Structure of an Essay

 

The following is an explanation of the structure of a five-paragraph essay. It is important to remember that an essay can be any length. This is just an example of one kind of essay which can be adapted for your own writing purposes. If you are writing an essay for class, you should always ask your instructor which essay format and length he/she prefers.

Your essay should start with an introductory paragraph. There are actually many different ways to begin an essay; therefore, the format of the introductory paragraph is flexible. Often, essays begin with a general introductory statement. This statement could be an anecdote, description, striking statistic, a fact that will lead to your thesis, etc. Beginning this way, you will use the first few sentences to prepare, or "lay the groundwork" for your thesis, and use the last sentence of the first paragraph to present your thesis. However, your thesis statement can be anywhere in your introduction. In a longer essay, you can even wait to present your thesis until the second paragraph or later. Also for a longer essay, you should begin to introduce a few supporting ideas in the first couple of paragraphs. These supporting ideas should be the topics that you will discuss in full in your body paragraphs. For a short essay, presenting supporting ideas during the introduction is optional.

Your second paragraph generally begins the body of the paper. (For a longer paper, the body of the paper may not begin until the third paragraph or later). This paragraph should begin with a topic sentence that introduces the first supporting idea (the support for your thesis). You should use the middle of the paragraph to discuss your support, give examples, and analyze the significance of these examples. Your last sentence of the body paragraph could be used to draw a conclusion for that supporting idea, or to transition into the next paragraph.

Your next two body paragraphs should follow the same format as your first body paragraph. They should each have a separate topic sentence and supporting ideas, but the three paragraphs should work together to prove your thesis. If you are writing a longer paper, you will have more than three body paragraphs, but they should all follow this format.

The form of your conclusion, like your introduction, is flexible. One good way to conclude a paper is to begin the last paragraph with a statement that reflects on what has been stated and proved, without repeating it exactly. Then you should briefly restate your key points to gently remind the reader how well you proved your thesis. Your conclusion should end with a statement or idea that leaves a strong impression and provokes further thought.

 


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