Accessible version | Skip to content | Change your text size

Table of contents

Previous pageNext page

Linking main points

Click on the highlighted text to see the comments.

In the previous tasks we discussed tying the introduction and conclusion to the assignment topic. It is equally important to ensure that each paragraph or section of the essay is also clearly linked to, and is relevant to, the topic.

Your conclusion should tie all the threads of your discussion together and refer back to the central question. It can broaden the discussion (briefly) to include wider implications or questions for future research, but should not include any new aspects of your argument.

As you write each paragraph, ask yourself:

  • Why am I including this information? How does it relate to the topic?
  • Have I written an topic sentence to clearly indicate how it relates?

Keep a copy of the topic next to you as you read, take notes, and write drafts for your essay. Post it on your computer or desk calendar; this way as you do your research you can be certain to stay focused on the topic.

Analysing sample paragraphs

The following questions are based on a series of paragraphs from the body of an essay on stereotyping and mass media.

Question 1

Read the topic and the following paragraph from the body of the essay:

Examine the ways in which the mass media construct and reinforce social stereotypes around gender, ethnicity, and age.

Paragraph 1

Drewiany (1996: 88-91) looked at an American study of commercials played during Super Bowls between 1989 and 1994. The statistics in this study suggest that gender stereotypes do dominate in advertising. Men appeared in (80%) and had the major role in (54%) of commercials compared with women (45% and 11% respectively). She also found male celebrities easily outnumbered female celebrities; men were the "voices of authority" - that is, the unseen announcers were nearly always men; very few women had a major role as a career woman, most were only in the background if seen in a career role at all. Furthermore, women were predominantly portrayed as comforters and carers, whereas fathers were companions, they were more fun, sharing their children's entertainment, playing ball, etc.

What do you think is the main theme of this paragraph?

Check your answer

Feedback

This is clearly an explanation of the results of a study undertaken about the content of commercials held during a sporting event. But what about it? How does it relate to the topic? It provides empirical evidence (see Topic 1), but evidence of what? This paragraph needs a sentence at the beginning to place the study in context.


Question 2

Paragraph 1

Drewiany (1996: 88-91) looked at an American study of commercials played during Super Bowls between 1989 and 1994. The statistics in this study suggest that gender stereotypes do dominate in advertising. Men appeared in (80%) and had the major role in (54%) of commercials compared with women (45% and 11% respectively). She also found male celebrities easily outnumbered female celebrities; men were the "voices of authority" - that is, the unseen announcers were nearly always men; very few women had a major role as a career woman, most were only in the background if seen in a career role at all. Furthermore, women were predominantly portrayed as comforters and carers, whereas fathers were companions, they were more fun, sharing their children's entertainment, playing ball, etc.

What would be a good sentence to begin this paragraph?

Check your answer

Feedback

Here is one example of an introductory sentence for this paragraph

Commercial television relies on the sale of advertising for its survival, and stereotypes clearly dominate within this form of advertising. Drewiany (1996: 88-91) looked at an American study of commercials played during Super Bowls between 1989 and 1994. The statistics in this study suggest that gender stereotypes do dominate in advertising. Men appeared in (80%) and had the major role in (54%) of commercials compared with women (45% and 11% respectively). She also found male celebrities easily outnumbered female celebrities; men were the "voices of authority" - that is, the unseen announcers were nearly always men; very few women had a major role as a career woman, most were only in the background if seen in a career role at all. Furthermore, women were predominantly portrayed as comforters and carers, whereas fathers were companions, they were more fun, sharing their children's entertainment, playing ball, etc.


Question 3

Now read the next paragraph of this essay on stereotyping and the mass media.

Examine the ways in which the mass media construct and reinforce social stereotypes around gender, ethnicity, and age.

Paragraph 2

Patsy Watkins (1996: 73-74), in a study of 66 American women's magazines, looked at pictures of women and identified how many showed a visual profile of powerful women in the workplace. She concluded that the mass media carried relatively few images of professionally achieving women. Specifically, the "women's" magazines in the study carried few such images or some, none at all, whereas the general interest and business magazines tended to have more pictures of powerful women, although achieving men far outnumber those of women.

What do you think is the main theme of this paragraph?

Check your answer

Feedback

As in the previous paragraph we looked at, the first sentence should show how this paragraph relates to the topic as a whole. If we read further, we find that the student is talking about an American study that examined the images of women in "women's" magazines. But what about it? How does it relate to the topic? It provides empirical evidence (see Topic 1), but evidence of what?

Also, as this paragraph follows the one above on the study of commercials shown during a sporting event, it would also be an excellent opening sentence if it showed its relationship to the passage above.

Question 4

What would be a good sentence to begin this paragraph? Can you make it link to the previous paragraph, as well as to the topic as a whole?

Check your answer

Feedback

Here is one example of an introductory sentence for this paragraph

This stereotyping of women as being more concerned with homemaking than with career is not restricted to advertising during broadcasts directed toward males; it is also apparent in media directed specifically to women. Patsy Watkins (1996: 73-74), in a study of 66 American women's magazines, looked at pictures of women and identified how many showed a visual profile of powerful women in the workplace. She concluded that the mass media carried relatively few images of professionally achieving women. Specifically, the "women's" magazines in the study carried few such images or some, none at all, whereas the general interest and business magazines tended to have more pictures of powerful women, although achieving men far outnumber those of women.

Notice that the first sentence refers back to the previous paragraph as well as to the topic as a whole. It is now quite clear why this paragraph is present and how it contributes to the overall discussion.


Question 5

You can see from the previous examples that a reader should be able to skim along the first lines of your paragraphs to get a sense of the overall structure of your argument, and how each paragraph relates to the whole.

Below are the topic sentences from each paragraph in an essay on stereotyping and gender. Read through them, comparing them with the essay topic.

Examine the ways in which the mass media construct and reinforce social stereotypes around gender, ethnicity, and age.

Topic sentences for each paragraph in the body of the essay.

Paragraph 1

Some of the most prominent stereotypes projected by the media are those regarding gender. (The paragraph goes on to discuss traditional notions of man as dominant, and woman as passive . . . )

Paragraph 2

A second stereotype created around gender concerns the roles occupied by males and females in the spheres of family and work. . . .

Paragraph 3

Another long-standing stereotype perpetuated by the commercial media centres on the concept of ethnicity. . . . (The paragraph goes on to state that many of the ethnic representations in the media are ideologically biased distortions. . .)

Paragraph 4

This systematic stereotyping is achieved through both the extent and the type of representation various ethnic groups receive. (e.g. most television characters are white. . . )

Paragraph 5

The centrality of white culture is further reinforced by the media since reports of minorities are almost always negative.

Paragraph 6

Perhaps the most well-known example of stereotyping groups on the basis of ethnic identity is the treatment of Aborigines in Australian media. . . .

Paragraph 7

The media have also constructed stereotypes around the concept of age.

Paragraph 8

A serious concern is the media's stereotypic portrayal of seniors as helpless invalids.

The first lines of these paragraphs provide a clear view of the overall structure of the argument, and how each paragraph relates to the whole. The words and phrases in bold provide cohesion or links with the main ideas presented in the paragraphs. Notice also how some words are repeated across paragraphs to give a sense of continuity (for example, "most television characters are white" is linked to the next paragraph topic sentence "the centrality of white culture is further reinforced by the media...").

word outputDownload a printable version of this page (.doc)
Problems? Questions? Comments? Please provide us feedback.