Essay body paragraphs
After the introduction come the body paragraphs. They usually take up most of the essay.
Paragraphs contain three main sections:
- Main point: the topic sentence, which describes the focus of the paragraph
- Support: explanations, evidence, and examples that reinforce the main point
- Transitions: connections between this paragraph and
- the thesis statement
- nearby paragraphs
Academic paragraphs are usually at least three sentences long, and can be longer still. However, don't make those sentences too long. As a rough guide, a sentence longer than three lines is too long.
All paragraphs should be focused: they should discuss only one major point. That point should connect with the overall focus of the essay (as described in the thesis statement).
The major point of a paragraph is often called the controlling idea. Every paragraph should have a different controlling idea, each one discussing one aspect or part of the overall essay.
Body paragraphs will often begin with a summary of the controlling idea: the topic sentence. The topic sentence summarises the paragraph in the same way that the thesis statement summarises the whole essay.
The rest of the paragraph supports that topic sentence, by explaining it in detail, giving an example, or citing evidence that reinforces it.
The largest part of any body paragraph is the support: explanations, evidence, and examples.
Explanations use logic to fully explain the point raised in the topic sentence. It is not enough to just explain an idea, however: you need to show that outside evidence supports it as well.
Evidence can include
- Published opinions
- Research from books, journal articles, websites, etc.
- Published case studies
- Research data
All evidence must be relevant to the topic, and it must be used and credited properly.
Outside sources can be quoted, summarised, or paraphrased. For information on the right and wrong ways to do this, see quoting and paraphrasing. Crediting outside sources is known as referencing, and is described in detail in the section titled introduction to referencing.
Body paragraphs do not exist in isolation. They should fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Transitions show the connections between paragraphs themselves, and the connections between the paragraphs and the overall focus of the essay (the thesis statement). They often appear at the end of a paragraph.
Transitions are essential for maintaining momentum in your essay and showing the reader how all the ideas fit together. They are described in detail in the next section, essay flow.