The Five Paragraph Essay

17 Feb

“What is a five paragraph essay?” a student asked during an appointment in the Writing Center. The answer is easy; a five paragraph essay is an essay that has five paragraphs! That said, there’s a little bit more that you need to know to fully utilize the five paragraph essay format.

The five paragraph essay is a classic format for composition. While the five paragraph essay is not the only format for writing an essay, it is a useful model to keep in mind, as it can help in many writing situations, like in-class essay writing, essay exams, or essays with shorter page requirements.

The five paragraph essay format includes:

  • An introduction
  • Three focused body paragraphs
  • A conclusion

Imagine, for example, that you are asked to write an argument essay where, in two pages, you must present your argument with three supporting points. A five paragraph essay format is a great technique to employ in this situation. Here’s why:

  • 1st Paragraph: Introduction: First, in the introduction, you can generally introduce your topic to your reader, moving into your thesis statement, which will contain the basis for your argument and some indication of the direction you are going in. Here, you can work on getting your reader interested in the topic (by beginning generally) and then transition them into your specific argument (by moving them into a strong thesis statement).
  • 2nd Paragraph: First Body Paragraph/First Point: In this first body paragraph (but remember, this is your second actual paragraph), go into the strongest point. In this case, we would use this paragraph to discuss and develop the strongest point in support of our argument. The first sentence of this paragraph, the topic sentence, will identify this point for the reader. Then, we want to fill in the details and use examples (from research, etc.) to support the point. Finally, the last sentence should start transitioning the reader into the next paragraph.
  • 3rd Paragraph: Second Body Paragraph/Second Point: In our second body paragraph (third actual paragraph, incuding the introduction!), we want to go into our second strongest point. In this case, we would present the second strongest point in support of our argument or position. We again would identify this point in the first sentence (the topic sentence), support it throughout the paragraph, and conclude the paragraph with a sentence that includes a transitional “hook” into the next paragraph.
  • 4th Paragraph: Third Body Paragraph/Third Point: This is our last body paragraph, and it will present our last point. This paragraph may contain our weakest point, or the next logical point to make after the completion of the previous paragraph. Again, we would introduce this point in our topic sentence, illustrate it throughout the paragraph, and end with a sentence that transitions the reader into our final paragraph – the conclusion.
  • 5th Paragraph: Conclusion:  Our last paragraph is our conclusion. In our conclusion, we want to consider where we began in our introduction. We can imitate any introductory strategies in this conclusion to create a frame around our larger essay (ex. if we began with a question in the introduction, we might return to that question in our conclusion to create a frame). Then, we can briefly touch on our thesis and the three main points that we have made in our three body paragraphs (without just copying and pasting them!), and end our conclusion by leaving the reader with something to think about.

By following the five paragraph essay format, we have easily made sure that we have an introduction, three paragraphs in support of our main idea, and a conclusion. Each paragraph should stay focused on the topic or task identified for that paragraph. The introduction introduces, the body paragraphs develop one point as identified in the topic sentence, and the conclusion concludes, providing a wrap-up of the overall conversation. The great thing about the five paragraph essay format is that it is easy to modify for longer projects – just add in additional body paragraphs as needed!


4 Responses to “The Five Paragraph Essay”

  1. Essay Palace April 17, 2014 at 6:31 am #

    To get more guidelines regarding five paragraph writing check


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