The Power of Point-First Paragraphs

Do you struggle to capture your readers’ attention and communicate your key findings effectively? If so, point-first paragraphs may be a helpful technique for you. I know that the term “point-first paragraph” is not sexy, but before judging, read this post. We’ll explore what they are, why they’re effective, and how you can use them to engage your readers and communicate your findings. 

As a bonus, I have also included a free paragraph toolkit. This toolkit includes many examples and a template to help you master the art of point-first paragraphs.

What are point-first paragraphs?

Point-first paragraphs are a writing technique where the most important information is placed at the beginning of a paragraph. In other words, point-first paragraphs typically start with a clear and concise statement of the main point or topic sentence. The topic sentence is followed by additional details or supporting evidence that helps expand or clarify the main point. By starting with a topic sentence, the paragraph sets a clear direction for the reader and helps to ensure that the most important information is presented upfront.

This technique is commonly used in news writing, where readers read only a few sentences before deciding whether to continue reading the article. It is also efficient in scientific writing because we, scientists, tend to be distracted when reading (I don’t know for you, but always feel like sleeping when I read a scientific paper 😴). A good scientific paper captures the readers’ attention from the first sentence on and communicates the key message quickly and clearly.

In which way can point-first paragraphs help you?

Point-first paragraphs are not merely a stylistic choice; they improve the impact of your paper because:

  1. They immediately capture readers’ attention by placing the most important information at the beginning. This is particularly important if you’re submitting your research to high-rank journals or presenting your findings at conferences, where you need to make a strong impression quickly.
  2. They enhance comprehension and retention. Presenting the main point up front allows readers to quickly grasp the central idea and follow the subsequent supporting details more effectively.
  3. They facilitate scanning and skimming. By scanning the first sentence of each paragraph, readers can easily figure out the thread of the paper (it’s actually a technique for rapid reading).
  4. They contribute to the coherence of your paper. By leading with a clear topic sentence, followed by supporting details, you guide readers through a logical progression of ideas, enhancing the readability and comprehension of your work.

An example of point-first paragraphs

Here is an example of what a point-first paragraph can be like in a scientific paper.

The image represents the following paragraph:
"The prevalence of depression has been on the rise in recent years. According to the World Health Organization, depression is now the leading cause of disability, affecting more than 300 million people of all ages worldwide. While several treatments for depression exist, many patients do not respond to these interventions or experience significant side effects. For example, studies have shown that up to 30% of patients with depression do not respond to antidepressant medications. Moreover, those who do respond experience adverse effects such as weight gain, sexual dysfunction, or sleep disturbances. These challenges highlight the need for new and innovative approaches to treating depression."

The topic sentence in this example is: “The prevalence of depression has been on the rise in recent years.” It immediately captures the reader’s attention by highlighting a significant and timely issue. The following sentences provide supporting details and background information to elaborate on the main point. They present compelling facts, such as the global impact of depression and the limitations of existing treatments. This paragraph could be the opening to an article on the treatment of depression (you can also read this post to learn about opening paragraphs).

3 extra tips to craft your paragraphs

Do you think that point-first paragraphs are interesting for you? Here are three extra tips to make them even more compelling.

  1. Include a concluding sentence: While point-first paragraphs typically start with a clear and concise topic sentence, it can also be useful to include a concluding sentence. The concluding sentence summarizes the paragraph’s main point or provides a smooth transition to the next paragraph. A well-crafted concluding sentence reinforces the main idea, adds a sense of closure, and ensures a flow between paragraphs.
  2. Beware of long paragraphs: Scientific writers tend to write long, complicated paragraphs, which is why reading papers can be awfully boring. There is no good reason for that: One can always break up long paragraphs into shorter ones. As a rule of thumb, your paragraphs shouldn’t be longer than six sentences (for more on paragraph length, you can check this post from the Grammarly blog)
  3. Use clear transitions and logical connections between ideas to guide readers through your work. Don’t hesitate to add conjunctions between your sentences to emphasize the relations between different ideas or statements (see here for a list of conjunctions).

A free toolkit to write your point-first paragraphs

To assist you in crafting engaging paragraphs, I have assembled a paragraph toolkit.

This paragraph toolkit contains examples from different research fields that demonstrate the use of point-first paragraphs in scientific articles. You will also find a template to guide you in creating compelling point-first paragraphs.

In Sum

If you want to engage your readers and communicate your research clearly, point-first paragraphs are for you. By placing the most important information first, you can capture your readers’ attention and ensure they understand your main point, even if they only read the first few sentences.

Don’t wait to put this technique to the test! Download my Paragraph Toolkit, explore the examples it contains, and follow the instructions provided by the template.

How to write your introduction + template

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Writing a good introduction is essential to getting your paper published in a top journal and captivating your readers. It’s essential… and challenging! With this template for writing your introduction, you will find:

  • Pre-writing instructions
  • Writing instructions
  • Explanations on how to use the template
  • A checklist to make sure you have included all the important elements for your introduction.
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