|A classic format for compositions is the five-paragraph essay. It is not the only format for writing an essay, of course, but it is a useful model for you to keep in mind, especially as you begin to develop your composition skills. The following material is adapted from a handout prepared by Harry Livermore for his high school English classes at Cook High School in Adel, Georgia. It is used here with his permission.|
See, first, Writing Introductory Paragraphs for different ways of getting your reader involved in your essay. The introductory paragraph should also include the thesis statement, a kind of mini-outline for the paper: it tells the reader what the essay is about. The last sentence of this paragraph must also contain a transitional "hook" which moves the reader to the first paragraph of the body of the paper.
Body First paragraph:
The first paragraph of the body should contain the strongest argument, most significant example, cleverest illustration, or an obvious beginning point. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the "reverse hook" which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the introductory paragraph. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional hook to tie into the second paragraph of the body.
Body Second paragraph:
The second paragraph of the body should contain the second strongest argument, second most significant example, second cleverest illustration, or an obvious follow up the first paragraph in the body. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the reverse hook which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the first paragraph of the body. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional hook to tie into the third paragraph of the body.
Body Third paragraph:
The third paragraph of the body should contain the weakest argument, weakest example, weakest illustration, or an obvious follow up to the second paragraph in the body. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the reverse hook which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the second paragraph. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional concluding hook that signals the reader that this is the final major point being made in this paper. This hook also leads into the last, or concluding, paragraph.
This paragraph should include the following:
- an allusion to the pattern used in the introductory paragraph,
- a restatement of the thesis statement, using some of the original language or language that "echoes" the original language. (The restatement, however, must not be a duplicate thesis statement.)
- a summary of the three main points from the body of the paper.
- a final statement that gives the reader signals that the discussion has come to an end. (This final statement may be a "call to action" in an persuasive paper.)
A Sample Paper
|1Stephen King, creator of such stories as Carrie and Pet Sematary, stated that the Edgar Allan Poe stories he read as a child gave him the inspiration and instruction he needed to become the writer that he is. 2Poe, as does Stephen King, fills the reader's imagination with the images that he wishes the reader to see, hear, and feel. 3His use of vivid, concrete visual imagery to present both static and dynamic settings and to describe people is part of his technique. 4Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" is a story about a young man who kills an old man who cares for him, dismembers the corpse, then goes mad when he thinks he hears the old man's heart beating beneath the floor boards under his feet as he sits and discusses the old man's absence with the police. 5In "The Tell-Tale Heart," a careful reader can observe Poe's skillful manipulation of the senses.||The introductory paragraph includes a paraphrase of something said by a famous person in order to get the reader's attention. The second sentence leads up to the thesis statement which is the third sentence. The thesis statement (sentence 3) presents topic of the paper to the reader and provides a mini- outline. The topic is Poe's use of visual imagery. The mini- outline tells the reader that this paper will present Poe's use of imagery in three places in his writing: (1) description of static setting; (2) description of dynamic setting; and (3) description of a person. The last sentence of the paragraph uses the words "manipulation" and "senses" as transitional hooks.|
|1The sense of sight, the primary sense, is particularly susceptible to manipulation. 2In "The Tell-Tale Heart," Poe uses the following image to describe a static scene: "His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness . . ." Poe used the words "black," "pitch," and "thick darkness" not only to show the reader the condition of the old man's room, but also to make the reader feel the darkness." 3"Thick" is a word that is not usually associated with color (darkness), yet in using it, Poe stimulates the reader's sense of feeling as well as his sense of sight.||In the first sentence of the second paragraph (first paragraph of the body) the words "sense" and "manipulation" are used to hook into the end of the introductory paragraph. The first part of the second sentence provides the topic for this paragraph--imagery in a static scene. Then a quotation from "The Tell-Tale Heart" is presented and briefly discussed. The last sentence of this paragraph uses the expressions "sense of feeling" and "sense of sight" as hooks for leading into the third paragraph.|
|1Further on in the story, Poe uses a couple of words that cross not only the sense of sight but also the sense of feeling to describe a dynamic scene. 2The youth in the story has been standing in the open doorway of the old man's room for a long time, waiting for just the right moment to reveal himself to the old man in order to frighten him. 3Poe writes: "So I opened it [the lantern opening]--you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily--until, at length, a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye." 4By using the metaphor of the thread of the spider (which we all know is a creepy creature) and the word "shot," Poe almost makes the reader gasp, as surely did the old man whose one blind eye the young man describes as "the vulture eye."||The first sentence of the third paragraph (second paragraph of the body) uses the words "sense of sight" and "sense of feeling" to hook back into the previous paragraph. Note that in the second paragraph "feeling" came first, and in this paragraph "sight" comes first. The first sentence also includes the topic for this paragraph--imagery in a dynamic scene. Again, a quotation is taken from the story, and it is briefly discussed. The last sentence uses the words "one blind eye" which was in the quotation. This expression provides the transitional hook for the last paragraph in the body of the paper.|
|1The reader does not know much about what the old man in this story looks like except that he has one blind eye. 2In the second paragraph of "The Tell-Tale Heart," Poe establishes the young man's obsession with that blind eye when he writes: "He had the eye of the vulture--a pale blue eye, with a film over it." 3This "vulture eye" is evoked over and over again in the story until the reader becomes as obsessed with it as does the young man. 4His use of the vivid, concrete word "vulture" establishes a specific image in the mind of the reader that is inescapable.||In the first sentence of the fourth paragraph (third paragraph in the body), "one blind eye" is used that hooks into the previous paragraph. This first sentence also lets the reader know that this paragraph will deal with descriptions of people: ". . . what the old man looks like . . .." Once again Poe is quoted and discussed. The last sentence uses the word "image" which hooks into the last paragraph. (It is less important that this paragraph has a hook since the last paragraph is going to include a summary of the body of the paper.)|
|1"Thick darkness," "thread of the spider," and "vulture eye" are three images that Poe used in "The Tell-Tale Heart" to stimulate a reader's senses. 2Poe wanted the reader to see and feel real life. 3He used concrete imagery rather than vague abstract words to describe settings and people. 4If Edgar Allan Poe was one of Stephen King's teachers, then readers of King owe a debt of gratitude to that nineteenth-century creator of horror stories.||The first sentence of the concluding paragraph uses the principal words from the quotations from each paragraph of the body of the paper. This summarizes those three paragraph. The second and third sentences provide observations which can also be considered a summary, not only of the content of the paper, but also offers personal opinion which was logically drawn as the result of this study. The last sentence returns to the Edgar Allan Poe-Stephen King relationship which began this paper. This sentence also provides a "wrap-up" and gives the paper a sense of finality.|
The 5-paragraph essay is the most common academic task a student may face. You can meet it in such tests as TOEFL, IELTS, and the SAT.
Because the majority of these examinations restrict the student in time, you should be ready for the writing section. Try to memorize the structure of the 5-paragraph academic paper on any topic. It makes it possible to complete the assignments faster and efficiently. The best part of the five-paragraph essay is that it is rather flexible regarding the topic choice and various writing formats.
There are six basic types of five-paragraph academic papers. You should be aware of each type before facing your examination:
- Cause and Effect
- Compare and Contrast
All of these 5-paragraph essays should stick to the five paragraph structure!
Examples of Good Essay Topics
Try to choose the best topic from the pool of good topic ideas.
- Do we learn from other people's mistakes?
- Who is responsible for our destiny?
- Is it ethical to use animals for tests?
- What are the advantages of allowing same-sex marriage?
- How can the government minimize the criminal activity?
- Who must be punished to death?
- Is LSD that dangerous as most people think?
- Why should education become entirely free?
These are topics which students usually choose. There are much more topics on different academic disciplines so that you may come up with your own suggestions.
Writing Your Outline
Any academic 5-paragraph essay is limited to the following organization:
- Introduction paragraph with thesis
- Three body paragraphs
- Conclusion paragraph
- References page
Catch the eye of your reader with an effective introduction to your topic. Each paragraph of the body must contain a specific main point about the topic known as an argument. Sum up your writing in conclusion. The 5-paragraph essays usually start out very broad, get narrower, and end up broad as well.
- This paragraph should contain 3-5 sentences.
- This paragraph predetermines the entire structure.
- The first sentence is a hook sentence.
- The last sentence is your thesis statement.
- The hook of the paragraph may be a rhetorical question, shocking fact, joke, quote, or some real life experience.
E.g. If you want to talk about the topic of racial discrimination and human rights, you can start with something like: "Why should we treat people with the different color of skin worse? Don't they have the same two legs and two hands?"
There is no need to answer this question so that it can be defined as a rhetorical question. You may find examples of good introductions or even buy a custom 5-paragraph essay at professional writing companies.
Short Introduction of Supporting Arguments (up to three)
- Introduce your arguments in one paragraph (3 sentences). No need for details
- You may pretend that you're writing a video trailer when working on this part.
- Example: Establishing more organizations that defend the rights of minorities is one of the ways to resist racial discrimination.
- It is your strongest claim.
- The rest of the 5-paragraph essay should be based on your thesis statement.
- It is better to change thesis if you discover that your body paragraphs are not related to it.
Body Paragraphs (5-7 sentences each)
Involve 3-5 arguments to defend your thesis statement.
Stick to this general structure of the body paragraphs: Introduction sentence (1), Evidence/Arguments (3-5), Conclusion (1).
THE FORMAT FOR ALL BODY PARAGRAPHS REMAINS THE SAME
Check the order of your arguments:
- First body paragraph is dedicated to the most powerful point
- The second paragraph may contain the weakest point
- Leave another strong argument for the last body paragraph
Conclusion paragraph (up to 5 sentences):
- The last few sentences of this paragraph should reflect the nature of your entire text. Begin with the restated thesis.
- Recall all 3-5 supporting arguments. Paraphrase each main point to speed up the process.
- Avoid using citations in this paragraph.
- Join similar arguments together in one sentence.
The final stage is the so-called concluding paragraph hook. You may include it or not. It is a good idea to finish your writing with something your reader can't expect. Surprise the readers with the sudden question for continuous discussion or unknown fact.
In other words, put some sugar and spice to make the dish tastier. "Did you know that Oslo was called the most expensive city of the year?"
You can find more tips on the conclusion paragraph in this blog.
Overall Grading Rubric
Students write 5-paragraph essays to earn the highest grades. These grades are part of their final score per course. That is why it is important to know the grading rubric shared by your teacher in the syllabus.
- Focus: Did the writer prove his thesis effectively? Were all the objectives met successfully?
- Organization: What about the way 5-paragraph essay flows? Are there the smooth transitions between paragraphs? Are they logical? Did the author follow the outline and general writing standards?
- Conventions: Is there any wordiness in the text? Are there some grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors? Is the text easy to read?
- Style: Did the student use high-level vocabulary? Was he creative enough?
- Content: Was the student right when defending his arguments? Was his evidence logical and factual? Did he develop powerful, persuasive arguments?
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