Students are often advised to use ‘topic sentences’ at the start of paragraphs, and this method certainly helps organise ideas. It helps build an essay, brick by brick, until it stands up. The downside is that it can make your reader jump from one thought to another — less like bricks and more like stepping stones. For a more advanced approach, try adding what I call a ‘hinge sentence’ before your topic sentence. Suppose one paragraph is about Mustafa’s idea, and the next about Olende’s. A basic hinge sentence might look something like this: ‘Where Mustafa is sceptical, Olende is dismissive.’ Hinges do not have to be single sentences, so you might try something longer: ‘Mustafa, in short, is sceptical. Her approach is influential but Olende goes one step further: he is dismissive of the entire concept.’ So, yes, plan paragraphs with topic sentences, but think about how they connect. Arguments emerge from connections. Your essay should be the river, not someone hopping across it.
12 December 2019
‘Swiftly reading your own or other people’s work for the flow of ideas across paragraphs is a great way to improve your argumentation.’
It’s hard to analyse your own writing but there’s a simple, straightforward way to check how your writing will come across.
Finessing an argument and spotting typos need different mindsets. Whether you’re writing an essay or a PhD, you need to be the editor as well as the author.