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Mullins

Patterns of Body Paragraph Development


A common comment that students get on their papers is that their arguments arent
developed enough. A clear point, a concrete example, and a thorough explanation are the
building blocks of body paragraphs, but what a body paragraph needs to do is to make a
convincing argument. This act of developing an argument is dependent on how you organize
the presentation of your examples and the logical reasoning you use to explain them. There are
a few general patterns of development (also called rhetorical modes) that arguments tend to
follow. Recognizing these patterns in your own writing will help you to see when your paragraphs
lack development and give you patterns to follow. These patterns will not only be useful for you,
they will also provide recognizable structures for the reader to follow. Obviously, different points
lend themselves to different patterns of development. The conclusion that you are trying to
make about your point should guide your choice about what pattern of development you will
use. Also, keep in mind that writers often combine these various patterns. For instance, narration
and description often appear together. For academic papers however, you will need to go
beyond narration and description.

Patterns of Development: The Rhetorical Modes
Here is a list of the common rhetorical modes.
Description- In a descriptive paragraph, you use specific sensory details to create a clear
image of a subject for the reader. Consider using sight, sound, touch, taste, and/or smell. Also,
choose a pattern of organization. For instance, if you were to describe how something looks you
might want to organize the description moving from top to bottom, or perhaps from left to right.
Narration- A narrative paragraph tells a story. Following a clear time sequence will make
the information easier to follow for the reader. Pay special attention to details that the reader
needs to know in order to make sense of the story. Focus only on the details of the story that
prove your point.
Comparison and Contrast- Here you focus on either the similarities or differences
between two or more subjects. You can organize your paragraph subject by subject or point by
point. In subject by subject, you describe one subject completely before moving on to the next
one. In point by point, you compare or contrast the subjects directly using various points of
comparison.
Cause and Effect- Here you focus on either exploring why something happened, or
explaining the outcomes of a certain event. Consider focusing on either immediate (close at
hand, recent) causes or effects, or remote (underlying, earlier) causes or effects. When
examining effects, make sure you show the prior situation so that the reader can see the full
change.
Process Analysis- A process analysis paragraph explains a procedure or breaks down the
steps of a process. Details are usually organized chronologically. Sometimes process analysis can
be a long chain of cause and effect relationships. Be sure to explain the significance to the
order of the steps to the reader.
Definition- Here you explain the meaning of a complex term or concept. Sometimes it is
necessary to explain why the subject you are defining is unique. This is usually done through a
comparison with other similar subjects, focusing on the key differences between them and your
subject. Make sure to provide concrete examples when you are defining an abstract concept.
Classification and Division- Classification is the grouping of similar items together and
explaining why they belong to the same group. When classifying, you need to clearly define a
principle for classification and show why each item shares this principle. Division is either the
separating of various related items into different groups by demonstrating why the items are
unique, or the division of a single item into constituent parts.

When using these patterns of development, try to put yourself in the place of the reader.
The reader doesnt know what you know. Connections that may seem obvious in your head
may not be as obvious to the reader. Your job is to make these connections as clear as possible.
Ask yourself what the reader needs to know in order to understand the point that you are
making. In order to do this, you need to walk the reader through your train of thought. Slow
down and show the reader how one idea leads to the next. Make the connections explicit in
your writing.

Exercise
In each example below, the connection between the point of the paragraph and the
example is not fully developed. The supporting evidence may not be clear, the example may
be vague, or the explanation may be incomplete or nonexistent. Rewrite each paragraph,
subtracting unnecessary information and adding whatever details you think are necessary, to
clearly relate the example to the thesis. Also, consider the different patterns of development
above. Is there a certain pattern that would help prove the point more effectively? The point of
each paragraph is in the form of a topic sentence that begins each paragraph (Ive put them in
bold for you).

1. For me, the purpose of education is to provide for myself a worldview and to help me
understand my place in society. All people, regardless of what they do or where they are from,
need to have a worldview so that they can understand their relationship to everyone else and
make informed decisions. I decided to be a nurse and Im going to school for that, but that
hasnt prevented me from taking classes in philosophy and literature. I like nursing, but I need to
know different people, cultures, histories, and other things to understand my place in the world.

2. Education helps people express themselves more clearly. When I first came to this
country, I had a lot of trouble. Even though I had studied English in school, my skills with the
language were very bad. I even had trouble communicating with people in a store because of
my pronunciation and poor grammar. I wanted to study medicine in America, but I couldnt do
that if I wasnt able to talk with people. So I started studying English in school and worked on my
conversation skills. Education provides essential skills that help people express themselves.