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        10 Best ESL Books for Students & Language Learners

        • calenderJul 06, 2023
        • calender 5 min read

        What is the MEAL plan in writing? How many sentences should a MEAL paragraph have? Why should you be writing according to this plan in the first place? In this article, we’ll answer all your questions about the MEAL writing format and provide an example for better understanding.

        The purpose of academic writing is to communicate your arguments with clarity and precision. As academic editors, we regularly come across essays and papers that don’t have a logical flow. For this to happen, you must break down your central argument into distinct parts in a way that each paragraph deals with a single part.

        This helps the reader navigate your text easily and makes comprehension easier. After all, your job as a writer is to make things easier for the reader to understand!

        The MEAL paragraph helps you achieve exactly that. It offers the reader a part of your larger claim, offers some explanation, and leads them on to the next part.

        Thompson Writing Program at Duke University developed the MEAL writing plan to help students organize their material. But the MEAL paragraph is a convention, more than a strict rule. So once you understand the point of this writing plan, you’re free to adapt it however you want!

        Without wasting any time, let’s see how to write an effective paragraph, every single time.

        What does MEAL stand for in writing?

        The acronym MEAL stands for main idea, evidence, analysis, and link to the larger claim. In a MEAL paragraph, you arrange your sentences in this specific order. 

        This gives your argument a logical flow throughout your paragraph. The MEAL paragraph starts with the central idea. Once you state it, you can provide evidence to support it. If the evidence needs to be analyzed for your reader’s understanding, you do that next. Once the idea has been presented and backed with evidence, you provide a link to your larger argument.

        In this way, your essay or paper becomes a chain of interlinked paragraphs that all flow from each other. This helps you structure your paragraphs and improve the flow in your document.

        Make sure your paragraphs are well-structured.

        M: Main Idea

        A well-written thesis focuses on one main idea, called the thesis statement. Similarly, an effective essay paragraph focuses on one main idea, which can be found in the topic sentence. Conventionally, this should be the first sentence of your paragraph, but it’s not possible every time.

        So even if the MEAL paragraph is designed with a specific order, it’s more of a guideline than a strict rule. Just make sure to develop your paragraph around a main idea and put that in your topic sentence, even if this is your second or third sentence. 

        But if you can’t decide on the main idea, then you won’t know the starting sentence to your MEAL paragraph. How can you follow the MEAL writing plan if you don’t know where to begin?

        When you break up your central claim into smaller chunks, form sentences out of them. Develop this argument from introduction to conclusion, and you’ll have a rough outline of topic sentences!

        E: Evidence

        Evidence validates your main idea. Here, evidence can be a direct quote from your source, paraphrased text, or a series of examples. Anything you use to support your topic sentence counts as evidence.

        In academic writing, evidence is essential. The value of your writing is often determined by the sources you cite. Obviously, all your citations fall under the evidence section of the MEAL paragraph.

        So anything you use in your paper to support your claims—research papers, journal articles, books, artwork, digital media, interviews, data samples—is your evidence. But evidence isn’t enough on its own, is it?

        You need to state what you have made of the evidence in your document.

        A: Analysis

        Sometimes, the topic sentence and evidence may be so complementary that you won’t need to explain any further. But often, you need to analyze your evidence and explain how it supports your claim.

        After all, this is what academic writing is all about! You analyze what others have written on a topic and use that to create new knowledge.

        While the conventional order is analysis after evidence, it may not always work out that way. Especially in a research paper or journal article, you’re analyzing multiple sources, which makes it difficult to separate evidence and analysis.

        As always, we recommend that you adapt the MEAL paragraph to suit your argument and ‌ writing conventions. As long as you prioritize clarity and present the necessary components in your paragraph, you should be fine!

        L: Link to the larger claim

        The last sentence of a MEAL paragraph is supposed to be a “link back to the central claim”. In other words, you state your main idea, explain it, and then elaborate on how it connects to your central argument.

        But this is difficult to achieve and awkward to read. As you develop your argument, you don’t need to explicitly state how each chunk of your entire argument connects to the central idea. Your instructor and reader are smart enough to understand this based on your topic sentence and analysis!

        So, we recommend that you end your MEAL paragraph with a link to the main idea of the next paragraph. This connects your paragraphs together and makes your entire document more cohesive.

        Then again, in cases of complicated arguments in documents like journal articles, you may need to link back to the central claim for the reader’s comprehension. As you must have realized by now, the MEAL writing plan must be adapted to your particular discipline, topic, and writing style.

        Just make sure to end your paragraph with a linking sentence that eases the reader’s transition between two paragraphs!

        MEAL paragraph: An example

        A quick guide to the MEAL writing plan along with an example of a MEAL paragraph.
        As you can see in the example above, the four components of a MEAL paragraph are all present, but we’ve switched up how they appear. The evidence and main idea appear together, while the analysis is more of an elaboration of the topic sentence.

        Notice how the paragraph only contains sentences that deal with the main idea. An effective paragraph under the MEAL writing plan contains no filler sentences: trim all the dead weight and only retain the essential words.

        Want to keep reading? Here are the newest articles we’ve worked on:

        Found this article helpful?

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        Prasanna Linkedin

        Prasanna is on a little break from academia and spends his time compiling fiction writing tips. He enjoys poetry, mythology, and drawing lotuses on any surface he can find.

        5 comments on “10 Best ESL Books for Students & Language Learners

        1. Sadie H says:

          Excellent blog! Your list does includes some of the best ESL books, I have ready Tuesdays with Morrie and Matilda. Will read the others soon. Kudos!

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        2. Kipp Price says:

          Great work, very helpful list

        3. Kathy McClinton says:

          Hey there, You’ve done an incredible job. I’m forwarding this to all my friends from the language learning club!
          I am sure they’ll benefit from this list of ESL books.

        4. Ladybird says:

          I really like your writing style, great info , thanks for posting : D.

        5. Magnolia M says:

          As an ESL student myself, I love this post. These are some easy-to-read and interesting ESL books!

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