The MEAL Plan Paragraph Structure

The MEAL plan is an easy-to-remember and effective way to structure your academic paragraphs. When used correctly, it can help you organize and develop your ideas in a logical manner so that they are clearly expressed. Read on to find out how the MEAL Plan can help you write an effective academic paragraph.

Introduction to the MEAL Plan

MEAL Plan is an acronym for Main Idea, Evidence, Analysis, and Link/Lead. It’s a simple yet effective way to structure your ideas in an academic paragraph.

Main Idea: the overall point you’re trying to make in your paragraph. The main idea of your paragraph should be stated in the opening sentence, and everything in the paragraph should support this idea.

Evidence: the specific information that supports your main idea. This can be data, quotes, examples, or anything else that helps to back up your claim.

Analysis: your interpretation of the evidence. This is where you explain what the evidence means and how it supports your main idea.

Link: ties everything together by restating the main idea and showing how it has been supported by the evidence and analysis. You can also Lead to the next paragraph and main idea using a transition sentence.

MEAL Plan Example

(MAIN IDEA) Despite growing recognition of the oral-systemic health link, oral health competencies are not taught in many health professions education programs. (EVIDENCE) The earliest known research on the inclusion of oral health in health professions education found that oral health topics, including oral cancer, were not adequately covered in American and Canadian medical schools (Curtis et al., 1985). Decades later, not much had changed. A 2011 study of U.S. medical schools reported that approximately 70% of the medical schools surveyed included no more than four instructional hours of oral health in their curricula; 10 percent had no oral health content at all (Ferullo et al., 2011). This was not surprising, given that two earlier studies reported that many physicians did not examine the oral cavity (Herring & Shah, 2006; Parks, 2003). Pediatricians, now considered essential members of the oral healthcare team due to their frequent exposure to children who may not have access to professional dental care, have also reported receiving little to no oral health education and training while in medical school (Lewis et al., 2009). Similarly, Owens et al. (2011) reported that only 24% of North Carolina endocrinologists and internists surveyed reported receiving oral health education as part of their medical school training. (ANALYSIS) These findings highlight the historical lack of oral health education and training among non-dental healthcare providers. This is one of the greatest challenges faced by health professions faculty. (LEAD) One aspect of this challenge was a lack of a standard set of core oral health competencies to include in health professions education. To address this challenge and increase the uptake of oral health competencies across health professions, the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a set of core oral health competencies in 2014.

Benefits of Using the MEAL Plan for Academic Writing

There are many benefits to using the MEAL Plan when writing academic paragraphs. This organizational strategy can help you to better develop and structure your ideas, resulting in a clearer and more concise paragraph. Additionally, the MEAL Plan can help you to better connect your ideas and support your argument, making your writing more persuasive.

Alternatives to the MEAL Plan

There are many different ways to structure your ideas for an academic paragraph. One alternative is the PIE method, which stands for Point, Illustration, and Explanation. This approach begins with a main point or argument, followed by one or more examples or illustrations that support it. Finally, the explanation ties everything together and shows how the evidence supports the main idea.

Another option is the Three-Pronged Approach, which focuses on three main points that all support the same conclusion. This approach is often used in persuasive writing to make a strong case for a particular position.

Finally, there is the Problem/Solution format, which can be used to address a specific issue or concern. This approach begins by identifying a problem, then proposing one or more solutions that could potentially resolve it.

Whichever approach you choose, remember that your goal is to develop your ideas in a clear and logical way. By following a simple plan and using evidence to support your claims, you can write an effective academic paragraph no matter which format you choose.

Source: Duke University Writing Studio. Paragraphing: The MEAL Plan

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