Introduction > Writing Scientifically > Structuring Your Writing > Using Paragraphs

Using Paragraphs

Pages of a bookIn scientific writing, paragraphs are created by leaving a blank line of text between the last sentence and the next one. Unlike fictional writing, paragraphs should not be indented. Paragraphs are used most commonly to break up the monotony of the text into discrete portions of text around a specific theme.

Imagine trying to read a sheet of A4 paper that is covered top to bottom, left to right in text with no paragraphs or breaks in the text. Psychologically, it can be demoralising to come across this, never mind a 20-page document with the same format! Such texts are extremely hard work to read and it's not uncommon for the reader to quickly skim the document for important points rather than reading the whole page. The time and effort you spent on creating the document will have been wasted, and by skimming the text the readers risk missing important facts.

If this were a piece of course work you handed in, you may be penalised for poor structure and miss out on several marks because the important points were not picked up, but it probably wouldn't be the end of the world. If, however, you handed in a grant application or scientific paper in this format, you run the risk of not being awarded funding or your paper being rejected. Simple tasks like using paragraphs to break up text, in combination with appropriate sub-sections, in effect creating some 'white space' on the page can greatly increase its readability.

Try it yourself.  Look at a couple of pages of text without paragraphs - are you inspired to read the document or does the lack of paragraphs put you off? Can you identify where paragraphs could go?
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