Basic Five-Paragraph Essay By Kristen Weddle Edited by UWC staff (© DBU University Writing Center)
A five-paragraph essay should have the following basic format: I. Introduction A. Background info B. Thesis sentence (including 3 specific points) II. Topic sentence for 1st body paragraph A. Point one B. Point two (at least 2 points, but more points are fine) III. Topic sentence for 2nd body paragraph A. Point one B. Point two IV. Topic sentence for 3rd body paragraph A. Point one B. Point two V. Conclusion Sound confusing? Don’t worry! I’ll explain.
What is the purpose of this workshop? • This workshop is for the purpose of review for students who have been away from school for a while. These ideas on writing will hopefully remind you of the basics. The five-paragraph essay is the general pre-college writing style. • Eventually, you’ll take a course where your professor wants you to move beyond the basics. For these projects, the five-paragraph essay is a good paradigm to keep in the back of your head and modify as appropriate for that assignment. • So let’s begin...
What is an introduction? An introduction gives background information on your subject. It introduces the reader to your topic. So, what should you include? Well, try to pick things that you would want to know about your topic if someone were telling you about it. Some other good information to include: • information about the author (if you are critiquing a book or doing a book review--was the author’s background important to the piece?) • background concerning the piece you are writing about (when was it written, who wrote it, why) • background of the issue you are writing about (as for an argumentative essay)
What is a thesis?A thesis is your paper boiled down into one, specific sentence. It should have 3 (for a five-paragraph paper) points specifically laid out in the order you want to discuss them: Dogs are great pets because they help owners get exercise and are loyal and friendly. If using this as a thesis, the paper should follow the format it lays out. The first body paragraph should be about dogs helping owners get exercise, paragraph 2 about dogs being loyal, and paragraph 3 about dogs being friendly. You should be able to transition smoothly between paragraphs, so order your points in a manner that flows well logically. Each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence that relates directly back to your thesis.
What is a topic sentence? A topic sentence is sort of like a thesis, but on a smaller level. It is your paragraph boiled down into 1 sentence. It summarizes one thesis point and should correspond clearly to your thesis. If we use the example thesis from the previous slide, a good topic sentence for the first paragraph could be something like this: Because dogs need to be taken for walks, they provide a fun, safe way for owners to get exercise. Okay, so we have a thesis and our first topic sentence; what next?
What about the points? The two (at least) points you use in each of your body paragraphs should support the topic sentence of your paragraph, and thus your thesis as well. For example, if you wanted to give two supporting points about dogs being loyal, you could talk about how dogs can protect their owners and about how dogs will love owners no matter what. (Okay, so these are lame points, but hey, I grew up with 2 dogs…) When you pick your points, make sure they really support your topic sentence and thesis: they should be relevant.
What is a conclusion like? A conclusion should do just what it says: conclude. It can get a little tricky, though. You should not introduce new information into your conclusion. If you have not talked about it before your conclusion, then don’t use it. Also, don’t copy and paste parts from your paper. Wrap up your ideas, but say them in a new way. Readers don’t want to read the same sentences over. They want you to remind them of what you’ve been saying and what your point is, but in new words. Don’t just wrap up with “Dogs make great pets because…” Say something like “People ought to consider getting dogs. Not only are dogs loving, caring, and loyal, but they are good with people and provide a healthy pastime for their owners.” Obviously, this would need to be a little longer to be a good conclusion, but hopefully it will give you the idea of what your conclusion should be like.
Need more help? If you are still looking for a little more information, our website www.dbu.edu/uwc has our handouts on writing specific kinds of papers and much more. Look under the Quick Reference Flyers section.