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Musicians Insitute Library

Guide to Academic Writing: Writing Methods

Guide to Academic Writing...

Videos for more help

How to write a paragraph

Hamburger method

The hamburger method is a common way to organize a paragraph but can also apply to essays more broadly. The image on the left shows you what it looks like.

Introduction

All paragraphs or essays start with an introduction. This should introduce what you are going to be talking about or help transition away from the previous paragraph. In paragraphs, this would be a single sentence that summarizes what you plan on arguing in that paragraph specifically. In an essay, an introduction has several components:

  1. A "hook" sentence meaning something that's vague, but draws the reader in to know more. (1 sentence)
  2. General information about the essay's components often moving from more general information to more specific information. (2-4 sentences)
  3. Your thesis statement, which is what you are trying to argue, prove, or discuss. (1 sentence).

Supporting Detail (x3)

In a burger, the best portions to eat are in the middle, between the buns. The same is true of a paragraph or essay. The center sentences or paragraphs contain the heart of the content. Supporting detail sentences will contain quotes, data, or other types of "evidence" to support your argument. You must also include analysis, meaning drawing a connection between the evidence you've presented and the overall point you are trying to make. It's very important that you do not assume that others will be able to make those connections on their own. You need to explain it in as much detail as possible. There are usually 2-4 supportive paragraphs in a 5 page essay, but this may vary. Each paragraph should address a single aspect of your argument. The components of a supportive paragraph look like this:

  1. Topic sentence summarizing the argument of the paragraph. (1 sentence)
  2. Evidence #1 (i.e. a quote, piece of data, musical score, etc) (1-2 sentences)
  3. Analysis #1 (i.e. your analysis of how this supports your argument) (2-3 sentences)
  4. Evidence #2
  5. Analysis #2
  6. etc...
  7. Conclusion sentence or transition to next topic

Conclusion

Conclusions are similar to introductions in that they summarize the content you've presented to your reader. However, they also serve an additional purpose. The point of a conclusion paragraph is to not only reiterate your points in a few sentences, they must also point to the implications of your argument - what does this mean for the music industry, for musicians, for history, or for the world? Conclusion paragraphs are usually 5-6 sentences, but may vary depending on how many arguments are in your paper and how important the conclusions you make are.

How to write essays

Everyone has different methods for approaching papers. These are a few common methods, but aren't the only ones. Experiment and see which one works for you!

Outline Method

In an outline, you are laying out where different concepts will go before you write the paper. Then, within the outline, you'd write the sentences to flesh out the topics. Finally, you'd delete the outline and are left with the essay. A starting outline might look something like this:

I. Introduction

i. Thesis Statement

II. Body Paragraph 1

i. Quote #1 from ...

ii. Analysis

iii. Quote #2 from ...

iv. Analysis

v. Conclusion

III. Body Paragraph 2

i. Quote #3 from ...

ii. Analysis

iii. Quote #4 from ...

iv. Analysis

v. Conclusion

IV. Body Paragraph 3

i. Quote #5 from ...

ii. Analysis

iii. Quote #6 from ...

iv. Analysis

v. Conclusion

V. Conclusion

Analysis-First Method

Some people prefer to start with the harder portion of the essay first: the analysis. These students will gather their evidence and analyze them, putting together their arguments and their body paragraphs before they create their thesis statement and their introduction or conclusion paragraphs. This works for people who want to do the difficult parts first or who may not completely know what they want to argue.

Storyboard Method

Finally, some people prefer to write in the storyboard method, meaning they start at the introduction and write the essay start to finish. They tend to focus on organization later in the process. This is a more creative approach and works for some who want to tell a story with their academic writing, but may not work for everyone, especially those who struggle with organization.

If you want examples of these, I'd encourage you to watch the videos on the left or to take a look at some of the resources at the end of this guide. Please don't hesitate to reach out and ask for help if you need it.

See the tab on Resources for More Information for books, eBooks, sample papers, and more for additional guidance.