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Health Services Administration

Paragraph Structure

Paragraph Basics:

  • one concept, idea, focus, or topic per paragraph
  • each paragraph should have one point / focus
  • aim for a minimum of 3 sentences per paragraph
  • use transition words to link sentences

Paragraph Structure:

Topic sentence

  • summarizes or introduces what the paragraph is about
  • shows how the concept, idea, topic relates to the overall topic or argument of the paper
  • ideally the 1st sentence or located close to the beginning - although does not have to be

Supporting sentences

  • develops topic, idea, or concept by:
    • describe topic, idea, or concept
    • compare, contrast, analyze, and evaluate ideas
    • cite evidence, statistics, and other "proof"
    • discuss causes, effects, and consequences
  • each sentence in the paragraph should support the topic sentence


McCombes, S. (2022, November 29). Academic paragraph structure: Step-by-Step guide & examples. Scribbr.

Purdue University. (n.d.). On paragraphs.

Writing Tips: Common Errors


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1. Use a comma to

  1. separate independent clauses (contains subject, verb, and is a complete thought) that are joined by coordinating conjunctions – and, but, or, for, yet, and so.
  2. separate three or more items in a series – lions, tigers, and bears
  3. between consecutive adjectives that modify the same noun – e.g. a dark, stormy night
  4. where needed for clarity – e.g. when it is time to go, go.

2. Use a semi-colon

a. preceding the conjunctive adverb – e.g. The dean will be late for the recognition ceremony; however, she does plan to attend.

b. to join two complete but related thoughts that are not joined by a conjunction – e.g. The dean will not attend the recognition ceremony; she will be missed.

3. Use of Apostrophes

a. contractions - e.g. won't, haven't

b. show possession - indicates something belongs to someone - e.g. Jill's office; the library's computers

4. Use periods (and other punctuation marks) after parentheses (in most cases). (The exception is when writing a full sentence inside parentheses.)

Word Placement

1. avoid misplaced modifiers (may alter the intended meaning) - She told him that she wanted to move to a new location frequently. 

  1. Right: She frequently told him that she wanted to move to a new location.

2. avoid dangling modifiers - Hidden in the closet, Aunt Suzy found her missing sweater.

  1. Right: Aunt Suzy found her missing sweater hidden in the closet.

Tense Agreement

Keep tense (past, present, future) consistent within a sentence and paragraph

Connecting Ideas

Use transitional wording (e.g. however, conversely, despite, similarly, consequently, etc.) or sentences to connect ideas or introduce new topics. See Memon - Transition Words and Phrases below.  

Balance Sentences

1. avoid sentence fragments by ensuring each sentence has both a subject and a verb

2. avoid run-on sentences by using punctuation appropriately

3. avoid overloaded sentences that contain too much information

References / Resources

Tricky Words

There are many words that cause issues. Use an online dictionary, as needed, to verify correct word usage:

Affect vs Effect

  • Affect is most often used as a verb (to influence) – e.g. The physician hopes to affect the patient’s decision.
  • Effect is most often a noun (consequence) – e.g. The effect of the policy change was to reduce falls on the unit.

 e.g. vs i.e.

  • e.g. is used as “for example”  - e.g. University of Detroit Mercy has several campuses, e.g. Corktown.
  • i.e. is used for "that is" - e.g. I just watched my favorite sports team, i.e. Detroit Tigers.

Writer's Voice

writer's voice image

"Writer's voice" refers to how you express yourself through your writing - your presence on the page - how you craft your message

1. Strive to write in active voice when possible; the passive voice should be used in moderation

  • passive voice is useful when the thing being acted upon is more important than the subject performing the action, as in the following example
    • active voice = more dynamic; the subject drives the verb (e.g. Healthcare providers reused PPE as supplies diminished.)
    • passive voice = subject receives action through verb (e.g. As supplies diminished, PPE was reused by healthcare providers)

2. Avoid using first person / personal pronouns (e.g. I or me)

  • how to craft writer voice without using personal pronouns:
    • present a claim or make a statement then support  your claim / statement by referring to (and citing) other authors' work (e.g. Music is a practical and successful intervention for reducing preoperative anxiety. According to Weisfeld, et al. (2019), music decreased anxiety in preoperative patients...)
    • use verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and phrases that describe your thoughts on an author's claims (e.g. agree, convincingly, doubt, adversely,  consistently, significant, important)
    • include a summary at the end of the section or a summary statement at the end of a paragraph

3. Remember: The author / researcher studied a phenomenon …not the article or journal.

4. Use bias free language

  • include gender neutral language, if possible - e.g. healthcare provider rather than he or she
  • avoid labeling a person with a deficit - e.g. the deaf patient vs the patient with a hearing impairment

5. Avoid redundancy in wording, e.g. first originated



Efron, S. E., & Ravid, R. (2018). Writing the literature review : A practical guide. Guilford Publications.

Goldsmith, J.A. (2017). Writing Effectively. In C. Saver (Eds.), Anatomy of writing for publication. (pp. 111-126). Sigma Theta Tau International.

Grammar Resources

Resources used on this page:

Books on Writing