Once you have stated your topic sentence, you need to consider what kind of evidence will be most appropriate in developing it. There are several methods of paragraph development. Some of them are called simple. They are usually identified as detail, reason, and illustration or example.The supporting sentences in a paragraph may be exclusively of one kind – all of them, details or reasons or examples. Or the various kinds of materials may be combined in the same paragraph. Although a reader may not be aware of which type of basic material was used, you the writer, should know what you plan to use so that you can control your materials adequately.
To be an effective writer you must choose the right material to develop a particular subject. Details which are facts, or at least factual in nature, come from reading, observation, analysis, conversations, or other actual experiences. Reasons are ideas formed in the mind by logical thinking; that is, they are opinions or deductions or inductions about something. They are your own thoughts or the thoughts of other people. Illustrations or examples are incidents or anecdotes from almost any area of experience or from the inventiveness of the writer.
In the paragraph developed by detail you support the topic sentence with the its controlling idea by supplying facts or material that is factual in nature. There are two kinds of detail. One kind that make up the debris of a storm, such as fallen trees, broken windows, twisted power lines, come from your having observed them, actually experienced them, through sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. Such details are the result of sense impressions. The other kind – details that make up directions and procedures, such as instructions for driving a car or setting a laboratory experiment – are conceptual in nature but are expressed as facts. You think how the procedure is to be carried out; you express it in terms of specific steps. In fact, using the word specifically as a test of each detail – in much the same way that you use because as a test of unity – may prove helpful. That is, say the controlling idea, then say, specifically, and then say the detail.
Thus, a paragraph using detail gives as its major supporting statements the factual parts of the idea being developed. For example, a paragraph of detail about an apple would tell the parts that comprise the apple – the stem, skin, flesh, core, seeds, and others. These parts, when all are put together, equal the whole apple.
Study the paragraph of detail.
Few people know the basic facts about diamonds. They consist of pure crystallized carbon and are usually found in the form of crystals. They come in many shapes: some have eight faces; others have forty-eight. Diamonds are the hardest substance known, and for this reason acids do not affect them. They are however, brittle, and can be split. To polish diamonds one must use oil and diamond powder.
When you are asked a question that involves your personal opinion or judgment, you should give it your best thinking. What you will have to say will probably be based upon your personal experience, on what you have read, or what you have heard people whom you respect say on the subject.
A paragraph, using reason serves many purposes. You may be asked Robert Burns is considered the people’s poet, or why traffic congestion in your town has become serious.
In a paragraph of reason you might use because or therefore as the test word.
A paragraph using reason states reasons or opinions in contradiction to factual details to develop the controlling idea expressed in the topic sentence. These reasons, good or poor, are the writer’s thoughts about the subject, or the thoughts of someone else. If you believe it is healthful to eat an apple a day, you give your reasons, or your doctor’s – an apple a day keeps the doctor away – to prove your point. These reasons will be the major supporting statements of your controlling idea.
Study the paragraph of reason.
People who own diamonds often think of them as one measure of prestige. A number of large blue-white stones suggest a certain affluence. A really valuable necklace gives its owner not only a material evidence of wealth but also a sense of superiority. And though many people buy diamonds as an investment, they can display the investment with more effect than stock certificates or real-estate deeds.