General Guidelines

Paragraph Structure – a step-by-step guide to constructing a paragraph

First sentence: Introduce the topic or build on a topic from the previous paragraph.

Sentences two through six: These sentences provide evidence that support, expand on, and better explain the topic sentence. All of these sentences must be related to the topic in some manner, even is some are primarily designed to support each other (e.g. sentence five may offer more information to explain sentence four). There is no set minimum or maximum number of sentences for this section of a paragraph, however, no fewer than three and no more than six sentences is a good general guideline. If you believe that you need more support than six sentences can offer, divide the content into separate paragraphs with each one supporting different aspects of the topic.

Concluding sentence: Summarize the paragraph in light of the evidence you have provided. Often this sentence also serves as a transition sentence.

Transitional sentence (optional): This sentence is designed to link the paragraph with the next paragraph. Sometimes the transition can be merged into the concluding sentence. Also, if the paragraph is the last paragraph of a section, a transition may not be needed.

Literature Review Organization

First paragraph: This paragraph makes broad statements about the main topic of your paper. The sentences in this paragraph should discuss the importance of the topic and they often have three to six citations each. After reading the first paragraph, the reader should understand why studying the topic is important to the field.

Sections of paragraphs: The following sections of paragraphs should progressively move away from broad statements and discuss more specific components of the topic. The paragraphs and the sections of paragraphs should be ordered from broad to specific as much as possible. There is no set rule for how many paragraphs should be in a section, but a range of three to eight paragraphs is a good general guideline. As the paper progresses, the reader should understand the topic in general and begin to see the need for your specific area of study.

Concluding section of paragraphs: In this section, the research questions and hypotheses should be clearly written. The reader should be able to find the answers to each research question and the results of testing each hypothesis in the Results and Discussion sections.

Example of Literature Review Organization

The literature review should narrow toward your specific area of study. Notice how the focus moves from the topic toward the hypotheses in the example below

Topic: Treating Clinical Depression with Cognitive Behavior Therapy

What is the human, societal, and financial impact of depression?

What causes depression?

What are the current methods of treating depression?

How successful are current treatments?

What is Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

How has it worked to treat depression in the past?

Why might it work better than other modalities in this study?

Research questions


APA Style

Overview by Dr. Todd L. Grande

What is APA Style?

Precise standards for scientific writing

  • Specific rules from planning a manuscript through its publication


  • Quickly scan articles for results or key points
  • Reduce distractions
  • Expenditure of intellectual resources on research

More specific than general grammatical rules

Who uses APA Style?

Social and Behavioral Sciences

  • Counselor Educators
  • Psychologists
  • Social Workers

Other fields

  • Medicine
  • Education
  • Business
  • History

How is the Publication Manual Organized?

  • Writing for the Behavioral and Social Sciences
  • Manuscript Structure and Content
  • Writing Clearly and Concisely
  • The Mechanics of Style
  • Displaying Results
  • Crediting Sources
  • Reference Examples
  • The Publication Process

Why is APA Style Important?

  • Facilitates clear communication of scientific constructs (e.g. methods, results, and discussions)
  • Ensures articles include what is relevant to the topic and exclude content that is not
  • Promotes efficient consumption of scholarly articles
  • Encourages expedient and accurate application of science
  • Allows new research projects to progress more quickly

APA Style Guides