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In this episode, I dive into the PEEL method, a powerful tool for crafting clear and persuasive essay paragraphs.

Whether you're aiming for a first class essay or just looking to improve your writing skills, this episode will provide you with practical steps to enhance your essay structure.

I'll explain how to make your points stand out, support them with solid evidence, and ensure your arguments are clear and convincing.

By mastering the PEEL method, you can make your essays more structured and compelling, ultimately boosting your marks and confidence.

Join me to learn how to write paragraphs that truly shine. 

This post originated as a podcast episode which you can listen to below or search for episode 158 of the Chloe Made Me Study podcast. Or, if you’re more of a learn-by-reading student, carry on for the rough-and-ready blog version based on the podcast script.

Ways to listen:

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How to Write Powerful Essay Paragraphs With the PEEL Method

Welcome to episode two of this six-part series all about how to write better essays. Last week’s episode, episode 157, shared the 5 simple, essential requirements of every first class essay. So be sure to check that one out if you haven’t yet.

In this week’s episode, I’m going to walk you through how to use the PEEL method to write powerful, persuasive, clear paragraphs – so you can nab the high marks you really want.  

Combatting confusion with the PEEL method

A 3,000-word essay is not an intro, conclusion and then 2,500 words splurged onto a page and roughly split into paragraphs. Your essay needs to be CRAFTED and STRUCTURED. It needs to guide the reader around all your great ideas that you’ve spent so much time on. Your essay needs to be structured so that all your great points stand out and your ideas and arguments are understandable – to tick all those boxes to get you great marks.

I often review students’ work that is unclear and confusing. I get half-way through a paragraph before I’m sure what the paragraph is about. Or the first sentence of a paragraph tells me one thing and then the rest of the paragraph tells me another.

Introducing the PEEL method

So, a great place for you to focus your study skills effort is on improving your paragraph structure. And there’s a popular method that you may have heard of called the PEEL method – P-E-E-L. And I’m going to walk you through this in this episode.

Outside your introduction and conclusion, which have their own rules for writing them, you can use the PEEL method, or a variation of it, to structure all of the paragraphs in the main body of your essay.

The four steps of the PEEL method

Now it can sometimes be a bit confusing to know how big a paragraph should be, and when you should start a new one. Each paragraph can be seen as a partial answer to your essay question. Using the PEEL method will then help you to recognise what to include in each of these partial answers so it’s easier to know when to start a new one. Using the PEEL method correctly will also help you proofread your essay as it’ll be easier to spot weaker sections, and it will help you write your conclusion because you’ll have already started your answer with your ‘link back to the question’ sentences.

POINT

The P in PEEL stands for POINT. This means that the first sentence in each of your paragraphs needs to POINT the reader in the right direction. You don’t want the contents of your paragraph to be a surprise to the reader. Instead, you want the first sentence to explain what the paragraph is going to be about.

For example, for a business essay about the most effective approach to strategy, a great opening POINT for a paragraph could be…

There are numerous benefits to organisations of taking a bottom-up approach to strategy

This POINT makes it clear to the reader that this paragraph is going to share a number of benefits of this strategic approach. If the paragraph doesn’t actually do this, you’ll create potential confusion for your reader which will lose you marks for structure AND mean that it’s harder for them to give you marks for your ideas.

EVIDENCE

The next part of PEEL is the first E which stands for EVIDENCE. This part of your paragraph could be two, three or more sentences that provide EVIDENCE for your POINT. One of your jobs as an academic essay writer is to put forward arguments – but these HAVE to be grounded in solid proof from your course or wider reading – theories, concepts, research, examples, statistics. So, this is the part of your paragraph where you give the reader reason to take your ideas seriously, where you make them trust you. You find ideas from your course and include them with accurate referencing to make it clear that you’re not pulling your idea out of your butt.

Let’s return to our example. The POINT was: There are numerous benefits to organisations of taking a bottom-up approach to strategy.

So there are lots of options for EVIDENCE here. Relevant sentences might include:

  • A reference to a study that found that a bottom-up approach to strategy led to higher employee engagement – with a statistic
  • A reference to another study that found innovation was improved for organisations that used a bottom-up approach.

EXPLANATION

It’s not enough to just make a POINT and then add in some relevant references. You also have to EXPLAIN what your EVIDENCE means, why the information is valuable and how your points are in any way relevant to the essay question.

Hopefully you know what you’re talking about in your essay, but that doesn’t mean the reader will be able to grasp this automatically. You don’t want to assume that your tutor is a mind reader. Instead, you want to make your ideas super clear with EXPLANATION.

Let’s go back to our example…

The POINT was that ‘there are numerous benefits to organisations of taking a bottom-up approach to strategy.

We’ve followed it up with our EVIDENCE – references and statistics showing that employee engagement and innovation are improved with this approach.

Then we want to EXPLAIN ourselves. Here we might define and describe what a bottom-up approach to strategy is – which is where strategic decisions are not just made by leaders of an organisation. Ideas are taken from the bottom up – from the lower-level employees who are involved in everyday activity and who might be closer to the end users.

Then we would want to EXPLAIN our findings from the EVIDENCE. The EVIDENCE said that employee engagement could be increased by a bottom-up approach – so let’s explain the nuts and bolts of how that happens. The same with innovation – why and how is innovation improved with a bottom-up approach? The trap here is just assuming that your tutor knows that you know this stuff. Nope – you’ve gotta make it super clear with EXPLANATION.

LINK

The last part of PEEL is LINK. This is where you round out your paragraph. A lot of tutors say that LINK means linking to the next paragraph. This is sometimes the right answer, but it might be more appropriate to finish your paragraph by linking your idea back to the question, to really drive home each paragraph’s partial answer to the question before you move onto the next one.

Let’s look at two options for our example about the most effective approach to business strategy.

OPTION 1:

LINK back to the question by summarising the overarching benefits of a bottom-up approach, recommending that organisations should integrate this approach to harness the full potential of its workforce.

OPTION 2:

LINK to the next paragraph by summarising the benefits of a bottom-up approach but then explaining that this approach may not be effective for all organisations, where a top-down approach may be more appropriate. This is a great sentence for a few reasons. It demonstrates critical thinking by showing a different perspective. And it signposts to the reader that the next paragraph is going to move the essay forward by talking about the situations or types of organisations where a bottom-up approach is less effective. 

Flexibility with the PEEL method

This brings me onto some of the problems I have with PEEL, or potential issues. The PEEL method can sometimes be a little prescriptive. It’s not the perfect model or structure for every single paragraph in every single essay so I recommend flexibility.

1. You might want to switch up what you do with your LINK sentence or sentences. Sometimes linking to the next paragraph and sometimes linking back to the question. I would actually argue that the latter is more important. I would rather you always LINK back to the question – including those key words from the question and guidance to drive the relevance of each paragraph home to the reader. Linking to the next paragraph is less important as long as the ideas of the next paragraph flows.

2. You might want to switch around EXPLAIN and EVIDENCE. In this example about business strategy, you could make your POINT about there being numerous benefits to the bottom-up approach, then EXPLAIN what the bottom-up approach is. Then include EVIDENCE backing up your claims of the benefits then go back to EXPLAINING the findings from the evidence.

3. The standard PEEL framework does not include another important E – EVALUATION. This is where you test the strength and value of the EVIDENCE, by including counter EVIDENCE and other perspectives where necessary. Including EVALUATION will depend on your essay question – if you’re expected to include analysis and critical thinking then you will want to weave your EVALUATION into your paragraphs. For this business strategy example, the EVALUATION part would be including the perspective that it’s not as simple as saying that all organisations should adopt a bottom-up approach. Instead, there are different contexts and situations which make the approach more or less relevant.

Recommended approach for the PEEL method

So, to round out this episode, here’s how I recommend incorporating the PEEL method to make your paragraphs more clear and powerful – so you can achieve higher marks.

1. Make your first sentence of each paragraph SUPER clear. It needs to explain the main argument/idea of the paragraph

2. Always LINK back to the question in the final sentence or sentences of your paragraph – using the keywords from the question and guidance

3. If you want to, add in a LINK to the next paragraph as your final sentence, but you may be able to incorporate that into your next paragraph in the POINT. E.g. However, the bottom-up approach may not be relevant for all organisations.

4. Your other sentences in your paragraph need to include EVIDENCE, EXPLANATION and EVALUATION (where relevant) but this can be in any order as long as it makes sense!

Summary

So there we have it, a breakdown of the four elements of the PEEL method with a handy example to help you apply it to your own subject. The PEEL method can be a little confusing so be sure to take my advice on how to get the most benefit of this method while being flexible to make it work for your specific essays.

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