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Author: Kiara Macartney-Clark, Knowledge Management Officer, SACE Board of SA
Published: August 2018
This is a ‘Terminology in brief’ article, delving into a term's background, meaning, and use in the educational space. Shorter definitions can be found in our wordlist.
On this page
TEAL is a method of structuring paragraphs in the body of an essay. Each letter represents a different part of the structure:
- Topic sentence
- Link to the question
There are other, similar, systems; for example:
- MEAL – Main idea, Evidence, Analysis, Link
(Thompson Writing Program n.d.)
- PEAL – Point, Evidence, Analysis, Link
- PEEL – Point, Explanation, Evidence, Link
(Matthew Flinders Anglican College n.d.)
The generally accepted structure of an essay, thesis or argument driven piece is:
- Introduction –The purpose of the introduction is to:
- orientate the reader to any needed context
- give any definitions essential to a correct understanding of the argument
- outline the argument in sequential key points
- point ahead to the deep learning insights.
- Body – breaks the topic into smaller, bite sized pieces. Each main point of argument is addressed paragraph by paragraph. Analysis and evidence enable the reader to understand the validity of the argument.
- Conclusion – the main points of argument are briefly recapped. The deep insights and implications are highlighted.
- Reference list/bibliography – list of all of the sources referenced within the essay/thesis.
T — Topic sentence
Each paragraph begins with a sentence which introduces an aspect of argument. Its purpose is to orientate the reader into the argument and to point back to the initial question.
Exceptionally good writers, on rare occasions, may introduce the topic sentence at the end of the paragraph (Rumney 2003). However, this is not a skill generally expected of students, even in tertiary level education. One paragraph may include multiple ideas if you can show they 'fit under the same umbrella' (Thompson Writing Program n.d.), ensuring the main idea of the paragraph is clear to the reader.
The topic sentence is then expanded in discussion sentences which unpack the argument in depth, expanding the idea and providing analysis.
E — Evidence
Provide evidence and examples to support your argument. Sources must be reputable, relevant to the topic, provide weight to your argument, and do more than restate what you have said.
Quotes from secondary sources, in particular, should only be included if they are relevant, specific and important to the point you are trying to make (Dept of Classics n.d.). It is your voice you want the reader to hear not a mishmash of others.
It may be useful to apply the following acronym to potential secondary sources:
- CRAP test:
- Current (though current and quality are not the same thing)
The following is list of suggested sources which may be used to provide evidence to your argument. It is by no means exhaustive:
- books and journals
- data from research or interviews you have conducted
- quotations or paraphrases from a work of literature
- an image
- a chain of logical reasoning you have developed
- an anecdote or personal experience.
(Thompson Writing Program n.d.)
You must cite all evidence referred to within the essay/thesis according to the referencing style required by your educational institution. It is not just direct quotes that must be acknowledged, but the source of ideas in your argument and discussion.
A — Analysis
Analysis is your interpretation of the evidence (Rumney 2003). Provide explanation as to why you have included the evidence, what conclusions you have drawn from it, what questions has it raised, and clarify what you are trying to say.
Evidence and analysis should be integrated into the paragraph, providing a cohesive link between the two, referring back to the topic sentence to prove your argument.
L — Link to the question
Each paragraph should link to the following:
- the main topic of the essay/thesis
- the previous paragraph/topic/idea
- the next paragraph/topic/idea
There should be a flow to the paragraphs, with the reader knowing where each paragraph is leading. The reader should also be aware of how each paragraph relates to, or links back to, the main topic or purpose of the essay/thesis, without having to stop and think about why the paragraph was included (Thompson Writing Program n.d.).
There are a number of sources which provide extensive lists of linking words grouped by intention, which can be used to transition between paragraphs and link back to the main topic of the essay/thesis. Such words include, but are not limited to:
- Introduction - firstly, secondly, furthermore, finally
- Illustration - for example, for instance
- Comparison - likewise, similarly
- Contrast - yet, otherwise, but
- Clarification - in other words, to explain
- Conclusion - to summarise, finally
(The Writing Centre 2018)
In a nutshell
TEAL aids the reader to move smoothly through your paper.
T – topic sentences ensure the reader knows exactly what the point of the paragraph is and how it relates to the overall argument
E – authoritative evidence persuades the reader as to the validity of your argument
A – analysis enables the reader to see multiple perspectives within the argument and make a judgement on the depth and strength of your argument
L – links enable the reader to move smoothly through your argument without getting lost or confused.
Gibb 2016, 'PEAL: point, evidence, analysis, link', Prezi, viewed 20 August 2018, www.prezi.com
Matthew Flinders Anglican College n.d., Writing guide, Mathew Flinders College, viewed 20 August 2018, www.mfac.edu.au
Department of Classics n.d., Five things not to do in an essay, University of Otago, viewed 20 August 2018, www.otago.ac.nz/classics
Rumney, L 2003, Paragraph structure, Hamilton College, viewed 20 August 2018, www.umuc.edu
The Writing Center 2018, 'Transitional words and phrases', University of Wisconsin-Madison, viewed 21 August 2018, www.writing.wisc.edu
Thompson Writing Studio n.d., Paragraphing: the MEAL plan, Deakin University, viewed 21 August 2018, twp.duke.edu
Deakin University 2018, 'Guide to essay paragraph structure', Essay writing, Deakin University, viewed 20 August 2018, www.deakin.edu.au
University of Manchester, Academic phrasebank, University of Manchester, viewed 21 August 2018, www.phrasebank.manchester.ac.uk
Yale College Writing Center n.d., 'Body paragraph analysis', Writing handouts, Yale Center for Teaching and Learning, viewed 20 August 2018, www.yale.edu/writing