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How Many Paragraphs In A One Page Essay

Generally speaking, there is no set number of paragraphs for any length of research paper, or any other type of writing, for that matter, nor is there a set number of sentences per paragraphs.  For a paper of the length you're describing, you would plan on an introduction and conclusion that might be a third to half a page long, and probably seven to ten paragraphs in between.  The length of your work will be...

Generally speaking, there is no set number of paragraphs for any length of research paper, or any other type of writing, for that matter, nor is there a set number of sentences per paragraphs.  For a paper of the length you're describing, you would plan on an introduction and conclusion that might be a third to half a page long, and probably seven to ten paragraphs in between.  The length of your work will be affected by the topic, the type and number of direct quotes you include, method of citation employed, and, as elementary as it sounds, your choice of vocabulary, because more sophisticated language, particularly specialized vocabulary, will likely include longer terminology.

That being said, I've found that when an instructor (including myself) gives a desired length for an assignment, it is meant (or should be) as more of a guideline than a set-in-stone requirement, intended to give the student a general idea of the depth of information the instructor expects to see presented.  By saying a paper should be five pages, the instructor hopes to stave off the underachiever who turns in a most superficial examination of the topic in, say, two pages, as well as the overachiever who might be tempted, in the name of earning a good grade, to write something in the tradition of the doctoral thesis. 

By the same token, the number of paragraphs you end up with will vary according to your topic and writing style.  A paper of this length will likely have paragraphs that range from five to eight or nine sentences; fewer than five sentences in a paragraph from the paper's body might be an indicator that more detail is needed, while more than nine or ten sentences might indicate that too much information is being attempted in one paragraph and the writer needs to do some editing or breaking of the paragraph into two or more. 

I would advise accumulating whatever research you'll be using and write out a first draft with little or no thought to polishing just yet--simply get everything on paper, forming your paragraphs without too much angst, so that you have a starting place.   From there, you can sit back and evaluate if you are in the five page area in terms of length; you can ascertain where there might be holes in your research or ideas, requiring more information be added, or where you perhaps have an overabundance of material, which may cause you to either cut some of the extraneous material, or possibly refine or adjust your original topic to account for the proliferation of information.

© Damen, 2002

15. Paragraphs.

A paragraph is one of the greatest tools you have in organizing your writing. It's a simple, almost subconscious way of cluing your reader in on the divisions that underlie your thinking. Ideally, a paragraph delineates a thought. In antiquity, a paragraph often was a single thought—and often a single sentence, usually a very long one. Writers today, however, tend not to go on the way classical authors did. In academic writing, most paragraphs include at least three sentences, though rarely more than ten.


So, how many paragraphs are enough, and how many are too many?
For historical writing, there should be between four and six paragraphs in a two-page paper, or six and twelve in a five-page essay.* More than that, and it becomes difficult to see the larger contours of your argument. Fewer, and it's hard to see where sections start and end. A good general rule is two to three paragraphs a page.

But there's considerable flexibility here, too. So, perhaps it's better to look at paragraphs another way, from the inside. Instead of surveying the paper as a whole, you can count sentences within paragraphs. If so, all paragraphs should have between three and ten full sentences. All in all, a strong and coherent paragraph starts and ends itself, and so there's no need to count paragraphs when the argument is clear and directed.

In sum, remember the point of paragraphs is to show the structure of your thoughts. A paragraph should encompass one thought—that is, it should have some idea guiding it—which is then divided into separate sentences all of which address and advance that idea. So, insert a paragraph break when you are making a transition between ideas, or adding a new line of thought, or when you've finished summing up, as I'll do right now.


*You should be aware these standards will vary from class to class, even within historical disciplines. So, for instance, journalists tend to write in many short paragraphs. The same is true in some of the sciences. Just know that many short paragraphs are generally to be avoided here.

 

 


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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