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Master the Five-Paragraph Essay
The five-paragraph essay is one of the most common composition assignments out there, whether for high school or college students. It is a classic assignment because it presents an arena in which writers can demonstrate their command of language and punctuation, as well as their logic and rhetorical skills. These skills are useful not only for classroom assignments and college application essays, but even in the business world, as employees have to write memorandums and reports, which draw on the same skills.
Mastering the five-paragraph essay is doable, and here are some tips.
Components of a Good Essay
The five-paragraph essay lives up to its name, because is has five paragraphs, as follows: an introductory paragraph that includes a thesis, three body paragraphs, each which includes support and development, and one concluding paragraph.
Its structure sometimes generates other names for the same essay, including three-tier essay, one-three-one, or a hamburger essay. Whether you are writing a cause-and-effect essay, a persuasive essay, an argumentative essay or a compare-and-contrast essay, you should use this same structure and the following specifics.
Keys to Introductory Paragraphs
Any introductory paragraph contains from three to five sentences and sets up the tone and structure for the whole essay. The first sentence should be a so-called hook sentence and grabs the reader. Examples of hook sentences include a quote, a joke, a rhetorical question or a shocking fact. This is the sentence that will keep your readers reading. Draw them in.
What Makes a Thesis Statement
The last sentence should be your thesis statement, which is the argument you are going to make in the essay. It is the sentence that contains the main point of the essay, or what you are trying to prove. It should be your strongest claim in the whole essay, telling the reader what the paper is about. You should be able to look back at it to keep your argument focused. The other sentences in this paragraph should be general information that links the first sentence and the thesis.
Content of Supporting Paragraphs
Each of the next three paragraphs follows the same general structure of the introductory paragraph. That is, they have one introduction sentence, evidence and arguments in three to five sentences, and a conclusion. Each one of them should define and defend your thesis sentence in the introduction.
The first body paragraph should be dedicated to proving your most powerful point. The second body paragraph can contain your weakest point, because the third body paragraph can, and should, support another strong argument.
Concluding Paragraph Tips
Your concluding paragraph is important, and can be difficult. Ideally, you can begin by restating your thesis. Then you can recall or restate all three to five of your supporting arguments. You should summarize each main point. If you have made similar arguments multiple times, join those together in one sentence.
Essentially, in the concluding or fifth paragraph, you should restate what your preceding paragraphs were about and draw a conclusion. It should answer the question: So what? Even if the answer seems obvious to you, write it down so that your reader can continue to easily follow your thinking process, and hopefully, agree with you.
A Note on Compare and Contrast
Let’s look a little more closely at the compare-and-contrast essay, which is a very common assignment. It can be a confusing one due to the terms used. Comparing two items is to show how they are alike. Contrasting two items is to show how they are different. One way to approach this essay is to make a grid for yourself that compares or contrasts two items before you start writing. Then, write about those characteristics. Do not try to write about both. The name of the essay is actually misleading.
Keep these pointers in mind when you need to write a five-paragraph essay, and your end result will be clear in its argument, leading your reader to the right conclusion. Often, that conclusion is to agree with you, and who doesn’t like to be right?
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Write Your Essay
Write a first draft.
Your first draft will help you work out:
- the structure and framework of your essay
- how you will answer the question
- which evidence and examples you will use
- how your argument will be logically structured.
Your first draft will not be your final essay; think of it as raw material you will refine through editing and redrafting . Once you have a draft, you can work on writing well.
Structure your essay in the most effective way to communicate your ideas and answer the question.
All essays should include the following structure.
A paragraph is a related group of sentences that develops one main idea. Each paragraph in the body of the essay should contain:
- a topic sentence that states the main or controlling idea
- supporting sentences to explain and develop the point you’re making
- evidence from your reading or an example from the subject area that supports your point
- analysis of the implication/significance/impact of the evidence finished off with a critical conclusion you have drawn from the evidence
- a concluding sentence that restates your point, analyses the evidence, or acts as a transition to the next paragraph.
Tips for effective writing
- Start writing early —the earlier the better. Starting cuts down on anxiety, beats procrastination, and gives you time to develop your ideas.
- Keep the essay question in mind. Don’t lose track of the question or task. Keep a copy in front of you as you draft, edit and work out your argument.
- Don’t try to write an essay from beginning to end, especially not in a single sitting. Begin with what you are ready to write—a plan, a few sentences or bullet points. Start with the body and work paragraph by paragraph.
- Write the introduction and conclusion after the body. Once you know what your essay is about, then write the introduction and conclusion.
- Use 'signpost' words in your writing. Transition signals can help the reader follow the order and flow of your ideas.
- Integrate your evidence carefully. Introduce quotations and paraphrases with introductory phrases.
- Revise your first draft extensively. Make sure the entire essay flows and that the paragraphs are in a logical order.
- Put the essay aside for a few days. This allows you to consider your essay and edit it with a fresh eye.
Referencing your essay
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Essay and assignment writing guide
- Getting started
- Research the topic
- Organise your ideas
- Write your essay
- Reference your essay
- Edit your essay
- Hand in your essay
- Essay and assignment planning
- Answering assignment questions
- Editing checklist
- Writing a critical review
- Annotated bibliography
- Reflective writing
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How to Write a Five-Paragraph Essay, With Outlines and an Example
A five-paragraph essay is a simple format for writing a complete essay, fitting the minimal components of an essay into just five paragraphs. Although it doesn’t have much breadth for complexity, the five-paragraph essay format is useful for helping students and academics structure basic papers.
If you’re having trouble writing , you can use the five-paragraph essay format as a guide or template. Below we discuss the fundamentals of the five-paragraph essay, explaining how to write one and what to include.
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What is a five-paragraph essay?
The five-paragraph essay format is a guide that helps writers structure an essay. It consists of one introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs for support, and one concluding paragraph. Because of this structure, it has been nicknamed the “hamburger essay,” the “one-three-one essay,” and the “three-tier essay.”
You won’t find too many five-paragraph essay examples in literature, simply because the format is too short. The five-paragraph essay format is more popular for educational assignments, such as school papers or quick writing exercises. Think of it as a writing tool to guide structure rather than an independent genre of essay.
Part of the appeal of the five-paragraph essay format is that it can accommodate all types of essays . No matter your assignment, whether an argumentative essay or a compare-and-contrast essay , you can apply the structure of a five-paragraph essay to communicate clearly and logically, as long as your topic is simple enough to be covered in just five paragraphs.
How to start a five-paragraph essay
As with all essays, before you begin writing a five-paragraph essay, you first need to know your thesis, or main topic. Your thesis is the idea you will defend or expand upon, and ultimately what your entire essay is about, and the three paragraphs in the middle will support, prove, or elaborate on your thesis.
Naturally, you can’t begin writing until you know what you’re writing about. If your thesis is not provided in the assignment, choose one that has sufficient content for discussion, or at least enough to fill five paragraphs.
Writers typically explain the thesis in the thesis statement , a sentence in the first paragraph that tells the reader what the essay is about. You don’t need to write this first, but phrasing the topic as a single sentence can help you to understand it, focus it, and revise it if needed.
Once you’ve selected a topic, we recommend writing a quick essay outline so you know what information to include and in which paragraphs. Your five-paragraph essay outline is like a blueprint where you can perfect the order and structure of your essay beforehand to save time on editing later.
How to transition between paragraphs
One of the biggest challenges in essay writing is transitioning from one paragraph to another. Good writing is seamless and fluid, so if your paragraph transitions are jarring or abrupt, readers will get distracted from the flow and lose momentum or even interest.
The best way to move logically from one point to another is to create transition sentences using words or phrases like “however,” “similarly,” or “on the other hand.” Sometimes adding a single word to the beginning of a paragraph is enough to connect it to the preceding paragraph and keep the reader on track. You can find a full list of transition words and phrases here .
Five-paragraph essay format
If you’re writing your five-paragraph essay outline—or if you’re diving right into the first draft—it helps to know what information to include in each paragraph. Just like in all prose writing, the basic components of your essay are its paragraphs .
In five-paragraph essays, each paragraph has a unique role to play. Below we explain the goals for each specific paragraph and what to include in them.
The first paragraph is crucial. Not only does it set the tone of your entire essay, it also introduces the topic to the reader so they know what to expect. Luckily, many of the same suggestions for how to start an essay still apply to five-paragraph essays.
First and foremost, your introductory paragraph should contain your thesis statement. This single sentence clearly communicates what the entire essay is about, including your opinion or argument, if it’s warranted.
The thesis statement is often the first sentence, but feel free to move it back if you want to open with something more attention-grabbing, like a hook. In writing, a hook is something that attracts the reader’s interest, such as mystery, urgency, or good old-fashioned drama.
Your introductory paragraph is also a good spot to include any background context for your topic. You should save the most significant information for the body paragraphs, but you can use the introduction to give basic information that your readers might not know.
Finally, your introductory paragraph should touch on the individual points made in the subsequent paragraphs, similar to an outline. You don’t want to give too much away in the first paragraph, just a brief mention of what you’ll discuss. Save the details for the following paragraphs, where you’ll have room to elaborate.
The three body paragraphs are the “meat” of your essay, where you describe details, share evidence, explain your reasoning, and otherwise advance your thesis. Each paragraph should be a separate and independent topic that supports your thesis.
Start each paragraph with a topic sentence , which acts a bit like a thesis statement, except it describes the topic of only that paragraph. The topic sentence summarizes the point that the entire paragraph makes, but saves the details for the following sentences. Don’t be afraid to include a transition word or phrase in the topic sentence if the subject change from the previous paragraph is too drastic.
After the topic sentence, fill in the rest of the paragraph with the details. These could be persuasive arguments, empirical data, quotes from authoritative sources, or just logical reasoning. Be sure to avoid any sentences that are off-topic or tangential; five-paragraph essays are supposed to be concise, so include only the relevant details.
The final paragraph concludes the essay. You don’t want to add any new evidence or support in the last paragraph; instead, summarize the points from the previous paragraphs and tie them together. Here, the writer restates the thesis and reminds the reader of the points made in the three body paragraphs.
If the goal of your essay is to convince the reader to do something, like donate to a cause or change their behavior, the concluding paragraph can also include a call to action. A call to action is a statement or request that explains clearly what the writer wants the reader to do. For example, if your topic is preventing forest fires, your call to action might be: “Remember to obey safety laws when camping.”
The basic principles of how to write a conclusion for an essay apply to five-paragraph essays as well. For example, the final paragraph is a good time to explain why this topic matters or to add your own opinion. It also helps to end with a thought-provoking sentence, such as an open-ended question, to give your audience something to think about after reading.
Five-paragraph essay example
Here’s a five-paragraph essay example, so you can better understand how they work.
Capybaras make great pets, and the laws against owning them should be reconsidered. Capybaras are a dog-sized animal with coarse fur, native to eastern South America. They’re known across the internet as the friendliest animal on the planet, but there’s a lot of misinformation about them as pets. They’re considered an exotic animal, so a lot of legal restrictions prevent people from owning them as pets, but it’s time to reevaluate these laws.
For one thing, capybaras are rodents—the largest rodents in the world, actually—and plenty of rodents are already normalized as pets. Capybaras are closely related to guinea pigs and chinchillas, both of which are popular pets, and more distantly related to mice and rats, another common type of pet. In nature, most rodents (including capybaras) are social animals and live in groups, which makes them accustomed to life as a pet.
There are a lot of prevalent myths about capybaras that dissuade people from owning them, but most of these are unfounded. For example, people assume capybaras smell bad, but this is not true; their special fur actually resists odor. Another myth is that they’re messy, but in reality, capybaras don’t shed often and can even be litter-trained! One rumor based in truth is that they can be destructive and chew on their owners’ things, but so can dogs, and dogs are one of the most common pets we have.
The one reasonable criticism for keeping capybaras as pets is that they are high-maintenance. Capybaras require lots of space to run around and are prone to separation anxiety if owners are gone most of the day. Moreover, capybaras are semi-aquatic, so it’s best for them to have a pool to swim in. However difficult these special conditions are to meet, they’re all still doable; as with all pets, the owners should simply commit to these prerequisites before getting one.
All in all, the advantages of capybaras as pets outweigh the cons. As rodents, they’re social and trainable, and many of the deterrent myths about them are untrue. Even the extra maintenance they require is still manageable. If capybaras are illegal to own where you live, contact your local lawmakers and petition them to reconsider these laws. You’ll see first-hand just why the internet has fallen in love with this “friend-shaped” animal!
In this example, you’ll notice a lot of the points we discussed earlier.
The first sentence in the first paragraph is our thesis statement, which explains what this essay is about and the writer’s stance on the subject. Also in the first paragraph is the necessary background information for context, in this case a description of capybaras for readers who aren’t familiar with them.
Notice how each of the three body paragraphs focuses on its own particular topic. The first discusses how rodents in general make good pets, and the second dispels some common rumors about capybaras as pets. The third paragraph directly addresses criticism of the writer’s point of view, a common tactic used in argumentative and persuasive essays to strengthen the writer’s argument.
Last, the concluding paragraph reiterates the previous points and ties them together. Because the topic involves laws about keeping capybaras as pets, there’s a call to action about contacting lawmakers. The final sentence is written as a friendly send-off, leaving the reader at a high point.
Five-paragraph essay FAQ
What is a five-paragraph essay.
A five-paragraph essay is a basic form of essay that acts as a writing tool to teach structure. It’s common in schools for short assignments and writing practice.
How is it structured?
The five-paragraph essay structure consists of, in order: one introductory paragraph that introduces the main topic and states a thesis, three body paragraphs to support the thesis, and one concluding paragraph to wrap up the points made in the essay.
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How to Structure Paragraphs in an Essay
Last Updated: April 12, 2023 References
This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Danielle Blinka, MA, MPA . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 176,424 times.
Writing an essay can be challenging, especially if you're not sure how to structure your paragraphs. If you’re struggling to organize your essay, you’re in luck! Putting your paragraphs in order may become easier after you understand their purpose. Additionally, knowing what to include in your introduction, body, and conclusion paragraphs will help you more easily get your writing assignment finished.
Essay Template and Sample Essay
Putting Your Paragraphs in Order
- A basic introduction will be about 3-4 sentences long.
- Body paragraphs will make up the bulk of your essay. At a minimum, a body paragraph needs to be 4 sentences long. However, a good body paragraph in a short essay will be at least 6-8 sentences long.
- A good conclusion for a short essay will be 3-4 sentences long.
- For example, let’s say you’re writing an essay about recycling. Your first point might be about the value of local recycling programs, while your second point might be about the importance of encouraging recycling at work or school. A good transition between these two points might be “furthermore” or “additionally.”
- If your third point is about how upcycling might be the best way to reuse old items, a good transition word might be “however” or “on the other hand.” This is because upcycling involves reusing items rather than recycling them, so it's a little bit different. You want your reader to recognize that you're talking about something that slightly contrasts with your original two points.
Structuring Your Introduction
- Provide a quote: “According to Neil LaBute, ‘We live in a disposable society.’”
- Include statistics: “The EPA reports that only 34 percent of waste created by Americans is recycled every year.”
- Give a rhetorical question: “If you could change your habits to save the planet, would you do it?”
- Here’s an example: “Recycling offers a way to reduce waste and reuse old items, but many people don’t bother recycling their old goods. Unless people change their ways, landfills will continue to grow as more generations discard their trash.”
- Here’s how a basic thesis about recycling might look: "To reduce the amount of trash in landfills, people must participate in local recycling programs, start recycling at school or work, and upcycle old items whenever they can."
- If you’re writing an argument or persuasive essay, your thesis might look like this: “Although recycling may take more effort, recycling and upcycling are both valuable ways to prevent expanding landfills.”
Crafting Good Body Paragraphs
- A good body paragraph in a short essay typically has 6-8 sentences. If you’re not sure how many sentences your paragraphs should include, talk to your instructor.
- Write a new paragraph for each of your main ideas. Packing too much information into one paragraph can make it confusing.
- If you begin your essay by writing an outline, include your topic sentence for each paragraph in your outline.
- You might write, “Local recycling programs are a valuable way to reduce waste, but only if people use them.”
- Your evidence might come from books, journal articles, websites, or other authoritative sources .
- The word evidence might make you think of data or experts. However, some essays will include only your ideas, depending on the assignment. In this case, you might be allowed to take evidence from your observations and experiences, but only if your assignment specifically allows this type of evidence.
- You could write, “According to Mayor Anderson’s office, only 23 percent of local households participate in the city’s recycling program.”
- In some cases, you may offer more than one piece of evidence in the same paragraph. Make sure you provide a 1 to 2 sentence explanation for each piece of evidence.
- For instance, “Residents who are using the recycling program aren’t contributing as much trash to local landfills, so they’re helping keep the community clean. On the other hand, most households don’t recycle, so the program isn’t as effective as it could be.”
- For instance, you could write, “Clearly, local recycling programs can make a big difference, but they aren’t the only way to reduce waste.”
Arranging Your Conclusion
- You could write, “By participating in local recycling programs, recycling at work, and upcycling old items, people can reduce their environmental footprint.”
- As an example, “Statistics show that few people are participating in available recycling programs, but they are an effective way to reduce waste. By recycling and upcycling, people can reduce their trash consumption by as much as 70%.”
- Give your readers a call to action. For example, “To save the planet, everyone needs to recycle."
- Offer a solution to the problem you presented. For instance, "With more education about recycling, more people will participate in their local programs."
- Point to the next question that needs to be answered. You might write, "To get more people to recycle, researchers need to determine the reasons why they don't."
- Provide a valuable insight about your topic. As an example, "If everyone recycled, landfills might become a thing of the past."
- Ask a friend to read your essay and provide you with feedback. Ask if they understand your points and if any ideas need more development. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Writing gets easier with practice, so don’t give up! Everyone was a beginner at some point, and it’s normal to struggle with writing. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- If you copy someone else’s writing or ideas, it’s called plagiarism. Don’t ever plagiarize, as this is a serious offense. Not only will you get in trouble if you plagiarize, you probably won’t receive credit for the assignment. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
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- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/introductions/
- ↑ https://www.student.unsw.edu.au/writing-your-essay
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/conclusions/
- ↑ https://www.plainlanguage.gov/guidelines/organize/use-transition-words/
- ↑ https://www.esu.edu/writing-studio/guides/hook.cfm
- ↑ https://www.deakin.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/810596/Guide-to-essay-paragraph-structure_Deakin-Study-Support.pdf
- ↑ https://wts.indiana.edu/writing-guides/how-to-write-a-thesis-statement.html
- ↑ https://libguides.newcastle.edu.au/writing-paragraphs/structure
- ↑ https://lsa.umich.edu/sweetland/undergraduates/writing-guides/how-do-i-write-an-intro--conclusion----body-paragraph.html
- ↑ https://www.umgc.edu/current-students/learning-resources/writing-center/writing-resources/parts-of-an-essay/essay-conclusions
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Essay Writing: Paragraphs and Transitions
- Essay Writing Basics
- Purdue OWL Page on Writing Your Thesis This link opens in a new window
- Paragraphs and Transitions
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- Formatting Your References Page
- Cite a Website
- Common Grammatical and Mechanical Errors
- Additional Resources
- Proofread Before You Submit Your Paper
- Structuring the 5-Paragraph Essay
A. Begins with a sentence that captures the reader’s attention
1) You may want to use an interesting example, a surprising statistic, or a challenging question.
B. Gives background information on the topic.
C. Includes the THESIS STATEMENT which:
1) States the main ideas of the essay and includes:
b. Viewpoint (what you plan to say about the topic)
2) Is more general than supporting data
3) May mention the main point of each of the body paragraphs
II. BODY PARAGRAPH #1
A. Begins with a topic sentence that:
1) States the main point of the paragraph
2) Relates to the THESIS STATEMENT
B. After the topic sentence, you need to fill the paragraph with well-organized details, facts, and examples.
C. Paragraph may end with a transition.
III. BODY PARAGRAPH #2
IV. BODY PARAGRAPH #3
3) States the main point of the paragraph
4) Relates to the THESIS STATEMENT
A. Echoes the THESIS STATEMENT but does not repeat it.
B. Poses a question for the future, suggests some action to be taken, or warns of a consequence.
C. Includes a detail or example from the INTRODUCTION to “tie up” the essay.
D. Ends with a strong image – or a humorous or surprising statement.
Transition Words and Phrases
More transitions and linking expressions.
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The Beginner's Guide to Writing an Essay | Steps & Examples
An academic essay is a focused piece of writing that develops an idea or argument using evidence, analysis, and interpretation.
There are many types of essays you might write as a student. The content and length of an essay depends on your level, subject of study, and course requirements. However, most essays at university level are argumentative — they aim to persuade the reader of a particular position or perspective on a topic.
The essay writing process consists of three main stages:
- Preparation: Decide on your topic, do your research, and create an essay outline.
- Writing : Set out your argument in the introduction, develop it with evidence in the main body, and wrap it up with a conclusion.
- Revision: Check the content, organization, grammar, spelling, and formatting of your essay.
Table of contents
Essay writing process, preparation for writing an essay, writing the introduction, writing the main body, writing the conclusion, essay checklist, lecture slides, frequently asked questions about writing an essay.
The writing process of preparation, writing, and revisions applies to every essay or paper, but the time and effort spent on each stage depends on the type of essay .
For example, if you’ve been assigned a five-paragraph expository essay for a high school class, you’ll probably spend the most time on the writing stage; for a college-level argumentative essay , on the other hand, you’ll need to spend more time researching your topic and developing an original argument before you start writing.
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Before you start writing, you should make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to say and how you’re going to say it. There are a few key steps you can follow to make sure you’re prepared:
- Understand your assignment: What is the goal of this essay? What is the length and deadline of the assignment? Is there anything you need to clarify with your teacher or professor?
- Define a topic: If you’re allowed to choose your own topic , try to pick something that you already know a bit about and that will hold your interest.
- Do your research: Read primary and secondary sources and take notes to help you work out your position and angle on the topic. You’ll use these as evidence for your points.
- Come up with a thesis: The thesis is the central point or argument that you want to make. A clear thesis is essential for a focused essay—you should keep referring back to it as you write.
- Create an outline: Map out the rough structure of your essay in an outline . This makes it easier to start writing and keeps you on track as you go.
Once you’ve got a clear idea of what you want to discuss, in what order, and what evidence you’ll use, you’re ready to start writing.
The introduction sets the tone for your essay. It should grab the reader’s interest and inform them of what to expect. The introduction generally comprises 10–20% of the text.
1. Hook your reader
The first sentence of the introduction should pique your reader’s interest and curiosity. This sentence is sometimes called the hook. It might be an intriguing question, a surprising fact, or a bold statement emphasizing the relevance of the topic.
Let’s say we’re writing an essay about the development of Braille (the raised-dot reading and writing system used by visually impaired people). Our hook can make a strong statement about the topic:
The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability.
2. Provide background on your topic
Next, it’s important to give context that will help your reader understand your argument. This might involve providing background information, giving an overview of important academic work or debates on the topic, and explaining difficult terms. Don’t provide too much detail in the introduction—you can elaborate in the body of your essay.
3. Present the thesis statement
Next, you should formulate your thesis statement— the central argument you’re going to make. The thesis statement provides focus and signals your position on the topic. It is usually one or two sentences long. The thesis statement for our essay on Braille could look like this:
As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness.
4. Map the structure
In longer essays, you can end the introduction by briefly describing what will be covered in each part of the essay. This guides the reader through your structure and gives a preview of how your argument will develop.
The invention of Braille marked a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by blind and visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.
Write your essay introduction
The body of your essay is where you make arguments supporting your thesis, provide evidence, and develop your ideas. Its purpose is to present, interpret, and analyze the information and sources you have gathered to support your argument.
Length of the body text
The length of the body depends on the type of essay. On average, the body comprises 60–80% of your essay. For a high school essay, this could be just three paragraphs, but for a graduate school essay of 6,000 words, the body could take up 8–10 pages.
To give your essay a clear structure , it is important to organize it into paragraphs . Each paragraph should be centered around one main point or idea.
That idea is introduced in a topic sentence . The topic sentence should generally lead on from the previous paragraph and introduce the point to be made in this paragraph. Transition words can be used to create clear connections between sentences.
After the topic sentence, present evidence such as data, examples, or quotes from relevant sources. Be sure to interpret and explain the evidence, and show how it helps develop your overall argument.
Lack of access to reading and writing put blind people at a serious disadvantage in nineteenth-century society. Text was one of the primary methods through which people engaged with culture, communicated with others, and accessed information; without a well-developed reading system that did not rely on sight, blind people were excluded from social participation (Weygand, 2009). While disabled people in general suffered from discrimination, blindness was widely viewed as the worst disability, and it was commonly believed that blind people were incapable of pursuing a profession or improving themselves through culture (Weygand, 2009). This demonstrates the importance of reading and writing to social status at the time: without access to text, it was considered impossible to fully participate in society. Blind people were excluded from the sighted world, but also entirely dependent on sighted people for information and education.
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The conclusion is the final paragraph of an essay. It should generally take up no more than 10–15% of the text . A strong essay conclusion :
- Returns to your thesis
- Ties together your main points
- Shows why your argument matters
A great conclusion should finish with a memorable or impactful sentence that leaves the reader with a strong final impression.
What not to include in a conclusion
To make your essay’s conclusion as strong as possible, there are a few things you should avoid. The most common mistakes are:
- Including new arguments or evidence
- Undermining your arguments (e.g. “This is just one approach of many”)
- Using concluding phrases like “To sum up…” or “In conclusion…”
Braille paved the way for dramatic cultural changes in the way blind people were treated and the opportunities available to them. Louis Braille’s innovation was to reimagine existing reading systems from a blind perspective, and the success of this invention required sighted teachers to adapt to their students’ reality instead of the other way around. In this sense, Braille helped drive broader social changes in the status of blindness. New accessibility tools provide practical advantages to those who need them, but they can also change the perspectives and attitudes of those who do not.
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My essay follows the requirements of the assignment (topic and length ).
My introduction sparks the reader’s interest and provides any necessary background information on the topic.
My introduction contains a thesis statement that states the focus and position of the essay.
I use paragraphs to structure the essay.
I use topic sentences to introduce each paragraph.
Each paragraph has a single focus and a clear connection to the thesis statement.
I make clear transitions between paragraphs and ideas.
My conclusion doesn’t just repeat my points, but draws connections between arguments.
I don’t introduce new arguments or evidence in the conclusion.
I have given an in-text citation for every quote or piece of information I got from another source.
I have included a reference page at the end of my essay, listing full details of all my sources.
My citations and references are correctly formatted according to the required citation style .
My essay has an interesting and informative title.
I have followed all formatting guidelines (e.g. font, page numbers, line spacing).
Your essay meets all the most important requirements. Our editors can give it a final check to help you submit with confidence.
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An essay is a focused piece of writing that explains, argues, describes, or narrates.
In high school, you may have to write many different types of essays to develop your writing skills.
Academic essays at college level are usually argumentative : you develop a clear thesis about your topic and make a case for your position using evidence, analysis and interpretation.
The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.
The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.
Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:
- An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
- Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
- A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.
The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.
The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:
- It gives your writing direction and focus.
- It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.
Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.
A topic sentence is a sentence that expresses the main point of a paragraph . Everything else in the paragraph should relate to the topic sentence.
At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).
Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.
The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .
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How to build an essay
- Body paragraphs
Preparing an outline
You are ready to write an essay after you have done these steps:
- Identified all the components that you must cover so that you address the essay question or prompt
- Conducted your initial research and decided on your tentative position and line of argument
- Created a preliminary outline for your essay that presents the information logically.
Most essays follow a similar structure, including an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion, as shown in the diagram below.
Click on the plus icons for more information.
Writing an introduction
The purpose of the introduction is to give your reader a clear idea of what your essay will cover. It should provide some background information on the specific problem or issue you are addressing, and should clearly outline your answer. Depending on your faculty or school, ‘your answer’ may be referred to as your position, contention, thesis or main argument . Whatever term is used, this is essentially your response to the essay question, which is based on the research that you have undertaken or the readings you have analysed.
An essay is not like a mystery novel which keeps the reader in suspense; it should not slowly reveal the argument to the reader. Instead, the contention and supporting arguments are usually stated in the introduction.
When writing an introduction, you should typically use a general to specific structure. This means that you introduce the particular problem or topic the essay will address in a general sense to provide the context before you narrow down to your particular position and line of argument.
Key elements of an introduction
Click on each of the elements to reveal more.
Provide some background information and context.
The introduction usually starts by providing some background information about your particular topic, so the reader understands the key problem being addressed and why it is an issue worth writing about. However, it is important that this is brief and that you only include information that is directly relevant to the topic.
This might also be an appropriate place to introduce the reader to key terms and provide definitions, if required.
Don’t be tempted to start your essay with a grand generalisation, for instance: ‘War has always been a problem for humanity….’, or ‘Since the beginning of time…’. Instead, make sure that your initial sentence relates directly to the problem, question or issue highlighted by the essay topic.
Limit the scope of your discussion
Setting the parameters of the essay is important. You can’t possibly cover everything on a topic - and you are not expected to - so you need to tell your reader how you have chosen to narrow the focus of your essay.
State your position / contention
State your position on the topic (also referred to as your main argument , or contention , or thesis statement ). Make sure that you are directly answering the question (and the whole essay question if there is more than one part to it).
"Stating your position" can be a single sentence answer to the essay question but will often include 2-3 sentences explaining the answer in more detail.
Outline the structure or main supporting points of your essay
This usually involves providing details of the most important points you are going to make which support your argument.
 Business leadership has been described as the ‘ability to influence, motivate and enable others to contribute to the effectiveness and success of the organisations of which they are members’ (House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman & Gupta, 2004, p. 63). Whether this ability is something a person is born with, or whether it is something that a person can learn, has been the subject of considerable debate. Kambil (2010) has outlined two categories of leadership attributes that help to frame the discussion: 'traits' (mostly innate) and 'skills' which can be developed through experience or training.  This essay will draw on the trait theory of leadership to argue that that leaders are first born, but then must be made.  While good business leaders share certain traits that are essential to success, including ‘curiosity, courage, perseverance, personal ethics and confidence’ (Kambil, 2010, p.43), they also need learnable skills, such as communication, negotiation and conflict resolution, that are only developed through practice. A potential leader should develop their natural traits as well as learn and practise skills which will help them to persuade, equip and inspire others to realise their vision.
Legend:  Background / Context ;  Position / Contention ;  Structure or main point of essay
Check your understanding View
Key features of an introduction.
Read the paragraph in the accordion below and see if you can identify the key features of an introduction. This is an introduction written in response to the essay question: 'Can Rome's actions towards Carthage be described as defensive imperialism?'
Writing a body paragraph
The body of the essay is where you fully develop your argument. Each body paragraph should contain one key idea or claim, which is supported by relevant examples and evidence from the body of scholarly work on your topic (i.e. academic books and journal articles).
Together, the body paragraphs form the building blocks of your argument.
How do I structure paragraphs?
The TEECL structure provides an effective way of organising a paragraph. TEECL stands for Topic sentence, Explanation, Evidence, Comment, and Link. You may find it helpful to add C for Comment before Link. A paragraph structured this way would contain the following:
- Topic sentence – the first sentence in a body paragraph that tells the reader what the main idea or claim of the paragraph will be.
- Explanation – Explain what you mean in greater detail.
- Evidence – Provide evidence to support your idea or claim. To do this, refer to your research. This may include: case studies, statistics, documentary evidence, academic books or journal articles. Remember that all evidence will require appropriate citation.
- Comment – Consider the strengths and limitations of the evidence and examples that you have presented. Explain how your evidence supports your claim (i.e. how does it ‘prove’ your topic sentence?).
- Link – Summarise the main idea of the paragraph, and make clear how this paragraph supports your overall argument.
 One of the main obstacles to reaching international consensus on climate change action is the ongoing debate over which countries should shoulder the burden.  Because the developed world has historically been responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, it has been argued that they should reduce emissions and allow developed nations to prioritise development over environmental concerns (Vinuales, 2011).  The notion of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ (CBDR) was formalised in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 (UNFCCC, 1992). Article 3.1 explicitly states 'Accordingly, the developed country Parties should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof' (p. 4).  However, because CBDR outlines a principle and not an actionable plan it has remained problematic. For example, it does not stipulate the extent to which, under the principle of CBDR, developing nations should be exempt from specific emissions targets. This has continued to be a point of contention in global negotiations on climate change, with developed countries such as the USA arguing that developed nations should do more to reduce emissions (Klein et. al., 2017).  Fairness and equity need to be pursued in reaching a global agreement on climate change, but transforming this into an actionable strategy is problematic.
Legend :  Topic sentence  Explanation  Evidence / Example  Comment  Link
What is missing?
The paragraph below was written in response to the essay question: '"Leaders are made rather than born." Do you agree or disagree? Provide reasons for your opinion.'
Read the paragraph then answer the question that follows.
The function of a conclusion is to draw together the main ideas discussed in the body of the essay. However, a good conclusion does more than that.
You may choose to also:
- reflect on the broader significance of the topic
- discuss why it is difficult to arrive at a definitive answer to the question posed
- raise other questions that could be considered in a subsequent essay
- make a prediction or a caution or a recommendation about what will happen to the phenomenon under investigation
When writing a conclusion, a specific to general structure is usually recommended. Yes, this is opposite to the introduction! Begin by re-stating or re-emphasising your position on the topic, then summarise your line of argument and key points. Finish off by commenting on the significance of the issue, making a prediction about the future of the issue, or a recommendation to deal with the problem at hand.
 No single theory can adequately explain the relationship between age and crime, and the debate over their correlation is ongoing. Instead, each theory provides valuable insight into a particular dimension of age and crime.  The emergence of the criminal propensity versus criminal career debate in the 1980s demonstrated the importance of both arguments. It is now believed that the age-crime curve created by Gottfredson and Hirschi is a good basic indicator for the age-crime relationship. However, the criminal career position has stood up to stringent empirical testing, and has formed an integral part of developmental theories such as Thornberry’s interactional theory.  These theories provide important insight into the complex relationship between age and crime, but, more than this, are useful for developing strategies for delinquency and crime prevention.
Legend :  Specific contention ;  Specific summary of main points ;  Broader and general significance
Writing academically: Paragraph structure
- Academic style
- Personal pronouns
- Using sources in your writing
On this page:
“An appropriate use of paragraphs is an essential part of writing coherent and well-structured essays.” Don Shiach, How to write essays
- A topic sentence – what is the overall point that the paragraph is making?
- Evidence that supports your point – this is usually your cited material.
- Explanation of why the point is important and how it helps with your overall argument.
- A link (if necessary) to the next paragraph (or to the previous one if coming at the beginning of the paragraph) or back to the essay question.
This is a good order to use when you are new to writing academic essays - but as you get more accomplished you can adapt it as necessary. The important thing is to make sure all of these elements are present within the paragraph.
The sections below explain more about each of these elements.
The topic sentence (Point)
This should appear early in the paragraph and is often, but not always, the first sentence. It should clearly state the main point that you are making in the paragraph. When you are planning essays, writing down a list of your topic sentences is an excellent way to check that your argument flows well from one point to the next.
This is the evidence that backs up your topic sentence. Why do you believe what you have written in your topic sentence? The evidence is usually paraphrased or quoted material from your reading . Depending on the nature of the assignment, it could also include:
- Your own data (in a research project for example).
- Personal experiences from practice (especially for Social Care, Health Sciences and Education).
- Personal experiences from learning (in a reflective essay for example).
Any evidence from external sources should, of course, be referenced.
This is the part of your paragraph where you explain to your reader why the evidence supports the point and why that point is relevant to your overall argument. It is where you answer the question 'So what?'. Tell the reader how the information in the paragraph helps you answer the question and how it leads to your conclusion. Your analysis should attempt to persuade the reader that your conclusion is the correct one.
These are the parts of your paragraphs that will get you the higher marks in any marking scheme.
Links are optional but it will help your argument flow if you include them. They are sentences that help the reader understand how the parts of your argument are connected . Most commonly they come at the end of the paragraph but they can be equally effective at the beginning of the next one. Sometimes a link is split between the end of one paragraph and the beginning of the next (see the example paragraph below).
Paragraph structure video
Length of a paragraph
Academic paragraphs are usually between 200 and 300 words long (they vary more than this but it is a useful guide). The important thing is that they should be long enough to contain all the above material. Only move onto a new paragraph if you are making a new point.
Many students make their paragraphs too short (because they are not including enough or any analysis) or too long (they are made up of several different points).
Example of an academic paragraph
Using storytelling in educational settings can enable educators to connect with their students because of inborn tendencies for humans to listen to stories. Written languages have only existed for between 6,000 and 7,000 years (Daniels & Bright, 1995) before then, and continually ever since in many cultures, important lessons for life were passed on using the oral tradition of storytelling. These varied from simple informative tales, to help us learn how to find food or avoid danger, to more magical and miraculous stories designed to help us see how we can resolve conflict and find our place in society (Zipes, 2012). Oral storytelling traditions are still fundamental to native American culture and Rebecca Bishop, a native American public relations officer (quoted in Sorensen, 2012) believes that the physical act of storytelling is a special thing; children will automatically stop what they are doing and listen when a story is told. Professional communicators report that this continues to adulthood (Simmons, 2006; Stevenson, 2008). This means that storytelling can be a powerful tool for connecting with students of all ages in a way that a list of bullet points in a PowerPoint presentation cannot. The emotional connection and innate, almost hardwired, need to listen when someone tells a story means that educators can teach memorable lessons in a uniquely engaging manner that is common to all cultures.
This cross-cultural element of storytelling can be seen when reading or listening to wisdom tales from around the world...
Key: Topic sentence Evidence (includes some analysis) Analysis Link (crosses into next paragraph)
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