Study Guides and Strategies
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Writing assignment series
The Five Paragraph Essay
The five paragraph essay measures a student’s basic writing skills,
and is often a timed exercise.
Use this Guide to help you practice and succeed at this form of writing.
Getting started means getting organized:
Analyze the assignment; determine what is required.
With a highlighter, note important words that define the topic.
Then organize your plan
For example, you have been given this writing prompt:
You have a present that was really memorable. It could have been given for an important occasion or just for no reason at all. Tell us about the present and why it was memorable. Include the reason it was given, a description of it, and how you felt when you got it.
The objective is to write a narrative essay about this present you were given
The subject is a memorable present
The three main subtopics are:
Outline your five paragraph essay; include these elements:
General Topic Sentence: memorable present
- Subtopic One: the reason it was given
- Subtopic Two: a description of it
- Subtopic Three: how you felt when you got it
First Supporting Paragraph
- Restate Subtopic One
- Supporting Details or Examples
Second Supporting Paragraph
- Restate Subtopic Two
- Supporting Details or Examples
Third Supporting Paragraph
- Restate Subtopic Three
- Supporting Details or Examples
Closing or Summary Paragraph
- Synthesis and conclusion of the thesis
- Rephrasing main topic and subtopics.
Write the essay!
Think small; build the full essay gradually.
Divide your essay into sections and develop each piece separately and incrementally.
The Introductory Paragraph
It not only introduces the topic, but where you are going with it (the thesis). If you do a good job in the opening, you will draw your reader into your “experience.” Put effort up front, and you will reap rewards.
It is much more powerful. Do that for each sentence in the introductory essay. Unless you are writing a personal narrative, do not use the pronoun “I.”
Review to avoid the same dull pattern of always starting with the subject of the sentence.
The best supporting ideas are the ones about which you have some knowledge. If you do not know about them, you cannot do a good job writing about them. Don’t weaken the essay with ineffective argument.
Even if you do not use them, they can be compared with the type of writing you are doing now. It is rewarding to see a pattern of progress.
- Write a transition to establish the sub-topic
The transition can be included in the topic sentence.
The tendency in supporting paragraphs is to put in just about anything.
Avoid this: the work you have made above with details and examples will help you keep focused.
Avoid repetitious pronouns and lists
Avoid beginning sentences the same way (subject + verb + direct object).
The Ending or Summary Paragraph
You cannot assume that the reader sees your point
- Restate the introductory thesis/paragraph with originality
Do not simply copy the first paragraph
this paragraph should leave your reader with no doubt as to your position or conclusion of logic
Edit and revise your essay
Check your spelling and grammar
Examine your whole essay for logic
Thought builds and flows?
Avoid gaps in logic, or too much detail.
Review individual sentences
Avoid passive constructions and the verb “to be”
Avoid sentences beginning with pronouns, constructions as “There are. “
Example: “There is a need to proofread all works” becomes “Proofreading is a must.”
though vary the length and structure of sentences
Ask a knowledgeable friend to review and comment on your essay
See, first, Writing Introductory Paragraphs for different ways of getting your reader involved in your essay. The introductory paragraph should also include the thesis statement, a kind of mini-outline for the paper: it tells the reader what the essay is about. The last sentence of this paragraph must also contain a transitional “hook” which moves the reader to the first paragraph of the body of the paper.
Body — First paragraph:
The first paragraph of the body should contain the strongest argument, most significant example, cleverest illustration, or an obvious beginning point. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the “reverse hook” which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the introductory paragraph. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional hook to tie into the second paragraph of the body.
Body — Second paragraph:
The second paragraph of the body should contain the second strongest argument, second most significant example, second cleverest illustration, or an obvious follow up the first paragraph in the body. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the reverse hook which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the first paragraph of the body. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional hook to tie into the third paragraph of the body.
Body — Third paragraph:
The third paragraph of the body should contain the weakest argument, weakest example, weakest illustration, or an obvious follow up to the second paragraph in the body. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the reverse hook which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the second paragraph. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional concluding hook that signals the reader that this is the final major point being made in this paper. This hook also leads into the last, or concluding, paragraph.
This paragraph should include the following:
- an allusion to the pattern used in the introductory paragraph,
- a restatement of the thesis statement, using some of the original language or language that “echoes” the original language. (The restatement, however, must not be a duplicate thesis statement.)
- a summary of the three main points from the body of the paper.
- a final statement that gives the reader signals that the discussion has come to an end. (This final statement may be a “call to action” in an persuasive paper.)
The Five-Paragraph Essay
Everyone should learn how to write a five-paragraph essay. The five-paragraph essay has a rigid structure that simplifies the writing process: an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The length is just right: not too short, not too long. The style is flexible, spanning narrative, expository, and persuasive communication. In short, the five-paragraph essay is a simple writing style that everybody should have as a primary communication tool.
The rigid structure of the five-paragraph essay simplifies the writing process. While nothing can automate the writing process, a rigid structure focuses the writer’s creativity on content. Regardless of the essay’s main point, the writer should be able to produce the three supporting points and associated evidence mandated by the structure. The rigidity discourages flowery prose, digressions, and other common writing mistakes. These constraints of the five-paragraph essay make it easier to write.
The five-paragraph essay has a ideal length for most writing needs. A typical five-paragraph essay is 250 to 500 words long — a length that is respectable without being intimidating. Three supporting points, each with three sentences of evidence, provide just the right amount of detail to elaborate the main point. Meanwhile, the tight structure and concise prose retain the reader’s attention. Five paragraphs is an ideal length: not too short, not too long.
The five-paragraph essay is useful for narrative, expository, and persuasive communication. In a narrative essay, the main idea summarizes the story, and each body paragraph corresponds to a distinct episode. In an expository essay, the main idea defines the topic, and each body paragraph elaborates on an aspect of that topic. In a persuasive essay, the main idea presents a the thesis, and and each body paragraph provides a supporting argument. The five-paragraph essay is useful for all of these communication styles.
In conclusion, the five-paragraph essay is a style that everyone should learn. Its rigid structure simplifies the writing process and helps the writer focus on content. The length is just right to elaborate on the main idea while retaining the reader’s attention. The style is flexible enough to use for narrative, expository, and persuasive communication. For all of these reasons, everyone should learn how to write a five-paragraph essay.
Essay Writing for Standardized Tests: Tips for Writing a Five Paragraph Essay
Most, if not all, high school and college standardized tests include a writing portion. Students are provided a writing prompt and must then write an essay on the topic. Writing for standardized tests can strike fear in the hearts and minds of students of all ages, but it doesn’t have to. If you know what to expect and understand how to write a five paragraph essay, you will be prepared to tackle any essay writing prompt.
Types of Essays on Standardized Tests
When you begin to write your essay for a standardized test, you must first decide what type of essay you are being asked to write. There are many different types of essays, including narrative, expository, argumentative, persuasive, comparative, literary, and so on. The type of essay will determine your topic and thesis. Essays for standardized tests are typically either persuasive, in which you will answer a question, or literary, in which you will write about something you read.
For standardized tests, students usually have to write a five paragraph essay, which should be 500 to 800 words long and include an introductory paragraph, three supporting paragraphs and a concluding paragraph.
The First Paragraph: The Introduction
The first paragraph will introduce your topic. The introduction is the most important paragraph because it provides direction for the entire essay. It also sets the tone, and you want to grab the reader’s attention with interest and clarity. The best way to tackle the introduction is to:
- Describe your main idea, or what the essay is about, in one sentence. You can usually use the essay writing prompt or question to form this sentence.
- Develop a thesis statement, or what you want to say about the main idea. When the writing prompt is a question, your thesis is typically the answer to the question.
- List three points or arguments that support your thesis in order of importance (one sentence for each).
Voila! You’ve just written your introductory paragraph.
The Second, Third and Fourth Paragraphs: Supporting Details
These three paragraphs form the body of the essay. They provide details, such as facts, quotes, examples and concrete statistics, for the three points in your introductory paragraph that support your thesis. Take the points you listed in your introduction and discuss each in one body paragraph. Here’s how:
- First, write a topic sentence that summarizes your point. This is the first sentence of your paragraph.
- Next, write your argument, or why you feel the topic sentence is true.
- Finally, present your evidence (facts, quotes, examples, and statistics) to support your argument.
Now you have a body paragraph. Repeat for points two and three. The best part about introducing your main points in the first paragraph is that it provides an outline for your body paragraphs and eliminates the need to write in transitions between paragraphs.
The Fifth Paragraph: The Conclusion
The concluding paragraph must summarize the essay. This is often the most difficult paragraph to write. In your conclusion, you should restate the thesis and connect it with the body of the essay in a sentence that explains how each point supports the thesis. Your final sentence should uphold your main idea in a clear and compelling manner. Be sure you do not present any new information in the conclusion.
When writing an essay for a standardized test, outline your essay and get through each paragraph as quickly as possible. Think of it as a rough draft. When your time is up, a complete essay will score more points than an incomplete essay because the evaluator is expecting a beginning, middle and an end.
If you have time to review your essay before your time is up, by all means do so! Make any revisions that you think will enhance your “rough draft” and be sure to check for any grammatical errors or misspellings.
Online instruction like the Time4Writing essay writing courses for elementary, middle and high school students can help children prepare for state and college-entrance standardized writing tests. These interactive writing classes build basic writing skills, explain essay types and structure, and teach students how to organize their ideas.
For general tips on test preparation and details about each state’s standardized tests, please visit our standardized test overview page.
When it comes to writing essays in college, we all need a place to start. Think of the five-paragraph essay as just that. Some students may find this to be a simple process, while others may spend a greater amount of time understanding this basic building block of college writing. Whatever the case, use the following guidelines to strengthen your knowledge of this preliminary essay format. Five-paragraph essays are incredibly useful in two situations — when writers are just starting out and when a writing assignment is timed.
The five-paragraph essay has three basic parts: introduction, body, and conclusion.
The introduction is the first paragraph of the essay, and it serves several purposes. This paragraph gets your reader’s attention, develops the basic ideas of what you will cover, and provides the thesis statement for the essay. The thesis statement is usually only one sentence and is made up of the topic, focus, and three main points of the essay.
Each body paragraph should start with a transition — either a word or phrase, like First, or Another important point is. Then, the first sentence should continue with your topic sentence. The topic sentence tells your reader what the paragraph is about, like a smaller-level thesis statement. The rest of the paragraph will be made of supporting sentences. These sentences, at least four of them, will explain your topic sentence to your reader.
Be sure that each sentence in the paragraph directly addresses both your topic sentence and your thesis statement. If you have a point to make that is not directly connected to the topic sentence, it does not belong in the paragraph. You might write a different paragraph on that other point, but you may not stick it into any old paragraph just because you thought of it at that point. (You can’t stick a red towel into a load of white laundry without causing damage to the rest of the clothes, and you can’t stick a point that’ off-topic into a paragraph without doing damage to the rest of the essay. Keep your laundry and your paragraph points separate!)
The conclusion is the last paragraph of the essay. This paragraph brings the essay to a close, reminds the reader of the basic ideas from the essay, and restates the thesis statement. The conclusion should not contain new ideas, as it is the summation of the content of the essay. The restatement of the thesis is a simpler form that the one originally presented in the introduction.
An outline is often used to demonstrate the content of most five-paragraph essays:
Before we finish, it is important to remember that the format of the five-paragraph essay is the foundation of nearly every other essay you’ll write. When you get ready to write longer papers, remember that the job of the introduction and conclusion are just the same as they are in the five-paragraph essay. Also, when you write longer papers, change your idea of support from three body paragraphs to three (or two or four) body sections, with as many paragraphs as necessary in each section (just as you had as many sentences you needed in each body paragraph).
Below is an example of a 5-paragraph essay. Notice how the essay follows the outline.
Outline of this essay:
- Introduction about camping, with three main points and thesis statement
- bad weather
- equipment failures
- Conclusion reviewing three main points and thesis statement
Enjoying Your Camping Trip
Each year, thousands of people throughout the United States choose to spend their vacations camping in the great outdoors. Depending on an individual’s sense of adventure, there are various types of camping to choose from, including log cabin camping, recreational vehicle camping, and tent camping. Of these, tent camping involves “roughing it” the most, and with proper planning the experience can be gratifying. Even with the best planning, however, tent camping can be an extremely frustrating experience due to uncontrolled factors such as bad weather, wildlife encounters, and equipment failures.
Nothing can dampen the excited anticipation of camping more than a dark, rainy day. Even the most adventurous campers can lose some of their enthusiasm on the drive to the campsite if the skies are dreary and damp. After reaching their destination, campers must then “set up camp” in the downpour. This includes keeping the inside of the tent dry and free from mud, getting the sleeping bags situated dryly, and protecting food from the downpour. If the sleeping bags happen to get wet, the cold also becomes a major factor. A sleeping bag usually provides warmth on a camping trip; a wet sleeping bag provides none. Combining wind with rain can cause frigid temperatures, causing any outside activities to be delayed. Even inside the tent problems may arise due to heavy winds. More than a few campers have had their tents blown down because of the wind, which once again begins the frustrating task of “setting up camp” in the downpour. It is wise to check the weather forecast before embarking on camping trips; however, mother nature is often unpredictable and there is no guarantee bad weather will be eluded.
Another problem likely to be faced during a camping trip is run-ins with wildlife, which can range from mildly annoying to dangerous. Minor inconveniences include mosquitoes and ants. The swarming of mosquitoes can literally drive annoyed campers indoors. If an effective repellant is not used, the camper can spend an interminable night scratching, which will only worsen the itch. Ants do not usually attack campers, but keeping them out of the food can be quite an inconvenience. Extreme care must be taken not to leave food out before or after meals. If food is stored inside the tent, the tent must never be left open. In addition to swarming the food, ants inside a tent can crawl into sleeping bags and clothing. Although these insects cause minor discomfort, some wildlife encounters are potentially dangerous. There are many poisonous snakes in the United States, such as the water moccasin and the diamond-back rattlesnake. When hiking in the woods, the camper must be careful where he steps. Also, the tent must never be left open. Snakes, searching for either shade from the sun or shelter from the rain, can enter a tent. An encounter between an unwary camper and a surprised snake can prove to be fatal. Run-ins can range from unpleasant to dangerous, but the camper must realize that they are sometimes inevitable.
Perhaps the least serious camping troubles are equipment failures; these troubles often plague families camping for the first time. They arrive at the campsite at night and haphazardly set up their nine-person tent. They then settle down for a peaceful night’s rest. Sometime during the night the family is awakened by a huge crash. The tent has fallen down. Sleepily, they awake and proceed to set up the tent in the rain. In the morning, everyone emerges from the tent, except for two. Their sleeping bag zippers have gotten caught. Finally, after fifteen minutes of struggling, they free themselves, only to realize another problem. Each family member’s sleeping bag has been touching the sides of the tent. A tent is only waterproof if the sides are not touched. The sleeping bags and clothing are all drenched. Totally disillusioned with the “vacation,” the frustrated family packs up immediately and drives home. Equipment failures may not seem very serious, but after campers encounter bad weather and annoying pests or wild animals, these failures can end any remaining hope for a peaceful vacation.
These three types of camping troubles can strike campers almost anywhere. Until some brilliant scientist invents a weather machine to control bad weather or a kind of wildlife repellant, unlucky campers will continue to shake their fists in frustration. More than likely, equipment will continue to malfunction. Even so, camping continues to be a favorite pastime of people all across the United States. If you want camping to be a happy experience for you, learn to laugh at leaky tents, bad weather, and bugs, or you will find yourself frustrated and unhappy.
Print this handout by clicking here for download.
The Five-Paragraph Essay
You can always find the topics here!
Select the topics that are inaccurate.
Cite This Item
The “moving wall” represents the time period between the last issue available in JSTOR and the most recently published issue of a journal. Moving walls are generally represented in years. In rare instances, a publisher has elected to have a “zero” moving wall, so their current issues are available in JSTOR shortly after publication.
Note: In calculating the moving wall, the current year is not counted.
For example, if the current year is 2008 and a journal has a 5 year moving wall, articles from the year 2002 are available.
Terms Related to the Moving Wall Fixed walls: Journals with no new volumes being added to the archive. Absorbed: Journals that are combined with another title. Complete: Journals that are no longer published or that have been combined with another title.
The five paragraph essay
Welcome to College: Say Goodbye to the Five-Paragraph Essay
Many students learned in high school to write what is commonly known as the five paragraph essay. This handout is designed to help you see the weaknesses of that syle of essay and to help you learn to write something more complex that that formulaic essay. The Five Paragraph Essay consists of (surprise!) five paragraphs that follow a very structured format. The first paragraph contains a one sentence (or maybe a two sentence) thesis statement, which is followed by three sentences that briefly describe what will be discussed in the three body paragraphs. These three sentences are sometimes referred to as the pathway, since they show where the paper will go. There may then be a transitional sentence to the next paragraph, which discusses the topic of the first pathway sentence. The next two body paragraphs develop and detail the next two pathway sentences. The conclusion, the fifth paragraph, restates and summarizes the arguments of the essay, sometimes beginning with the phrase, “In conclusion.”
The strength of the five paragraph essay is that it is highly structured, and fairly easy to teach. It provides a very formulaic style of writing that many students find helpful. However, once you reach the college level, the weaknesses outweigh the strengths. The five paragraph essay encourages students to engage only on the surface level without attaining the level of cogency demanded by college writing. In its broad, overarching style, it has a tendency to encourage overly general thesis statements that lead to poorly developed and unfocused papers. And its formulaic nature makes it prone to produce papers with stilted organization. Not to mention that it is next to impossible to write five pages of one without repeating yourself. The only time the five paragraph essay may be useful in college is when you are writing answers to brief essay questions on exams. In timed situations that do not allow you to come up with a complex organization, the five pragraph essay format can be helpful to structure your ideas if you are easily overwhelmed by the number of points you have to make.
So, if you’re not allowed to write the kind of essay your high school teachers taught you, what exactly else are you supposed to write? The easiest thing to remember is that with a few sentence level changes, each pathway sentence from a traditional five paragraph essay would make a great working thesis for the kind of argumentative, thesis-driven paper that you are asked to write in college. Here’s an example in answer to the prompt, “What fundamental change would improve high school education ?”.
High school education has several problems which must be solved to prepare America’s youth for the challenges of the 21st century. Overcrowded classrooms mean that students do not receive the individualized attention that they need to succeed. Increasing rates of crime are making students afraid to come to school, and preventing students from concentrating while they are there. In addition, the lack of technological resources like state of the art computers is preventing students from being competitive in the workplace after graduation. These problems all mean that some students are falling behind.
When students fall behind, they need the attention of an instructor one on one to catch up. Because classrooms are so crowded, teachers are overworked. As a result. . .
High schools across the country are bulging at the seams. As increasing numbers of Americans realize that education is necessary to attaining the American dream, our schools grow more crowded. At the same time, budget cuts have caused schools to cut back on the number of teachers. As the number of teachers has dropped, and classrooms have become more crowded, the quality of education in our public schools has declined. With a higher workload, burnout among even the best teachers has increased, and fewer people see teaching as the desirable profession they once did. Solving the problem of overcrowding by strictly limiting class size to 20 students would allow more students to get the instruction they need to become productive members of society, which is the most important goal of high school education in America today.
Can you see the difference between the two parargraphs? Let’s take a closer look:
How to Write a Five Paragraph Essay
It is challenging to organize and develop arguments in an essay. Here is a step by step guide.
Many students find it challenging to write a good essay. Often the main challenge is to organize and develop the ideas and arguments in a clear and coherent way. Sometimes a step-by-step description can help students on the way and make essay writing a more manageable task.
5 Paragraph Essay The five paragraph essay is often assigned to students to help them in this process. A good 5-paragraph essay is a lot like a triple-decker burger, and is therefore often called the hamburger essay. It requires a clear introduction and conclusion (the top and bottom bun) that hold the main body of the essay (the burgers) in place.
The introduction to a text is extremely important. A good introduction should accomplish three things:
- Firstly, it should capture the reader’s interest and create a desire to read on and learn more. There are many ways to achieve this. For example, you can start with a good quote from a famous person or a short anecdote. You could also present some interesting statistics, state a startling fact or simply pose a challenging question.
- Secondly, you should inform the reader what the essay is about. In the introduction you should present your approach to the topic or thesis statement (Am. Eng.). The thesis statement is the main idea of the essay expressed in a single sentence. Make sure your thesis statement comes out clearly in your introduction.
- Thirdly, you should inform the reader how you have structured the text. After having read the introduction, the reader should have an idea of how you are planning on taking him through the topic.
The body of the essay consists of three paragraphs (three hamburgers), each limited to one idea that supports your thesis. Each paragraph should have a clear topic sentence; a sentence that presents the main idea of the paragraph. The first paragraph should contain the strongest argument and the most significant examples of the topic, while the third paragraph should introduce the weakest arguments and examples. Include as much explanation and discussion as is necessary to explain the main point of the paragraph. You should try to use details and specific examples to make your ideas clear and convincing.
This is your fifth and final paragraph. The conclusion is what the reader reads last and remembers best. Therefore, it is important that it is well written. In the conclusion you should summarize your main points and re-assert your main claim. The conclusion should wrap up all that is said before, without starting off on a new topic. Avoid repeating specific examples.
There are several ways to end an essay. You need to find a way to leave your reader with a sense of closure. The easiest way to do this is simply to repeat the main points of the body of your text in the conclusion. Another way to do it is to answer a question that you posed in the introduction or you could use a quote that sums things up.
A Few Notes Before You Hand in Your Essay
After you have finished, read through your essay with a critical eye. Does your thesis statement in the introduction match the discussion in the main body and the conclusive statements in the final paragraph? It is important that every sentence in your essay supports, proves and reflects your thesis.
- Does not use abbreviations or contractions.
- Does not use first person pronouns, such as “I”, “me” and “my”. It is better to make your statements more general, using “it is commonly believed that”, “we tend to think”, “scientists argue that”…
- Does not engage in personal stories. Stories about your own life experiences, or the experiences of your friends or families do not belong in academic writing.
- Does not use a language which is too casual, such as sentences that begin with words like “well, sure, now, yes, no…”.
- Does not use slang. Words like “gonna” and “wanna” are not accepted in formal essays.
- Does not start sentences with conjunctions: “but, and, or, because…”.
- Uses Linking Words . This creates better logic and coherence in your text.
More information: Go to the page How to Write an Essay
Below we have structured three short essays for you and given you the topic sentences for each paragraph. Choose one of them and write it as a full text. Add facts and reflections under each paragraph. Make sure there are good transitions between the paragraphs.
2) Living in a multicultural world
3) International job market
4) A better travelling experience
2) Competitive working market
4) Personal growth
2) Important in working life
3) Important in communication
4) Part of our everyday lives
(Source: The Hamburger concept comes from: Sparknotes – Essay Writing )
Berkshire Middle School
Inspiring all learners to positively impact their world.
The Five Paragraph Monster. not so scary.
Some advice on how to write a five-paragraph essay.
Writing a five paragraph essay can actually help you reduce your study time. IF.
1. You work on it AT THE START OF THE CHAPTER and continue writing it as you work on your ISN pages.
2. You really think about how important the essay is to your learning.
3. You believe that writing the essay is also an excellent way to study for your assessment. Thus, cutting studying time in half.
Don’t spin your wheels. Please focus in on the essential question. That is really the only trick.
My Advice may be found in the following documents using chapter 1 as an example:
1. Birds Eye View is CRITICAL!!
2. The introduction paragraph. MUST grab the reader’s attention AND share your main point (essential question. ALWAYS)
3. Body Paragraph1. guides the reader into our chapter and research about the essential question. Chapter 1 = What is a social scientist?
4. Body Paragraph 2. guides the reader even deeper into our essential question by investigating the perfect spot to preserve EVIDENCE; caves.
5. Body paragraph 3. guides the reader to our key point; social scientist use evidence and artifacts to make educated guesses about the past.
use specific examples to illustrate your points; cave sculptures and spear thrower. You could use a different artifact if those
don’t peak your interest.
6. Summary Paragraph. wraps it all up by restating your main point and your learning. I suggest talking about the importance of looking at history through many different perspectives because it generally gives you a deeper understanding of the problem and possible solutions.
The Five-Paragraph Essay: What’s the Deal?
By Cite This For ME
If you’ve ever been assigned to write an essay for a class, it has probably been the classic five-paragraph essay. These essays have a relatively simple structure: an intro, a body, and a conclusion. Yet there are little things you need to know to write a strong one, and that’s why we’re here today. Let’s take a moment to break this type of essay down.
The Introduction Paragraph
The introduction paragraph of any essay is quite possibly the most important paragraph of all. It is the paragraph that tells your reader the topic and helps them decide if they want to keep reading.
The intro paragraph is made up of three parts: a hook, background information, and the thesis. The hook is the opening sentence that catches the reader’s eye. It can be a question, anecdote, or something shocking. I used a question in my example essay below.
The background information is a series of sentences that move from broad facts to specific details throughout this intro paragraph. These sentences move the reader into the topic, helping them understand what you are going to discuss. If you are writing a critique of literature, for example, these sentences might be a good place to include a brief summary of the piece.
Finally, the thesis statement finishes out the intro paragraph. It states a clear claim and offers a reason why your claim is true. Even for informational essays that aren’t trying to convince the reader to agree, a thesis is needed. In my thesis in the example essay below, my claim is: “Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the best American lunch food,” and my reason why includes the three topics of my body paragraphs : “because they are easy to make, taste good, and keep well throughout the day.”
After finishing the intro paragraph with the thesis statement, turn your focus to the body paragraphs. In a five-paragraph essay, you only have three body paragraphs. If you have written a thesis statement with three main points, like I did, you already know the topic of each paragraph. Your next step is to stretch each point into a topic sentence. My topic sentences below are:
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are easy to make.
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are also quite tasty.
- Finally, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches don’t have to be refrigerated.
You’ll notice transition words like “also” and “finally” in these sentences. It’s important to connect your paragraphs together with words like these.
Also inside these body paragraphs are examples, quotes, and analysis. Your job in these body paragraphs is to convince a reader to agree (in a persuasive essay) or to provide adequate information (in an informative essay).
The last paragraph of a five-paragraph essay (or any essay) is the conclusion paragraph. In this paragraph, you simply state your thesis again using different words, summarize the points you made in the body paragraphs, and finish with a sentence that leaves the reader thinking.
In my example essay below, look at the last paragraph. You will see that I’ve done just that. The first sentence of the conclusion is my thesis in different words. Each sentence following this repeats the ideas of each body paragraph. And finally, I finish off the essay with an emphasis on the thesis statement.
Note: Remember that paragraphs shouldn’t be too short or too long. Try to keep them between 5 and 10 sentences.
Don’t Forget Citations
One final note: if you include ideas that are not your own, you need to cite where you got them from. If you quote, use an example, or paraphrase a source, you need both an in-text citation in parentheses and a references page. The most common style guides for students are MLA format and APA format, depending on which subject your essay is for. Use the examples in my essay below (which is in MLA format) to help you correctly cite in your own essays and avoid plagiarizing.
How does a creamy, sweet peanut butter and jelly sandwich sound right now? Although not everyone loves the taste of this sandwich, many people prefer to see it in their lunch sacks. Children usually like peanut butter and jelly, but that doesn’t mean these sandwiches can’t be enjoyed by adults too. Sometimes they make a great snack. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are quite possibly the best American lunch food because they are easy to make, taste good, and keep well throughout the day.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are easy to make. All one has to do is to take out two slices of bread and spread peanut butter on one slice and jelly on the other. After spreading, press the two slices together, and the sandwich is done. Of course, cleanup is necessary because sometimes the jelly drips off the knife or gets pressed out of the sides of the sandwich. In spite of the potential for a mess, this is perhaps one of the easiest ways to nourish oneself in the midst of a busy day.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are also quite tasty. For one thing, we know right off the bat that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are sweet. Jelly is a sugary, gelatinous spread that sweetens foods it is added to. Peanut butter is made up of peanuts, and some peanut butter companies add other ingredients like salt, oil, and even sugar (Bearden). That means both peanut butter and jelly can end up being sweet. Bread, while not usually known for sweetness, often goes well with sweet things. The sweetness of the jelly and peanut butter combined with savory bread makes for a great-tasting sandwich.
Finally, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches don’t have to be refrigerated. While some consumers might keep any of these ingredients in the fridge for the long term, there is nothing in jelly, peanut butter, or bread that will spoil if left out for a day (“Packing Your Lunch Safely”). That means if someone doesn’t want to carry around an ice pack, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is the way to go.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are one of the best solutions to avoiding hunger throughout a busy school or work day. They are easy to make no matter how one looks at it. They taste good, helping people feel satisfied. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches also keep well, preventing people from having to find a refrigerator or carry around a bulky ice pack. These sweet and savory sandwiches really are the best American lunch food.
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