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Curriculum and Student Achievement

Chronological Paragraphs

Drafting Body Paragraphs: Purpose-Based Organization Strategies Chronological

There are several different organizational strategies designed  for specific types of body paragraphs, including cause-effect, problem-solution, comparison-contrast and chronological. You must  identify the purpose of the paragraph before you begin writing and then  seek out the appropriate organizational strategy for writing a paragraph with that specific purpose. This handout discusses  the chronological strategy in detail.

First, there’s one thing you should  know about  this handout and  its connection to another Academic  Center handout. This handout is best used in conjunction with  the Academic  Center handout Drafting Body Paragraphs: CECC:  An Internal Organization Strategy, which discusses  a method of paragraph development that focuses on claim, evidence,  commentary and  conclusion. The  CECC  method accounts for the labeling  in brackets of the example  paragraphs in this  handout. These  labels in brackets are merely meant to show how each purpose-based organization strategy also corresponds with  the CECC  method.

The  chronological approach to paragraph organization is used when describing a process because it typically  offers information in step-by-step order.  The  chronological approach is not  only used to describe  an instructional process (i.e. lesson plan,  bike assembly  diagram); it may also be used to describe  something in the time order  in which it occurred. For example,  the chronological approach could be used to effectively write a paragraph on the evolution of eighteenth-century American literature. However,  chronological paragraphs are not  only for instructional or historical data;  they can also present a narrative or story.

The  format for a chronological paragraph is three-fold.

  • First, it requires a topic sentence that reveals the paragraph’s main point, or, in other words, reveals the process that the paragraph is going to describe.
  • Then, the body of the paragraph should describe, in sequential order, the steps that must be taken or points that were made throughout the process.
  • The paragraph should then wrap up with a conclusion sentence that briefly summarizes its main point.

Let’s take  a look at an example:

Topic sentence [claim]

It is important to set up your document correctly before you begin writing an APA‐style research paper. Fortunately, Microsoft Word allows you to make format selections before you even begin to type inside the document.


Step‐by‐Step Process Description [evidence]

The following steps are adapted from Pearl’s Using Microsoft Word (2006): First, open up your Microsoft Word program. After doing this, vis t the “File” menu at the top of the page and click on “Page Setup.” Under “Page Setup,” click on the “Margins” tab and change the left and right margins from 1.25 inches to 1 inch. Then, click “OK.” Now, visit the “Format” menu at the top of the page and click on “Paragraph.” When the “Paragraph” box opens, change the “Line Spacing” from “single” to “double” and click “OK.” After doing this, check your font size by again visiting the “Format” tab and, this time, clicking on “Font.” The font should be “Times New Roman,” the font style should be “regular” and the font size should be “12.” Click “OK” here just to make sure that this font is set.


Conclusion sentence [commentary; conclusion]

After you complete these steps, your paper’s format is set according to the guidelines of APA style, and you are ready to begin formatting your title page, which will be discussed in the following paragraph.


Keep in mind  that when you write  a chronological paragraph, it is important to include transition words (first,  second,  then, finally)  so that the reader  knows the order  in which to approach the task.  Transition words work especially  well when you include a step-by-step description as part  of the paragraph, such as when you are telling a story  in chronological order. More information on transition words is available  in the Academic  Center handout Draft Body Paragraphs: Transitioning.

In  some instances, for example,  when you are writing about  how to assemble  a desk, it might be more acceptable  to format the step-by-step description of the process as a bulleted list rather than include each step within the paragraph. Thinking about the underlying purpose  of your chronological paragraph will help you to decide whether you should  include the information inside  the paragraph or list  out the information with  bullets  or numbers.

Not  only is the chronological pattern present, but  the components of the CECC  pattern also emerge in this  example paragraph. For example,  in the step-by-step process section, the evidence,  or explanation of how to use Microsoft Word, is cited  from Pearl. In  this case the writer’s  commentary, which follows these  statements, does not  interpret the evidence;  instead, it briefly summarizes the  evidence and transitions into  the conclusion statement. More information on providing and signaling commentary is available  in our handout Signal Your Commentary on Source Material.

How can I enhance the audience’s understanding of a chronological paragraph? Visual aids can be a helpful  addition to a chronological paragraph because they offer a concrete, recognizable picture of the process being described. However,  before including a visual  aid in your document, be sure that you understand its purpose and  formatting requirements. More information on using  tables,  charts, graphs  and  illustrations/ photographs can be accessed by visiting the Academic  Center’s Visual Aids series.

Although this handout discussed  the chronological approach to paragraph organization, there are many  other  methods you can use to organize  information within a specific paragraph. Additionally, while the  information presented in this  handout is tailored toward  paragraph development, this  organizational strategies discussed  can be applied  as overall organization strategies for research  papers  or can be used as organization strategies for paragraph blocks within a larger  paper.


Copyright 2008 by the Academic  Center, the University of Houston-Victoria, and Candice  Chovanec  Melzow. Created 2007 by Candice  Chovanec  Melzow.