Reading comprehension

  • Post last modified:4 March 2022
  • Reading time:27 mins read

Paragraph Writing

The three basic requirements of a paragraph are:

  1. Unity

  2. Coherence

  3. Adequate development

Unity

The most striking feature of a paragraph is its unity, i.e. the discussion or description of a singular theme, subject or topic termed as the topic of the paragraph. Every sentence in a paragraph is closely connected with this theme. Usually this theme or central idea is stated in a sentence in a paragraph. This sentence is called the topic sentence. All the remaining sentences of the paragraph contribute and relate to this topic sentence in some way. In fact, while editing a paragraph, any sentence that does not relate to the topic sentence should be edited or deleted.

Thus, writing a well- defined topic sentence is the first step to writing a good paragraph.This topic sentence is the first sentence of a paragraph. Very rarely, in a narrative paragraph, for example, the topic sentence can be placed at the end of the paragraph.

Coherence

A true paragraph is not just a set of sentences put together but sentences that are interlinked with each other. This inter linking provides coherence to the paragraph. There are four significant devices to achieve this quality: pronouns, repetition of key words and phrases, synonyms and connectives.

As stated earlier,coherence comes through the connection between sentences and their ultimate relationship with the topic sentence. The points need to be related to each other and then to the theme if you want to write a coherent paragraph.

Adequate Development

To contribute to the unity of the paragraph, the entire paragraph should emerge from or lead to the topic sentence. The points stated in the topic sentence must be developed one by one in an orderly style. How to Goa bout explaining or describing the main idea is the writer’s choice. You can write a paragraph about computers by classifying them, by outlining their uses or by showing their effects on our lives.

And all those paragraphs would be correct, in terms of development. In short, there are various techniques used to develop a paragraph. Some commonly used techniques are outlined here. The list is followed by an example of each type, where the topic sentence is underlined.

Examples

  • Comparison

  • Contrast

  • Definition

  • Classification

  • Space and time

  • Process description

  • Cause and effect

  • Generalization

Paragraph Development by Examples

Meaning

The topic sentence states the theme and then the theme is explained using some examples. In fact,the examples work as explanation or description here.

Sample

Science has helped us get rid of many sicknesses of the mind and the body. For example, advancements in the field of psychology have enabled effective cures for many mental ailments like claustrophobia, schizophrenia, etc. Similarly, many other discoveries in science have made it possible to cure terrible diseases such as malaria, small pox, pneumonia and tuberculosis.

Paragraph Development by Comparison

Meaning

The topic sentence states the two items that are compared and the basis of comparing them which are then explained in one or two sentences each to complete the paragraph.

Sample

It is interesting to note that India and China have quite a few things in common, the most important being population and culture. If China was number one in terms of the size of population for a long time, India was number two. Both the countries, therefore, have a huge pool of labor and manpower to boast of. Furthermore, the governments of both the nations have taken timely steps to curb the in controllable growth of population.

The second similarity between India and China is the culture that forms the backbone of the society there. Both nations are proud of the very prosperous and rich heritage and history of its civilization. They are both examples of unit in diversity, owing to the size of the land. Thus, India and China are very similar to each other in terms of population and culture.

Paragraph Development by Contrast

Meaning

The topic sentence states the two items that are contrasted on some grounds. These bases are then explained in one or two sentences each to complete the paragraph.

Sample

Though both are pet animals, dogs and cats differ a lot in terms of habits, maintenance and loyalty. A dog can be much easily trained to do certain activities and there have been instances of dogs being great companions to sightless in individuals.However, training a cat is difficult, almost impossible. In turn, cats cost you less because they do not need extensive training, accessories and specialized 39 food.

Dogs, on the other hand,need only specific accessories and food,increasing the cost of maintenance. Further, loyalty is another factor that differentiates the two. Dogs are undoubtedly more loyal than cats. Cats are more loyal to the household or the place than to the owners.Thus,whether to pet a dog or a cat depends on how you respond to these three and many more factors that compare dogs and cats.

Paragraph Development by Definition

Meaning

A definition paragraph describes, explains or defines a term by way of explanation.

Sample

The word interview is derived from interview, meaning sight between. It is a meeting between two persons with a specific purpose. It may be defined as any purposeful interpersonal communication involving two individuals. In terms of structure and format, interviewing is, therefore, a more formal form of dyadic communication. However, an interview situation may consist of one interviewee and several interviewers and vice versa.

Paragraph Development by Classification

Meaning

This paragraph tries to explain a concept by showing how it is classified into various types and sub types. A detailed description of each type is not required; just mentioning on what basis it is classified is sufficient.

Sample

Students in a class can be categorized based on their behavior in the class. Majority of students fall in the average category. They understand the teacher and what she teaches partly and they are very well aware of their limitations. However, one can find excellent artists within this class. Then there is the second category of will-be-better students who have brains but who are simply lazy. They understand and digest the material faster than the average students. But that’s that.

They do not want to take the knowledge ahead and practice and revise. However, they can put their understanding in practice or application much easily. The last category is that of bright students who are exceptional in everything they do. When one teaches them something, they understand almost immediately. They also retain the knowledge and apply it in all situations quickly. Despite these categories, a good teacher has to disseminate knowledge equally efficiently to all the students in her class.

Paragraph Development by Space and Time

Meaning

This paragraph demonstrates development through spatial relationship in a limited area. Ideas are organized based on space or spatial relationships with or without reference to time.

Sample

What attracted me to my new weekend home is its location. It is located on the last end of a road winding up a small hillock. It sits wonderfully on a huge plot surrounded by tall oak trees. In fact, I own the entire plot! When I stand on the porch and look ahead of me, I see a lush green plateau full of shrubbery.

Over the plateau stretch endless blue heavens, through which I can glimpse at the masters of the skies at times. On my left hand is the final end of the road that leads me directly into another hillock. I have not yet ventured up that hillock! Within my house, I can step inside the door to be surrounded by four cozy capacious rooms, all attached with small terraces. Needless to say, I have made all the necessary arrangements for a weekend stay in my cottage. Once inside, I feel as if I am disconnected from the humdrum of my urban life, situated almost above my entire community. What else does one need to recharge himself ?

Paragraph Development by Process Description

Meaning

This paragraph shows how something is done or something happens. Thus, you need to include various steps in this paragraph.The steps should be logically explained so that the reader sees clearly how you reach the end of the process.

Sample

Making pancakes is so simple; I cannot understand why most women dread it. The process can be explained in three simple steps. Make a batter out of floor whole-wheat flour, if you are diet conscious; one or two eggs, depending on your choice; salt and pepper. In case you want to make them little sweet, you can add some honey or brown sugar. The batter should be of pouring consistency. Let it stand for half an hour. Place a small bowlful mixture on a hotplate and add little olive oil as seasoning. On medium heat, a pancake will cook in a couple minutes. The color will change to slightly shiny; that?s how you know it is cooked. Roast from both sides and remove directly onto a plate. Serve this with salsa sauce or just plain tomato ketchup.

Paragraph Development by Cause and Effect

Meaning

This paragraph shows how something is a result of a cause. This type also deals with many causes of a single effect or one cause leading to many effects. You need to show the cause-effect relationship in a logical fashion in this type.

Sample

Parental divorce can lead to various problems in children,the most important effects being a sense of insecurity and inability to form stable relationships as adults. Children of divorced parents always feel that something is lacking in their lives. They compare themselves to other children from complete homes and relate that to a secured existence. Then they believe their life or home is incomplete, therefore vulnerable to attacks. This leads to a tremendous sense of insecurity in these children. Secondly, children who witness the breakdown of parental relationship cannot believe that any two people can survive together amicably. As children, their parents are their idols.

If their idols cannot live together peacefully, how can any adults do that This results into their belief that they are themselves incapable of entering into any kind of relationship, especially a stable one. These are the most disastrous effects of parental divorce in children.

Paragraph Development by Generalization

Meaning

Paragraph development by generalization is like that by examples, but only to an extent. Examples are used in both to support the stated view- 41 point. In this type, however, the generalization arrives as a conclusion, based on several examples given as facts or opinions. The reader has to see the conclusion as a logical possibility.

Sample

How to spend vacations is a huge issue facing many children every year. Most of the times, activities designed and planned by parents are scarcely enjoyed by children. Especially for working mothers, holidays usually mean trouble, even if they cannot admit it openly. When children grow up, however, they try to make themselves comfortable because they are able to take care of themselves. Some find a hobby class or a camp that interests them. Some decide to visit friends or relatives and want to be away from parents for some time.

Those who are slightly older can even visit outstation relatives and enjoy themselves. For younger children, however,parental decisions can prove most helpful. They are usually in an experimental age and like everything like drawing, dance, music and clay modelling. Children of all ages, however, admit that they to spend at least some time at home, just lazing around having fun with parents. Therefore, all parents believe taking time off and spending with children is the most ideal vacation for both parties.


Comprehensio

Comprehension means knowledge or understanding of spoken or written language. Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary offers this definition: capacity of the mind to perceive and understand.

The Purpose of Reading

The purpose of reading is to connect the different ideas on the page to what you are already aware of. . If you are unaware about a subject, then comprehending the text in your mind is like pouring water into your hand. You do not retain anything much. For example, try reading these numbers:

  • 7516324 (This is hard to read and also remember.)

  • 751-6324 (This is easier because of chunking of numbers.)

  • 123-4567 (This is easy because of prior knowledge of the structure of the numerical.)

Similarly, if you like a sport, reading the articles on the sports page is easy. You have a framework in your mind for reading, analyzing, comprehending and storing information.

Improving Comprehension

Reading comprehension requires motivation, mental frame work for holding ideas, concentration and good study techniques. Here are some suggestions.

Develop a broad background

Broaden your knowledge by reading newspapers,magazines, journals and books. Increase your interest in world events

Know the structure of paragraphs

A good writer will construct paragraphs that have a beginning, middle and end. Often, the first will give an overview that helps provide a framework for adding details. Also, look for transitional words, or paragraphs that change the topic.

Identify the type of reasoning

Does the author use the cause and effect reasoning, hypothesis or model building, induction or deduction systems of thinking.

Anticipate and predict

Truly smart readers always try to anticipate the author and predict future ideas and questions. If you are right, this reinforces your comprehension ability. If you are wrong, you make the adjustments quicker.

Look for the method of organization

Is the material organized chronologically, logically, , spatially or hierarchically?

Create motivation and interest

Preview material; ask questions; discuss the ideas in your mind with classmates. The stronger your interest, the greater is your comprehension.

Pay attention to supporting cues

Study pictures, graphs and headings. Read the first and last paragraph in a chapter or the first sentence in each section.

Highlight, summarize and review

Just reading a book is not enough. To develop a deeper understanding, you have to summarize and review all important ideas.

Build a good vocabulary

For those with a thirst for knowledge, this is a life time project. The best way to improve vocabulary is to use a dictionary regularly. You should carry a pocket dictionary and use it to look up new words. Alternatively, you can keep a list of words to read at the end of the day. Concentrate on the prefixes, suffixes, roots, and endings. 43 All these tips will enhance your comprehension skills, so that whenever you are asked to reproduce the information you read, it would not be very difficult for you. One way of checking such knowledge is comprehension passages followed by questions. We will first look at some samples.

Sample Comprehension Passages with questions and solutions

Passage 1
Water

An adequate supply of Fresh water: water containing a minimum of dissolved minerals is essential to life. Without water, both plants and animals perish. We know that natural water supplies on land depend ultimately upon nature’s own purification system, namely the evaporation of surface water and its subsequent precipitation as rain, sleet and Snow In many parts of the world, dams and wells have shown how the problem of water can be solved by conserving it.

There are, however,some areas with a serious shortage of water. The problem is particularly acute on the comparatively small, densely populated islands such as Hong Kong, the Bahamas and even the Channel Islands.Although rainfall on these islands is moderate, there is not enough to meet the enormous demand for fresh water. An increase in the demand for water shows how this shortage becomes a cute. There is a continuing need to.

produce more to satisfy the appetite of the world’s ever-growing populations and this can only be achieved by irrigating and cultivating semi-desert regions-regions where the natural rainfall is slight. A high consumption of water and of fuel per head indicates that the standard of living of a community is high. As living standards are rising in many parts of the world, so too is the demand for water. Some years ago, it became clear that the demand for fresh water would eventually outstrip natural supplies.

This warned the engineers that while the search for the few remaining sites for reservoirs and boreholes could continue, scientists must investigate possible methods of producing fresh water from the greatest natural reservoir, these a.

The first experiments imitated the natural method of desalting seawater, namely, to evaporate the water. The dissolved salts remain and only the water evaporates when seawater is heated. When salt water is cooled down to temperatures slightly below 0°C, only the water freezes to form ice. The dissolved salts remain in solution. Therefore, if the ice can be separated from the unfrozen brine, fresh water can be produced by melting the ice.

Questions

1.What do we understand by fresh water?
Water containing a minimum of dissolved minerals is called fresh water.

  1. Why are dams built?
    -Dams are built to conserve water.

3.Why is it necessary to irrigate and cultivate the semi-desert regions of the world.
-It is necessary to irrigate and cultivate the semi-desert regions of the world to satisfy the needs of the ever-growing population.

4.What is it that indicates a high standard of living of a community?
– A high consumption of water and of fuel per head indicates a high standard of living of acommunity.

  1. What prompted the scientists to investigate possible methods of producing fresh water from these a?
    -The increasing demand for fresh water prompted the scientists to investigate possible methods of producing fresh water from these a.

  2. What happens when salt water is cooled to temperatures below 0°C?
    -When salt water is cooled to temperatures below 0°C, only the water
    freezes to form ice.

Passage 2

Recent archaeological evidence indicates that European man is far older than was previously thought. And the evidence is breaking down a line of thinking called the diffusion theory. This theory suggests that civilization, as we know it, originated in the Middle East and then slowly diffused throughout the world, including Europe. It is a theory that has been generally accepted for years. An example of this change in thinking can be provided on the Island of Malta, where some stand ruined stone temples of unknown origin. Although scientists and archaeologists were quite certain that they were built before the ancient Greeks and Romans, the general opinion was that the time gap between these temples and the age of the ancient Greeks and Romans was not great.

Now through a miraculous new process of establishing the dates of civilizations, called radio-carbon dating, we can be certain that these temples were in fact under construction before 3000 BC, i. e. before the pyramids of Egypt. In fact, it has now become certain that many of the great stone tombs dotted around Europe were built around 4000 BC and are quite the oldest buildings in existence. So the diffusion theory is being replaced by a revolution in historical thinking, which suggests that the creation of civilized objects such as stone buildings and metallurgy was not passed on to Europe by superior beings from the East, but in fact occurred spontaneously in different parts of the world.

Questions

Answer as directed:

1.According to the older theories of civilization, it was believed that… (Circle all correct statements.)

a.Civilization started in the Middle East.


b. Civilization started in many different parts of the world at around the same time.


c.The stone temples on the Island of Malta were created long before the age of the ancient Greeks and Romans.


d.The great stone tombs of Europe were of more recent origin than the pyramids of Egypt.


e.European man was much older than was previously thought.

2.The older belief has been challenged by (Circle all correct statements.)

a. The diffusion theory.


b. The existence of stone temples on the island of Malta.


c. A nun acceptable historical revolution.


d. A new process of dating civilization.

3.The author expresses his views… (Circle one.)

a. In a matter of fact style.


b. In a manner full of excitement and delight.


c. As if he would have preferred to accept the older belief.


d. As if he was addressing a learned audience who opposed his views.

4.The passage contains the following points. Put them in the order in which they occur in the passage.

An example of the change in thinking


b. Statement about the older theory


c. Statement about the change in thinking and the process of establishing it


d. Indication of change in belief.

Answer the following questions briefly:

  1. What does recent archaeological evidence indicate?

  2. What does the diffusion theory suggest?

  3. What were scientists and archaeologists sure about?

  4. What is the process by which we can establish the dates of civilizations?

  5. What does the theory that has replaced the diffusion theory suggest?

Solution:

  1. (a),(c)
  2. (b),(d)
  3. (d)
  4. (b), (a), (c) , (d)
  1. Recent archaeological evidence indicates that the European man is far older than what he was previously considered to be.

  2. The diffusion theory suggests that civilization originated in the Middle East and slowly spread throughout the world.

  3. Scientists and archaeologists were quite certain that some ruined stone temples of Malta were built before the age of ancient Greeks and Romans.

  4. We can establish the dates of civilization by a new process called radiocarbon dating.

  5. This theory suggests that the creation of civilized objects occurred spontaneously in different parts of the world. (Example comprehension pieces taken from Effective English Communication).

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