Johnson (2010) stated that “instructional scaffolding can lead to deeper learning” (p. 45). First, I explained to my students the difference between the words affect and effect. Then we read sample sentences together and corrected the use of these words. Finally, I asked the students to write their own sentences using affect and effect appropriately.

Audio: I’ll go back one so you can see it. In this example right, we had started with that quote Johnson 2010.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Topic Sentences

Effective: Specific & Author’s Voice

                 Scaffolded instruction, in my own experience, has proven to be an effective tool in the classroom. In fact, Johnson (2010) saw the effectiveness of scaffolding in his comment that “instructional scaffolding can lead to deeper learning” (p. 45), which I recently observed in my own classroom. In a lesson for my composition course, I used instructional scaffolding to help my students differentiate between the commonly confused words affect and effect. First, I explained to my students the difference between the words affect and effect. Then we read sample sentences together and corrected the use of these words. Finally, I asked the students to write their own sentences using affect and effect appropriately. At the end of the unit a few weeks later, students were able to recall this lesson with more accuracy than others that had not been scaffolded.

Audio: In this case we start with the topic sentence and then we include the quote from Johnson 2010. You can see how the topic sentence just really sets up everything that comes up next in the paragraph.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Topic sentences

Poll: Choose the best topic sentence for the paragraph

The CDC (2014) reported that winter months are when the flu spreads the most. However, Ansold (2013) noted that simple changes in behavior like hand washing, staying home when symptoms are present, and avoiding contact with people who are sick can stop the flu’s spread. If people employ these methods they can lessen their chances of exposure and contraction of the virus.

Audio: Alright, so let's practice with topic sentences a little bit. I have a paragraph here where I have taken out the topic sentence and we have a poll where I would like you to vote on what it would be the best topic sentence to add to the start of this paragraph so make sure you read the paragraph on the left really closely and then read each topic sentence closely and choose the one that would work best.

[silence as participants respond]

I see that the votes have slowed down and if you're still responding feel free to enter your vote. But we have a clear winner on this one. It looks like 70% of you chose option B which is the option that I would choose as well. What option B does is introduces this idea that flu is really important to stop the flu in winter months in the first sentence on the paragraph on the left with the CDC information supports or informs or supports that with evidence. It's a source information that is expanding on that topic sentence that we have in B. Note that A is not correct because we do need a topic sentence here. If we just started this paragraph with the CDC reported, that would be evidence and we want to contextualize it so we don't want to start with our source. We don't want option A and option C would be too specific of information and doesn't really relate to the rest of the paragraph so that's not the best choice either. I hope that that is useful in thinking about the topic sentences. Great job with that one. If you didn't choose B that's okay and I hope my explanation explains why option B would be the best choice.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Evidence & Analysis

  • Supporting Details
  • Evidence
  • Paraphrased or quoted material from sources
  • Statistics & data
  • Study findings
  • Not a personal assertion
  • Analysis
  • Your interpretation or explanation of evidence
  • How that evidence relates to your thesis
  • More on Evidence & Analysis on our website!

Audio: So now we are moving onto the meat of our paragraph or the meat or the middle of our sandwich depending on what you would like to put on your sandwiches, and that's our evidence and analysis. So, we always start our paragraphs with a topic sentence. And that's usually just one sentence, right? But evidence and analysis in the middle is really where you get a lot of variability with your paragraphs. Just like with any sandwich, you’re always going to have a middle part, but that middle part will vary a lot. The same goes with your paragraph so you’re going to have some sort of evidence and analysis in your paragraphs but the amount of evidence and analysis and your combination of it, national change depending on the paragraph and purpose of the paragraph. So these are the supporting details that will develop the idea you presented in your topic sentence.

Evidence is paraphrased or quoted material from sources. It might be statistics and data or study findings. It might be ideas or facts or assertions that you've read. But it shouldn’t be a personal assertion it should be coming from a source. And then it of course it includes citations. If you're ever wondering whether a paragraph has evidence, look for those citations, that’s the clue that our evidence sentences. Analysis then is your interpretation or what I like to emphasize an explanation of that evidence. In academic writing we always have evidence-based ideas so analysis is your chance to include your ideas but always based on that evidence and supported by and informed by evidence. It's sort of taking that evidence and contextual rising at for the reader. It might be a way for you to explain how the evidence relates to your thesis statement as well remembering the paragraphs always relate back to that thesis statement.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Evidence & Analysis

  • Evidence
  • Johnson’s (2010) study in a composition classroom revealed that students whose teachers used scaffolding strategies scored an average of 5 percentage points higher on their final essays than their peers in a lecture-based classroom.
  • Analysis
  • Are 5 percentage points significant? What are the larger implications of Johnson’s finding?

Audio: So, we have an example of evidence here, this is from our paragraph that we were talking about. Johnson’s study in a composition classroom revealed that students whose teachers use scaffolding strategies scored an average of 5 percentage points higher on their final essays than their peers in lecture-based classroom. Now of course remember, we know that this is evidence because we have that citation. And then if we're thinking about analysis, we might ask ourselves a series of questions. We have this evidence but are five percentage points significant, what are the larger implications of Johnson's findings, what does this information tell us or what does it mean? Those are the kinds of questions that you can ask yourself in relationship to your evidence but also those of these are the kinds of questions the reader might ask. Your analysis helps answer those questions or anticipate those questions for your reader before they even get to them. That's what your analysis really does in your paragraphs.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Evidence & Analysis

Johnson’s (2010) study in a composition classroom revealed that students whose teacher used scaffolding strategies scored an average of 5 percentage points higher on their final essays than their peers in a lecture-based classroom. This significant difference in scores suggests that scaffolding enables students not only to understand a concept, but also to apply that concept in their own work.

Audio: We have an example here, in response to those questions I might say something like this. The significant difference in scores suggest that scaffolding enables students not only to understand the new concept but also to apply that concept in their own work. What we're doing here is we’re just commenting on the information we’re contextualizing it. We’re hoping to answer those questions for the readers. In that meat part or middle part of the paragraph or our sandwich paragraph we need to make sure we have both this evidence and analysis. If we're missing either of those than the paragraph really kind of becomes too much of a report or too much of opinion so the balance of the two is really what we're looking for.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Evidence & Analysis

Chat: What’s missing: Analysis or evidence?

Bruen (2012) found that instructor engagement often predicts student engagement in online courses. Additionally, Fitzgerald (2014) found that instructors who are present in the online classroom for 30 minutes more per week can increase student engagement by 10%.

Audio: Alright, so let’s take a look at the sample paragraph. I’m going to open up another chat. Thank you so much Michael. Take a look at the paragraph and read through the sentence, let us know what is missing analysis or evidence.

[silence as participants respond]

Clearly, you all are doing a fantastic job and following along really well because yes, we are missing analysis with this and I hope you saw that each of the sentences in this particular paragraph or this excerpt of a paragraph, all have citations which is the note that this is evidence. I hope that you can also see when we read the sentences, why that's an issue so the evidence is going to have, we want to use evidence in our writing. We want to use these paraphrased sentences. But we include just this evidence like this, the paragraph falls flat because as readers we don't know why this is important or why the reader or why the author is telling us this. It's sort of like when someone comes up to you and tells you a fact but doesn't tell you why they're telling you the that or comment or explain why they are mentioning it to you. You are kind of left wondering why should I pay attention to this and why are you taking my time with this information? That's why the analysis comes in. We will have you practice with that as well. We have our same sentences of evidence.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Evidence & Analysis

Chat: Try writing a sentence of analysis you’d add to this paragraph.

Bruen (2012) found that instructor engagement often predicts student engagement in online courses. Additionally, Fitzgerald (2014) found that instructors who are present in the online classroom for 30 minutes more per week can increase student engagement by 10%.

Audio: Then we’re going to open up another checkbox here. What I would like to have you do is write a sentence of analysis that you would add to the paragraphs so read the evidence, really take in the information and of course I know this might not be information you're very comfortable with or this is very new to you and I'm asking you to do this on the fly, just try your hand by writing a sentence of analysis that you might add to this. Remembering that analysis is all about explaining the information and telling the reader why it's important. Contextualizing it and sort of answering a so what question for the reader. I will give you a couple of minutes to write your analysis and I will pull up at Notepad and we can take a look at some of them together.

[silence as participants respond]

You're doing a fantastic job so keep going. I'm going to give you a few more minutes because we do have - - we are doing great on time so please continue to type if you haven't submitted your sense of analysis just. We will come together in a few minutes here.

Alight, I see that the typing has slowed down so I hope that everyone had a chance to submit their sentence of analysis. And share with everyone. If you're still writing or haven't submitted yet and you would like to, please continue to do so. That is just fine. I will just direct you to the bottom left-hand corner of the webinar screen and I've added a notepad here and I just copied and pasted a couple of the analysis sentences. And of course, I wish we could review everyone's but it’s just not possible with the amount of students we have here today. But I did want to point out these sentences of analysis and comment on them a little bit.

We have our first one here, [inaudible] researchers agree that online courses increase student engagement. But I love about this and it's here, it does really well, it synthesizes or pulls together these two sources and the ideas that they are talking about together for the reader. You might've heard the concept synthesis in the past and this is a really great example of pulling together these two sources and saying, based on what these researchers have found, this is what we can see. It's explaining or answering that so what question for the reader which is done well. You can see it's concise and the analysis doesn't have to be really long or cumbersome or in-depth depending on the paragraph and what you're writing about. It can also be concise and to the point.

Moving from that when then we will move to the second bullet point, I have. Therefore, educators can improve student engagement and online classes by engaging themselves. But I wanted to point out here was the use of the transition, therefore, in particular. The sense of analysis works well of course too. But additionally, the use of the transition helps to move the reader from the evidence into the analysis. I think sometimes we can get a little choppy when we are going from evidence to analysis and use of transitions really helps lead the reader from one thing to the next very nicely.

Alright, so that's our second sentence. Let's go to the third bullet point that I have. Instructors presence would be beneficial to help answer questions immediately. What I like about the sentence of analysis and I've seen a couple of them here, what this is doing is presenting a new idea not just saying this is what the researchers have found but this is what we can conclude from this evidence that we're looking at and this is what should be done or what we can do in practice. That's a great way of taking the research and something your reading out there that other people found and saying, this is the practical application. Again, that is helping to answer certain so what question for the reader.

Then we have the fourth sentence of analysis here. These findings suggest that the instructor engagement in an online class is very important in the students’ academic success. This is very similar to the first sense of analysis and taking the research and pulling it together and seeing what we can find based on this.

These findings show that the active engagement of the instructors is beneficial to students success in online learning. Again, just another way of saying what other people have said but in a slightly different way, pulling together this research and talking about it.

One thing I just want to point out with all of these examples of analysis and a lot of these sentences I was reading in the checkbox that I didn't point, is you all are doing a great job of adding to the conversation. You're adding to that conversation, adding something by answering a so what question for the reader. What you are not doing, you’re not just restating what you're reading, you’re not just restating what Fitzgerald found or saying the same thing in a new way. We don't need to be repetitive. And you're not inserting your first person or using I unnecessarily and those are two important things. Sometimes analysis can take the form of saying, in my own practice I would recommend this or something like that but most of the time analysis doesn't require you to say something like in my opinion or I believe or something like that either which you all are doing a great job of. I wanted to point that out as well.

I hope this was helpful and thinking about how you include both evidence and analysis in your paragraphs. We can go ahead and go to the next slide here. Thanks Michael.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Evidence & Analysis: Revised

Supporting Details

Bruen (2012) found that instructor engagement often predicts student engagement in online courses. Small acts of engagement, such as time spent in the classroom, can make a big difference for students. For example, Additionally, Fitzgerald (2014) found that instructors who are present in the online classroom for 30 minutes more per week can increase student engagement by 10%.

Audio: I wanted to show you my revision of this. Of course, I provided you with that sample and you all were adding in your analysis at the very end. I also want to note that sometimes you can also add your analysis within your evidence sentences too. This is where we can into the idea that evidence and analysis are components in the middle of your paragraph. But it doesn't mean you should have just one sentence of evidence and one sentence of analysis or that they have to go in evidence and analysis order. You can also mix it up. In this case for my revision I have my sense of evidence from Bruen, Bruen found that instructor engagement often protects student engagement in the online courses. I have my sentence of analysis - - small acts of engagement such as time spent in the classroom can make a big difference for students. For example, and oop I have a typo here, I apologize. It should say for example Fitzgerald found that instructors who are present in online classroom for 30 minutes more per week can increase student engagement by 10%. I apologize for the typo but I want to show you this example of how you cannot also include analysis in the middle of your evidence sentence, helping to link them together and commenting on them as well.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Lead-Out & Conclusion

  • Wrap-Up
  • Concludes the central idea
  • Steps back and gives big-picture perspective
  • Is in your own voice
  • Moves paper forward
  • More on Lead out Sentence on our website!

Audio: Now we're headed into the wrap-up or the end of our meal plan and the end of our sandwich, the bottom bun I suppose you can say. And in terms of the MEAL plan this is what we call the lead out sentence although I like to call it the conclusion or wrap-up sentence because I think lead out can be a little bit misleading. Generally, what the sentence should do is help wrap up the paragraph. Put the bottom bun to the sandwich. It should help you conclude the central idea; it might step back and give you a big picture perspective or provide some next steps, it should also be in your own voice so it mirrors the topic sentence in that way. It's sort of a like a conclusion sentence for the paragraph.

I want to note here that the lead out doesn't necessarily mean you should preview the next paragraph that can work sometimes but oftentimes I find that if students are trying to introduce the next paragraphs focus in the lead out sentence, it sort of leaves the reader hanging and I think you're going to talk about the idea in that paragraph. And then you end and they're not sure if you're talking about again till they get to the next paragraph. So, my general recommendation is you treat this last sentence as a wrap-up for the paragraph and not as leading up to the next paragraph.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Lead-Out & Conclusion

Ask yourself:

  • What do I want my readers to understand about the idea I’ve presented here?
  • What overall, summarizing idea can I present?
  • Have I offered closure? Do I need to make an overall conclusion?
  • How does this idea connect to the next paragraph?

Audio: A couple of things you can ask yourself, these are really similar questions that you can ask yourself about the, that you also ask yourself about the analysis sentence. You can ask yourself these kinds of questions to help you generate a lead out sentence. What do I want my readers to understand about the idea presented here? What overall summarizing idea can I present, have I offered closure? Do I need to make an overall conclusion? How does this idea connect to the next paragraph? Again, that can be really useful to wrap up the paragraph but me mindful of not including too much information and bleeding out into the next paragraph. You still want to treat this as a wrap-up to that particular paragraph.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Lead-Out & Conclusion

    Instructional scaffolding is one of the most effective strategies for increasing student understanding and learning. Johnson’s (2010) study in a composition classroom revealed that students whose teacher used scaffolding strategies scored an average of 5 percentage points higher on their final essays than their peers in a lecture-based classroom. This significant difference in scores suggests that scaffolding enables students not only to understand a concept, but also to apply that concept in their own work. Teachers, therefore, should employ scaffolding strategies to help foster independence and confidence in their students.

Audio: So, I have our paragraph that we’ve been building here. We have our topic sentence to start the paragraph, and then our evidence and analysis sentences in the middle. And then I'm ending up with a wrap-up sentence. Teachers therefore should employ scaffolding strategies to help foster independence and confidence in their students.

This is sort of a broader wrap-up sentence but it still coming from my own perspective and voice as the author. The other thing I want to note here is that, sometimes… let me grab my arrow… we have our sentence of analysis, the significant difference in scores suggest… and then we have a wrap-up sentence. One thing you might ask is what the difference is between analysis sentence and wrap-up sentence and I’ll say that sometimes there's not too much of a big difference and sometimes they bleed into one another because the wrap-up sentence is sort of concluding or wrapping up the paragraph in your own voice so I want to emphasize here is that generally your analysis and wrap-up sentence they might lead into one another and that's okay also. You just want to make sure generally that your paragraph ends or have a bottom bun to the sandwich but you're not leading the reader hanging. A good test to this is look at the paragraph and see the last sentence includes a citation. If it does, it's a good clue that you don't have a lead out sentence or wrap-up sentence and you need to add one. That's the main thing that I encourage students to look for.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Academic Paragraph Structure

    Instructional scaffolding is one of the most effective strategies for increasing student understanding and learning. Johnson’s (2010) study in a composition classroom revealed that students whose teacher used scaffolding strategies scored an average of 5 percentage points higher on their final essays than their peers in a lecture-based classroom. This significant difference in scores suggests that scaffolding enables students not only to understand a concept, but also to apply that concept in their own work. Teachers, therefore, should employ scaffolding strategies to help foster independence and confidence in their students.

  • Main idea
  • Evidence
  • Analysis
  • Lead-Out/Wrap-Up

Audio: We’ve looked at this paragraph and we see that we have the meal plan throughout it and again as a reminder in this example paragraph, we have one sentence for the main idea and one evidence, one analysis and one lead out sentence. However, I want to emphasize again that these are components of your paragraph. Not every building or every house has the same roof and walls and floor. Just like every paragraph won't have the same meal plan. You will always start with the main idea or topic sentence and have a wrap-up sentence at the end. But your evidence and your analysis, the order of those and number of sentences you have for each will vary depending on the paragraph.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Academic Paragraph Structure

  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.

  • Main idea
  • Evidence
  • Analysis
  • Lead-Out/Wrap-Up

Audio: That's why have this paragraph here. Right? This is a more complicated paragraph. It still starts with our topic sentence at the top but in the middle part with our evidence and analysis we have multiple kinds of evidence and analysis sentences. So, our first sentence – arrow again- our first sentence is a sentence of analysis because we don't have that citation. We then follow that with a sense of evidence and we see that because of the citation that we have a sentence of analysis again with no citation. Then we follow that with a sentence of evidence and another evidence sentence and then a wrap-up sentence. We are taking those components, the MEA L and we are using them in different orders and with different numbers because that's what this paragraph calls for.

I hope that makes sense and the components and thinking about this as components is useful for you.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Strategies and Resources

  • Outlining
  • Evaluate your paragraphs
  • Reverse outlining

Audio: Alright, I think at this point, let's pause before we go into revising strategies and resources and Michael are there any questions that would be useful for me to touch on before I move on.

Michael: Yeah, thanks. One I think, I’ve been giving a few times here, has to do with citations and analysis. When you include analysis do you also need to include citations?

Beth: Great question, so analysis sentences won't have citations because it's your perspective or explanation of the information you're providing is coming from your perspective as the author. Remember that analysis should be paired with sentences of evidence that do include citations. That's where the citations come in, in those sentences of evidence and those two should really be paired together 99% of the time in your academic writing in those paragraphs. Great question.

Michael: Yeah, awesome. That makes sense. Other than that, I think we are ready to move on

Beth: If you do have any other questions about paragraphs in the meal plan, please submit those in the Q&A box and Michael I can see has been busy and responding to questions throughout but we also have time at the end for a couple of questions so make sure to submit those in the Q&A box.

We are going to now move on to talk about strategies for revising and creating your paragraphs and resources as well. Because of course you can understand intellectually how paragraphs should be structured but it's difficult to develop a well-rounded or well-developed paragraph when you're writing your first draft. I would really encourage you not to focus on the MEAL plan when you're writing your first draft actually. When you are writing a first draft you should really treat that as an opportunity to get your ideas on the page and to develop general outlines of paragraphs and to kind of generally get those first drafts of the paragraph down. Note that if you don't have the MEAL plan structured exactly in the first draft, that's perfectly okay. And actually, I will say for my own process and the way I write, my first draft paragraphs often don't follow the MEAL plan because my topic sentence often ends up the very bottom of my paragraph. That is just how I think and how I write initially. I make it part of my process to go back and make sure to revise and move those topic sentences to the top of my paragraph. That's something I know about myself and myself as a writer and that's something I do in my revision process. So really make sure that you treat your writing process as just that, a  process that needs to build in that revision time she can take a look at your paragraphs.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Outlining

Form a rough guide for the paper before writing:

  • Jot down main ideas or points you want to make
  • Determine how best to organize ideas (e.g., organized by relationship, logic, chronology, etc.)
  • Expand those points to become your paragraphs.

Recorded Webinar: Walden Assignment Prompts: Learn the Requirements

Outlining Web Page

Audio: Alright, with that said, there's a couple strategies you can use to revise your paragraphs. Again, I would really emphasize that you need to build that into writing process. One is that, and this is I suppose, I’m sorry, not a revision strategy but a pre-writing strategy that can help you with your paragraphs. And that’s outlining. You might be very familiar with outlining, or maybe you're not as familiar but either way I really encourage you to use outlining as a prewriting strategy before you write your first draft.

Outlining helps you outline the main ideas that you want to write in your paragraph and a really helpful way to do that is to write out the topic and thesis statement for the paper as it is right then. Then write out the main ideas you need to cover to develop and support the thesis statement. Then what you can do is treat each main idea as a paragraph in your paper and you can reorganize them in your outline. What that does is gives you a map or guide for when you're writing your first drafts so you can focus each paragraph on each main idea and that a helpful way of guiding your first draft writing and helping you avoid writers block or getting lost or not knowing what to write about as well.

I really encourage you to use that outlining as a prewriting strategy.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Evaluate Your Paragraphs

Look for:

  • Missing topic sentences
  • Paragraphs without a focus, or with more than one focus
  • Paragraphs that are too long or short
  • Paragraphs of only explanation or only source information

Audio: And then on the other side of the drafting when you're getting too revising, make sure you build in time to evaluate your paragraphs. What you can do is go through each of the paragraphs and check that it has each component of the MEAL plan. I have in the past encourage students to use highlighting to do this. You can go through and highlight every topic sentence and highlight every evidence and analysis and even use different colors to make sure you have all of those components in each paragraph. It's a really helpful way to train your eye so you can see in your paragraphs that you have all those components.

The other thing that you can also, I encourage you to scan through your paragraphs to make sure they have a really helpful focus and make sure they are not too broad or too narrow and also look for really long or short paragraphs. And double check that there long or short for a specific reason and if not, you might need to change them. Again, making sure that you have both the comparing or pairing of evidence and analysis together that’s also really important.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Reverse Outlining

Your paper:

  • Identify your thesis statement and topic sentences
  • List them separately to give you an overview of your paper

Your paragraph:

  • Identify each element of an academic paragraph: MEAL
  • Add missing components

Audio: Another strategy that you can use to evaluate your paragraphs and this helps you with individual paragraphs but also your organization or development of your argument as a whole is what we call reverse outlining. This is where you outline your paper after you’ve written it. So, it's not outlining before your writing it’s outlining after your writing. It’s taking your paper that you’ve written and pulling out from your paper the topic sentence and your thesis statements form throughout the paper and outlining them in order. What this helps you do is see the overall organization of your paragraph and whether, I’m sorry the overall organization of your paper and whether it needs to be changed or whether you need to maybe add in some information, some new paragraphs maybe or paragraphs that are repetitive - - pulling out all of those helps you see and zoom out from the paper and see it from a higher level and make those assessments.

And it is talking about reverse outlining your paragraphs again, that is the idea of taking the paragraphs once you have written them in looking for the meal plan and it helps you assess whether you have all the components.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Paragraphing Resources

  • Introduction to Paragraph Development, Part 1
  • Introduction to Paragraph Development, Part 2: Incorporating Evidence & Analysis
  • Transitions Within and Between Paragraphs
  • Module Information
  • Paragraphs to Avoid:
  • Fruit Salad Paragraph
  • Derailed Train Paragraph
  • Chain Link Fence Paragraph
  • Tabloid/Political Candidate Paragraph
  • WriteCast: Episode 3

Audio: We have a couple of additional resources about paragraphs on our website. We have some modules that are related paragraph development so those are interactive tutorials you can take and complete that will take you through the paragraph development and help you practice with paragraph development. You're welcome to look at those it. Additionally, we have a great episode of our podcast, writeCast episode three which talks about different kinds of paragraph that you can avoid. And these are the terms then developed for the podcast which I think is a great way of thinking about paragraphs. If would like to learn more about those look at podcast episode two, that’s a great way to learn more about other paragraphs to avoid.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions: Ask Now or Later

writingsupport@waldenu.edu •  Live Chat Hours

Learn More:

Practical Skills: Thesis Statements” and

Beginnings and Endings: Introduce and Conclude Your Writing

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Assist students in becoming better academic writers by providing online, asynchronous feedback by appointment.

Audio: With that we have about 10 minutes left, Michael are the other questions that have come in while I was doing that last section there that would be helpful to talk through?

Michael: Actually, there weren't. I think we're good. Maybe if you want to talk about our paper review service here in the writing center there been questions about that and then we're good to go.

Beth: Certainly, yeah. That's a great thing to wrap up with. As Michael mentioned we have a paper review appointment service within the writing center where our writing instructors have a schedule where you can make an appointment and submit your writing for feedback. This is just a fantastic opportunity for you to get feedback on your writing including your paragraphs in a nonevaluative or nonjudgmental way. We are not like your professors; we are not here to give you a grade or anything like that. We are just here to help you develop your writing skills, including those paragraph development skills. If you’re looking and you’re saying I kind of understand what the MEAL plan is and what paragraphs look like general, but I’m not sure how well I’m doing or I’d like some feedback on my paragraphs. Paper review appointments are exactly where you should go to get that feedback.

You can submit writing that you are in process, or something that you haven’t submitted to your professor that’s a great opportunity to submit papers and get feedback so that you can use the feedback to revise. But also note that you're welcome to submit past papers as well. Maybe you have a paper that you’re really proud of or even one that you felt like you could have improved on from last semester. Feel free to submit that for the review service as well and we can give you feedback on your writing in general and things for you to keep in mind in future. I like to emphasize that because if you're new to paper-reviewed appointments  sometime submitting a past paper can be a little bit easier because you do not have to worry about a deadline and you can feel out how the service works without worrying about the pressure of submitting it to your instructor or anything like that.

Those are great options. The paper review appointment you can access that through our website or through your my Walden portal. You have to create an account and go to the system and you can reserve an appointment by filling out an appointment form. You can reserve those appointments up to two weeks ahead of time so it's also a way you can create an extra deadline for yourself if you would like so that’s also something to keep in mind. I see a question came in about how long it takes for the turnaround time and you'll get your feedback on the paper within two business days so either the day of your appointment or the next day so let's say you have an appointment today and today is Thursday. You will either get the feedback either on Thursday or on Friday. The way you will get the feedback is through comment bubbles and track changes you won't have a live phone call or chat but you will be notified when the feedback is ready and you will going to the system and download the paper and then you can review it on your own time.

I hope that's helpful and I would highly encourage you all to make a paper review appointment and try it out if you haven't already. Michael did have anything to or did I miss anything about paper review appointments that you would mention?

Michael: No, no, I think that covers it pretty sufficiently. I would echo what you said that this is a really good opportunity for students to get that one-on-one feedback about their writing specifically. Not talking about writing generally but here’s something I am seeing in your piece specifically. But from there, if you have questions after this webinar you can go ahead and send them to our writing support email address right there at the middle of the screen at writingsupport@waldenu.edu.

We also offer a live chat service in which a writing instructor like myself or Beth will actually monitor a live chat platform. The schedule for that is on the writing center home page and if you need a quick answer or quick clarification, that would be a great place to get that. So, go ahead and check out maybe what time the chat service is available before you do.

As a follow-up to this webinar we have a couple others that might be useful to you, one entitled practical skills thesis statement is a good one revolving around thesis statement and how to show the reader that main argument within the piece. Also, beginnings and endings, introduce and conclude your writing is another great webinar that would be kind of a follow-up to this one. We've talked about the organization of an academic paragraph and this is going to show you a little bit more had to lead the reader in and out of your discussion. And we talked a bit about the paper review service that we offer. With that we are going to wrap up today's webinar, thank you guys for being a great participatory great and thank you Beth for being an awesome presenter with that I will bid you a good day.