1. Paragraph Development by Detail
This is the most common and easiest form of paragraph development: you simply expand on a general topic sentence using specific examples or illustrations. Look at the following paragraph (you may have encountered it before):
Work tends to be associated with non-work-specific environments, activities, and schedules. If asked what space is reserved for learning, many students would suggest the classroom, the lab or the library. What about the kitchen? The bedroom? In fact, any room in which a student habitually studies becomes a learning space, or a place associated with thinking. Some people need to engage in sports or other physical activity before they can work successfully. Being sedentary seems to inspire others. Although most classes are scheduled between 8:30 and 22:00, some students do their best work before the sun rises, some after it sets. Some need a less flexible schedule than others, while a very few can sit and not rise until their task is completed. Some students work quickly and efficiently, while others cannot produce anything without much dust and heat.
The topic sentence makes a general claim: that school work tends not to be associated only with school. The rest of the sentences provide various illustrations of this argument. They are organized around the three categories, "environment, activities, and schedules," enumerated in the topic sentence. The details provide the concrete examples which your reader will use to evaluate the credibility of your topic sentence.
You should consider developing your paragraph by comparison and contrast when you are describing two or more things which have something, but not everything, in common. You may choose to compare either point by point (X is big, Y is little; X and Y are both purple.) or subject by subject (X is big and purple; Y is small and purple.). Consider, for example, the following paragraph:
Although the interpretation of traffic signals may seem highly standardized, close observation reveals regional variations across this country, distinguishing the East Coast from Central Canada and the West as surely as dominant dialects or political inclinations. In Montreal, a flashing red traffic light instructs drivers to careen even more wildly through intersections heavily populated with pedestrians and oncoming vehicles. In startling contrast, an amber light in Calgary warns drivers to scream to a halt on the off chance that there might be a pedestrian within 500 meters who might consider crossing at some unspecified time within the current day. In my home town in New Brunswick, finally, traffic lights (along with painted lines and posted speed limits) do not apply to tractors, all terrain vehicles, or pickup trucks, which together account for most vehicles on the road. In fact, were any observant Canadian dropped from an alien space vessel at an unspecified intersection anywhere in this vast land, he or she could almost certainly orient him-or-herself according to the surrounding traffic patterns.
This paragraph compares traffic patterns in three areas of Canada. It contrasts the behavior of drivers in the Maritimes, in Montreal, and in Calgary, in order to make a point about how attitudes in various places inform behavior. People in these areas have in common the fact that they all drive; in contrast, they drive differently according to the area in which they live.
It is important to note that the paragraph above considers only one aspect of driving (behavior at traffic lights). If you wanted to consider two or more aspects, you would probably need more than one paragraph.
3. Paragraph Development by Process
Paragraph development by process involves a straightforward step-by-step description. Those of you in the sciences will recognize it as the formula followed in the "method" section of a lab experiment. Process description often follows a chronological sequence:
The first point to establish is the grip of the hand on the rod. This should be about half-way up the cork handle, absolutely firm and solid, but not tense or rigid. All four fingers are curved around the handle, the little finger, third finger and middle finger contributing most of the firmness by pressing the cork solidly into the fleshy part of the palm, near the heel of the hand. The forefinger supports and steadies the grip but supplies its own firmness against the thumb, which should be along the upper side of the handle and somewhere near the top of the grip. (from Roderick Haig-Brown, "Fly Casting")
The topic sentence establishes that the author will use this paragraph to describe the process of establishing the "grip of the hand on the rod," and this is exactly what he does, point by point, with little abstraction.
Very often, a single paragraph will contain development by a combination of methods. It may begin with a brief comparison, for example, and move on to provide detailed descriptions of the subjects being compared. A process analysis might include a brief history of the process in question. Many paragraphs include lists of examples:
The broad range of positive characteristics used to define males could be used to define females too, but they are not. At its entry for woman Webster's Third provides a list of "qualities considered distinctive of womanhood": "Gentleness, affection, and domesticity or on the other hand fickleness, superficiality, and folly." Among the "qualities considered distinctive of manhood" listed in the entry for man, no negative attributes detract from the "courage, strength, and vigor" the definers associate with males. According to this dictionary, womanish means "unsuitable to a man or to a strong character of either sex."
This paragraph is a good example of one which combines a comparison and contrast of contemporary notions of "manliness" and "womanliness" with an extended list of examples.
5. Paragraph Development by Explanation
In an explanation paragraph, you need to explain how or why something happens. Very often in social studies class, you will be asked to explore causes and effects of certain events.
Example: Write a paragraph explaining why so many Europeans moved to Canada during the nineteenth century.
The following words can help you to write a good explanation paragraph:
as a result of
is due to
it follows that
if . . . then
as a result of
is due to / was due to
if ... then
6. Paragraph Development by Sequence
In a sequencing paragraph, you are writing to describe a series of events or a process in some sort of order. Usually, this order is based on time.
Example: Write a paragraph outlining how a person becomes the prime minister.
in the beginningExample: In the beginning, you need to become a leader of a political party.
7. Paragraph Development by Sequence
In a description paragraph, you are writing about what a person, place, or thing is like. Sometimes, you may describe where a place is located.
Examples:Write a paragraph describing what a polar bear looks like. Describe where Canada's industry is located.
The following words can help you to write a good description paragraph:
mass / weight
north / east / south / west
8. Paragraph Development by Evaluation
In an evaluation paragraph, you make judgments about people, ideas, and possible actions. You need to make your evaluation based on certain criteria that you develop. In the paragraph, you will state your evaluation or recommendation and then support it by referring to your criteria.
Example: Write a paragraph evaluating whether pesticides should be used on farms.
good / badExample: The use of pesticides such as DDT is bad for the environment.
correct / incorrectExample: The belief that pesticides must be used is incorrect.
moral / immoralExample: The use of pesticides to control pests is immoral because it harms the environment.
right / wrongExample: It is wrong to use pesticides because they harm the environment.
important / trivialExample: The issue of pesticides is an important one because it affects the environment.