There’s a lot to get right when you’re writing an essay. And a particularly important skill is knowing how to start a paragraph effectively. That first sentence counts!

Luckily for you, we’ve compiled HEAPS of advice, example phrases and top connective words to help you transition between paragraphs and guide your reader with ease.

So read on for a pick ’n’ mix of how to start a paragraph examples!

Paragraphs: the lowdown

So why exactly are paragraphs such an important tool for writing effectively? Well:

  • They’re an important part of keeping your reader captivated
  • They help your reader to follow your argument or narrative
  • And they keep your writing in easily digestible chunks of information!

And an important part of all that is nailing the start of your paragraphs. Honestly!

Start off strong and your reader will know exactly what you’re going to do next and how your information interrelates. Top marks here you come – and for the low, low cost of some clever vocab!

Start your paragraphs off weakly however, without setting up effective signposting and transitions, and they’ll get lost and (horror!) might have to re-read your essay to make sense of it. Ugh.

how to write a paragraph

What should your paragraphs contain?

If you’re writing an academic essay, there are a lot of popular conventions and guides about what a paragraph should include.

Academic writing guides favour well-developed paragraphs that are unified, coherent, contain a topic sentence, and provide adequate development of your idea. They should be long enough to fully discuss and analyse your idea and evidence.

And remember – you should ALWAYS start a new paragraph for each new idea or point.

You can read more about paragraph break guidelines in our helpful what is a paragraph article! If you’re wondering how long your paragraphs should be, check out our guideline article.

Paragraph structure (the PEEL method)

Academic paragraphs often follow a common structure, designed to guide your reader through your argument – although not all the time! It goes like this:

  • Start with a “topic sentence”
  • Give 1-2 sentences of supporting evidence for (or against) your argument
  • Next, write a sentence analysing this evidence with respect to your argument or topic sentence
  • Finally, conclude by explaining the significance of this stance, or providing a transition to the next paragraph

(A quick definition: A “topic sentence” introduces the idea your paragraph will focus upon and makes summarising easy. It can occur anywhere but placing it at the start increases readability for your audience.)

One popular acronym for creating well-developed academic paragraphs is PEEL. This stands for Point, Evidence, Explanation, Link. Using this method makes it easy to remember what your paragraph should include.

  • I.e. your point (the topic sentence), some evidence and analysis of how it supports your point, and a transitional link back to your essay question or forwards to your next paragraph.

NOTE: You shouldn’t start all your paragraphs the same way OR start every sentence in your paragraph with the same word – it’s distracting and won’t earn you good marks from your reader.


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    How to create clarity for your readers

    Paragraphs are awesome tools for increasing clarity and readability in your writing. They provide visual markers for our eyes and box written content into easily digestible chunks.

    But you still need to start them off strongly. Do this job well, and you can seamlessly guide your readers through the narrative or argument of your writing.

    The first sentence of your paragraph is an important tool for creating that clarity. You can create links with the surrounding paragraphs and signal the purpose of this paragraph for your reader.

    How?

    • With transitions and connective words that form bridges in your writing.
      • Transitions show the links and relationships between the ideas you’re presenting: addition, contrast, sequential, conclusion, emphasis, example/citation
      • Connective words help you to join together multiple paragraphs in a sequence
    • And through the careful use of signposting words and phrases to direct your reader through your essay.
      • Note: there is quite a lot of overlap in vocabulary! Some transitions are also great signposts etc.

    Tip: Don’t overuse them! These techniques can make your writing sounds more professional and less like spoken language by smoothing over jarring jumps between topics. But using too many will make your writing stilted.

    A common term that encompasses these three tools is “sentence starter”. They are typically set apart from the body of your sentence by a comma.

    You can learn more about these key skills in our two helpful articles linked above – or explore a range of other writing skills advice, such as how to start an essay, structure an essay, and proofread an essay effectively!

    Picking the right tone

    It is important that the paragraph-starting phrases and connective words you choose complement the style of your writing and the conventions of the subject you are writing for.

    For example, scientific papers usually have much clearer and expected structure and signposting conventions than arts and humanities papers.

    If you’re unsure, it’s best to check some of the sources you’ve researched for your essay, explore the relevant academic style guide, or get help from a teacher – ask them for some examples!

    Getting your grammar right

    Grammatical conventions can be a minefield, but they’re worth remembering if you want to get top marks!

    If you’re looking to increase the clarity of your writing and paragraphs, make sure you pick the right spot for your commas and colons.

    For example, when you’re starting a new paragraph, many of the common signposting words and phrases require a comma. These include: however, therefore, moreover, what’s more, firstly, secondly, finally, likewise, for example, in general … (and more!).

    These phrases should always be followed by a comma if it’s at the start of a sentence, or separated with a comma before and after like this if placed mid-sentence:

    However, we cannot say for sure what happened here. We know, for example, that X claims to have lost the icon.

    A word about “this” (a tip for really great writing)

    As you start writing your paragraphs (and even sentences), you might be tempted to kick off with the word “this” – as in the classic “this shows that …”.

    But that’s not a great idea.

    Why? Academic essays aim should aim for maximum clarity, and “this” is just vague!

    What’s important is that the connections that are clear to you, the writer (who is – hopefully – intimately familiar with your argument), are ALSO clear to your reader, who has probably never read your essay before.

    Just imagine, your reader might be muttering “this what??” as they read, and then having to re-read the paragraph and the paragraph before to check … which is not ideal for getting good marks.

    In complex documents (especially essays and theses) where a lot of information is presented at once, the points you’re referencing might be spread across several paragraphs of evidence and argument-building. So, unless your sentence/paragraph-starting “this” follows on immediately from the point it references, it’s best to try a different phrase.

    And all it really takes is a little signposting and clarification to avoid the vagueness of “this shows that”. Ask yourself “this WHAT shows that?” And just point out what you’re referencing – and be obvious

    Here’s some examples:

    You can also do a similar exercise with “they” and other demonstrative pronouns (that, these, those).

    Specifying what your pronouns refer to will great help to increase the clarity of your (topic) sentences. And as an added bonus, your writing will also sound more sophisticated!

    What type of paragraph are you starting?

    When it comes to essay writing, there’s usually an expected structure: introduction, body (evidence and analysis) and conclusion.

    With other genres of writing your paragraphs might not conform to such

    Consider the structure of your paragraph. What do you want it to do? What is the topic? Do you want to open with your topic sentence?

    How to start an introductory paragraph

    Nailing the introduction of your essay is simultaneously one of the most important and hardest sections to write. A great introduction should set up your topic and explain why it’s significant.

    One of the primary goals of an effective introduction is to clearly state your “thesis statement” (what your essay is about, and what you are setting out to achieve with your argument).

    A popular (and easy) technique to start an introduction is to begin your first paragraph by immediately stating your thesis statement.

    Here’s some examples of how to start a paragraph with your thesis statement:

    • This paper discusses …
    • In this paper, you will find …
    • This essay argues that …
    • This thesis will evaluate …
    • This article will explore the complex socio-political factors that contributed to the decline of the Roman Empire between the reign of Constantine (312-337AD) and the fall of Rome in 476AD.

    However, starting your introductory paragraph effectively is not all about immediately stating your thesis!

    So head over to our great article on how to start an essay, for lots of more advice and examples on how to kick off your introductions and capture your reader’s attention with style!

    how long is a paragraph

    How to start a body paragraph

    Unless you’re writing an introduction or conclusion, you’ll be writing a “body paragraph”. Body paragraphs make up the majority of your essay, and should include all of your main points, data, evidence, analysis, deductions and arguments.

    Each paragraph should have a particular purpose and be centred around one idea. Your body paragraphs might be analytical, evidential, persuasive, descriptive etc.

    To help your reader make sense of the body of your essay, it’s important to guide them with signposts and transitions. These usually occur at the start of your paragraphs to demonstrate their relationship to preceding information.

    However, that means there are LOTS of different techniques for starting your body paragraphs! So for 200+ words and phrases for effectively starting a body paragraph, simply keep reading!

    How to start a concluding paragraph

    Concluding paragraphs are a little different to other paragraphs because they shouldn’t be presenting new evidence or arguments. Instead, you’re aiming to draw your arguments together neatly, and tie up loose ends.

    You might find them as part of a smaller sub-section within a longer academic dissertation or thesis. Or as part of the conclusion of your essay.

    When starting your conclusion it’s always a great idea to let your reader know they’ve arrived by signposting its purpose. This is especially true if your essay doesn’t contain any headers!

    Here are some examples of how to kick off your concluding paragraph:

    • In conclusion, this paper has shown that …
    • In summary, we have found that …
    • A review of these analyses indicates that …
    • To conclude, this essay has demonstrated that we must act immediately if we want to halt the drastic dwindling of our global bee population.

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      How to start a paragraph: 200+ top words and phrases for a winning first sentence

      Choosing the best start for your paragraph is all about understanding the purpose of this paragraph within the wider context of the preceding (and following) paragraphs and your essay as a whole.

      Where does it fit into the structure of your essay? Is it:

      • Opening a new topic or theme?
      • Providing explanations or descriptions?
      • Continuing a list or sequence?
      • Providing evidence?
      • Presenting a different opinion or counter-argument?
      • Beginning an analysis?
      • Highlighting consequences?
      • Drawing a conclusion?

      It’s important to be direct in how you start each paragraph – especially if you’re struggling to get your point across!

      The best way to craft a killer first sentence is to be clear on what you want it to do. We’ve covered 12 options below, packed with vocab and examples to get you started …

      And don’t forget to consider when you should start a new paragraph, and how long you want your paragraphs to be. Where you place your paragraph breaks will have a big effect on the kind of starting sentence you need!

      Finally – remember that the best time to craft effective opening sentences is after you’ve written your first draft and decided on your paragraph breaks! You should already have all your ideas arranged into a logical order.

      Showing structure and presenting concepts

      This first type of paragraphs are commonly found throughout your essay, whether you’re introducing your ideas, providing evidence and data, or presenting results.

      There a lots of useful types of connective words and phrases to help you kick off your paragraphs with clarity:

      how to start a paragraph

      Most notable are the sequential signposting words, which you can use throughout your essay to guide your reader through the steps of your argument, or a list of related evidence, for example.

      If you’re looking for something a little more specific, read on for four sets of example academic phrases to use to start a paragraph!

      1.       Starting or continuing a sequence

      One of the most important types of transitional phrases to help you start a paragraph is a sequential transition. These signposting transitions are great for academic arguments because they help you to present your points in order, without the reader getting lost along the way.

      Sequential connectives and transitions create order within your narrative by highlighting the temporal relationship between your paragraphs. Think lists of events or evidence, or setting out the steps in your narrative.

      You’ll often find them in combination with other paragraph-starting phrases (have a look at the examples below to spot them!)

      Why not try out some of these examples to help guide the readers of your essay?

      • Before considering X, it is important to note that …
      • Following on from Y, we should also consider …
      • The first notion to discuss is …
      • The next point to consider is …
      • Thirdly, we know that Y is also an important feature of …
      • As outlined in the previous paragraph, the next steps are to …
      • Having considered X, it is also necessary to explore Y …

      2.       Providing evidence, examples or citations

      Once you’ve made your claims or set out your ideas, it’s important to properly back them up. You’ll probably need to give evidence, quote experts and provide references throughout your essay.

      If you’ve got more than one piece of evidence, it’s best to separate them out into individual paragraphs. Sequential signposting can be a helpful tool to help you and your reader keep track of your examples.

      If your paragraph is all about giving evidence for a preceding statement, why not start with one of these phrases:

      • For example, X often …
      • This stance is clearly illustrated by …
      • Consider the example of Y, which …
      • This concept is well supported by …

      If you want to quote or paraphrase a source or expert, a great way to start your paragraph is by introducing their views. You can also use phrases like these to help you clearly show their role in your essay:

      • [Author], in particular, has argued that …
      • According to [source], Y is heavily influenced by …
      • [Source] for example, demonstrates the validity of this assertion by …
      • This [counter-] argument is supported by evidence from X, which shows that …

      Always remember to provide references for your sources in the manner most appropriate for your field (i.e. footnotes, and author-date methods).

      3.       Giving emphasis to your point

      Not all points and paragraphs in an essay are made equal. It’s natural you’ll want to highlight ideas and evidence for your reader to make sure they’re persuaded by your argument!

      So, if you want to give emphasis to what you’re about to discuss, be obvious! In fact, you may need to be more direct than you think:

      • This detail is significant because …
      • Undoubtedly, this experience was …
      • Certainly, there are ramifications for …
      • The last chapters, in particular, are revealing of X …

      4.       Acknowledging uncertainty

      In academia it’s common to find a little uncertainty in your evidence or results, or within the knowledge of your field. That’s true whether you’re a historian exploring artefacts from Ancient Greece, or a social scientist whose questionnaire results haven’t produced a clear answer.

      Don’t hide from this uncertainty – it’s a great way to point ahead to future research that needs to be done. In fact, you might be doing it in your essay!

      Why not try one of these examples to highlight the gaps in your academic field or experiment?

      • Whether X is actually the case remains a matter of debate, as current explorations cannot …
      • Although not proven, it is commonly understood that X …
      • Whilst the likelihood of X is debateable …
      • Given the age of the artifacts, it is impossible to say with accuracy whether Y …
      • Although we cannot know for sure, the findings above suggest that …
      • Untangling the causes of X is a complex matter and it is impossible to say for sure whether …

      Showing the relationships between your points

      As your essay progresses you will need to guide your reader through a succession of points, ideas and arguments by creating a narrative for them to follow. And important part of this task is the use of signposting to demonstrate the relationship between your paragraphs. Do they support each other? Do they present opposite sides of a debate?

      Luckily there are lots of agreement, opposition and contextual connectives to help you increase your clarity:

      how to start a paragraph

      Read on for four more sets of example academic phrases to help you present your ideas!

      5.       Making a new point

      If there’s no connection between your new paragraph and the preceding material, you’re probably starting a new topic, point or idea.

      That means it’s less likely (although not impossible) that you’ll need transitional phrases. However, it’s still important to signpost the purpose and position of this new paragraph clearly for your reader.

      • The next point to consider is …
      • We know that X …
      • This section of the essay discusses …
      • We should now turn to an exploration of Y …
      • We should begin with an overview of the situation for X …
      • Before exploring the two sides of the debate, it is important to consider …

      You can find some great ideas and examples for starting a new topic in our how to start an essay article. Whilst they’re definitely applicable to introductions, these strategies can also work well for kicking off any new idea!

      6.       Presenting accepted concepts

      If you’re aiming to take a new stance or question an accepted understanding with your essay, a great way to start a paragraph is by clearly setting out the concepts you want to challenge.

      These phrases are also an effective way to establish the context of your essay within your field:

      • It is commonly believed that …
      • The accepted interpretation of X is …
      • Until recently, it was thought that …
      • Historically, X has been treated as a case of …
      • Over the past two decades, scholars have approached X as an example of …
      • The most common interpretation of Y is …

      7.       Adding similar points

      Agreement connectives are an important tool in your arsenal for clearly indicating the continuation or positive relationship between similar ideas or evidence you’re presenting.

      If you’re looking to continue your essay with a similar point, why not try one of these examples:

      • Another aspect of X is …
      • Another important point is …
      • By the same token, Y should be explored with equal retrospection for …
      • Moreover, an equally significant factor of X is …
      • We should also consider …
      • Proponents of Y frequently also suggested that …

      8.       Demonstrating contrast

      In contrast, if you’re looking to present a counter-argument, opposite side of a debate, or critique of the ideas, evidence or results in your preceding paragraph(s), you’ll need to turn to contradiction and opposition connectives.

      These phrases will help you to clearly link your paragraphs whilst setting them in contrast within your narrative:

      • A contrary explanation is that …
      • On the other side of this debate,  X suggests that …
      • Given this understanding of X, it is surprising that Y …
      • On the other hand, critics of X point to …
      • Despite these criticisms, proponents of X continue to …
      • Whilst the discussion in the previous paragraph suggests X to be true, it fails to take into consideration Y …

      Note: some paragraph-opening sentences can be modified using connective words to show either agreement or contrast! Here are some examples:

      • It could also be said that X does [not] …
      • It is [also] important to note that X … OR It is important, however, to note that X …
      • There is [also/however], a further point to be considered …

      Presenting analyses, arguments and results

      An important stage of any essay is the analysis – that’s when you bring your own arguments to the table, based on your data and results.

      Signalling this clearly, therefore, is pretty important! Happily, there are plenty of connective words and phrases that can help you out:

      paragraph starters

      Read on for four sets of example academic phrases to use to start your analysis, results and summary paragraphs!

      9.       Conducting an analysis and constructing your argument

      Once you’ve set out your evidence or data, it’s time to point out the connections within them. Or to analyse how they support the argument you want to make.

      With humanities essays it is common to analyse the impact of your evidence as you present it. In contrast, sciences essays often contain a dedicated analysis section after the data has been presented.

      You’ll probably need several analytical paragraphs to address each of your points. So, a great way to get started is to dive straight in by signposting the connections you want to make in each one:

      • Each of these arguments make an important contribution to X because …
      • In order to fully understand Y, we need to analyse the findings from …
      • Each model of X and Y changed throughout the experiment because …
      • Exploring this dataset reveals that, in fact, X is not as common as hypothesised …
      • Notwithstanding such limitations, this data still shows that …
      • Of central concern to Y, therefore, is the evidence that …
      • This interpretation of X is …
      • This critique implies that …
      • This approach is similar to that of Y, who, as we have seen above, argues that …
      • The resulting graphs suggest that …
      • Whilst conducting the survey, it was discovered that …

      10.   Presenting results

      Having completed your analyses of any evidence (and hopefully persuaded your reader of your argument), you may need to present your results. This is especially relevant for essays that examine a specific dataset after a survey or experiment.

      If you want to signpost this section of your essay clearly, start your paragraph with a phrase like these:

      • The arguments presented above show that …
      • In this last analysis, we can see that X has shown …
      • As we have seen, the data gathered demonstrates that …
      • As demonstrated above, our understanding of X primarily stems from …

      11.   Demonstrating cause and effect

      When writing an academic essay you may often need to demonstrate the cause and effect relationship between your evidence or data, and your theories or results. Choosing the right connective phrases can be important for showing this relationship clearly to your reader.

      Try one of these phrases to start your paragraph to clearly explain the consequences:

      • As a consequence, X cannot be said to …
      • Therefore, we can posit that …
      • Provided that X is indeed true, it has been shown that Y …
      • As such, it is necessary to note that …
      • For this reason, the decision was made to …
      • The evidence show that the primary cause of X was …
      • As a result of Y, it was found that …

      12.   Summarising a topic or analysis

      In general, summary paragraphs should not present any new evidence or arguments. Instead, they act as a reminder of the path your essay has taken so far.

      Of course, these concluding paragraphs commonly occur at the end of an essay as part of your conclusion. However, they are also used to draw one point or stage of your argument to a close before the next begins.

      Within a larger essay or dissertation, these interludes can be useful reminders for your reader as you transition between providing context, giving evidence, suggesting new approaches etc.

      It’s worth noting that concluding your topic or analysis isn’t always the same as presenting results, although there can be some similarities in vocabulary.

      Connect your arguments into summaries with clear linking phrases such as:

      • Altogether, these arguments demonstrate that …
      • Each of these arguments make an important contribution to our understanding of X …
      • From this overview of X and Y, we can conclude that …
      • We can therefore see that …
      • It was hypothesised that X, however, as we have seen …
      • Therefore, we can [clearly] see that …

      Time to get writing your paragraphs!

      And that’s it! You should now have a much-improved understanding of how to start a paragraph.

      Whether you we’re worried about how to start your introductions or conclusions, or were wondering about specific types of body paragraphs, hopefully you’ve found what you need in the examples above.

      If you need more writing advice to help you nail top marks for your essay, we’ve got a whole series of articles designed to improve your writing skillsperfect! Have a read for top tips to for capturing easy marks 😊

      You can learn:

      Good luck completing your essay!


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