A Five-Paragraph Essay to Help Students Write Five-Paragraph Essays: The Basic Structure

A Five-Paragraph Essay to Help Students Write Five-Paragraph Essays: The Basic Structure by David Reynolds. © 2021

Writing a five-paragraph essay can be a challenge for many students. Having some knowledge of the basic structure can be incredibly helpful, and it can lead students to scoring well on any such written assignment for their classes in high school or in the early years of an undergraduate program. In order to develop your skill in handling essay assignments, it is crucial that students understand the goals of each paragraph in a five-paragraph essay, and that includes the introduction, the body paragraphs, and the conclusion.

There are a variety of techniques that can be applied to writing an effective introductory paragraph, but you should keep in mind the goal of that paragraph as you write. Students should always try to follow the advice of their teacher, instructor, or professor, even if you seek assistance elsewhere, such as by following a guide like this one. The goal of the introduction is to hook your reader’s interest in your topic and lead into the body of your essay. As such, one standard approach is to think of your introduction as if it is a funnel. Begin with a broadly relatable statement, then add a few more sentences that are increasingly specific and related to your topic. The last sentence in the introduction should be your thesis statement, which ought to precisely communicate what your essay will be about. For a five-paragraph essay, the thesis statement should express your position on the topic and outline the points you will discuss in each body paragraph.

A five-paragraph essay will have three body paragraphs. This is where you really do a lot of the work, like developing the points of your argument. Nevertheless, each body paragraph should begin with an effective topic sentence. In a five-paragraph essay, each body paragraph should focus on developing a single point in support of your thesis. Ideally, the topic sentence for each body paragraph mentions the relevant point that was outlined in your thesis statement. Arrange your body paragraphs in the same order that you outlined those points in the thesis statement. You might arrange the points you discussed chronologically, but it might be more suitable for your topic to arrange your points progressively. Everything after the topic sentence is considered the supporting details. Here, you should consider the flow of your ideas. Begin by making a general claim about that specific point. Next, provide some evidence you can discuss as support. Evidence could be an example you know from common knowledge or from reading assigned materials. That is generally the case if you have to write an in-class essay where you have nothing but your pen, your page, and your wits to work with. For take-home assignments, the evidence you discuss should be quoted or paraphrased from the text you are discussing. In that case, you may be required to cite your sources. Do so using the assigned style guide. Throughout the arts and humanities, most professors require students to comply with MLA style, but that could be different in your class. Once you have provided a piece of evidence, you must follow up by explaining how it acts as effective support. In other words, it is up to you as the author of your paper to navigate the evidence for your reader. This is one of the most important aspects because this is where you demonstrate your understanding of the subject matter. Once you have moved through this flow of ideas in a body paragraph, consider including a transitioning sentence that links the point you just discussed to the point of the next body paragraph. This helps to ensure you are writing a cohesive essay, where one idea leads to the next. If it is for your third body paragraph, the transitioning sentence should signal that you are done, and that will lead to your essay’s conclusion.

The concluding paragraph’s goal is to provide a sense of closure for your discussion of any topic. Avoid treating it like there’s nothing left to do there. Although the body paragraphs are where you really make your case, the conclusion should provide some closure for your discussion overall. It is an important paragraph because it helps to determine your reader’s lasting impression. One useful method to employ is closing by return. If you had a thesis statement in the introduction that outlined three points, then reword each of those points in the conclusion as three separate sentences. Then, give it a little more thought, add another sentence or two, and you should have a concluding paragraph that feels substantial. You might also suggest further related materials to consider, especially for interested readers.

Being familiar with the basic structure of a five-paragraph essay and understanding the goal of each part can benefit students in any field of study. The introduction should focus on leading into your topic. Each body paragraph develops a single point in support of your overall thesis. In the end, the conclusion should provide a sense of closure for your reader. Finally, if you are a student who is studying literature, then you might also wish to consult the essay outline provided at the end of this article. Keeping these points in mind should lead you to writing more effective essays, and that can help you to score well for this type of written assignment in a variety of classes.

About the Author

David Reynolds’ passion for language and literature is undeniable. His first work was published when he was only 11 years old, and he’s been engrossed in the minutiae and nuances of the English language in one way or another ever since.

He holds a BA (English & philosophy) and an MPhil (humanities) from Memorial University, where he was fortunate enough to study superhero narratives in a broad context.

In 2011, Reynolds published the culmination of his research for the MPhil (humanities), titled Superheroes: An Analysis of Popular Culture’s Modern Myths.

Besides teaching English at Atlantic Canada’s largest university, he writes, edits, performs, and publishes a broad range of literature, primarily through Problematic Press, which he founded as a side project in 2013.

In 2021, Reynolds published his debut novel — The Marvelous Saga of the MERCANARY™ — the gonzo result of a lockdown art project.

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