The Single Paragraph Response – Student Guidelines
What is it?
The single paragraph response consists of at least 4-7 sentences. In that space a question or an idea is presented and then answered with supporting details. A single paragraph response is most effective when it contains the following elements.
- The first sentence as the topic sentence. This sentence responds directly to the question or idea posed. In its most simple form it is a restatement of the question. As it gets more complex it may start to include the “because” piece.
For example the question is: “Why do like you science?” In its simplest form the topic sentence may be: “I like science.” A slightly more complex version may be: “I like science for several reasons.” And, an even more complex version may be: “I like science because it is fun, interesting and informative.” All three of these are reasonable responses, but the last is the strongest.
I like science because it is fun and interesting, and I like to learn new things.
- The next 2-5 sentences support the topic sentence. If we look at the strongest topic sentence, the support has already been delineated. With the simplest, there is a bit more work to be done. The supporting statements should expand on the initial idea. The word “evidence” could be used here as well. Evidence is data that is used to support an idea or argument. So, what could the supporting details look like?
I like science because it is fun and interesting, and I learn new things. Science is fun because you get to play with lots of neat things such as DNA gels. The fact that you can even cut DNA up is really interesting and means I probably know something my friends don’t. Lastly, I like to learn new trivia, and science provides lots of opportunity for this. For example, in addition to the platypus, the spiny echidna is a mammal that lays eggs.
The writer has expanded on her original thought by providing examples. If a student maps out the supporting details first, or even composes a rough draft, she can go back and turn a simple topic sentence into a more complex one. So of course this is an argument for brainstorming or writing rough drafts.
- The final sentence is the concluding sentence. At bare minimum it should refer back to the topic sentence. In the simplest case it functions simply as a summative statement. “In conclusion, I like science because of the fun I have learning new and interesting things.” As the final sentence gets more complex, it should also include a piece that provides the reader with some context. For example, “I like science because of the fun I have learning new and interesting things, and I hope to one day use this information to win at the game Jeopardy.” Now the reader has been given information as to why the writer is sharing this information, or as to the significance of the information.
So in review the question posed to the student was:
Do you like science?
The final response looked like this:
I like science because it is fun and interesting, and I learn new things. Science is fun because you get to play with lots of neat things such as DNA gels. The fact that you can even cut DNA up is really interesting and means I probably know something my friends don’t. Lastly, I like to learn new trivia, and science provides lots of opportunity for this. For example, in addition to the platypus, the spiny echidna is also a mammal that lays eggs. I like science because of the fun I have learning new and interesting things, and I hope to one day use this information to win at the game Jeopardy.
Where Do I begin?
You can achieve these types of paragraphs from a series of simple steps. You can use the Paragraph WritingTemplate to outline your ideas as you follow the directions below.
- First spend a little time with the question and what it is asking. You can even restate the question in your own words.
- Second, you should brainstorm ideas that relate to the question. This helps when it is time to support your own ideas.
- Third, you should formulate a working topic sentence that addresses the main topic of your paragraph.
- Afterwards you should bullet-list your supporting details. Once the details are down on paper you may wish to reorganize them so that the strongest support appears last or so that your supporting details follow a logical, sequential order. A revisit to the topic sentence allows you the opportunity to perhaps add in some more detail.
- Finally, you should work on the closing sentence, which states the significance of your supporting details rather than summarizes or introduces a new idea. This working rough draft allows you to clarify thoughts and language before transferring the final version to the answer paper or even before typing it.
How can I figure out if I am doing it already?
You can use a process known as “reverse outlining” to help you determine if you are already constructed solid single paragraph responses. This process basically requires that you take an already written paragraph and break it down into its elements. Following the steps outlined below will help you break down your paragraph.
Step 1:Hi-lite the topic sentence in blue. Be sure to use the criteria above to help you determine which sentence is the topic sentence. Also keep in mind that it may not appear as the first sentence or it may appear as multiple sentences.
Step 2:Hi-lite each supporting detail in yellow and number them as you encounter each one. There may be more information than is necessary attached to each detail, be sure to hi-lite only that which directly supports the topic sentence.
Step 3:Hi-lite the concluding sentence in pink. This sentence may not appear last or may appear as multiple sentences, so be very aware of content versus location or structure.
Step 4:Transfer only that information which is hi-lited to the Paragraph Writing
Once you have broken down your paragraph, you can establish whether or not you had extra information in your paragraph as well as what of your information is already meeting single paragraph response expectations. At this point you rewrite your topic sentence, rearrange or add to your support details and come up with a solid concluding sentence before completing a rewrite.
Page 1 of 3
Single Paragraph Response—Investigations in Biology and Chemistry