Building on your central idea step by step

Here is a brief paragraph from the middle of an essay on domestic violence:

An alternative feminist approach suggests that women may stay in violent relationships even when they are not 'weak'. For these women a constituent of being a woman involves being there for their men and being able to maintain a relationship despite obstacles. These women tried to understand their violent partners and felt duty bound to cope the best way they could. For them, walking out would have been an admission of failure.

The paragraph contains a common structure on a small scale:

1. The central idea of the sentence. This is commonly called the 'topic sentence': in this case, the 'idea' is a statement about 'an alternative feminist approach'.

2. Adding to the first idea: the next sentence gives further explanation about the first statement concerning these women.

3. An example of what the women do.

4. A mini-conclusion or summary.

The writer is extending her central idea, point by point. In practice most paragraphs would build on and extend this basic structure of topic sentence, support, summary/conclusion.

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