Welcome to the Angeles College Library‘s Writing Corner. The Library offers free writing advice for all students so the writing process is easier. Whether you are submitting a short, reflective essay or a much longer term paper, you want to communicate well to the reader. To communicate well requires good organization. Just as your paper has a thesis statement, supporting evidence, and a conclusion, each paragraph serves as a mini-essay.

Each paragraph should follow a structure because it shows clear thinking. Here are four easy steps that you can memorize as a MEAL –

  • Main idea,
  • Evidence,
  • Analysis, and
  • Lead out.

Main idea

A paragraph in the essay should start with the main idea. Specifically, the main idea should support the overall essay. If this paragraph introduces evidence that supports the main thesis, then the first few sentences ought to explain why this paragraph is important. Here is an example:

“To answer the research questions, we first identify and structure the field of possible data privacy measures and then use the Kano model and data from two online surveys to evaluate customers’ perceptions regarding different data privacy measures.”

(Gimpel, Henner, et al. “The Upside of Data Privacy – Delighting Customers by Implementing Data Privacy Measures.” Electronic Markets, vol. 28, no. 4, 2018, pp. 437-452. ProQuest, https://search.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/upside-data-privacy-delighting-customers/docview/2036910797/se-2?accountid=173462, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12525-018-0296-3.)

From the example above, you can see that the writers are explaining what this paragraph and subsequent sections will be about: examining the measures and which models they will be using. Furthermore, they are explaining how they got their data (surveys) and how they will be analyzing the data.


The evidence portion of your paragraph talks about what facts support your claims or statement in the main idea. In the same article, the authors wrote:

Therefore, our sources are legislative texts in particular (European General Data Protection Regulation (EU-GDPR), German Bundesdatenschutzgesetz (BDSG), and Telemediengesetz (TMG)) but also scientific literature. Beyond using the pertinent literature known to us from prior research on data privacy, we conducted a structured literature search in the databases AISeL, EBSCOhost, and JSTOR.

Here, the authors discussed where they got their sources and why those sources are reputable and valid. Likewise, as you write the evidence section of your paragraph, be sure to cite all your sources that support your viewpoint. This is where your annotated bibliography comes in. If you have one, your annotated bibliography has all your notes on how each article fits into your overall paper. Furthermore, this bibliography ought to be complete; you should not be adding more sources unless you found something so pivotal and crucial. Lastly, the annotated bibliography ought to be formatted correctly based on the required citation format (APA or MLA).

Important: Angeles College uses the APA format; Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) has an excellent site that documents using the APA format for citations. I highly recommend you bookmark that site for future reference: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/resources.html

Alternately, your evidence section can also contain all the sources that refute your main point. This leads to the next part: Analysis.


The analysis portion of a paragraph is the heart. In the Main Idea sentences, you established what this paragraph is about. In the Evidence portion, you listed your sources that pertain to your point. Now it is time to present your thoughts on those sources. In the Using LIRN Library article, the article contains a section on analyzing your sources. You can read that section for more detail but the most important thing is to discuss the sources critically. At the same time, your analysis should be easy to follow. If you are referring to a table or a chart, explain the significance of the distribution of the data. Or, if you are referring to a quote, explain the quote in context and its significance. If you disagree with the sources or the quoted author, say why. The Analysis portion of a paragraph may require fewer citations but you can always use them to support your analysis.

In the Analysis portion, use plenty of conjunctions:

  • and, furthermore, moreover,
  • but, however,
  • on the one hand/on the other hand,
  • although/nevertheless,

and more!

Using conjunctions links complex ideas together. For more information, see the Grammarly page on conjunctions.

The analysis portion should be very easy to follow. Purdue’s OWL has some great advice: use shorter sentences, write in the active voice, have consistent terminology, and avoid jargon. For more information, see the Writing in Plain Style article.

Lead Out

Finally, the Lead Out portion wraps up one paragraph and sets up the next. In a different paragraph from the same article, one paragraph ends with this:

Our research specifically highlights the upside of data privacy. In summary, the customers’ evaluation of data privacy measures as presented in this paper is a starting point for all researchers who try to understand customer sentiment toward specific measures and data privacy in general.

The authors signaled the end with “In summary...”. You can try other phrases for variety:

  • In conclusion,
  • Lastly,
  • Finally
  • Ultimately

The authors also mentioned that their paper is only the starting point for other researchers. This is a good example of “lead out”. Even as the authors are finishing their paragraph, they are moving onto their next point and section. They have also indicated that the research is done and that they are satisfied with the data collected and the resulting analyses. If there is more research, perhaps another team may conduct it. As a reader, you can easily follow the train of thought from one paragraph to another.


As you read this article, pay close attention – did this article follow the MEAL plan?

It can be difficult in the beginning. As you begin to write, try to follow the MEAL plan as closely as possible. Read over what you have written and see if the paragraph aligns closely. If necessary, print out our draft and circle each element. If you cannot find all four, go back to your draft. Over time and as you gain more experience, you may find that you may do this automatically.