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Do Essays Have To Have 3 Body Paragraphs

SUMMARY:

  • The body paragraphs are where you present your paper’s main points.
  • Your body paragraphs should contain ample textual evidence, be correctly formatted, and have seamless transitions.

The body is the meat and potatoes of your essay. As such, it needs to contain lots of juicy textual evidence and meaty support, not fluff.

Each body paragraph contains one main idea, backed up by textual evidence and your own analysis. Your analysis should make up the majority of your paragraph.

Remember that (unless your teacher specifically says so), there’s nothing magic about having three body paragraphs. Have as many as you need to get your ideas across. The topic sentences of your body paragraphs should be determined by how you grouped your notes when you were outlining.

With your outline in hand, it’s time to draft your essay.

 

1) What makes a good quote

SUMMARY:

  • The best quotes contain in-depth analysis, opinion, or interpretation, not facts.

LINKS:

When choosing quotes to put in your final paper, keep in mind that some information works better in quote form and some is better as an indirect quote (paraphrased).

Take the following example: According to the CIA Factbook, “all of China falls within one time zone” (CIA Factbook).

How exciting of a quote is that? Not very.

The best quotes contain analysis, opinion, or interpretation. When quoting directly from a source, be sure that the quote is interesting. Take the following example:

According to Lina Song, a professor of economic sociology and social policy at the University of Nottingham, “Local government debt in China is a time bomb waiting to go off” (A Time Bomb, NY Times). In China, local government debt has swelled to 14 trillion yuan (People’s Bank of China).

The opinion part–that local debts in China are a time bomb–is a direct quotation from a credible source (a professor). This makes a good quote since her opinion paints an interesting picture of China’s current economic situation. The fact–that debt is now 14 trillion yuan–is not quoted, since it would be a boring quote. But it does provide substantial factual support to Song’s opinion.

When looking for quotes, look for the most concise parts of the text that explain the author’s points. You don’t want to devote too much of your paper’s length to quoting from your sources.

Try to embed quotes into your writing smoothly by placing them in a sentence of your own, rather than just plopping them in your paper. These ‘lead up’ sentences should contain transitions that give your reader the context behind the quote.

 

2) Making good points

SUMMARY:

  • Good points follow a formula: introduction of evidence + evidence + analysis.
  • The above structure can be modified based on the paper you are writing.

LINKS:

RESOURCES:

  • They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing – Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein

Your paper should contain a number of points that make your argument. These points should be substantiated by data–either in the form of direct quotes or paraphrasing. Good points are usually written with the following framework: introduction of evidence + evidence + analysis.
Let’s break down each part:

  1. Introduction of evidence

    – The first part of your point should be a sentence or two that transitions into your quote and explains the topic your quote addresses. Why are you citing this particular evidence? What is the quote adding to your paper?

    For humanities papers, you’ll probably be introducing the work you’re analyzing at the beginning (introductory paragraph) of your essay. Therefore, when you bring up quotes, your ‘introduction of evidence’ will usually contain a transition saying how your quote relates to the rest of your paper.

    Examples:
    “Another example of Healthcliff’s indifference is seen in…”
    “Also, Rowling uses scenic detail to add drama to the book. For example…”
    “Finally, Venus’ frustration comes to a crescendo when the goddess…”
    Notice how each of these examples contains transition words that prepare the reader to hear the quote.

    For social science papers and research papers, you’ll probably be using a lot of sources for support, and as such, you’ll want to introduce each before you quote directly from it. When you bring up a source for the first time, you will want to state its credentials to demonstrate that you are citing an authoritative source (and not just a random person).

    Examples:
    “Further insight into income inequality is provided by Dr. Delaney, an economist at Stanford, who is of the opinion that…” “Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, writes that our preconceived notions influence our perceptions…”

    Keep in mind that if you are paraphrasing from a source, it may not be necessary to introduce it. Use your own discretion.

    Example: It sounds funny to say, “The CIA World Factbook, an authority on world statistics, states that “Mali is a landlocked country highly dependent on gold mining and agricultural exports for revenue” (CIA World Factbook).

    Instead, you can just weave the facts about Mali into your essay and provide a parenthetical citation for the Factbook.

  2. Evidence

    – Here is where you substantiate your claim with a direct quote or text that is paraphrased. If you are quoting, be sure to transcribe from your source exactly, word-for-word. If you are paraphrasing, be sure you are doing the citations properly (See our guide to Parenthetical Citations).

  3. Analysis

    – It is important that your evidence isn’t just plopped in your paper. The quote’s relevance to the rest of your paper may seem obvious to you, but you cannot assume that your reader will make the connection. You need to make it explicit. Your analysis should explain why the stated quote helps further an idea promoted in your essay.

    “…This unique rhyming scheme, made famous by Shakespeare, makes the text lighthearted although the poem’s themes of love and timelessness are weighty.” “…The fearful closing lines juxtapose the cheery opening lines, heightening the reader’s sense of unease.”

    “…Abraham Lincoln’s gracious words in this passage indicate his gratitude toward Americans and thankfulness to God.”

    Keep in mind that the above formula can be modified to fit the flow of your paper. For example, if you are comparing two passages of text, you may want to quote them both first before analyzing them. Your analysis might be a discussion of the similarities/differences between the passages.

    Let’s take a look at how this point-making formula works within a paper, provided by George Mason University’s Department of English:

The opening lines of “The Cask of Amontillado” are cunningly crafted to both entice the reader and immediately situate the narrative: “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged…” (123). With incredible economy we are presented with a troubled relationship between the narrator and Fortunato, which has reached its breaking point. It is also made clear that we are not the intended audience of this narrative. The “you” addressed knows the narrator well; we do not. This and the epistolary tone would suggest that we are looking upon some long forgotten piece of correspondence, which only heightens the atmosphere of mystery and dread already created by this sparse introduction.Here the writer introduces the work, “The Case of Amontillado” and provides a topic sentence. We know what to expect: a discussion on how the opening lines of the text grab the reader and set up the rest of the work. 

The quote is presented. It is cited correctly.

 

 

 

Here, the writer analyzes the the quote. He discusses how the troubled relationship between two people helps frame the book. Notice how he’s building this using this textual evidence to support his topic sentence.

 

 

 

But the writer goes further. He analyzes how details in the text grab the reader through use of literary technique. We are told that this adds to the “atmosphere of mystery and dread” of the short story.

 

E. 3) Formatting quotes and parenthetical citations MLA/APA

SUMMARY:

  • Format your quotes properly, and cite them correctly.

LINKS:

You have done a lot of hard work gathering your sources and selecting quotes. You want to make sure that your quotes are beautifully integrated into your paper. You want the text of the quote to be formatted correctly, and you want your citations to be correct. For that, check out our site for Parenthetical Citations

 

4) Transitioning

SUMMARY:

  • Transitions provide links between ideas of your paper.

LINKS:

Transitions are key to a kick-butt paper. They provide the connections between the major ideas in your paper, and they give the reader cues to tell him where you are going. Remember (from when you researched and outlined) that your transitions should reflect how your notes are grouped. Now is the time to forge your transitions into words!

There should be a transition between each paragraph of the paper that introduces what the new paragraph is about and how it relates to the previous one. An effective way to transition is by using the following format: clause that references the claim in the previous paragraph (making a smooth transition between one claim and the next) + comma + topic sentence of next paragraph:

  • “In contrast to Marsha’s heartfelt feelings toward her sister in the first half of the book, in the second half they dissolve, only to be replaced by anger…”
    Here the words “in contrast” tell the reader that the text after the comma will be in juxtaposition to the text in front of the comma. Marsha’s relationship with her sister has changed, and this transition cues the reader that the next paragraph will be about anger in their relationship.
  • “Similar to how Tom dealt with the dragon the first time, he…”
    The words “similar to” indicate that Tom handled the dragon using the same technique twice Here, the reader is prepared to learn about how Tom dealt with the dragon the second time around, and how that was similar to the first time.
  • “Despite all that Tony did for Robin, she…”
    “Despite” indicates that there will be a shift in the second part of the sentence. The reader is prepared to hear about how Robin verbally abused Tom (or some other negative action) in the latter paragraph despite the fact that Tony did a lot for her.

Transitions should be used within paragraphs too. They help lead your reader down your intended path. Here’s a list of useful transitions (provided by UNC):

Here are a couple examples:

  • “Jay Gatsby spares no expense at his extravagant Saturday night parties, as seen when…”
    Here, the phrase “as seen when” transitions your reader from your statement at the beginning of the sentence to a quote that will fit nicely at the end.
  • Steven’s behavior towards his family members is generally affable, but he treats only his parents with utmost respect.
    Here, the use of the world “but” indicates that the second half of the sentence will modify the first half. In this example, “but” helps the author refine the argument. Steven doesn’t treat everyone in his as best as he can. He treats his parents with his best behavior.

Tip: The transitions can also be used to transition between paragraphs.

 

5) Avoiding plagiarism

SUMMARY:

  • Make sure that the sources you cite in your paper are quoted or paraphrased correctly.
  • Don’t have too much of your paper’s text be from a source other than yourself.

LINKS:

Your essay should be well supported with credible sources, but you don’t want too much of your paper to be written by another person. Your teacher wants to hear your own insight. The sources you reference in your paper should be cited correctly (paraphrased or directly quoted). If an idea is not your own, don’t take credit for it!

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary plagiarizing means to:

  • Steal and pass off the ideas or words of another as one’s own
  • Use another’s production without crediting the source
  • Commit literary theft
  • Present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

All of the following are considered plagiarism:

  • Turning in someone else’s work as your own
  • Copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • Failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • Giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • Changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • Copying so many ideas or words from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not

Parts of an Essay — Traditionally, it has been taught that a formal essay consists of three parts: the introductory paragraph or introduction, the body paragraphs, and the concluding paragraph. An essay does not need to be this simple, but it is a good starting point.


The introductory paragraph accomplishes three purposes: it captures the reader’s interest, it suggests the importance of the essay’s topic, and it ends with a thesis sentence. Often, the thesis sentence states a claim that consists of two or more related points. For example, a thesis might read:

A college essay has an introductory paragraph, several body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph.

You are telling the reader what you think are the most important points which need to be addressed in your essay. For this reason, you need to relate the introduction directly to the question or topic. A strong thesis is essential to a good essay, as each paragraph of your essay should be related back to your thesis or else deleted. Thus, the thesis establishes the key foundation for your essay. A strong thesis not only states an idea, but also uses solid examples to back it up. A weak thesis might be:

Wikipedia is a powerful resource in many ways.

As an alternative, a strong thesis for the same topic would be:

Wikipedia is a powerful resource because it allows users with knowledge in a specific area to share their knowledge, because it allows users to quickly find information about a vast array of topics, and because studies have confirmed that it is as accurate as any other encyclopedia.

Then, you could separate your body paragraphs into three sections: one explaining the open-source nature of the project, one explaining the variety and depth of information, and a final one using studies to confirm that Wikipedia is indeed as accurate as other encyclopedias.

Tips[edit]

Often, writing an introductory paragraph is the most difficult part of writing an essay. Facing a blank page can be daunting. Here are some suggestions for getting started. First, determine the context in which you want to place your topic. In other words, identify an overarching category in which you would place your topic, and then introduce your topic as a case-in-point.

For example, if you are writing about dogs, you may begin by speaking about friends, dogs being an example of a very good friend. Alternatively, you can begin with a sentence on selective breeding, dogs being an example of extensive selective breeding. You can also begin with a sentence on means of protection, dogs being an example of a good way to stay safe. The context is the starting point for your introductory paragraph. The topic or thesis sentence is the ending point. Once the starting point and ending point are determined, it will be much easier to connect these points with the narrative of the opening paragraph.

A good thesis statement, for example, if you are writing about dogs being very good friends, you could put:

A dog is an example of a very good friend because X, Y, and Z.

Here, X, Y, and Z would be the topics explained in your body paragraphs. In the format of one such instance, X would be the topic of the second paragraph, Y would be the topic of the third paragraph, and Z would be the topic of the fourth paragraph, followed by a conclusion, in which you would summarize the thesis statement.

Example[edit]

As we tra, we will identify jsisisiw99929392929e837e7emany people as friends. In truth, most of these individuals are simply acquaintances. They will enter and depart from our existences as matters of mutual convenience. True friends will be there for you always. There is no friend truer than a dog.

Identifying a context can help shape the topic or thesis. Here, the writer decided to write about dogs. Then, the writer selected friends as the context, dogs being good examples of friends. This shaped the topic and narrowed the focus to dogs as friends. This would make writing the remainder of the essay much easier because it allows the writer to focus on aspects of dogs that make them good friends.

Body Paragraphs[edit]

Each body paragraph begins with a topic sentence. If the thesis contains multiple points or assertions, each body paragraph should support or justify them, preferably in the order the assertions originally stated in the thesis. Thus, the topic sentence for the first body paragraph will refer to the first point in the thesis sentence and the topic sentence for the second body paragraph will refer to the second point in the thesis sentence. Generally, if the thesis sentence contains three related points, there should be three body paragraphs, though you should base the number of paragraphs on the number of supporting points needed.

If the core topic of the essay is the format of college essays, the thesis sentence might read:

A college essay has an introductory paragraph, several body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph.

The topic sentence for the first body paragraph might read:

The first paragraph of an essay is the introductory paragraph.

Sequentially, the topic sentence for the second body paragraph might read:

The introductory paragraph is followed by several body paragraphs.

And the topic sentence for the third body paragraph might read:

The college essay’s final paragraph is its concluding paragraph.

Every body paragraphs uses specific details, such as anecdotes, comparisons and contrasts, definitions, examples, expert opinions, explanations, facts, and statistics to support and develop the claim that its topic sentence makes.

Tips[edit]

When writing an essay for a class assignment, make sure to follow your teacher or professor’s suggestions. Most teachers will reward creativity and thoughtful organization over dogmatic adherence to a prescribed structure. Many will not. If you are not sure how your teacher will respond to a specific structure, ask.

Organizing your essay around the thesis sentence should begin with arranging the supporting elements to justify the assertion put forth in the thesis sentence. Not all thesis sentences will, or should, lay out each of the points you will cover in your essay. In the example introductory paragraph on dogs, the thesis sentence reads, “There is no friend truer than a dog.” Here, it is the task of the body paragraphs to justify or prove the truth of this assertion, as the writer did not specify what points they would cover. The writer may next ask what characteristics dogs have that make them true friends. Each characteristic may be the topic of a body paragraph. Loyalty, companionship, protection, and assistance are all terms that the writer could apply to dogs as friends. Note that if the writer puts dogs in a different context, for example, working dogs, the thesis might be different, and they would be focusing on other aspects of dogs.

It is often effective to end a body paragraph with a sentence that rationalizes its presence in the essay. Ending a body paragraph without some sense of closure may cause the thought to sound incomplete.

Each body paragraph is something like a miniature essay in that they each need an introductory sentence that sounds important and interesting, and that they each need a good closing sentence in order to produce a smooth transition between one point and the next. Body paragraphs can be long or short. It depends on the idea you want to develop in your paragraph. Depending on the specific style of the essay, you may be able use very short paragraphs to signal a change of subject or to explain how the rest of the essay is organized.

Do not spend too long on any one point. Providing extensive background may interest some readers, but others would find it tiresome. Keep in mind that the main importance of an essay is to provide basic background on a subject and, hopefully, to spark enough interest to induce further reading.

Example[edit]

A true friend will be there for you whenever you need them. Any dog owner will say that there is nobody that will stick with you through thick and thin as much as a dog. My own dog can barely contain her joy when I come home from a hard day. Regardless of my mood, and my attitude towards her, she is always happy when I am home, and that is usually enough to make me feel better about everything.
True friends will help you when you are in need. Whether it is to protect their owner against some sort of threat or to help a blind person walk across the street, dogs are the most reliable companion a person could have. Few villains would attack a person walking a dog at night, and statistics show that homes with dogs are among the least likely to be broken into.

The above example is a bit free-flowing and the writer intended it to be persuasive. The second paragraph combines various attributes of dogs including protection and companionship. Here is when doing a little research can also help. Imagine how much more effective the last statement would be if the writer cited some specific statistics and backed them up with a reliable reference.

Concluding Paragraph[edit]

The concluding paragraph usually restates the thesis and leaves the reader something about the topic to think about. If appropriate, it may also issue a call to act, inviting the reader to take a specific course of action with regard to the points that the essay presented.

Aristotle suggested that speakers and, by extension, writers should tell their audience what they are going to say, say it, and then tell them what they have said. The three-part essay model, consisting of an introductory paragraph, several body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph, follows this strategy.

Tips[edit]

As with all writing, it is important to know your audience. All writing is persuasive, and if you write with your audience in mind, it will make your argument much more persuasive to that particular audience. When writing for a class assignment, the audience is your teacher. Depending on the assignment, the point of the essay may have nothing to do with the assigned topic. In most class assignments, the purpose is to persuade your teacher that you have a good grasp of grammar and spelling, that you can organize your thoughts in a comprehensive manner, and, perhaps, that you are capable of following instructions and adhering to some dogmatic formula the teacher regards as an essay. It is much easier to persuade your teacher that you have these capabilities if you can make your essay interesting to read at the same time. Place yourself in your teacher’s position and try to imagine reading one formulaic essay after another. If you want yours to stand out, capture your teacher’s attention and make your essay interesting, funny,

Example[edit]

It is no accident that many people consider their dogs as part of their family. Just like every other member, dogs contribute to the happiness and well-being of the home, making the burdens of caring for them well worth the effort. Dogs deserve love and respect every bit as much as they love and respect us. After all, what more can a friend be?

In the above example, focus shifted slightly and talked about dogs as members of the family. Many would suggest it departs from the logical organization of the rest of the essay, and some teachers may consider it unrelated and take points away. However, contrary to the common wisdom of “tell them what you are going to say, say it, and then tell them what you have said,” you may find it more interesting and persuasive to shift away from it as the writer did here, and then in the end, return to the core point of the essay. This gives additional effect to what an audience would otherwise consider a very boring conclusion.

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