Essay Format

Note: Many academic assignments require a five paragraph essay. In reality, the five paragraph essay is a flexible frame that can easily be expanded or contracted depending on your thesis. For example, it might take three paragraphs just to discuss the first idea in the thesis, which would expand this frame to a seven-paragraph essay. On the other hand, it might require only four paragraphs to support another thesis.

Paragraph 1 Introduction (3 to 5 sentences, 40-75 words approximately)

• Starts with an interesting lead. (See Writing Leads)

• Ends with your thesis statement. (See Writing a Thesis Statement)

Paragraph 2 First Body Paragraph (8 to 10 sentences, 125-200 words approximately)

• Begins with a transition and a topic sentence that is the first idea to develop the thesis.

• Gives appropriate examples, information and explanation to support the topic sentence (chunks containing concrete details/commentary*).

• May provide a transitional sentence to conclude the paragraph and link it to the next.

Paragraph 3 Second Body Paragraph (8 to 10 sentences, 125-200 words approximately)

• Begins with a transition and a topic sentence that is the second idea to develop the thesis.

• Gives appropriate examples, information and explanation to support the topic sentence (chunks containing concrete details/commentary).

• May provide a transitional sentence to conclude the paragraph and link it to the next.

Paragraph 4 Third Body Paragraph (8 to 10 sentences, 125-200 words approximately)

• Begins with a transition and a topic sentence that is the third idea to develop the thesis.

• Gives appropriate examples, information and explanation to support the topic sentence (chunks containing concrete details/commentary).

• May provide a transitional sentence to conclude the paragraph and link it to the next.

Paragraph 5 Conclusion (40-75 words approximately)

• Ties back to the thesis. (May or may not restate or use key words from the thesis. English teachers may prefer few repeats; teachers in other subject areas may have other requirements.)

• Brings together or sums up the information or the arguments presented.

• Makes the paper feel "finished."

• Goes beyond the thesis to show insight, make connections, or apply the information in a new way, depending on the subject of the essay.

* Jane Schaffer's Writing Program defines a "chunk" as a sentence presenting a concrete detail followed by two sentences explaining and elaborating why the concrete detail is important and what it shows the reader.

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