4.1 Structure

4.1.4 PEEL paragraphs

After you have structured your ideas, you will want to start writing your extended essay. The blank page might look intimidating. But there is a way to write your paragraphs effectively, which will help your writing 'flow'. This method of paragraphing is known as the PEEL method: 

Point - Make a claim, statement, point or comment.

Evidence - Include an illustration, quotation, example or test result.

Explanation - Analyse, explain, evaluate, or argue.

Link - Link back to the main idea, thesis, hypothesis or research question. 

In brief, paragraphs should consist of at least four sentences that do the above-mentioned functions in the above-mentioned order. The example below highlights the different functions with different colours. You will notice that even excellent paragraphs like this one do not adhere to the method rigidly. 

Example paragraph

Research Question: How did Henrik Ibsen write for the stage as a means of commenting critically the role of men and women in his time and place in history?

In A Doll’s House Ibsen uses music as a device to establish the atmosphere and convey his message to the audience. The audience sees and hears Nora dance to the Tarantella, which adds to the tension of the play. The audience of the time would have known the dance and the myth of tarantism. The song is named after the tarantula spider, whose bite would make victims dance wildly. In actuality many women in the 19th century suffered from hysteria because they were under so much social pressure. They were encouraged to dance this dance until exhaustion, as a kind of ‘cure’ for hysteria. The dance, however, is meant to be danced in pairs. Since Torvald shuts himself in his office, Nora must dance it alone. She begs him to watch her dance wildly, so that he is distracted and cannot read the blackmail letter from Krogstad, which would ruin her life and expose her secret. In fact she is dancing to save her life, and, in the context of 19thcentury Norway, the audience would have realized this. Ibsen included this music as a social criticism of his times, where women were driven to hysteria by the men in power.

Activity

In the two paragraphs below (or on the worksheet), use four, different-coloured highlighter pens to indicate which sentences, phrases or words are used for Point, Evidence, Explain and Link. The paragraphs are taken from an extended essay on literature with the research question: “How did Henrik Ibsen write for the stage as a means of commenting critically the role of men and women in his time and place in history?”

Paragraph 1

The stage directions in A Doll’s House help create an atmosphere in which Ibsen can convey his social criticism. Ibsen writes that the stage should include “bound books in shelves, polished furniture and firewood by the fireplace.” These stage directions indicate that the Helmers are upper middle-class. Everything is properly in its place, which sets expectations on the characters to conform to society’s demands. The objects are symbols of a male-dominated world. Firewood is typically chopped and gathered by men. Books, in 19th century Norway, were most likely written by men. The heavy furniture of black leather and wood was constructed by men, appealing mostly to men’s taste. As the play progresses, the audience feels the pressure which comes along with this setting. It begins to feel oppressive for the female protagonist, Nora, and for the audience as they empathise with her. As viewers sense that she is trapped in this male-constructed environment, they understand Ibsen’s criticism of this male-dominated world. 

Paragraph 2

Henrik Ibsen has included several symbols in A Doll’s House which serve as a means of conveying his criticism of the times in which he lives. Perhaps the most effective symbol in A Doll’s House is the Christmas tree, which depicts the transformation of Nora, the main character. In the beginning of the play, the tree is decorated, symbolizing Nora’s festive and happy mood. She is happy to be celebrating Christmas without worrying about money. The decorated Christmas tree helps establish a joyous mood with the audience, as it is a symbol that the original target audience, Norwegians in the 19th century, can relate to. In Act two, however, the tree is stripped of its decorations, symbolizing Nora’s distressed and disturbed mood after her conversation with her husband, Helmer. At this stage in the play, she feels like poisoning her own children, a mood which is captured by the tree that is stripped of its decorations. The play’s original audience would have understood the dying tree as a symbol of loss and decay. In conjunction with Nora’s distraught situation, it suggests that her marriage is not all that it is made up to be. Ibsen uses this symbol to show how marriage can be a decoration or façade that deteriorates with time if not nurtured or cared for. 

Figure 4.1.4a - PEEL Paragraphs
This acronym is easy to remember: Point, Evidence, Explain, Link to thesis

Tips

Notice how each of the paragraphs (on the worksheet) sound analytical. They would score well on critical thinking (Criterion C). Writing PEEL paragraphs will ensure that you back up your arguments with evidence and connect to the research question, which will help you score more marks.