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  • How to write the body of an essay | Drafting & redrafting

How to Write the Body of an Essay | Drafting & Redrafting

Published on November 5, 2014 by Shane Bryson . Revised on July 23, 2023 by Shona McCombes.

The body is the longest part of an essay . This is where you lead the reader through your ideas, elaborating arguments and evidence for your thesis . The body is always divided into paragraphs .

You can work through the body in three main stages:

  • Create an  outline of what you want to say and in what order.
  • Write a first draft to get your main ideas down on paper.
  • Write a second draft to clarify your arguments and make sure everything fits together.

This article gives you some practical tips for how to approach each stage.

Table of contents

Start with an outline, write the first draft, write the second draft, other interesting articles.

Before you start, make a rough outline that sketches out the main points you want to make and the order you’ll make them in. This can help you remember how each part of the essay should relate to the other parts.

However, remember that  the outline isn’t set in stone – don’t be afraid to change the organization if necessary. Work on an essay’s structure begins before you start writing, but it continues as you write, and goes on even after you’ve finished writing the first draft.

While you’re writing a certain section, if you come up with an idea for something elsewhere in the essay, take a few moments to add to your outline or make notes on your organizational plans.

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Your goals in the first draft are to turn your rough ideas into workable arguments, add detail to those arguments, and get a sense of what the final product will actually look like.

Write strong body paragraphs

Start wherever you want

Many writers do not begin writing at the introduction , or even the early body paragraphs. Start writing your essay where it seems most natural for you to do so.

Some writers might prefer to start with the easiest section to write, while others prefer to get the most difficult section out of the way first. Think about what material you need to clarify for yourself, and consider beginning there.

Tackle one idea at a time

Each paragraph should aim to focus on one central idea, giving evidence, explanation, and arguments that relate to that idea.

At the start of each paragraph, write a topic sentence that expresses the main point. Then elaborate and expand on the topic sentence in the rest of the paragraph.

When you’ve said everything you have to say about the idea, move onto a new paragraph.

Keep your argument flexible

You may realize as you write that some of your ideas don’t work as well as you thought they would. Don’t give up on them too easily, but be prepared to change or abandon sections if you realize they don’t make sense.

You’ll probably also come up with new ideas that you’d not yet thought of when writing the outline. Note these ideas down and incorporate them into the essay if there’s a logical place for them.

If you’re stuck on one section, move on to another part of the essay and come back to it later.

Don’t delete content

If you begin to dislike a certain section or even the whole essay, don’t scrap it in fit of rage!

If something really isn’t working, you can paste it into a separate document, but keep what you have, even if you don’t plan on using it. You may find that it contains or inspires new ideas that you can use later.

Note your sources

Students often make work for themselves by forgetting to keep track of sources when writing drafts.

You can save yourself a lot of time later and ensure you avoid plagiarism by noting down the name, year, and page number every time you quote or paraphrase from a source.

You can also use a citation generator to save a list of your sources and copy-and-paste citations when you need them.

Avoid perfectionism

When you’re writing a first draft, it’s important not to get slowed down by small details. Get your ideas down on paper now and perfect them later. If you’re unsatisfied with a word, sentence, or argument, flag it in the draft and revisit it later.

When you finish the first draft, you will know which sections and paragraphs work and which might need to be changed. It doesn’t make sense to spend time polishing something you might later cut out or revise.

Working on the second draft means assessing what you’ve got and rewriting it when necessary. You’ll likely end up cutting some parts of the essay and adding new ones.

Check your ideas against your thesis

Everything you write should be driven by your thesis . Looking at each piece of information or argumentation, ask yourself:

  • Does the reader need to know this in order to understand or accept my thesis?
  • Does this give evidence for my thesis?
  • Does this explain the reasoning behind my thesis?
  • Does this show something about the consequences or importance of my thesis?

If you can’t answer yes to any of these questions, reconsider whether it’s relevant enough to include.

If your essay has gone in a different direction than you originally planned, you might have to rework your thesis statement to more accurately reflect the argument you’ve made.

Watch out for weak points

Be critical of your arguments, and identify any potential weak points:

  • Unjustified assumptions: Can you be confident that your reader shares or will accept your assumptions, or do they need to be spelled out?
  • Lack of evidence:  Do you make claims without backing them up?
  • Logical inconsistencies:  Do any of your points contradict each other?
  • Uncertainty: Are there points where you’re unsure about your own claims or where you don’t sound confident in what you’re saying?

Fixing these issues might require some more research to clarify your position and give convincing evidence for it.

Check the organization

When you’re happy with all the main parts of your essay, take another look at the overall shape of it. You want to make sure that everything proceeds in a logical order without unnecessary repetition.

Try listing only the topic sentence of each paragraph and reading them in order. Are any of the topic sentences too similar? Each paragraph should discuss something different; if two paragraphs are about the same topic, they must approach it in different ways, and these differences should be made clear in the topic sentences.

Does the order of information make sense? Looking at only topic sentences lets you see at a glance the route your paper takes from start to finish, allowing you to spot organizational errors more easily.

Draw clear connections between your ideas

Finally, you should assess how your ideas fit together both within and between paragraphs. The connections might be clear to you, but you need to make sure they’ll also be clear to your reader.

Within each paragraph, does each sentence follow logically from the one before it? If not, you might need to add new sentences to make the connections clear. Try using transition words to clarify what you want to say.

Between one paragraph and the next, is it clear how your points relate to one another? If you are moving onto an entirely new topic, consider starting the paragraph with a transition sentence that moves from the previous topic and shows how it relates to the new one.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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How to write an essay: Body

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Body paragraphs

The essay body itself is organised into paragraphs, according to your plan. Remember that each paragraph focuses on one idea, or aspect of your topic, and should contain at least 4-5 sentences so you can deal with that idea properly.

Each body paragraph has three sections. First is the topic sentence . This lets the reader know what the paragraph is going to be about and the main point it will make. It gives the paragraph’s point straight away. Next – and largest – is the supporting sentences . These expand on the central idea, explaining it in more detail, exploring what it means, and of course giving the evidence and argument that back it up. This is where you use your research to support your argument. Then there is a concluding sentence . This restates the idea in the topic sentence, to remind the reader of your main point. It also shows how that point helps answer the question.

Body paragraph example

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How to Write a Body Paragraph for a College Essay

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  • Body paragraphs play an essential role in crafting a successful college essay.
  • The basic body paragraph structure has six parts, including a topic sentence and evidence.
  • Key paragraphing tips include moving transitions and avoiding repetition in your essay.

Paragraphing is an essential key to successful academic writing. A writer's organizing decisions control the reader's (i.e., your professor's) attention by raising or decreasing engagement with the subject. Writing an effective paragraph includes determining what goes into each paragraph and how your paragraphs and ideas relate to one another.

The first paragraph in any academic essay is the introduction , and the last is the conclusion, both of which are critical to crafting a compelling essay. But what is a body paragraph? The body paragraphs — all the paragraphs that come between the intro and conclusion — comprise the bulk of the essay and together form the student's primary argument.

In this article, we look at the function of a body paragraph and provide guidance on how to write a good body paragraph for any college essay.

What Is the Purpose of a Body Paragraph?

Body paragraphs play an indispensable role in proving the essay's thesis , which is presented in the introduction. As a sequence, body paragraphs provide a path from the introduction — which forecasts the structure of the essay's content — to the conclusion, which summarizes the arguments and looks at how final insights may apply in different contexts. Each body paragraph must therefore relate logically to the one immediately before and after it.

If you can eliminate a paragraph without losing crucial information that supports your thesis claim, then that paragraph is a divergence from this path and should be edited so that it fits with the rest of your essay and contains necessary evidence, context, and/or details.

Each body paragraph must relate logically to the one immediately before and after it, and must also focus on a single topic or idea.

Each paragraph must also focus on a single topic or idea. If the topic is complex or has multiple parts, consider whether each would benefit from its own paragraph.

People tend to absorb information in short increments, and readers usually time mental breaks at paragraph ends. This stop is also where they pause to consider content or write notes. As such, you should avoid lengthy paragraphs.

Finally, most academic style conventions frown upon one-sentence paragraphs. Similar to how body paragraphs can be too long and messy, one-sentence paragraphs can feel far too short and underdeveloped. Following the six steps below will allow you to avoid this style trap.

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6 Steps for Writing an Effective Body Paragraph

There are six main steps to crafting a compelling body paragraph. Some steps are essential in every paragraph and must appear in a fixed location, e.g., as the first sentence. Writers have more flexibility with other steps, which can be delayed or reordered (more on this later).

Step 1: Write a Topic Sentence

Consider the first sentence in a body paragraph a mini-thesis statement for that paragraph. The topic sentence should establish the main point of the paragraph and bear some relationship to the essay's overarching thesis statement.

In theory, by reading only the topic sentence of every paragraph, a reader should be able to understand a summary outline of the ideas that prove your paper's thesis. If the topic sentence is too complex, it'll confuse the reader and set you up to write paragraphs that are too long-winded.

Step 2: Unpack the Topic Sentence

Now, it's time to develop the claims in your paragraph's topic sentence by explaining or expanding all the individual parts. In other words, you'll parse out the discussion points your paragraph will address to support its topic sentence.

You may use as many sentences as necessary to achieve this step, but if there are too many components, consider writing a paragraph for each of them, or for a few that fit particularly well together. In this case, you'll likely need to revise your topic sentence. The key here is only one major idea per paragraph.

Step 3: Give Evidence

The next step is to prove your topic sentence's claim by supplying arguments, facts, data, and quotations from reputable sources . The goal is to offer original ideas while referencing primary sources and research, such as books, journal articles, studies, and personal experiences.

Step 4: Analyze the Evidence

Never leave your body paragraph's evidence hanging. As the writer, it's your job to do the linking work, that is, to connect your evidence to the main ideas the paragraph seeks to prove. You can do this by explaining, expanding, interpreting, or commentating on your evidence. You can even debunk the evidence you've presented if you want to give a counterargument.

Step 5: Prove Your Objective

This next step consists of two parts. First, tie up your body paragraph by restating the topic sentence. Be sure to use different language so that your writing is not repetitive. Whereas the first step states what your paragraph will prove, this step states what your paragraph has proven .

Second, every three or four paragraphs, or where it seems most fitting, tie your proven claim back to the paper's thesis statement on page 1. Doing so makes a concrete link between your discussion and the essay's main claim.

Step 6: Provide a Transition

A transition is like a bridge with two ramps: The first ramp takes the reader out of a topic or paragraph, whereas the second deposits them into a new, albeit related, topic. The transition must be smooth, and the connection between the two ideas should be strong and clear.

Purdue University lists some of the most commonly used transition words for body paragraphs.

Body Paragraph Example

Here is an example of a well-structured body paragraph, and the beginning of another body paragraph, from an essay on William Shakespeare's play "Twelfth Night." See whether you can identify the topic sentence and its development, the evidence, the writer's analysis and proof of the objective, and the transition to the next paragraph.

As well as harmony between parent and child, music represents the lasting bond between romantic couples. Shakespeare illustrates this tunefulness in the relationship between Viola and Orsino. Viola's name evokes a musical instrument that fits between violin and cello when it comes to the depth of tone. Orsino always wants to hear sad songs until he meets Viola, whose wit forces him to be less gloomy. The viola's supporting role in an orchestra, and Orsino's need for Viola to break out of his depression, foreshadow the benefits of the forthcoming marriage between the two. The viola is necessary in both lamenting and celebratory music. Shakespeare uses the language of orchestral string music to illustrate how the bonds of good marriages often depend on mediating between things.

The play also references cacophonous music. The unharmonious songs that Sir Toby and Andrew sing illustrate how indulging bad habits is bad for society as a whole. These characters are always drunk, do no work, play mean tricks, and are either broke or squander their money. …

Strategies for Crafting a Compelling Body Paragraph

Break down complex topic sentences.

A topic sentence with too many parts will force you to write a lot of support. But as you already know, readers typically find long paragraphs more difficult to absorb. The solution is to break down complicated topic sentences into two or more smaller ideas, and then devote a separate paragraph for each.

Move the Transition to the Following Paragraph

Though a body paragraph should always begin with a topic sentence and end with proof of your objective — sometimes with a direct connection to the essay's thesis — you don't need to include the transition in that paragraph; instead, you may insert it right before the topic sentence of the next paragraph.

For example, if a body paragraph is already incredibly long, you might want to avoid adding a transition at the end.

Your body paragraphs should be no longer than half to three-quarters of a double-spaced page with 1-inch margins in Times New Roman 12-point font. A little longer is sometimes acceptable, but you should generally avoid writing paragraphs that fill or exceed one page.

Shift Around Some of the Paragraph Steps Above

The steps above are a general guide, but you may change the order of them (to an extent). For instance, if your topic sentence is fairly complicated, you might need to unpack it into several parts, with each needing its own evidence and analysis.

You could also swap steps 3 and 4 by starting with your analysis and then providing evidence. Even better, consider alternating between giving evidence and providing analysis.

The idea here is that using more than one design for your paragraphs usually makes the essay more engaging. Remember that monotony can make a reader quickly lose interest, so feel free to change it up.

Don't Repeat the Same Information Between Paragraphs

If similar evidence or analysis works well for other paragraphs too, you need to help the reader make these connections. You can do this by incorporating signal phrases like "As the following paragraph also indicates" and "As already stated."

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Essay writing: Main body

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“An appropriate use of paragraphs is an essential part of writing coherent and well-structured essays.” Don Shiach,   How to write essays

The main body of your essay is where you deliver your argument . Its building blocks are well structured, academic paragraphs. Each paragraph is in itself an  individual argument  and when put together they should form a clear narrative that leads the reader to the inevitability of your conclusion.

The importance of the paragraph

A good academic paragraph is a special thing. It makes a clear point, backed up by good quality academic evidence, with a clear explanation of how the evidence supports the point and why the point is relevant to your overall argument  which supports your position . When these paragraphs are put together with appropriate links, there is a logical flow that takes the reader naturally to your essay's conclusion. 

As a general rule there should be one clear key point per paragraph , otherwise your reader could become overwhelmed with evidence that supports different points and makes your argument harder to follow. If you follow the basic structure below, you will be able to build effective paragraphs and so make the main body of your essay deliver on what you say it will do in your introduction.

Paragraph structure

PEEL acronym - Point, evidence, explanation, link

  • 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.

what makes up the body of an essay

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.

what makes up the body of an essay

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.

what makes up the body of an essay

Explanation (analysis)

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.

what makes up the body of an essay

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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How to Write the Perfect Body Paragraph

Matt Ellis

A body paragraph is any paragraph in the middle of an essay , paper, or article that comes after the introduction but before the conclusion. Generally, body paragraphs support the work’s thesis and shed new light on the main topic, whether through empirical data, logical deduction, deliberate persuasion, or anecdotal evidence. 

Some English teachers will tell you good writing has a beginning, middle, and end, but then leave it at that. And that’s true—almost all good writing follows an introduction-body-conclusion format. But what no one seems to talk about is that the vast majority of your writing will be middle . That puts a lot of significance on knowing how to write a body paragraph. 

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Don’t get us wrong—introductions and conclusions are crucial. They fulfill additional responsibilities of preparing the reader and sending them off with a lasting impression, which is why every good writer knows how to write an introduction and how to write a conclusion . But in terms of volume , body paragraphs comprise almost all of your work. 

We explain precisely how to write a body paragraph so your writing has substance through and through. After all, it’s what’s on the inside that counts! 

Structure of a body paragraph

Think of individual paragraphs as microcosms of the greater work; each paragraph has its own miniature introduction, body, and conclusion in the form of sentences. 

Let’s break it down. A good body paragraph contains the following four elements, some of which you may recognize from our ultimate guide to paragraphs :

  • Transitions: These are a few words at the beginning or end of a paragraph that connect the body paragraph to the others, creating a coherent flow throughout the entire piece.
  • Topic sentence: A sentence—almost always the first sentence—introduces what the entire paragraph is about. 
  • Supporting sentences: These make up the “body” of your body paragraph, with usually one to three sentences that develop and support the topic sentence’s assertion with evidence, logic, persuasive opinion, or expert testimonial. 
  • Conclusion (Summary): This is your paragraph’s concluding sentence, summing up or reasserting your original point in light of the supporting evidence. 

To understand how these components make up a body paragraph, let’s look at a sample from literary icon Kurt Vonnegut Jr. In it, he himself looks to other literary phenoms William Shakespeare and James Joyce. The following sample comes from Vonnegut’s essay “ How to write with style .” It’s a great example of how a body paragraph supports the thesis, which in this case is: To write well, “keep it simple.” 

As for your use of language: Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. “To be or not to be?” asks Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long. Joyce, when he was frisky, could put together a sentence as intricate and as glittering as a necklace for Cleopatra, but my favorite sentence in his short story “Eveline” is this one: “She was tired.” At that point in the story, no other words could break the heart of a reader as those three words do.

In this sample, Vonnegut demonstrates the four main elements of body paragraphs in a way that makes it easy to identify them. Let’s take a closer look at each.  

As for your use of language: 

Rather than opening the paragraph with an abrupt change of topic, Vonnegut uses a simple, even generic, transition that softy guides the reader into a new conversation. The point of transitions is to remove any jarring distractions when moving from one paragraph to the next. They don’t need to be complicated; sometimes a quick phrase like “on the other hand” or even a single word like “however” will suffice. 

Topic sentence

Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. 

Here, Vonnegut puts forth his main point, that even the greatest writers sometimes use simple language to convey complex ideas—the thesis of this particular body paragraph.  

Supporting sentences

“To be or not to be?” asks Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long. Joyce, when he was frisky, could put together a sentence as intricate and as glittering as a necklace for Cleopatra, but my favorite sentence in his short story “Eveline” is this one: “She was tired.” 

To support his thesis, Vonnegut pulls two direct quotes from respected writers and then dissects the wording to support his initial claim. Notice how there are a few different sentences with each exploring their own points, but they all relate to and support the paragraph’s main thesis. 

At that point in the story, no other words could break the heart of a reader as those three words do.

Vonnegut ends the paragraph with a pithy statement claiming that complex language would have been less effective, reaffirming his central claim that great writers know simple language works best. 

How to start a body paragraph

Often the hardest sentence to write, the first sentence of your body paragraph should act as the topic sentence, introducing the main point of the entire paragraph. Also known as the “paragraph leader,” the topic sentence opens the discussion with an underlying claim (or sometimes a question). 

After reading the opening sentence, the reader should know, in no uncertain terms, what the rest of the paragraph is about. That’s why topic sentences should always be clear, concise, and to the point. Avoid distractions or tangents—there will be time for elaboration in the supporting sentences. At times you can be coy and mysterious to build suspense, opening with a question that ultimately gets answered later in the paragraph. Nonetheless, you should still reveal enough information to set the stage for the rest of the sentences. 

More often than not, your first sentence should also contain a transition to bridge the gap from the preceding paragraph. Under special circumstances, you may also put a transition at the end of the sentence, but in general, putting it at the beginning is better for readability. 

Don’t let transitions intimidate you; they can be quite simple and even easy to apply. Usually, a single word or short phrase will do the job. Just be careful not to overuse the same transitions one after another. To help expand your transitional vocabulary, our guide to connecting sentences collects some of the most common transition words and phrases for inspiration. 

How to end a body paragraph

Likewise, the concluding sentence to your body paragraph holds extra weight. Because the reader takes a momentary pause at the end of each paragraph, that last sentence will “echo” just a bit longer in their minds while their eyes find the beginning of the next paragraph. You can take advantage of those extra milliseconds to leave a lasting impression on your reader. 

In form, your concluding sentence should summarize the thesis of your topic sentence while incorporating the supporting evidence—in other words, it should wrap things up. 

It’s useful to end on a meaningful or even emotional point to encourage the reader to reflect on what was discussed. Vonnegut’s conclusion from our sample makes a strong and forceful statement, invoking heartbreak (“break the heart”) and using absolute language (“no other words”). Powerful language like this might be too climactic for the supporting sentences, but in a conclusion, it fits perfectly. 

How to write a body paragraph

First and foremost, double-check that your body paragraph supports the main thesis of the entire piece, much like the paragraph’s supporting sentences support the topic sentence. Don’t forget your body paragraph’s place in the greater work. 

When it comes to actually writing a body paragraph, as always we recommend planning out what you want to say beforehand, which is a good reason to learn how to write an outline . Crafting a good body paragraph involves organizing your supporting sentences in the optimal order—but you can’t do that if you don’t know what those sentences will be! 

A lot of times, your supporting sentences will dictate their own logical progression, with one naturally leading into the next, as is often the case when building an argument. Other times, you’ll have to make a choice about which evidence to present first and last, as Vonnegut did when choosing between his Shakespeare and Joyce examples. Also as with Vonnegut’s example, your choice of conclusion may help determine the best order. 

This can be a lot of take in, especially if you’re still learning the fundamentals of writing. Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone! Grammarly offers suggestions beyond spelling and grammar, helping you hone clarity, tone, and conciseness in your writing. With Grammarly, ensure your writing is clear, engaging, and polished, wherever you type.

what makes up the body of an essay

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Traditional Academic Essays In Three Parts

Part i: the introduction.

An introduction is usually the first paragraph of your academic essay. If you’re writing a long essay, you might need 2 or 3 paragraphs to introduce your topic to your reader. A good introduction does 2 things:

  • Gets the reader’s attention. You can get a reader’s attention by telling a story, providing a statistic, pointing out something strange or interesting, providing and discussing an interesting quote, etc. Be interesting and find some original angle via which to engage others in your topic.
  • Provides a specific and debatable thesis statement. The thesis statement is usually just one sentence long, but it might be longer—even a whole paragraph—if the essay you’re writing is long. A good thesis statement makes a debatable point, meaning a point someone might disagree with and argue against. It also serves as a roadmap for what you argue in your paper.

Part II: The Body Paragraphs

Body paragraphs help you prove your thesis and move you along a compelling trajectory from your introduction to your conclusion. If your thesis is a simple one, you might not need a lot of body paragraphs to prove it. If it’s more complicated, you’ll need more body paragraphs. An easy way to remember the parts of a body paragraph is to think of them as the MEAT of your essay:

Main Idea. The part of a topic sentence that states the main idea of the body paragraph. All of the sentences in the paragraph connect to it. Keep in mind that main ideas are…

  • like labels. They appear in the first sentence of the paragraph and tell your reader what’s inside the paragraph.
  • arguable. They’re not statements of fact; they’re debatable points that you prove with evidence.
  • focused. Make a specific point in each paragraph and then prove that point.

Evidence. The parts of a paragraph that prove the main idea. You might include different types of evidence in different sentences. Keep in mind that different disciplines have different ideas about what counts as evidence and they adhere to different citation styles. Examples of evidence include…

  • quotations and/or paraphrases from sources.
  • facts , e.g. statistics or findings from studies you’ve conducted.
  • narratives and/or descriptions , e.g. of your own experiences.

Analysis. The parts of a paragraph that explain the evidence. Make sure you tie the evidence you provide back to the paragraph’s main idea. In other words, discuss the evidence.

Transition. The part of a paragraph that helps you move fluidly from the last paragraph. Transitions appear in topic sentences along with main ideas, and they look both backward and forward in order to help you connect your ideas for your reader. Don’t end paragraphs with transitions; start with them.

Keep in mind that MEAT does not occur in that order. The “ T ransition” and the “ M ain Idea” often combine to form the first sentence—the topic sentence—and then paragraphs contain multiple sentences of evidence and analysis. For example, a paragraph might look like this: TM. E. E. A. E. E. A. A.

Part III: The Conclusion

A conclusion is the last paragraph of your essay, or, if you’re writing a really long essay, you might need 2 or 3 paragraphs to conclude. A conclusion typically does one of two things—or, of course, it can do both:

  • Summarizes the argument. Some instructors expect you not to say anything new in your conclusion. They just want you to restate your main points. Especially if you’ve made a long and complicated argument, it’s useful to restate your main points for your reader by the time you’ve gotten to your conclusion. If you opt to do so, keep in mind that you should use different language than you used in your introduction and your body paragraphs. The introduction and conclusion shouldn’t be the same.
  • For example, your argument might be significant to studies of a certain time period .
  • Alternately, it might be significant to a certain geographical region .
  • Alternately still, it might influence how your readers think about the future . You might even opt to speculate about the future and/or call your readers to action in your conclusion.

Handout by Dr. Liliana Naydan. Do not reproduce without permission.

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what makes up the body of an essay

Good writing has a beginning, middle, and end. Beginnings and endings are brief. The majority of an essay is the middle part. That middle part is called the body . The paragraphs that make up that body are called body paragraphs . The purpose of body paragraphs is to explain your ideas. But even body paragraphs have a structure: a beginning, middle, and end. Good writing uses this structure to explain and transition between ideas.

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Body Paragraph: Meaning

A body paragraph is one of several paragraphs that make up the body of an essay. Let's take a closer look at what body paragraphs are.

Body paragraphs are the paragraphs that make up the bulk of an essay. They appear between the introduction and conclusion. Each body paragraph covers a different aspect of your Main Idea .

In a 5-paragraph essay, there are three body paragraphs. Each body paragraph supports your Main Idea by explaining a different aspect of it.

The Purpose of Body Paragraph

The purpose of body paragraphs is to explain your ideas. In the body paragraphs, you make your arguments, provide Evidence , and explain your reasoning. Think of your essay as a literal body. It has feet, a head, and everything in between.

Body Paragraph, body icon, StudySmarter

A good essay starts with a solid foundation. The introduction is the essay's feet, providing that solid foundation. This foundation sets up the essay so you can build on it.

As you build the essay, you work your way upward, ending at the conclusion. The conclusion is the head of the essay. It completes the picture and allows you to Summarize your ideas and look forward to the future.

So, what is between the head and the feet? Everything else! The body paragraphs are like the actual body of your essay. They take up most of the essay. Body paragraphs explain the bulk of your arguments and ideas.

Without the body paragraphs, you would have no essay!

What is the Purpose of Each Body Paragraph?

In a 5-paragraph essay, each body paragraph serves a different purpose. Look at the table below to learn about the purpose of each body paragraph.

Body Paragraph Structure With Examples

The structure of a body paragraph includes a topic sentence, supporting sentences with Evidence , and a concluding sentence. Let's take a closer look at each of these features and how to write them.

Topic Sentence

Every body paragraph should begin with a topic sentence .

A topic sentence is a sentence that states the main idea of a paragraph. It states the one thing you want the reader to understand from that paragraph.

A good topic sentence focuses the paragraph. It should be the very first sentence of the paragraph. When writing a topic sentence, ask yourself: what is the one thing I want the reader to get from this paragraph?

A good topic sentence clearly connects to the essay's Thesis Statement .

A Thesis Statement is a sentence that summarizes the main point of an essay. It appears at the end of the introduction.

Think of the topic sentence as one part of the thesis statement. It states one important piece of your main idea.

Thesis statement : If we are going to provide equal education for all, teachers will need more support in terms of funding, resources, and professional development.

Topic Sentence Body Paragraph 1: T eachers need more funding to obtain more resources and give them the time and energy needed to focus on student learning.

Topic Sentence Body Paragraph 2 : Teachers must be provided with the necessary resources to ensure every student has equal access to classroom materials and content.

Topic Sentence Body Paragraph 3 : Teachers need more professional development to learn how to utilize equality-building resources in the classroom and beyond.

Supporting Sentences

If the topic sentence supports the thesis statement, then what supports the topic sentence? Supporting sentences!

Supporting sentences explain the reasons for the main idea of the paragraph. Each paragraph should have multiple supporting sentences that explain the topic sentence.

Body Paragraph, Supporting Evidence, StudySmarter

Topic Sentence : T eachers need more funding to obtain more resources and give them the time and energy needed to focus on student learning.

Supporting Sentence 1 : Teachers often pay for resources out of their own pockets, which limits what they can provide students.

Supporting Sentence 2 : Teachers do not make enough money to live on, let alone provide their own educational resources.

Supporting Sentence 3 : Working multiple jobs distracts teachers from their classes, drains them of energy, and keeps them from seeking out professional development opportunities.

Note how each supporting sentence offers a different reason for the argument. Think of supporting sentences as reasons for your argument. What are your reasons?

Body paragraphs. A surrealist image of a man with a stack of books for a head. StudySmarter.

Back up every supporting sentence with evidence .

Evidence is what you use to support a claim. It includes any facts, examples, or sources that back up your ideas.

Body Paragraph, Supporting Evidence, StudySmarter

Here are some different types of evidence you might use to back up your ideas:

  • Facts or statistics
  • Quotes from interviews
  • Opinions from authors
  • Descriptions of events, locations, or images
  • Examples from sources
  • Definitions of terms

Supporting Sentence : Teachers often pay for resources out of their own pockets, which limits what they can provide students.

Evidence : According to a 2018 survey, 94% percent of teachers spend their own money on supplies and resources for their classrooms every year. 1

How can you communicate evidence? There are 3 different ways to do so:

You can Summarize a source by overviewing the main ideas of that source. For example, you might Summarize the findings of a study. Summaries are helpful when the general gist of a source is all you need to support your idea.

2. Paraphrase

You can also summarize one or two points from a source. This is called paraphrasing . For instance, the evidence in the above example paraphrased one point from an article. Paraphrasing is perfect for pulling important ideas from a source.

3. Direct Quote

Sometimes you need to use the exact words from a source to convey its message. We call the use of a source's exact words a direct quote. Direct quotes are helpful when a source words something perfectly.

Concluding Sentence

Every body paragraph must come to a close. Let the reader know you are wrapping up the paragraph with a concluding sentence. The concluding sentence is the last sentence of the paragraph. It wraps up the paragraph and lets the reader know you are ready to move on to the next point.

A good concluding sentence:

  • Briefly summarizes the ideas of the paragraph.
  • Provides a sense of closure.
  • Signals what is coming next.

Teachers are expected to pay for their own resources with limited funds, limited time, and limited attention to their students' needs.

Body Paragraph Transitions

Once you have the basic structure of a body paragraph, add Transitions . Tr ansitions are important for showing how your ideas fit together.

Transitions are words and phrases that show the relationships between ideas.

Transitions help your paper flow from one paragraph to the next. They also show how your paragraphs connect to the thesis statement.

Body paragraphs. A person jumping a clock. StudySmarter.

Transitioning from the Introduction

Add a transition to the topic sentence of Body Paragraph 1. Use transition words (e.g., therefore) that emphasize the relationship between the topic sentence and the thesis statement.

Ask yourself, what part of the thesis statement is this paragraph? Is it the most important idea? The first event? The strongest argument?

Transitioning Between Body Paragraphs

Consider the logical relationship between your paragraphs. Map how one idea goes into the next idea following a line of reasoning. Also, study transitions between paragraphs!

Ask yourself, how do these ideas build on each other? How do reveal another aspect of the main idea of my essay?

Transitioning to Your Conclusion

Urge your reader toward the conclusion using a concluding word (e.g., finally).

Ask yourself, how can I let the reader know this is my final point? How can I show the relationship between this final point and my other ideas?

Body Paragraph Example

Let's look at an example of a body paragraph. Note how each feature is in a different color. Pay attention to how these different features work together to explain the main idea.

Use this table for reference to identify each element:

Most importantly , t eachers need more funding to obtain resources, as well as to give them the time and energy needed to focus on student learning. Teachers often pay for resources out of their own pockets, which limits what they can provide students. According to a 2018 survey, 94% percent of teachers spend their own money on supplies and resources for their classrooms every year. 1 Teachers do not make enough money to live on, let alone provide their own educational resources. The same survey found that teachers pay anywhere from $400 to over $1000 per year on average for classroom supplies. Couple this Fact with teachers' notoriously low wages, and it's no wonder over one-third of teachers take second jobs. T eachers are expected to pay for their own resources with limited funds, limited time, and limited attention to their students' needs, so how can they be expected to ensure these resources are available to students that need them most?

Body Paragraph - Key Takeaways

  • Body paragraphs are the paragraphs that make up the bulk of an essay.

The purpose of body paragraphs is to explain your ideas.

  • In a 5-paragraph essay, each of the three body paragraphs serves a different purpose.
  • The structure of a body paragraph includes a topic sentence, supporting sentences with evidence, and a concluding sentence.
  • Once you have the basic features of a body paragraph, add transitions to those features to show the relationships between your ideas.

1 Grace Sparks, "94% of teachers spend their own money on school supplies," CNN. 2018.

Frequently Asked Questions about Body Paragraph

--> what is the meaning of body paragraph .

Body paragraphs are the paragraphs that make up the bulk of an essay. They appear between the introduction and conclusion. Each body paragraph covers a different aspect of the essay's main idea.  

--> What are the features of a body paragraph? 

The features of a body paragraph are a topic sentence, supporting sentences with evidence, and a concluding sentence. 

--> What is a good example of a body paragraph? 

A good example of a body paragraph is as follows:

Most importantly, t eachers need more funding to obtain resources, as well as to give them the time and energy needed to focus on student learning.  Teachers often pay for resources out of their own pockets, which limits what they can provide students. According to a 2018 survey,  94%  percent of teachers spend their own money on supplies and resources for their classrooms every year.  Teachers do not make enough money to live on, let alone to provide their own educational resources. The same survey found that teachers pay anywhere from $400 to over $1000 per year on average for classroom supplies. Couple this fact with teachers' notoriously low wages, and it's no wonder over one-third of teachers take second jobs.   Working multiple jobs distracts teachers from their classes, drains them of energy, and keeps them from seeking out professional development opportunities. According to the National Education Association, "Moonlighting can increase stress and drive disengagement, as teachers are forced to juggle multiple schedules and have their family and leisure time reduced."  Teachers are expected to pay for their own resources with limited funds, limited time, and limited attention to their students' needs, so how can they be expected to ensure these resources are available to students that need them most?  

--> How do you start a body paragraph example? 

Start a body paragraph example with a topic sentence stating the main idea of the paragraph. Then add support sentences, evidence, and a concluding sentence.

--> What is the purpose of body paragraphs? 

Final body paragraph quiz, body paragraph quiz - teste dein wissen.

What is an opinion?

Show answer

Opinion is a personal conjecture.

Show question

Should you use an opinion to support your thesis?

"An opinion does not require verification."

True or false?

If something has failed to acquire verification, what is it?

"Humans will evolve into beings of pure energy." Is this an opinion or a potential fact?

An opinion. It cannot be verified, whereas potential facts are in the process of verification.

Fact is not ____. Fact is what is found out during the search for the truth.

Fact is what has continually withstood the test of _____.

Can a fact be arrived at logically?

Yes. Through the argumentation of a hypothesis. 

If a conclusion has been arrived at practically through the experimentation of a hypothesis, is it a fact?

Yes, assuming there are no flaws with the experiment.

What is a potential fact?

Potential facts are in the process of being proven or disproven. The advanced study of quantum mechanics involves potential facts, for example.

If something is a conclusion, is it a fact or an opinion?

It could be either. Facts and opinions can both be conclusions of a kind.

Can facts evolve?

Yes, people are learning new things all the time. This should not be used an argument for conspiracies or pseudoscience, which have no basis in real learning or research. 

Opinion is not concerned with _____, while facts are.


Is a subjective conclusion an opinion?

Yes. Subjective conclusions contain bias.

If a hypothesis has been tested repeatedly and the results are inconclusive, is taking a stance on it an opinion?

Yes. If a hypothesis has been repeatedly tested and the result consistently provides no answer, then to declare an answer is a matter of opinion.

If something is quantified, is it fact?

Yes. However, quantified results can lead to all kinds of conclusions, including incorrect ones if used fallaciously. 

If many people have seen something, is it a fact?

Not necessarily. If something is clearly witnessed by multiple unbiased people, it is a fact.

In what ways should you be wary of what you see or read? You should be wary of what? 

Be wary of unverified sources, unread context, generalization, sets of information, and all logical fallacies.

Which is not a hedge word?

Which is not a hedge phrase?

Despite there being

Hedges are words or phrases that express _____.


If you have a great idea, is it alright to hedge your thesis statement?

No. You should never hedge your thesis statement. The claim must be clear and unambiguous. 

"It appears that Group B is not compliant."  Does this claim contain a hedge?

"Group C certainly provides the data." Does this claim contain a hedge?

Hedging in your body paragraphs is often a sign that your evidence is _____.

In your body paragraphs, if you are not confident in your evidence, is hedging a good option for that evidence?

If you are not confident enough in your evidence to include it without hedges, then you probably shouldn’t include it.

Many students will present perfectly good evidence, then hedge it just to be on the safe side. Is this the safe, proper call in an essay?

No. Let your evidence speak for itself. You want to be confident in your essay.

What is the hedging fallacy?

The hedging fallacy  is conceding an argument, using a hedge word to create a new hedged argument, but then dismissing the hedged argument and returning to the original (previously conceded) argument.

Is it okay to revise a claim by hedging it?

Yes, on its own. This is the search for the truth. It is not okay to revise a claim superficially, then to continue arguing the original claim.

Regardless of how they are shaped, hedged arguments always make a concession, then what?

Return to the original conclusion or claim.

In an essay, a quick wit covers for a lesser argument.

Where do hedge words appear in the hedging fallacy?

In the revised claim that is summarily dismissed.

What are body paragraphs ?

Body paragraphs are the paragraphs that make up the bulk of an essay. They appear between the introduction and conclusion. Each body paragraph covers a different aspect of your main idea. 

How many body paragraphs are there in a 5-paragraph essay?

Where do body paragraphs appear in an essay?

Body paragraphs appear between the introduction and the conclusion of an essay.

True or false: 

Body paragraphs take up the bulk of an essay.

True! Body paragraphs make up the body  of the essay, so they take up the most space.

If a paragraph explains the second most important idea of the essay, which paragraph is it?

Body paragraph 2

Which idea or argument should the third body paragraph of an essay cover?

the least important idea or weakest argument

What are the features that structure a body paragraph?

topic sentence

What is a topic sentence ?

A topic sentence is a sentence that states the main idea of a paragraph. It states the one thing the writer wants the reader to understand from that paragraph.

True or False:

Topic sentences do not need to connect to the thesis statement of an essay.

False. Since each body paragraph covers one aspect of the thesis statement, each topic sentence should clearly connect to that thesis statement.

What do supporting sentences explain?

the reasons for the main idea of a paragraph

How many supporting sentences should each body paragraph have?

Each body paragraph should have at least 2-3 supporting sentences.

What can one use to back up their supporting sentences?

What are some different kinds of evidence one might use to back up supporting sentences?

facts or statistics

What is the last sentence in a body paragraph called? 

concluding sentence

What are the features of a good concluding sentence?

It briefly summarizes the ideas of the paragraph.

To transition from Body Paragraph 2 to Body Paragraph 3, where should one add transition words?

the concluding sentence of Body Paragraph 2

Instead of transition words , what type of words are helpful for transitioning from Body Paragraph 3 to the Conclusion?

Concluding words are helpful for transitioning from Body Paragraph 3 to the Conclusion.

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what makes up the body of an essay

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  • Anatomy of a Body Paragraph

When you write strong, clear paragraphs, you are guiding your readers through your argument by showing them how your points fit together to support your thesis. The number of paragraphs in your essay should be determined by the number of steps you need to take to build your argument. To write strong paragraphs, try to focus each paragraph on one main point—and begin a new paragraph when you are moving to a new point or example.

A strong paragraph in an academic essay will usually include these three elements:

  • A topic sentence. The topic sentence does double duty for a paragraph. First, a strong topic sentence makes a claim or states a main idea that is then developed in the rest of the paragraph. Second, the topic sentence signals to readers how the paragraph is connected to the larger argument in your paper. Below is an example of a topic sentence from a paper by Laura Connor ‘23 that analyzes rhetoric used by Frederic Douglass, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Karl Marx. In her paper, Connor argues that Marx’s rhetoric was most effective in driving social change. In his numerous writings, Marx critiques capitalism by identifying its flaws. This topic sentence makes a claim that will then need to be supported with evidence: readers can expect that the sentence will be followed by a discussion of what Marx saw as the flaws in capitalism, which will in turn help them understand Connor’s thesis about how these three authors used their rhetoric to effect social change. A topic sentence signals to your readers what idea is most important in that paragraph—and it also helps you know if you’ve effectively made your point. In this case, Connor has set up the expectation for readers that by the end of the paragraph, they will understand Marx’s view of the flaws in capitalism. Imagine that, instead of writing “Marx critiques capitalism by identifying its flaws,” Connor had begun that paragraph with a descriptive sentence. For example, she could have written something like this: “Marx wrote a critique of capitalism.” While that sentence describes something that happened, it does not give readers information about what will be in the rest of the paragraph—and it would not have helped Connor figure out how to organize the paragraph.
  • Evidence. Once you’ve made a claim in your topic sentence, you’ll need to help your readers see how you arrived at that claim from the evidence that you examined. That evidence may include quotations or paraphrased material from a source, or it may include data, results, or primary source material. In the paragraph that follows Connor’s topic sentence above, she offers several quotations from Marx that demonstrate how he viewed the flaws in capitalism.
  • Analysis. It’s not enough to provide evidence to support a claim. You have to tell your readers what you want them to understand about that evidence. In other words, you have to analyze it. How does this evidence support your claim? In Connor’s paragraph, she follows her presentation of evidence with sentences that tell readers what they need to understand about that evidence—specifically that it shows how Marx pointed to the flaws in capitalism without telling his own readers what to think about it, and that this was his strategy. It might be tempting to end your paragraph with either a sentence summarizing everything you’ve just written or the introduction of a new idea. But in a short paragraph, your readers don’t need a summary of all that you’ve just said. And introducing a new point in the final sentence can confuse readers by leaving them without evidence to support that new point. Instead, try to end your paragraph with a sentence that tells readers something that they can now understand because they’ve read your paragraph. In Connor’s paragraph, the final sentence doesn’t summarize all of Marx’s specific claims but instead tells readers what to take away from that evidence. After seeing what Marx says about capitalism, Connor explains what the evidence she has just offered suggests about Marx’s beliefs.

Below, you’ll find Connor’s complete paragraph. The topic sentence appears in blue . The evidence appears in green . Connor’s analysis of the evidence appears in yellow .  

Example paragraph  

In his numerous writings, Marx critiques capitalism by identifying its flaws. By critiquing the political economy and capitalism, Marx implores his reader to think critically about their position in society and restores awareness in the proletariat class. T o Marx, capitalism is a system characterized by the “exploitation of the many by the few,” in which workers accept the exploitation of their labor and receive only harm of “alienation,” rather than true benefits ( MER 487). He writes that “labour produces for the rich wonderful things – but for the worker it produces privation. It produces palaces—but for the worker, hovels. It produces beauty—but for the worker, deformity” (MER 73). Marx argues capitalism is a system in which the laborer is repeatedly harmed and estranged from himself, his labor, and other people, while the owner of his labor – the capitalist – receives the benefits ( MER 74). And while industry progresses, the worker “sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class” ( MER 483). But while Marx critiques the political economy, he does not explicitly say “capitalism is wrong.” Rather, his close examination of the system makes its flaws obvious. Only once the working class realizes the flaws of the system, Marx believes, will they - must they - rise up against their bourgeois masters and achieve the necessary and inevitable communist revolution.

Not every paragraph will be structured exactly like this one, of course. But as you draft your own paragraphs, look for all three of these elements: topic sentence, evidence, and analysis.

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