Strong essays are built with solid, coherent, and unified paragraphs. They should be digestible units of thought that have similar structure to the essay itself: a topic sentence, a body of support, and a concluding or transitional statement to help the reader move through the essay with clarity. Body paragraphs should also be arranged according to your primary pattern of development and focused on supporting your big idea(s).
A body paragraph is an expansion of a single thought that is laid out according to a specific, logical structure:
- A strong, clear topic sentence that states the main idea of the paragraph (which will likely be a sub-point helping to explore your thesis).
- Several (two-four) sentences of development and support for your topic sentence: including quotes, summaries, and paraphrases of relevant sources and your substantive responses to the source material.
- A closing sentence of summary and/or a transition into the next paragraph.
BEST: When the writer uses paragraphs to present unified, coherent, organized, and well-developed thoughts in support of their overall thesis.
- Consult this link on how to construct coherent, engaging, and unified paragraphs.
- Here is another valuable resource for shaping coherent paragraphs:
- And yet another link that addresses paragraph length and consistency.
- Here is a video on writing strong body paragraphs.
- Here is another video on writing strong transitions.
- And finally, a companion link for writing smooth transitions.
Introductions & Conclusions
The beginning and the ending of any communication event, studies show, provide the best opportunities to speak to any audience when their attention is the highest and most focused on what you have to say. Something about our species pays special attention to the way things start and the way they end. We should use this to our advantage as writers.
In communication theory, there is a saying, “Tell them what you are going to tell them (introduction), tell them (body), then tell them what you just told them (conclusion).” While this seems a redundant structure, it is useful to be reminded of the need to build a logical and self-supporting flow into your academic writing.
Clear intent and focus help your reader concentrate on the major ideas you are trying to communicate; and help you stay disciplined and calculated in how you structure the essay to establish, highlight, and support those very ideas.
The introduction should grab your reader’s attention, focus it on your general topic, and move towards your specific, engaging thesis. The conclusion should provide a restatement of your main idea (thesis), provide a sense of finality or closure, and possibly challenge the reader with a “so what?” moment.
Both should clearly state the main point of the essay (thesis). Both should grab and focus the reader’s attention on the greater topic and larger significance of the thesis. Both should provide a sense of momentum for the reader to move through the essay with clarity, confidence, and full awareness of the main point. Both should inspire as much as they inform.
BEST: When the writer uses both the introduction and the conclusion to grab and focus the reader’s attention on the main point of their essay.
- Here is a useful tutorial on writing strong introductory paragraphs.
- Here is another useful tutorial on writing strong concluding paragraphs.
- Watch this video on writing effective introductions & conclusions using the LAYER Cake Method