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10 Differences Between essay and paragraph

What is the difference between an essay and a paragraph, introduction:.

An essay and a paragraph are both forms of written communication. While they share similarities, there are also key differences that distinguish one from the other. In this article, we will explore the characteristics, uses, and examples of essays and paragraphs, highlighting their differences in specific areas.

What is an Essay?

An essay is a written composition that presents a focused argument or analysis on a particular topic. It is typically longer than a paragraph and provides a comprehensive exploration of a subject. Essays are commonly used in academic settings to evaluate students’ understanding and critical thinking skills.

Examples of Essays:

  • A persuasive essay arguing for stricter gun control laws
  • An expository essay explaining the process of photosynthesis
  • A narrative essay recounting a personal travel experience

Uses of Essays:

Essays serve various purposes including:

  • Educational assessment
  • Expressing viewpoints or arguments
  • Providing in-depth analysis
  • Exploring creative ideas

What is a Paragraph?

A paragraph is a collection of related sentences that discuss a single idea or topic. It is a shorter unit of writing compared to an essay and is often used within essays as building blocks to provide structure and coherence.

Examples of Paragraphs:

  • A paragraph explaining the benefits of regular exercise
  • A paragraph describing the characteristics of a good leader
  • A paragraph outlining the steps to bake a cake

Uses of Paragraphs:

Paragraphs serve various purposes within a written piece:

  • Organizing ideas and information
  • Providing supporting details
  • Transitioning between different topics
  • Offering concise explanations or examples

Differences Between Essays and Paragraphs:

Conclusion:.

In summary, essays and paragraphs are both important forms of written communication but differ in various aspects. Essays are longer, more comprehensive, and deal with a specific topic in-depth, while paragraphs are shorter and focus on discussing a single idea. Essays have a more complex structure and purpose, while paragraphs are building blocks within essays or other written works.

People Also Ask:

1. What is the purpose of an essay?

An essay serves to convey information, present arguments, analyze a topic, or express personal viewpoints.

2. Can a paragraph be a standalone piece?

No, a paragraph is usually part of a larger written work, such as an essay or an article.

3. How many paragraphs should an essay have?

The number of paragraphs in an essay depends on the length and complexity of the topic. Generally, essays consist of multiple paragraphs.

4. Can a paragraph contain multiple ideas?

No, a paragraph should focus on discussing a single idea to maintain clarity and coherence.

5. Are there specific rules for paragraph indentation?

There are no strict rules for paragraph indentation, but maintaining consistent indentation throughout the text improves readability.

Related Differences:

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The Similarities and Differences Between a Paragraph and an Essay

Oubria tronshaw.

Paragraphs are the building blocks of essays.

The relationship between a paragraph and an essay is symbiotic; you can't write an essay without using paragraphs, and four or more consecutive paragraphs about the same subject matter become an essay. Both paragraphs and essays have a distinct beginning, middle and end. They're also both composed of five sections: A paragraph typically has five sentences, and an essay, five paragraphs.

Explore this article

  • Topic Sentence
  • Supporting Details

1 Topic Sentence

Both paragraphs and essays begin with a topic sentence, or a thesis statement, that explains to the reader what the paragraph, or essay, is about. A thesis statement for an essay is longer and more detailed than the topic sentence at the beginning of a paragraph. For example, a thesis statement for an essay might be: "The gravity of marriage becomes more apparent over time; newlyweds imagine a glamorous life ahead and cannot yet imagine the test their love will endure, while couples married for a decade or more are beginning to understand the depth of their promise." A topic sentence for a paragraph might simply be: "A lasting marriage requires many levels of compromise."

2 Supporting Details

Paragraphs and essays both require supporting details that elaborate on the statements made in the topic sentence or thesis statement. In a paragraph, each subsequent sentence builds upon the point made in the topic sentence; in an essay, the first sentence in each paragraph discusses points made in the thesis statement. In a paragraph, the sentences following the topic sentence are called "supporting details." In an essay, the paragraphs following the thesis statement are called "supporting paragraphs." Each supporting paragraph has its own supporting details.

Paragraphs and essays differ in their length. Paragraphs are typically between five and six sentences long. They're composed of a topic sentence and four or five supporting details. Essays contain at least five paragraphs; they're composed of an introductory paragraph (which includes the thesis statement), at least three supporting paragraphs and a conclusion paragraph.

4 Conclusion

Both paragraphs and essays must end with a conclusion, but the type of conclusion differs. Paragraphs must end with a concluding sentence that states the basic point of the paragraph. It should not rephrase or reiterate the topic sentence. Essays end with a conclusion paragraph that summarizes the content of the essay and reiterates the thesis statement with different phrasing. The conclusion paragraph usually revisits the points introduced in the supporting paragraphs to prove to the reader that, from the writer's point of view, the thesis statement was correct.

About the Author

Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.

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Differences between Paragraph and Essay

Paragraphs build up to create an essay, and an essay is composed of multiple paragraphs. They work together in a cooperative way to present a thorough discussion on a topic. The paragraph provides a focused look at one aspect, while the essay combines several paragraphs to give a broader view of a subject.

By: Arooj Sheikh , Published on: 2023-09-19, Last Updated: 19-01-24

Reviewed by: Karin Littlewood

Table of Contents

Writing lets us share thoughts, ideas, and information. It is useful in school, work, and daily life. Writing well means using paragraphs and essays in the right way.

In this article, we will look at how paragraphs and essays are different. We will learn when to use each one and how they help communication.

This will help you understand paragraphs and essays better. You will know when to use them and how they make writing good.

Defining Paragraph

A paragraph is a part of writing made up of connected sentences. It talks about one main topic or idea. Paragraphs are the building blocks of writing. They are used to explain more points within longer pieces of work. Typically, a paragraph has 3–8 sentences.

What is the Purpose of a Paragraph?

The main purpose of a paragraph is to provide information and explanation about one specific idea or point. All the sentences work together to fully develop that singular point.

A paragraph allows the writer to elaborate on an idea completely before moving on. This focused approach helps organize information clearly for the reader.

Characteristics of a Well-Written Paragraph

A well-written paragraph possesses key attributes that contribute to effective communication. Here are the essential characteristics:

A paragraph with unity focuses entirely on one central point or idea. The paragraph should not jump between different thoughts. Instead, all the sentences work together to explain different aspects of the same concept.

Each sentence relates to the main point identified in the topic sentence. Sticking to one idea makes the information clear for readers.

To have coherence, the sentences in a paragraph must be connected in a logical order. The thoughts should flow smoothly from one sentence to the next. Sentences out of order can confuse readers.

Using transition words like "first," "next," and "in addition" helps guide readers from one idea to the next. Arrange sentences in an order that builds the point logically. With coherence, readers can follow along easily.

Conciseness

Conciseness means avoiding unnecessary words. Being concise eliminates the repetition of ideas. If a point is made, move on instead of restating it.

Limit descriptions and background details to only what's needed to understand the topic. Eliminate filler words that don't add meaning. Concise writing engages readers by getting right to the point. It keeps paragraphs focused and direct.

Clarity means the paragraph is straightforward and easily understood. The language is literal, not vague. Technical terms or confusing jargon are avoided or explained. 

Any acronyms should be spelled out. Being clear ensures the reader comprehends exactly what the writer means to convey. It prevents misunderstandings. Readers appreciate direct explanations of ideas.

Varied Sentence Structure

Using only simple sentences can seem choppy and dull. But paragraphs with long, complex sentences can seem dense. The best paragraphs mix it up.

They include some short, punchy sentences along with longer ones. The sentences use different constructions, like simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. This adds variety in both length and structure. It also allows for the nuanced expression of ideas.

Adequate Development

Thorough development means the paragraph provides sufficient detail about the topic. Quickly mentioning a point is not enough.

The sentences expand on the main idea with explanations, examples, facts, statistics, consequences, and outcomes. This depth ensures readers fully grasp the concept. Underdeveloped ideas leave readers wanting more information.

Opening Engagement

An opening hook engages the reader right away. Rhetorical questions, quotes, statistics, anecdotes, analogies, and intriguing statements are examples. 

This gets the reader's attention, so they keep reading. An engaging opening line sets the tone and motivates you to continue.

Effective Transitions

Transitions are bridges between ideas. They show the connections between sentences and paragraphs. Common transitional words include "however," "therefore," "consequently," "for example," "specifically," and "in contrast." Transitions guide the reader smoothly through the progression of thoughts.

Closing Emphasis (Optional)

Ending a paragraph with a memorable statement can emphasize the main point. The conclusion might restate the key idea in a new way.

Or it might provide a call to action, a prediction, a rhetorical question, or a quotation. This lasting impression can reinforce learning and impact readers.

Example of a Paragraph

  • Topic Sentence

Eating fruits and vegetables every day is good for your health.

  • Supporting Sentences

They give you important vitamins and minerals. They help your body stay strong and work right. Eating them can prevent heart disease and some cancers. They can also be good for losing weight.

Closing Sentence

Eat fruits and vegetables daily. It is healthy and can help you feel good and live longer.

Defining Essay

An essay is a long piece about a topic. It has research, opinions, or discussions on the topic. Essays have many paragraphs.

The paragraphs connect to fully cover the big topic. Each paragraph focuses on one sub-idea related to the main topic.

What is the Purpose of Writing an Essay?

The purpose of an essay is to fully explore a broad topic. Essays use different sources, facts, analyses, examples, and opinions.

Essays let the writer closely examine complicated issues. They let the writer share their viewpoint. The paragraphs work together to build the writer's main ideas. This creates one full discussion.

5 Types of Essay

There are several types of essays, each with its own distinct characteristics and purposes:

1. Narrative Essay 

A narrative essay tells a story from the writer's life. It is often about a memorable event or experience. The writer shares what happened from their perspective.

2. Descriptive Essay

A descriptive essay creates a detailed picture with words. The writer describes a person, place, thing, or moment using vivid sensory details. The goal is to fully engage the reader in the description.

3. Expository Essay

An expository essay explains something to the reader. It gives step-by-step details on how something works. Or it gives background details about a concept or idea.

4. Persuasive Essay 

A persuasive essay tries to convince the reader of an opinion or view. The writer makes a claim and then provides reasons and proof to support that claim. Examples and expert opinions back up the argument.

5. Argumentative Essay 

An argumentative essay claims a topic and then argues for and against it. The writer's position is backed up with logical reasoning and solid evidence. Counterarguments are also addressed to show multiple perspectives.

What is the Structure of an Essay?

So, here are the points that contribute to a good essay structure:

  • Introduction

The introduction starts the essay . It introduces the main topic and often has a thesis statement. This outlines what the essay will argue.

Body Paragraphs

Body paragraphs each discuss one part of the topic . They have proof and examples that support the thesis. The details back up the main argument.

  • Transitions

Transitions connect the paragraphs and ideas. They help the reader follow the flow of thoughts logically. Transitions show how one point relates to the next.

The conclusion wraps up the essay. It reminds the reader of the main points and restates the thesis. The conclusion provides closure and final thoughts on the topic .

  • References or Citations (if applicable)

In academic essays, sources of facts, quotes, and ideas must be credited. A reference or works cited page lists all sources. Citations within the essay show where specific information is from.

Example of an Essay Structure

Broccoli is the healthiest food. It has many vitamins and minerals for health.

Body Paragraph 1

Broccoli has vitamin C, which helps the immune system. It fights colds and infections. Just one cup of broccoli covers your whole day's vitamin C needs.

Body Paragraph 2

Broccoli also provides vitamin K, which is good for bone health. It helps build strong bones that don't break easily as you get older.

Body Paragraph 3

Some people don't like broccoli because of the taste. It can be bitter and hard to chew. But adding cheese sauce or roasting it makes broccoli taste better.

Differences between Paragraph & Essay

  • Gives one main point
  • Focuses on one piece of a topic
  • Transitions (Optional)
  • Closing Sentence (Optional)
  • 3-5 sentences usually
  • Used in longer writings
  • Provides focused information
  • Discusses a whole topic
  • Covers a topic fully and deeply
  • Body Paragraphs (Multiple)
  • It varies a lot, depending on the topic
  • Narrative, descriptive, persuasive, etc.
  • Explores and analyzes a whole topic

Paragraphs and essays have different purposes. Knowing when and how to use each one improves writing. Concise, focused paragraphs help with writing. 

Thorough, organized essays help too. Together, they let writers express ideas powerfully. Understanding the structures matters. Utilizing them well is key. It makes writing stronger overall.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. what is the main purpose of a paragraph.

The main purpose of a paragraph is to explain one central idea. Paragraphs expand on one main point or topic.

They let the writer give details before moving on. All the sentences work together. They expand on one point.

2. What makes a good essay?

A strong essay has an engaging introduction. The introduction previews the topic. The body paragraphs are smoothly ordered. There are transitions between ideas. The essay has solid research and facts. 

These support the claims. There is a memorable conclusion. The conclusion summarizes the main points. A thoughtful structure helps create a quality essay. Strong analysis also helps. Good grammar helps too.

3. Can an essay have only one body paragraph?

It is possible for an essay to have just one body paragraph. This is more common in short essays or types like narrative or descriptive essays.

But most essays with a full exploration of a topic have multiple body paragraphs. Each body paragraph addresses different aspects.

4. Is it necessary to include references or citations in a paragraph?

Usually, citations are not needed in a paragraph. But if the information comes from other sources, you should give credit. This matters most within the full essay or document. Proper attribution is important.

5. When should I start a new paragraph?

Start a new paragraph when you are moving from discussing one main idea to another. For example, each body paragraph of an essay focuses on a distinct main point, so a new paragraph is needed when shifting gears to a new sub-topic or example. New paragraphs help organize information.

Related Articles

  • How to Write the Perfect Paragraph on Any Topic?
  • 10 Differences between Paragraph and Bullets
  • How to Write An Introduction Paragraph
  • How to Write a Body Paragraph
  • How to Write Conclusion Paragraph
  • How to Write a Narrative Paragraph
  • How to Write Argumentative Paragraph
  • How to Write Persuasive Paragraph
  • How to Write Motivational Paragraph

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The Difference between an Essay and a Paragraph

Paragraphs are the building blocks of an essay, so the difference between the two is comparative to the difference between a brick and a house. Your house may be made of bricks, but it's not likely you'll ever live in just a single brick.

Yes, There Are Similarities, But...

Essay vs. Paragraph

Both a good paragraph and a good essay make a point. One thought logically flows into another with one central point in mind.

A paragraph includes a topic sentence that is followed by at least two to three sentences that elaborate on that topic. It ends with a final sentence that sums up those thoughts and reaches a conclusion about them.

An essay includes an introduction that presents a topic followed by at least two to three paragraphs that elaborate on that topic along with a final paragraph that sums up those thoughts and reaches a conclusion about them.

The difference is that the topic in an essay is generally broader and requires multiple paragraphs to explain the points its writer intends to make about that topic.

What Makes A Good Paragraph

A good paragraph makes a point and each sentence supports and expands on that one point. Paragraphs should be limited to a single topic and each body sentence should simply flesh out the topic at hand. Traditionally, a paragraph should include at least four to five sentences of writing with this specific structure in mind to be complete.

What Makes A Good Essay

A good essay includes a thesis statement that can be expanded to make many points that relate back to it. Each paragraph in an essay will include a topic sentence that both support and flesh out the thesis statement. Further, a good essay takes quite a bit more preparation than a single paragraph. Few good essays include less than five paragraphs since a much broader topic is being explored than in a single paragraph.

The ability to write a good paragraph is essential to writing a good essay. However, you're going to have to work a little harder on an essay, because a single paragraph is generally not going to make a broad enough point to be considered an essay. Use good, well-structured paragraphs with topic sentences that make each point in explain a thesis statement as your building blocks, and you'll be well on your way to completing a great essay.

Paragraphs and Essays

Sentences are a basic structure of language. They convey the action or existence of a person, place, or thing.  Sentences are combined to form paragraphs to form longer written documents.  This may sound simplistic, but to build an effective written communication, sentences have to be combined in certain ways to form the paragraphs which in turn an be combined to write longer works. Even the longest novel is made up of sentences which are organized into paragraphs except for dialogue.  An essay is a special type of writing is a paper focused on proving a point called the thesis.  Essays are composed of special types of paragraphs with very particular content.

The rules for punctuation and sentence structure are covered in the Grammar section.  This section will cover how to compose paragraphs and an academic essay which is also, generally, the way beginning level research papers are organized. Research papers are also called research essays.

What is a Paragraph?

A paragraph is a series of sentences on a specific point or topic.  A well written paragraph must have a topic sentence which states the main idea: what the paragraph is about.  While some say the  topic sentence can be anywhere in the paragraph, it is best to put it as the first sentence in a paragraph.  The rest of the sentences in the paragraph support, elaborate, and/or further explain the main idea expressed in the topic sentence.

Paragraphs have varying length depending upon various factors.  An average paragraph in an academic essay is about six to eight sentences.

Types of Paragraphs

There are various types of paragraphs such as summaries, abstracts, and answers to questions for a specific assignment.  In addition, there are specialized types of paragraphs for various reports such as feasibility studies or performance reports.

The types of paragraphs covered in this lesson are general paragraphs as would be used in the body of a letter or an academic essay, including general research papers (research essays).

Parts of a Paragraph

Topic sentence – purpose of a paragraph.

Unless you are writing specialized report such as a scientific research paper or a feasibility study that may otherwise show the purpose of a paragraph such as a heading , a well written paragraph must have a topic sentence which states what the paragraph is about.

Whether you are writing a paragraph for a specific assignment, an academic essay, a research paper, or a simple letter, each paragraph

The topic sentence should be the first sentence of the paragraph so that the reader knows what the paragraph is about.  The topic sentence in a body paragraph of an essay must be support for the thesis: a reason why the thesis is true or accurate.

The rest of the sentences in the paragraph of an essay support, elaborate, and/or further explain the topic sentence.

Here is an example of a paragraph:

The first sentence is the topic sentence. See how the rest of the sentences support, elaborate, and/or or further explain it.

Almost every aspect of modern life has been improved through convenience provided by technology.    From the alarm clock in the morning to the entertainment center at night, everyday life is improved.  The automatic coffee maker has the coffee ready at a certain time. Cars or public transportation bring people to work where computers operate at the push of a button.  At home, there’s the convenience of washing machines and dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners, and power lawn mowers.  Modern technology has made life better with many conveniences.

Everything in this paragraph is about how modern life has been improved through convenience provided by technology.

Unity and Coherence

A paragraph must have unity.

All of the sentences of a particular paragraph must focus on one point to achieve one goal: to support the topic sentence.

A paragraph must have coherence.

The sentences must flow smoothly and logically from one to the next as they support the topic sentence.

The last sentence of the paragraph should restate the topic sentence to help achieve unity and coherence.

Here is an example with information that  does not  support the topic sentence.

Almost every aspect of modern life has been improved through convenience provided by modern technology.  From the alarm clock in the morning to the entertainment center at night, everyday life is improved. The automatic coffee maker has the coffee ready at a certain time. People are more concerned about health issues and good air quality, so they have started walking or riding a bike to work even though they have the option of using a car or public transportation.   There’s the convenience of washing machines and dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners, and power lawn mowers.  Modern technology has made life better with many conveniences.

See how just one non-supporting sentence takes away from the effectiveness of the paragraph in showing how modern conveniences make life better since the unity and coherence are affected.  There is no longer unity among all the sentences.  The thought pattern is disjointed and the paragraph loses its coherence.

Here’s another example of a paragraph

Not only has modern technology improved life through convenience, it has improved life through efficiency.  The time saved with machines doing most of the work leaves more time for people to develop their personal goals or to just relax.  Years ago, when doing laundry could take all day, there wasn’t time left over to read or go to school or even just to take a leisurely walk.  Nowadays, people have more time and energy than ever to simply enjoy their lives thanks to the efficiency of modern technology.

Note: See how all the sentences work together to support the point that technology has improved lives through efficiency.

Transitions – Words that Connect

Transitions  are words, groups of words, or sentences that connect one sentence to another or one paragraph to another.

They promote a logical flow from one idea to the next.

While they are not needed in every sentence, they are missed when they are omitted since the flow of thoughts becomes disjointed or even confusing.

There are different types of transitions such as the following:

  • Time – before, after, during, in the meantime, nowadays
  • Space – over, around, under
  • Examples – for instance, one example is
  • Comparison –  on the other hand, the opposing view
  • Consequence – as a result, subsequently

These are just a few examples.  The idea is to paint a clear, logical connection between sentences and between paragraphs.

Here’s how transitions help make a paragraph unified and coherent

Not only  has modern technology improved life through convenience, it has improved life through efficiency.  The time saved with machines doing most of the work leaves more time for people to develop their personal goals or to just relax.   Years ago,  when doing laundry could take all day, there wasn’t time left over to read or go to school or even just to take a leisurely walk.   Nowadays , people have more time and energy than ever to simply enjoy their lives thanks to the efficiency of modern technology.

Each part of a paragraph must support the topic sentence.  In addition, the sentences must flow logically from one to the other.

See how the following paragraph has ideas that don’t seem to belong

Growing flowers is fun.  The sun rises in the morning and warms the soil.  Flowers come in all different sizes, shapes, and colors.  Sometimes, there is not enough rain.  Flowers also bloom during different times of the year.  Flowers need nutrients to grow strong and beautiful.  There are some children who like to pick the flowers. There are different growing seasons in different parts of the country.  Flowers that will grow high should be planted behind those that will not grow as high.  Some people let their dog’s leash extend allowing the dog to go into the flower beds which is not very nice. Designing a flower bed has to consider the different times the flowers will bloom.  A substitute for rainfall should be planned.  It is fun to grow flowers.

Here is a revised version with unity and coherence.  See how each sentence is clearly part of the whole which is to show how it is fun to grow flowers.

Growing flowers is fun.   Planning the garden is the first step, and it is part of the fun.  Flowers must be selected for their size, color, and time of bloom.  Selections should be made so that there is at least one type of flower blooming throughout the season and that taller flowers are behind shorter ones.  Meeting the challenges to assure growth such as with an irrigation system or hand watering and fertilizing when needed is also part of the fun.   It’s wonderful to check the garden every day to see the little green sprouts starting to appear.  It gives a great sense of accomplishment and joy to see the flowers in bloom.  It is fun to grow flowers.

An example of a paragraph from a business letter  which does  have unity and coherence:

There are several reasons to select my company to do this job.  We are a family owned and operated business and have been in business in this county for thirty-five years.  In addition to thousands of satisfied customers, we have proudly sponsored many community events and organizations.  All of our employees live in this county, and most have stayed with us for years.  We have successfully kept our overhead low and pass those savings onto our customers.  By far, we are the best company to complete this project.

Note: See how all the sentences work together to support the point that we are the best company to hire.

Here’s a version of the paragraph which  does not  have unity and coherence:

I am happy that the warm weather is finally here! It’s been a cold winter. There are several reasons to select my company to do this job.  By far, we are the best company to complete this project.  I have a large family, and in addition to having Sunday dinners, we work together in the company which has many satisfied customers.  Some of my employees take the bus to work, so I am concerned about our public transportation system.  We have proudly served our community, and we use cost saving methods to keep prices low.

An example of a paragraph in an inter-office memo

Beginning January 1, we will have a revised policy concerning new customers.  The updated intake form includes additional information, so please be sure to read through and complete each section.  Pay particular addition to the additional questions at the bottom as they are now required by the insurance company.  We would like to have e-mail addresses as well.  You can assure customers that we will not be sending them solicitations nor giving the list to any other business.  Be sure to fill in the information neatly and accurately. It is preferred that the information be entered directly into the computer although we realize there are times when that is not practical and a hard-copy form will have to be completed by hand.  Review the instructions on the back page of the form for more details on the revised policy for new customers.

Note:  See how all the sentences work together to support the point shown in the topic sentence that modern technology has expanded accessibility.

Closing/Transitional Statements in Paragraphs

The last sentence of a paragraph should remind the reader of the point of the paragraph and transition into the next paragraph if there is one.  See how the last sentence, for example, in the above paragraph reminds the reader of what the paragraph is about: Review the instructions on the back page of the form for more details on the revised policy for new customers.

Multi-Paragraph Documents

Most paragraphs we see are part of a multi-paragraph document: newspaper and magazine articles, books, business letters and inter-office memorandum, “how-to” documents, and other informational documents.  Usually, there is an organization of the paragraphs in a specific way.  The opening paragraph generally gives some idea of what the document is about.  The middle paragraphs give more details about the specific point.  The last paragraph ends the writing, generally by summing up and repeating the point.

There are some context-specific documents that have moe clearly defined paragraphs which are something included as sections of the writing.  For example, a feasibility report might have paragraphs as follows: abstract and/or summary, introduction, discussion, conclusion, recommendations.

Paragraphs in Business Letters and Inter-Office Memorandum

Business letters and inter-office memoradums basically have the same organization of the content:  an introduction paragraph, paragraphs that prove or further explain, and a concluding paragraph which sums up and repeats the point.  A business letter, however, is generally written on company stationery and has the date and address block in the upper left, a Re: line, a salutation such as Dear Mr. Haller (although some are no longer using a formal salutation), and a complimentary closing such as Sincerely.    An inter-office memorandum is generally written on plain paper, sometimes with the company logo as part of the template, lines with To:, From:, Date:, and Re: in the upper left, and no complimentary closing.

Paragraphs in Informational Documents and Academic Essays

Informational documents.

This refers to groups of writings that are designed to give information about a topic or position on a topic.  While they all include a specific thesis (point), have an introduction and concluding paragraph, and have paragraphs that proof or explain the point, there can be wide variety on where the thesis is expressed and the ancillary information presented that is supplemental to the thesis.  These are sometimes called essays.  However,  academic  essays do have a very specific organizational pattern.

Academic Essays

The introduction paragraph and the concluding paragraph of an essay are different from a general paragraph.  An introduction contains general background information on a topic and leads into a thesis statement.  The sentences with background information should be general and not contain proof of the thesis. The sentences should be relevant, however, and logically flow into the thesis.  Background sentences include information about the topic and the controversy. Some instructors may prefer other types of content in the introduction in addition to the thesis.  It is best to check with an instructor as to whether he or she has a preference for content.  In any case, there must be unity and coherence in an introduction paragraph as well. 

While the body paragraph of an academic is the same as a general paragraph in that they have a topic sentence and sentences that support it, the topic sentence must be a reason why the thesis of the essay is accurate.  Body paragraphs should clearly support the thesis and not contain any extraneous information. However, one way of proving your thesis is right is by presenting the opposing view and then rebutting it, that is, showing how it is not valid.  

Some instructors say that any opposing information should be in a separate rebuttal paragraph before the concluding paragraph.  If not specifically indicated by your instructor, either putting opposing information into the paragraphs related to the specific information or having a separate rebuttal paragraph is appropriate, but not both in the same essay.

A concluding paragraph sums up the proof and restates the thesis. Some instructors ask for a statement drawing an implication of the information presented instead of or in addition to a restatement of the thesis.  In either case, while a concluding paragraph as with the introduction paragraph does not start with a topic sentence and have the rest of the sentences support the topic sentence, the concluding paragraph is similar in that the summary of the proof ties directly into the thesis or statement of general implication.  There are not extraneous, off-topic sentences

Rhetorical Modes as Types of Paragraphs

Narration is when an author writes as though telling a story.  This mode is used more often in fiction, but it can be used in academic essay writing when the best way to help prove the thesis is by relating a sequence of events.

Description/Definition/Exemplification, and Classification

These closely related modes use specific information about certain aspects of a thing, event, or situation. The terms speak for themselves.  Description uses details describing the thing, event, or situation. Definition defines it. Exemplification uses examples, and classification uses categories.

The rose was red. (description)

A rose is a flower with soft petals and a beautiful, brief bloom. (definition)

Roses comes in a variety of colors such as red, yellow, and white. (example)

Roses come in a variety of types including miniature, climbing, hybrid tea, and floribunda. (classification)

Compare/Contrast

Comparing and/or contrasting one thing, event, or situation is a helpful way to show what it is and isn't.  If someone were arguing that a particular type of sneaker was the best, it would be useful to compare to others for support, durability, and price.

Cause and/or Effect

This mode is useful in arguing for or again an action.  Showing the cause and/or effect of an action can be persuasive.  For example, if someone were arguing for an increase in the speed limit, statistics showing an increase in fatalities where limits are higher would be a persuasive argument.

Persuasion/Argumentation

In a sense, the ultimate intent of all communication is persuasion.  Argumentation is one way of talking about debate.  We think of arguing as what we do among friends or family members - and it is - but there is a formal way to argue to prove our point.  Actually, we can learn how to better have civil arguments which will be constructive.  In thinking about persuasion/argumentation as a rhetorical mode, it refers to a type of writing that is clearly arguing in support of a specific point.

  • A paragraph is a series of sentences on a particular point.
  • A paragraph should begin with a topic sentence which states that point.
  • Sentences with supporting details such as examples should follow.
  • A paragraph must have unity and coherence where the sentences smoothly and logically flow from one to the next and stay focused on supporting the topic sentence.
  • Transition words and phrases should be used to connect sentencs and paragraphs for unity and coherence
  • Paragraphs that are part of multi-paragraph documents serve specific functions
  • Special Types of Paragraphs in Business Letters and Inter-Office Memorandum
  • Special Types of Paragraphs in Informational Documents and Academic Essays
  • Rhetorical Modes can be used as types of paragraphs

Definition of a Paragraph

Parts of a paragraph; multi-paragraph documents, here is an example with information that  does not  support the topic sentence;, here’s another example of a paragraph:, here’s how transitions help make a paragraph unified and coherent:, see how the following paragraph has ideas that don’t seem to belong:, closing/transitional statements.

The introduction paragraph and the concluding paragraph of an essay are different from a general paragraph.  An introduction contains general background information on a topic and leads into a thesis statement.  The sentences with background information are not really in support of the thesis, but they are relevant and do logically flow into the thesis.  In other words, there must be unity and coherence in an introduction paragraph as well.

While the body paragraph of an academic is the same as a general paragraph in that they have a topic sentence and sentences that support it, the topic sentence must be a reason why the thesis of the essay.  Body paragraphs should be clearly support for the thesis and not contain any extraneous information.

A concluding paragraph sums up the proof and restates the thesis. Some instructors ask for a statement drawing an implication of the information presented instead of or in addition to a restatement of the thesis.  In either case, while a concluding paragraph as with the introduction paragraph does not start with a topic sentence and have the rest of the sentences support the topic sentence, the concluding paragraph is similar in that the summary of the proof ties directly into the thesis or statement of general implication.  There are not extraneous, off-topic sentences.

Rhetorical Modes; Review of Paragraphs

Essay organization – overview.

There are various types of writing assignments an instructor may give such as journals, reaction papers, questions to be answered, paragraphs on topics or questions, essays, and research papers.

An  essay  is a writing on a specific question or topic.  Instructors may vary in what they are expecting when they assign an  essay .  It’s important to always ask your instructor if you are not sure.  Some may simply want a discussion on a topic or question and are not asking for formal organization.

Others may be expecting a formal academic essay, also called a thesis-and-support paper, organized with an introduction, body, and conclusion that includes the following parts:

an introductory paragraph which gives a background and states the thesis (the point of the essay

a concluding paragraph which sums up the proof and restates the thesis.

body paragraphs which contain proof, also called supporting ideas, of the thesis statement

While some instructors may have slight variations about formal academic essay organization, you won’t have a problem if your paper has the following three components:

a thesis statement at the end of the introductory (opening) paragraph

body paragraphs contain only proof of the thesis, and

a concluding paragraph which contains a review of the proof and restatement of the thesis.  Some instructors also ask for some general prediction or observation instead of or in addition to a restatement of thesis.

Always check with your instructor if you are not sure about what is expected.  The discussion here is for a formal academic essay (thesis-and-support paper).

What is an academic essay and how should it look?

An essay is a collection of paragraphs that fit around one idea or position on an issue. This is usually called the  thesis  or  main idea .

The sentence that contains the main idea is called the Thesis Statement.  The Thesis Statement must take a position and not just state a fact.   While some instructors vary on where a thesis statement may appear, it is safe to place it as th last sentence of the first paragraph.

An academic essay must have at least three paragraphs: an introduction, a body paragraph, and a concluding paragraph.  Since there should be a separate body paragraph for each proof point, the more substantial the proof, the more paragraphs there will be. A typical essay of about five hundred words will usually have at least two or three proof paragraphs making the essay four to five paragraphs.

Instructors often require a specific page format (margins, line spacing, and so on).  Page formatting is part of the requirements of a style system.  Both MLA and APA styles have similar formatting requirements.  Unless your instructor states otherwise, it use MLA page format.

Parts of an Academic Essay

In a way, these academic essays are like a court trial.  The attorney, whether prosecuting the case or defending it, begins with an opening statement explaining the background and telling the jury what he or she intends to prove (the thesis statement).  Then, the attorney presents witnesses for proof (the body of the paragraphs).  Lastly, the attorney presents the closing argument (concluding paragraph).

The Introduction and Thesis

There are a variety of approaches regarding the content of the introduction paragraph such as a brief outline of the proof, an anecdote, explaining key ideas, and asking a question.  In addition, some textbooks say that an introduction can be more than one paragraph.  The placement of the thesis statement is another variable depending on the instructor and/or text.  The approach used in this lesson is that an introduction paragraph gives background information leading into the thesis which is the main idea of the paper, which is stated at the end.

The background in the introductory paragraph consists of information about the circumstances of the thesis. This background information often starts in the introductory paragraph with a general statement which is then refined to the most specific sentence of the essay, the thesis. It is important to note that in this approach, the proof for the thesis is not found in the introduction except, possibly, as part of a thesis statement which includes the key elements of the proof. Proof is presented and expanded on in the body.

The thesis is the position statement. It must contain a subject and a verb and express a complete thought. It must also be defensible. This means it should be an arguable point with which people could reasonably disagree. The more focused and narrow the thesis statement, the better a paper will generally be.

If you are given a question in the instructions for your paper, the thesis statement is a one-sentence answer taking a position on the question.

If you are given a topic instead of a question, then in order to create a thesis statement, you must narrow your analysis of the topic to a specific controversial issue about the topic to take a stand. If it is not a research paper, some brainstorming (jotting down what comes to mind on the issue) should help determine a specific question.

If it is a research paper, the process begins with exploratory research which should show the various issues and controversies which should lead to the specific question.  Then, the research becomes focused on the question which in turn should lead to taking a position on the question.

These methods of determining a thesis are still answering a question. It’s just that you pose a question to answer for the thesis.  Here is an example.

Suppose, one of the topics you are given to write about is America’s National Parks. Books have been written about this subject. In fact, books have been written just about a single park. As you are thinking about it, you may realize how there is an issue about balancing between preserving the wilderness and allowing visitors. The question would then be Should visitors to America’s National Parks be regulated in order to preserve the wilderness?

One thesis might be There is no need for regulations for visiting America’s National Parks to preserve the wilderness.

 Another might be There should be reasonable regulations for visiting America’s National Parks in order to preserve the wilderness.

Finally, avoid using expressions that announce, “Now I will prove…” or “This essay is about …” Instead of telling the reader what the paper is about, a good paper simply proves the thesis in the body. Generally, you shouldn’t refer to your paper in your paper.

Here is an example of a good introduction with the thesis in red:

Not too long ago, everyday life was filled with burdensome, time-consuming chores that left little time for much more than completing these tasks.  People generally worked from their homes or within walking distance to their homes and rarely traveled far from them.  People were limited to whatever their physical capacities were.  All this changed dramatically as new technologies developed.  Modern technology has most improved our lives through convenience, efficiency, and accessibility.

Note how the background is general and leads up to the thesis.   No proof is given in the background sentences about how technology has improved lives.

Moreover, notice that the thesis in red is the last sentence of the introduction. It is a defensible statement.

A reasonable person could argue the opposite position:  Although modern technology has provided easier ways of completing some tasks, it has diminished the quality of life since people have to work too many hours to acquire these gadgets, have developed health problems as a result of excess use, and have lost focus on what is really valuable in life.

Quick Tips:

The introduction opens the essay and gives background information about the thesis.

Do not introduce your supporting points  (proof) in the introduction unless they are part of the thesis; save these for the body.

The thesis is placed at the end of the introductory paragraph.

Don’t use expressions like “this paper will be about” or “I intend to show…”

For more information on body paragraphs and supporting evidence, see Proving a Thesis – Evidence and Proving a Thesis – Logic, and Logical Fallacies and Appeals in Related Pages on the right sidebar.

Body paragraphs give proof for the thesis.  They should have one proof point per paragraph expressed in a topic sentence. The topic sentence is usually found at the beginning of each body paragraph and, like a thesis, must be a complete sentence. Each topic sentence must be directly related to and support the argument made by the thesis.

After the topic sentence, the rest of the paragraph should go on to support this one proof with examples and explanation. It is the details that support the topic sentences in the body paragraphs that make the arguments strong.  Proof may include discussion of an opposing view, but it must include a rebuttal explaining why that opposing view does not make sense or otherwise not be considered valid.

If the thesis statement stated that technology improved the quality of life, each body paragraph should begin with a reason why it has improved the quality of life.  This reason is called a  topic sentence .  Following are three examples of body paragraphs that provide support for the thesis that modern technology has improved our lives through convenience, efficiency, and accessibility:

     Almost every aspect of our lives has been improved through convenience provided by modern technology.  From the sound of music from an alarm clock in the morning to the end of the day being entertained in the convenience of our living room, our lives are improved.  The automatic coffee maker has the coffee ready at a certain time.  Cars or public transportation bring people to work where computers operate at the push of a button.  At home, there’s the convenience of washing machines and dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners, and power lawn mowers.  Some may say the conveniences are not worth the extra cost and effort keeping these devices working, but, overwhelmingly, people opt to use them.  Modern technology has made life better with many conveniences.

     Not only has technology improved our lives through convenience, it has improved our lives through efficiency. The time saved by machines doing most of the work leaves more time for people to develop their personal goals or to just relax.  Years ago, when doing laundry could take all day, there wasn’t time left over to read or go to school or even just to take a leisurely walk.  The opposing view might argue that people misuse their increased free time sitting around and watching television.  While some people have health problems as a result of technology, by far, lives are improved. Nowadays, people have more time and energy than ever to simply enjoy their lives and pursue their goals thanks to the efficiency of modern technology.

     Accessibility to a wide range of options has been expanded through modern technology.  Never before could people cross a continent or an ocean in an afternoon.  Travel is not the only way technology has created accessibility.  Software which types from voice commands has made using computers more accessible for school or work.  People with special needs have many new options thanks to modern technology such as special chairs or text readers.  Actually, those people who need hearing aids as a result of normal aging have access to continued communication and enjoyment of entertainment they did not previously have. There are many ways technology has improved lives through increased accessibility.

Notice how these proof paragraphs stick to one proof point introduced in the topic sentences in red. These three paragraphs, not only support the original thesis, but go on to give details and explanations which explain the proof point in the topic sentence.

Some instructors would like a rebuttal paragraph which raises the opposing arguments and explains why they are not valid instead of addressing opposition within the paragraphs as appropriate as shown in the above essay.  In that case, the rebuttal should go before the conclusion.

Quick Tips on Body Paragraphs

The body of your essay is where you give your main support for the thesis.

Each body paragraph should start with a Topic Sentence that is directly related to and supports the thesis statement.

Each body paragraph should also give details and explanations that further support the poof point for that paragraph.

Don’t use enumeration such as first, second, and third. The reader will know by the topic sentence that it is a new proof point.

See Proving the Thesis in Related Pages on the right sidebar for more information on proof.

The Conclusion

Instructors vary of what they expect in the conclusion; however, there is general agreement that conclusions should not introduce any new proof points, should include a restatement of the thesis, and should not contain any words such as “In conclusion.”

Some instructors want only a summary of the proof and a restatement of the thesis. Some instructors ask for a general prediction or implication of the information presented without a restatement of thesis. Still others may want to include a restatement along with a general prediction or implication of the information presents. Be sure to review assignment instructions or check with instructor.  If your assignment instructions don’t specify, just sum up the proof and restate the thesis.

Example which sums up proof and restates thesis :

Modern technology has created many conveniences in everyday from waking up to music to having coffee ready to getting to work and doing a day’s work.  The efficiency provided by technology gives people more time to enjoy life and pursue personal development, and the accessibility has broadened options for travel, school, and work.  Modern technology has improved our lives through convenience, efficiency, and accessibility.

See how the thesis statement was restated in red. The two major arguments about the possible locations proven to be incorrect were also included to remind the reader of the major proof points made in the paper.

Example which makes a general prediction or implication of the information presented:

Modern technology has created many conveniences in everyday life from waking up to music to having coffee ready to getting to work and doing a day’s work.  The efficiency provided by technology gives people more time to enjoy life and pursue personal development, and the accessibility has broadened options for travel, school, and work.  Without it, everyday life would be filled with burdensome tasks and be limited to our neighborhood and our physical capacity. Here’s an example of a conclusion with a general prediction or implication statement with a restatement of thesis.

Modern technology has created many conveniences in everyday life from waking up to music to having coffee ready to getting to work and doing a day’s work.  The efficiency provided by technology gives people more time to enjoy life and pursue personal development, and the accessibility has broadened options for travel, school, and work.  Without it, everyday life would be filled with burdensome tasks and be limited to our neighborhood and our physical capacity. Modern technology has improved our lives through convenience, efficiency, and accessibility.

Quick Tips for Conclusions

  • The conclusion brings the essay to an end and is typically the shortest paragraph.
  • It is important to not introduce new ideas or information here.
  • Unless otherwise specified in your assignment, just sum up the proof and restate the conclusion.
  • Some instructors may want the concluding paragraph to contain a general prediction or observation implied from the information presented.

Rhetorical Modes as Types of Essays

Rhetoric is the art of persuasion.  Rhetorical modes are ways of using language with a specific focus.   Narration,  for example, tells a story or a sequence of events.  A narrative essay tells a story.

Other rhetorical modes focus on describing, defining, using examples (exemplification), or classifying as the primary purpose.  Comparing and contrasting simply compares one thing to another showing the differences as well as the similarities.

In a cause and/or effect paper, the causes and/or effects of a situation are the focus.

A persuasive or argumentative paper proves a position on a controversial issue.

Sometimes, instructors assign essays requiring a specific mode such as defining something or discussing the causes of a problem. These are considered useful ways to develop the particular skill such as looking closely at something to describe it or finding ways to define an object or situation.

More commonly, however, a writing assignment does not require a specific mode;  these strategies are used as appropriate within an essay or other writing.  For example, a paper arguing that pesticides are harmful might include information  defining  and  describing  various pesticides. It could include  classifying  them by potential harm and use  examples  of the types of pesticides.  It could have information on the  effects  of particular pesticides.

It can be argued that all papers, regardless of the primary rhetorical strategy used, are persuasive or argumentative since all writing ultimately is to prove something – even if it is only the legitimacy of one’s feelings such as in a reaction paper or creative writing.  Most writing blend the uses of rhetorical styles.

Stylistic Considerations

Like all effective writing, essays must have unity.  They must clearly stay focused on one purpose: proving the thesis.  All the sentences in each paragraph and each paragraph must work together to achieve that purpose.  It is critical for each sentence in each paragraph to start with a topic sentence that states a reason why the thesis is right and that the rest of the sentences in the paragraph support that topic sentence.

Essays must have coherence.  Each sentence must flow smoothly and logically into the next.  Each paragraph must flow smoothly and logically into the next.  Words and word groups called  transitions  must be used to link one sentence to the next and one paragraph to the next.

See Unity and Coherence in Essays in Related Pages on the right side bar for more information.

Word Use (Appropriate Language)

Generally speaking, use of Standard English vocabulary and grammar is expected.  These types of papers should not sound as though you were talking casually to a friend.  Don’t use slang, for example, such as  ok.   Also, while we use second person (you, your) in informal speech, formal academic writing should not use second person since the reference is not specific.  Here’s an example.  You should know where your children are.   The reader may not have young children or any children at all.  Here’s an example with clear reference.   Parents of young children should know where their children are.

Instructors will vary about accepting the use of first person (I, me, my, we, us, our) in essay writing.  While first person may be appropriate in journal writing or reaction papers, typically, instructors will require third person (not first or second) in formal essays and research essays. Be aware of requirements for any particular assignment.

Formal academic essays should not include sentences that refer to yourself or the paper.  Don’t use statements such as “In the opinion of this writer (referring to yourself)….” or “This paper will show….”

For more information on language use, see Appropriate Language in Related Pages on the right sidebar. 

Literary Analysis Essay - Close Reading

The purpose of a literary analysis essay is to carefully examine and sometimes evaluate a work of literature or an aspect of a work of literature. Examining the different elements of a pieces of literature including plot, character, setting, point of view, irony, symbolism, and style to see how the author develops theme is not an end in itself but rather a process to help you better appreciate and understand the work of literature as a whole. The focus of a literary analysis essay is as expansive as the writers’ interests. For example, a short story analysis might include identifying a particular theme and then showing how the writer suggests that theme through the point of view of the story. It is important to remember that literary analysis does not merely demonstrate a particularly literary element. The focus is explaining how that element is meaningful or significant to the work as a whole. See Essay Organization and Elements of Fiction for more information.

Close reading is deep analysis of how a literary text function; it is both a reading process and something you include in a literary analysis paper. When you read a text paying specific attention to certain literary elements, looking for particular patters, or following the development of a particular character, you are practicing close reading. Likewise, when you watch a film with particular emphasis on a certain element, you are doing a close reading. Of course, when one writes an essay that teases out a certain element, this is the beginning of a close reading. Like literary analysis more generally, close reading is not a means in and of itself. Close reading helps inform the larger meaning or import of a work.

Literary analysis involves examining the components of a literary text, which allows us to focus on small parts of the text, clues to help us understand the work as a whole. The process of close reading should produce questions. When you begin to answer these questions, you are ready to participate thoughtfully in class discussion or write a literary analysis paper. Close reading is a process of finding as much information as you can in order form to as many questions as you can.

An outline includes the thesis and proof points.  It is the skeleton of an academic essay.  Starting with an outline can be extremely helpful in writing an essay.  Once an outline is completed, it is a matter of developing the proof points (body paragraphs),adding a background before the thesis for an introduction paragraph, and adding a concluding paragraph.  See Outlining in Related Pages on the right sidebar for more information.

The important thing in essay writing is to have a point, thereby knowing what you are trying to prove, and stick to that point.  Keep it simple and focused.

This format is the basis for writing a research paper as well.  If you can get the idea in a simple essay, writing research papers will be much easier.

The background in the introductory paragraph consists of information about the circumstances of the thesis. This background information often starts in the introductory paragraph with a general statement which is then refined to the most specific sentence of the essay, the thesis. Background sentences include information about the topic and the controversy. It is important to note that in this approach, the proof for the thesis is not found in the introduction except, possibly, as part of a thesis statement which includes the key elements of the proof. Proof is presented and expanded on in the body.

Some instructors may prefer other types of content in the introduction in addition to the thesis.  It is best to check with an instructor as to whether he or she has a preference for content. Generally, the thesis must be stated in the introduction.

After the topic sentence, the rest of the paragraph should go on to support this one proof with examples and explanation. It is the details that support the topic sentences in the body paragraphs that make the arguments strong.

     Almost every aspect of our lives has been improved through convenience provided by modern technology.  From the sound of music from an alarm clock in the morning to the end of the day being entertained in the convenience of our living room, our lives are improved.  The automatic coffee maker has the coffee ready at a certain time.  Cars or public transportation bring people to work where computers operate at the push of a button.  At home, there’s the convenience of washing machines and dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners, and power lawn mowers.  Modern technology has made life better with many conveniences.

     Not only has technology improved our lives through convenience, it has improved our lives through efficiency. The time saved by machines doing most of the work leaves more time for people to develop their personal goals or to just relax.  Years ago, when doing laundry could take all day, there wasn’t time left over to read or go to school or even just to take a leisurely walk.  Nowadays, people have more time and energy than ever to simply enjoy their lives and pursue their goals thanks to the efficiency of modern technology.

     Accessibility to a wide range of options has been expanded through modern technology.  Never before could people cross a continent or an ocean in an afternoon.  Travel is not the only way technology has created accessibility.  Software which types from voice commands has made using computers more accessible for school or work.  People with special needs have many new options thanks to modern technology such as special chairs or text readers.  Actually, those people who need hearing aids as a result of normal aging have access to continued communication and enjoyment of entertainment they did not previously have.  There are many ways technology has improved lives through increased accessibility.

Rhetorical Modes

What is an outline, an outline of an academic essay contains the thesis and brief information about the proof paragraphs. .

The  proof paragraphs  are the paragraphs between the introduction paragraph and the concluding paragraph.  Proof paragraphs contain evidence, also called supporting details, that the thesis is accurate.

An outline  is like a skeleton of the essay.  Outlines for academic essays and research papers that are not reports on research or other specialized report have a very specific organization.  Here is a sample for a 500-word essay.  The number of body paragraphs will vary, generally from two to four, for a 500-word essay.

Thesis and Supporting Details (Body Paragraphs)

Thesis : A one-sentence answer taking a position on the research question or, if assigned a topic and not a question, the thesis is a one-sentence statement taking a position on a controversial aspect of the topic.  The thesis must be a statement, not a question.  The thesis must be a sentence, not a topic.  See Thesis in Related Links on the right sidebar..

I. One reason why your thesis is accurate.

A.  Supporting detail

B.  Supporting detail

II. Second reason why your thesis is accurate.

III.  Third reason why your thesis is accurate.

A. Supporting detail

B. Supporting detail

Concluding paragraph

  sums up proof and restates thesis and/or draws an implication from the information presented as to significance depending upon instructions..

For a shorter essay, possibly only two body paragraphs will be needed.  For a longer essay, you may need more proof paragraphs.  

Note that the outline begins with the thesis statement.  What you intend to put into the introduction paragraph as background information leading up the thesis is not part of the outline.

Note that I, II, and III represent what will go into the body (proof paragraphs).

Note that the outline does not ordinarily include a reference to the concluding paragraph even though we have listed it above, but all essays must have a concluding paragraph.

How outlining helps in writing an essay

There are three ways that an outline can help you in writing your essay..

It helps to organize your thought or research, if you are writing a research paper, into a writing plan.

It can also help you decide what information should be included and which information is not really needed.

Finally, it can also help you manage the large amount of information you need to sort in order to write a well supported paper.

Once you have an outline, you can actually write the essay from the outline.  Just open the file, delete the word Thesis and the paragraph numbering, add background information before the thesis, develop details for each proof paragraph, and write the concluding paragraph.

How to create an outline

An outline must start with a thesis statement: a one-sentence statement (not a question) taking a position answering a research question (if given a research question to answer) or taking a position on a controversial aspect of a topic (if given a topic on which to write a paper).

Sometimes, you know your position and can easily start with a thesis. If you also know your reasons why you are taking that position, you can simply list your reasons (I, II, …).

At other times, you may not be sure and have to do some thinking or research on the issue.   Let’s take the question “Why don’t some Americans vote?” If this is not a research paper, you might have to do some brainstorming before you can come up with a thesis: a one-sentence answer to the question.  If this is a research essay (research paper), you will do some research. Creating a working bibliography (a list of sources) or doing a synthesis activity can be very helpful for gathering ideas.

Whether you are required to do research or not, the first step is determining a thesis statement.   From brainstorming and/or research, you may have identified the several reasons some people don’t vote as follows:

Age restrictions

Believe that the system is fixed

Believe nothing will ever change

Don’t know where to go to vote

Physically disabled

Don’t know where to register

Happy with the status quo

Believe their vote doesn’t count

Can’t vote because of incarceration

Don’t know when to vote

Not an important part of upbringing/culture

Felony conviction

Don’t know what identification is needed

Illegal status

Receiving false information about where to vote

Now, we have to cluster these points into categories so that they can be discussed in an organized way in the essay.  We can see that there are some general reasons such as legal barriers, confusion about how to register or where to vote, and lack of concern or interest where people just don’t think voting would change anything.

I.   Lack of concern or interest

II.  Confusion

III. Legal barriers

Looking over the notes that you made from your brainstorming or research, the next step is to eliminate duplications and group ideas under the categories.  Depending on the assignment length, you don’t necessarily have to include everything you find.

For example:

Age restrictions - proof paragraph   III

Believe that the system is fixed - proof paragraph I

Believe nothing will ever change - proof paragraph I

Don’t know where to go to vote - proof paragraph  II

Physically disabled - proof paragraph II

Don’t know where to register - proof paragraph  II

Happy with the status quo - proof paragraph I

Too young - proof paragraph - proof paragraph III

Believe their vote doesn’t count - proof paragraph  I

Can’t vote because of incarceration - proof paragraph III

Don’t know when to vote - proof paragraph II

Not an important part of upbringing/culture - proof paragraph I

Felony conviction - proof paragraph III

Don’t know what identification is needed - proof paragraph   II

Illegal status - proof paragraph III

Receiving false information about where to vote - proof paragraph II

Now you have a rough outline. You have your three major causes and some details that support each. The next step is to make a solid thesis.

The most important part of your paper is the thesis. A good thesis clearly answers your research question and will provide guidance to the reader about the direction and scope of your paper. Make sure that your thesis is a defensible point that others could reasonably disagree. For this paper a reasonable thesis could be: Three major reasons that Americans do not vote are apathy, confusion, and legal barriers.

Next it is time to think about the body of your essay. Since the thesis very clearly shows the three main points, you can use these along with the grouped details you sorted earlier. As you are making your outline you may discover that you have more ideas than you can fit into your paper’s length or that you have gone beyond the scope of your topic. If so, feel free to remove some ideas. For example, because you have many different types of ideas listed under legal barriers, you may wish to remove the weakest or least supported detail.

Some instructors also require that you include a concluding statement. Remember that this statement should simply be a restatement of your thesis and should never introduce new ideas or begin a new discussion. 

This is an acceptable outline to the research questions we’ve developed here:

Your Instructor’s Name

Course Title

Day Month Year

Thesis: Three major reasons that Americans do not vote are apathy, confusion, and legal barriers.

I.  Lack of concern or interest

A.  Disbelief in the system

1.  One vote doesn’t matter

2.  Voting is tampered with

B.  Social/culturally not valued

C.  Satisfaction with the status quo

A.  Location

1.  Where to register

2.  Where to vote

B.  When to vote

C.  What documents are needed

III.  Legal barriers

A.  Incarceration

B.   Conviction of a felony

C.  Immigration status

Concluding paragraph:  Sum up proof and restate thesis and/or draw an implication from the information presented showing the significance depending upon your instructions.

Note that this outline has three support details for each reason your thesis is right (each proof point – I, II, III).  Sections I, II, and III each represent one body (proof) paragraph.  Each body paragraph in the essay must begin with a topic sentence that is a reason your thesis is accurate.  This may vary from essay to essay.  What is described here is more like a scratch outline or topic outline which gives just the general ideas.  A formal outline would include detailed sentences and subsections. These are called  sentence outlines.   In a sentence outline, the sentence next to each I, II, and III must be a topic sentence which clearly expresses what point that shows the thesis is right will be shown in the paragraph.  

See Related Pages on the right sidebar for more information.

Literary Analysis Essay - Close Reading

The purpose of a literary analysis essay is to carefully examine and sometimes evaluate a work of literature or an aspect of a work of literature. Examining the different elements of a pieces of literature including plot, character, setting, point of view, irony, symbolism, and style to see how the author develops theme is not an end in itself but rather a process to help you better appreciate and understand the work of literature as a whole. The focus of a literary analysis essay is as expansive as the writers’ interests. For example, a short story analysis might include identifying a particular theme and then showing how the writer suggests that theme through the point of view of the story. It is important to remember that literary analysis does not merely demonstrate a particularly literary element. The focus is explaining how that element is meaningful or significant to the work as a whole. See Essay Organization. 

Close Reading

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Part Two Paragraph Writing Skills and Essay Introduction

Unit 6 Essay Introduction

Learning Objectives

  • To learn what an essay is
  • To understand the similarities and differences between a paragraph and an essay
  • To learn through writing samples how to transition from writing a paragraph to writing an essay
  • To understand how the components of an essay relate to each other: hook, thesis statement, introductory paragraph, supporting paragraphs, and concluding paragraph
  • To practice writing a five-paragraph essay

people pressing hands together

Read the following paragraph and essay. Discuss the questions that follow.

Places in Making American Friends

          There are three places to make friends in the United States. The first place is in the neighborhood. When I visited the U.S. as a child ten years ago, I met an American girl whose house was near mine. We were shy in the beginning but soon started riding our bikes in the neighborhood. We chased [1] each other and had a good time. A few months later, her family moved to another state. I have fond [2] memories of her and think that we will be able to reconnect and renew our friendship if we meet again. Secondly, going to an American school provides an opportunity to make friends. I attended an American elementary school for about six months. I was very nervous about being the only one who looked different. However, some classmates and teachers were kind enough to approach me. They were very understanding even though I did not always understand them. Some of them even helped me with school work and in the gym class. As a young girl in a foreign country, I was very grateful for their friendship. Now I am in America again. I need and value friendship as much as when I was a child. I go to a church once a week and attend a Bible study class where I meet many young adults. There, I have made some friends with whom I talk about not only God but also different cultures. For example, some of them are interested in Japanese music and Anime, so I share some of my favorite music and Anime with them. Sometimes I teach Japanese to them, and they teach English to me. Exchanging information with each other is a good way of establishing and strengthening [3] the relationship. I have learned from my experiences in the neighborhood, school, and church in America over the years that with an open and sincere heart, I am able to find good friends.

By M. Ohbayashi (student), ESL Writing III, Harper College. U sed with permission.

        When I was a child, I had an opportunity to come to the United States a few times to visit my grandmother, uncle, and aunt, who were living in the U.S. Many years later, in January 2020, my mother and I were able to immigrate here. Since I was not an outgoing type of person, I had just a few friends in Japan. However, I have met a lot of Americans and have been able to make friends with some of them. The three places to make friends in the U.S. for me are my neighborhood, school, and church.

        The first place is in the neighborhood. When I visited the U.S. as a child ten years ago, I met an American girl whose house was near mine. We were shy in the beginning but soon started riding our bikes in the neighborhood. We chased each other and had a good time. I also went to the pool with my grandmother and her family in summer. Although the pool was deep and I was scared, she and her family helped me enjoy swimming without fear. Besides riding bikes and swimming, we both loved dogs. We each had one. Even the dogs became friends as we played with them with balls. A few months later, her family moved to another state. I have fond memories of her and think that we will be able to reconnect and renew our friendship if we meet again.

        Secondly, going to an American school provides an opportunity to make friends. I attended an American elementary school for about six months. I was very nervous about being the only one who looked different. I also did not know how to behave differently in an American school. However, some classmates and teachers were kind enough to approach me. They spoke slowly and patiently with simple English words. They were very understanding even though I did not always understand them. Some of them even helped me with school work and in the gym class. As a young girl in a foreign country, I was very grateful for their friendship. Thanks to them, school became wonderful to me.

       Now I am in America again. I need and value friendship as much as when I was a child. I go to a church once a week. One day I met a girl who was studying Japanese. We began to talk with each other. She invited me to a Bible study class, and there I met many young adults. In the beginning, I felt nervous and shy just like the time when I attended the American elementary school for the first time many years before. However, as time went by, I started to like the Bible study class and made some friends with whom I talk about not only God but also different cultures. For example, some of them are interested in Japanese music and Anime, so I share some of my favorite music and Anime with them. Sometimes I teach Japanese to them, and they teach English to me. Exchanging information with each other is a good way of establishing and strengthening the relationship.

        Fortunately, I have met many kind Americans who have become my good friends. Though my shyness sometimes stands in the way, I have been trying hard to overcome it by initiating conversations with as many people as possible. I have learned that with an open and sincere heart, I am able to find good friends.

By M. Ohbayashi (student), Writing III, Harper College. U sed with permission.

Discussion Questions:

  • How do you make American friends? Do you share some of the experiences the writer has described?
  • What is the main idea in the paragraph? What is the main idea in the essay?
  • How many paragraphs does the essay have?
  • What are the three places of making American friends in the paragraph? Are the same three places explained in the essay?
  • What does the essay have that the paragraph does not? Do the extra details make the essay better supported and more interesting?
  • From the above two pieces of writing, what have you discovered about the similarities and differences between a paragraph and an essay?
  • If you could ask the writer one question, what would you ask?

You have learned and practiced how to write well-organized, well-developed paragraphs. Now it is time to expand your writing expertise [4] to essays!

II. Similarities and Differences Between a Paragraph and an Essay

In Unit 3 Parts and Characteristics of a Good Paragraph, you learned that a paragraph is a group of sentences about one main idea . ( Open Unit 3 here . )

In this unit, you will learn that an essay is a group of paragraphs about one main idea . An essay can be as short as three paragraphs but as long as many paragraphs that span [5] multiple pages.

Here is a summary of similarities and differences between a paragraph and an essay:

III. Essay Organization

Essay assignments are very common in college courses. In this course, you are going to learn only the basic concepts and organization of essays that contain five paragraphs. There are other ways of writing built on this basic model, and you will learn them in future semesters.

As you already have much experience writing paragraphs, a good start with essays is to expand [6] an existing paragraph, as you have seen in the beginning of this unit. Below is a structural comparison between a paragraph and an essay.

comparing paragraph and essay structures

Read the following paragraph and then the essay. Compare the two by answering the questions that follow.

My Joy in Baking

5 cupcakes with sprinkles

        Baking is my favorite hobby.  When I was a child, I like d sweets a lot, especially pastry.  Since my mom could not bake, I always went to my friend Natalia’s house to learn baking because her mom was excellent in it. Though t he learning process was not that easy , I enjoyed it . I tried and ruined [7] a lot of ingredients, but I did not lose hope. Then I started to get better and better. I tried cupcakes and cookies. It gave me confidence and excitement to think that I could bake for myself.  Now I am an adult with a family of my own, and this hobby has not changed. It relaxes me to bak e. When I have a n exhausting day or feel stressed out, the idea of crea ting something sweet and fresh makes me feel relaxed . I also like to share the fruit [8] of my hobby with my family and friends.  Baking for them gives me joy.  To have a happy moment together on any occasion [9] with sweet treats makes my relationship with them stronger. These are all the reasons why baking is my favorite hobby. I would recommend it to anyone who loves sweets and is looking for ways to bring happiness to other people.

By N . Mamurova (student),  ESL Writing III, Harper College. Used with permission.

        A hobby is a regular activity performed for enjoyment during spare time. People can choose any hobbies that are right for them: music, sports, cooking, sewing, gardenin g , and so on.  As a child, I like d sweets a lot, especially pastry.  This is why  baking became and has always been my favorite hobby.

        Though the learning process was not easy, I enjoyed it . Since my mom could not bake, I always went to my friend Natalia’s house to learn baking because her mom was excellent in it. I tried and ruined a lot of ingredients, but I did not lose hope. After a few months, I started to get better and better.  On Natalia’ s 10 th  birthday, I made pretty cupcakes, even with yellow and pink icings on them.  Her mom was very impressed.  It gave me confidence and excitement to think that I could bake by myself and bring more happiness to an already joyful event.  

        Now I am an adult with a family of my own, and this hobby has not changed. It relaxes me to bake. When I have an exhausting day or I am stressed out, the idea of creating something sweet and fresh makes me feel relaxed. Being a mom and a student, my schedule is full.  However, nothing else relieves my stress more than baking after a difficult examination at the college: the aroma of butter and sugar, the slowly forming cookies in the oven, and the pleasant and crunching sound as I bite into my creations – all eases the tension of my whole being.

        Most importantly, sharing my baking has strengthened my relationship with my family and friends. Enjoying a happy moment together on any occasion with sweet treats gives me joy. Once a friend of mine was sick, but she immediately got much better when I brought her a home-baked, mouth-watering apple pie. I have learned that helping others does not have to be a huge endeavor [10] . Small acts of kindness are just as valuable and meaningful.

        A hobby takes time to perfect but brings joy in the process. I am so glad that I have found my pleasure in baking, and I intend to enjoy it for many more years to come. I would recommend it to anyone who loves sweets and is looking for ways to bring happiness to other people.

By N . Mamurova (student), ESL Writing III, Harper College. Used with permission.

IV. Hook, Thesis Statement, Introductory Paragraph

The word “hook” may remind you of a piece of plastic or metal on the wall on which you can hang your coat. The hook holds the coat and prevents it from falling to the floor. In the same way, a hook in the beginning of an essay aims to hold the readers’ attention so that they keep reading. The main purpose of a hook is to introduce the topic and to get the readers interested.

There are different ways to write a hook. The most common ones are introducing the background or discussing some general information related to the topic.

Discuss the hook in the essays “Places in Making American Friends” and “My Joy in Baking”.  Does it introduce the topic and get you interested in reading the essay?

Thesis Statement

The thesis statement is a sentence that contains the main idea of the entire essay.

  • A topic sentence shows the main idea of a paragraph. It is usually put in the beginning of a paragraph.
  • A thesis statement shows the main idea of an essay. It is usually placed as the last sentence in the introductory paragraph.

The rules for the topic sentence also apply to the thesis statement.

Exercise 1. Use the expressions below to develop thesis statements.

surprises / U.S.

Thesis statement: I encountered some surprises in my first few weeks of living in the U.S.

1. children / parents’ influence

2. marriage / fights

3. dream job / hard work

4. self-discipline / success

5. bilingual / benefits

6. money / problems

7. government / assisting college students

8. personality / happiness

Exercise 2. Study the introductory paragraph in “Places in Making American Friends” and “My Joy in Baking”. Then choose two of the thesis statements from Exercise 1 to write two introductory paragraphs.

V. Transitions, Supporting paragraphs, and Concluding Paragraph

The principles for the transitions, supporting ideas, and conclusion in a paragraph also apply to an essay. In an essay, there are more supporting details than in a paragraph.

Study and discuss the following outline developed from the example thesis statement in Exercise 1.

Exercise 3. Use the above outline as an example. From the two topics you worked on in Exercise 1 and Exercise 2,  write an essay outline for each.

VI. More Essay examples

Read the two essays below. The first one is developed from an earlier outline. As you read, discuss the questions:

  • What is the hook? Is it interesting?
  • What is the thesis statement? Where is it located?
  • In each body paragraph, what is the topic sentence? What are the details?
  • What transition does the writer use in the beginning of each body paragraph?
  • Is the paragraph mainly enumerative or narrative in organization? How do you know? In what order are the supporting paragraphs organized (order of importance or chronological order)?
  • Does all the information in the body paragraphs support the thesis statement?
  • What types of information does the writer use in the conclusion?
  • What do you like about this essay?
  • How would you improve the essay?

VII. Unit Review Practice: An Essay Writing Assignment

Now you are ready to write your own essay! As you have learned in Unit 2 The Writing Process ( Open Unit 2 here ), the best way to plan a paragraph is to follow the proper steps.

An Essay Writing Assignment

Purpose : To show your understanding of planning and writing an essay. Use the writing process to help you.

Topic :   You have three choices from below.

Brainstorm and Outline : Brainstorm for ideas. Then organize the ideas by using the outline template below to make an outline. Your outline is due on _________. Bring it to class.

Essay : Your essay should have a title, an introductory paragraph with a hook and a thesis statement, 3 supporting paragraphs each starting with a topic sentence followed by lots of details, and a concluding  paragraph. Use appropriate transitions to connect the supporting paragraphs.  There should be a total of 5 paragraphs in the essay.

Format : Type your essay, double spaced, font size 12, with 1-inch margins on four sides of the page. Type your name, class, and date on the upper right-hand corner of the page. The first line of each paragraph should be indented. Save your essay in a Word file.

Self Checklist : When you finish writing, use the Self Checklist below. Put a checkmark beside each item if you think you did a good job in that area.  Otherwise, improve your essay until you can check off the item. Save your work again.

Submission : Submit your essay on the Blackboard.  Go to your Blackboard course site and follow the instructions there.  Due by __________.

You have three choices for your topic.

Choice 1:  

Choose one of the paragraphs you have written in this course and expand it into an essay.

Choose one of the thesis statements, introductory paragraphs, and outlines in Exercise 1, 2, and 3 in this unit. Then write an essay based on your outline.

Choose one of the following new topics.  If you plan to have a different one, please talk with your professor first.

  • What are the three things that you want to change about Harper College?
  • What are the three things (or events, or people) you wish to forget?
  • What are the three most important ways people in your country express love?
  • What has been the most memorable day in your life?
  • How did you overcome a challenge in your life?

Essay Outline Template

Essay Self Checklist

Note:  #6 – #8  may include more specific aspects of grammar depending on how many editing units you have already studied.

  NSNT Practice

a pen writing in a notebook

Go to The NSNT Free Writing Approach and Additional Weekly Prompts for Writing in Appendix A. ( Open Appendix A here. ) Choose two topics that you have not written about. You may start with the NSNT approach. Then revise and edit at least one of them into an essay. You are encouraged to share your writing with your partner and help each other improve. 

Vocabulary Review

a page in a dictionary

The words here have appeared in this unit.  The best way to learn them is to guess the meaning of each word from the context.  Then hover your computer mouse over the number beside each word to check its meaning and part of speech. These words are also listed in the footnote area at the end of each unit.

Here, you can use the flashcards below to review these words.

  • An essay is a group of paragraphs about one main idea. It consists of a title, an introductory paragraph with a hook and a thesis statement, a few supporting paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph.
  • A hook consists of a few sentences to introduce the topic and to get readers interested in the essay.
  • A thesis statement is a sentence containing the main idea of the entire essay. It is usually placed at the end of the introductory paragraph.
  • Transitions are used to provide connections between supporting paragraphs.
  • Paragraphs and essays share some common features. They both focus on one central idea which is explained and developed through supporting ideas and details.

Media Attributions

  • people pressing hands together © Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash
  • comparing paragraph and essay structures © Lin Cui is licensed under a CC0 (Creative Commons Zero) license
  • 5 cupcakes with sprinkles © Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
  • a pen writing in a notebook © Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
  • a page in a dictionary © Pixabay
  • chase: verb, run in order to catch someone ↵
  • fond: adjective, good, loving ↵
  • strengthen: verb, make or become strong ↵
  • expertise: noun, expert knowledge and skills ↵
  • span: verb, cover, extend to ↵
  • expand: verb, make bigger or longer ↵
  • ruin: verb, destroy, waste ↵
  • fruit: noun, products, results ↵
  • occasion: noun, situation ↵
  • endeavor: noun, many efforts, hard work ↵

Building Academic Writing Skills Copyright © 2022 by Cui, Lin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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  4. 11 Rules for Essay Paragraph Structure with Examples (2021)

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