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Paragraphing

Good scientific writing in English is very carefully organised, and particular attention is given to paragraph structure. A well-written paragraph is not simply a collection of sentences about a particular topic. The first sentence of a paragraph is usually particularly important, and all sentences in a paragraph are carefully linked together using a variety of linguistic devices.

In this section you'll find out:

In the following exercises, we will be using this passage from a scientific report.

Sample passage

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) comprise a group of 209 individual compounds which were produced commercially in large quantities up to the late 1970s (Muller, 1997). They were used in products as diverse as electrical equipment, lubricants, paints, plasticisers, carbonless copy paper and slide mounting for microscope slides. PCBs are among a broader group of organochloride chemicals, similar to the notorious DDT, which persist in the environment due to their ability to resist chemical and physical breakdown. They also accumulate up the food chain, with those organisms higher up the food chain typically demonstrating higher levels where contamination has occurred.

PCBs are fat soluble and accumulate in fat where they persist for many years after exposure has ceased. Negative health effects of exposure to these chemicals have been observed in both humans and other animals, and include carcinogenic, immunotoxic, reproductive and developmental effects.

Prior to the banning of the chemicals by the American Federal Government in the late 1970s, PCBs were discharged into waterways around the USA. As more health risks have been associated with PCBs, scientists have become increasingly concerned with the concentrations seen in fish, which have the potential to accumulate up the food chain to humans.

Modelling the concentrations and ages of sample fish will allow scientists to predict the effects PCBs will have in the future. The most accurate model for the degradation of PCBs is required to ensure the accuracy of any predictions, and is of the utmost importance when dealing with such potentially dangerous chemicals.

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