It’s 9:50 PM and your final, 1,000-word essay is due at midnight. You already know what you want to write about, but where do you start? How are you supposed to even reach 1,000 words? Do you really need to write a thesis statement? Which paragraphs should you put your evidence, details, and quotations? Well, the solution to your insistent questioning is the 5 paragraph essay!
While you might be exhausted from even the phrase “5 paragraph essay,” having this structure drilled in your mind, the 5 paragraph essay can be used all the way from 5th grade to 5 minutes before your Intro to Sociology essay is due. Even though “5 paragraph essay” may still be ringing through your mind, it’s important to reexamine the purposes of each component of a 5 paragraph essay and how to efficiently write each paragraph. The 5 paragraph essay is an excellent and simple way to organize your essay because it has a clear outline that is familiar to writers and readers alike.
The Introduction Paragraph
The introduction is the first paragraph in the 5 paragraph essay. The introduction’s goal is to introduce the reader to your topic. The general structure of an introduction paragraph should be the following: hook, context, thesis statement. Remember, even though it may be boring to write a paper, no one wants to read a boring paper.
It’s a good idea to keep your introduction on the shorter side because the most important details of your essay will be in your body paragraphs. Your hook should be 1-2 sentences long. The hook is an attention getter, often in the form of a quote, question, story, or interesting fact.
Next, you need to include some context. Context is information necessary to understand what you are talking about. If you chose to write about an obscure topic, you probably need more context than an essay about adopting a dog. The context sentences are important but will vary more widely than your hook. Context sentences should be at least 2 sentences, but no more than 4 unless you will have multiple introduction paragraphs.
Lastly, your introduction should end with something called a thesis statement. In a nutshell, a thesis statement is the main idea or main argument of your essay. The thesis statement is the MOST important part of your essay; your reader should be able to only read your thesis and know what your entire essay will be about. The thesis statement should include your main idea or argument and at least one reason to support your main idea or argument.
If you are writing a persuasive or argumentative essay, the introduction would be a great place to present your argument while laying the foundation for your particular issue. If you are writing an explanatory essay, make sure to bulk up on the context. If you are writing a narrative, the hook might be more important. Nevertheless, it’s important to have a strong thesis that represents your essay decisively and efficiently.
The Body Paragraphs
In a 5 paragraph essay, the body has 3 paragraphs. Each paragraph should have a clear topic. The body paragraph’s structure consists of a topic sentence, concrete detail, commentary, and a conclusion sentence. The topic sentence is a mini-introduction to your body paragraph. The topic sentence needs to clearly define the paragraph’s main idea or argument, so don’t be shy about bluntly stating what it is. While simple or succinct writing may appear dull, it makes reading and comprehending a lot easier on the reader. Your body paragraph should have at least 2 concrete details. Concrete details are your evidence to support your thesis. However, evidence is not enough. You need to show why the evidence you presented is significant. This is where commentary comes in. After each concrete detail ask yourself, “why is my concrete detail significant?” to aid your thought process. Also, you can start the commentary with “this shows that” to prime your analytical thought process. Lastly, your conclusion sentence should wrap up your paragraph and reaffirm your most important points.
Your body paragraph topics should be different for each body paragraph. If you are having trouble coming up with three distinct paragraph topics, a quick brainstorm can usually get you started on the right path. Take a blank piece of paper and write your topic on the top of the page. Then, write everything you can think about relating to that topic. See what things you can write about most from the list you’ve written, and you’ve found a paragraph topic. Also, some paragraph topics might come naturally as you are writing with those eureka moments. Another good tip to remember is to never let an idea get away: write it down because you might need it later.
The Conclusion Paragraph
The conclusion wraps up your essay; it’s the last paragraph of the essay. Your conclusion reminds the reader of your thoughts from the body and introduction without repeating what you already said. Conclusions can often be the hardest paragraph to write in your 5 paragraph essay, so it might be best for you to write your conclusion last, even after you reread your introduction and body a few times.
To avoid the dreaded, burnt-out rewriting that often plagues conclusion paragraphs, you can think of your conclusion as your soap box. What do you want your reader to remember? Why is your topic important? One important thing to remember, however, is that the conclusion is not the place to bring up any new evidence. Instead, you should synthesize, to combine different ideas into one statement, the information you’ve already written. This also means that you don’t have to do any more research for your conclusion.
The best part about a 5 paragraph essay is that you can easily make it a 10 paragraph essay for your senior thesis. Need to write a 1,000-word essay? Your introduction can be 200 words, your three body paragraphs can be 600 words or 200 each, and your conclusion can be 100 words. A 5,000 word essay? Try 1,000 words for your introduction, 3,000 words in total for your body paragraphs, and 1,000 words for your conclusion. And the best part of the 5 paragraph essay? It’s only a template. You can add, subtract, or even multiply to fit your needs. Do you need make your introduction 2 paragraphs? That’s a-okay. Need to make your body 5 paragraphs instead of 3? Go right ahead. This is your writing! Do what you think will be best for you and your grade. Think of the 5 paragraph essay as a jumping off point. After all, the hardest part of writing is often deciding where to start.
The Real Conclusion Paragraph
A 5 paragraph essay is a great way to start your essay writing. This formula gives each of your paragraphs a goal. Your introduction establishes your main idea. Your body supports your main idea. And, finally, your conclusion wraps up your argument for the reader. As stated before, the 5 paragraph essay is only a template and can be changed depending on your needs or word or page limit. Instead of groaning the next time you hear “5 paragraph essay,” remember you have a powerful and versatile tool in your writing toolbox.
I hope this blog changed your mind about the 5 paragraph essay. Also, I hope the details of each paragraph gave you a better idea of what to write for each paragraph. If you need help with any of your writing needs, even to just brainstorm and outline, My Private Professor is your one stop shop!
Andres Downey is a tutor at My Private Professor, which provides individualized online & in-person tutoring to students in all subjects, including K-12 math, science, language arts, history, foreign language, AP exams, test prep, essays, & college counseling, by top tutors from top universities. www.myprivateprofessor.com