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Five Paragraph Essays Explained

Updated: Feb 1, 2017
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5 Paragraph Essay

Students at the college or university level are often required to write essays as part of an exam or as a general writing-composition assignment. Unless an assignment calls for a more in-depth composition (persuasive essay, research paper, dissertation), or if a written exam instructs otherwise, more than likely the student is to respond to a question or write on a topic in the form of the five-paragraph essay. While many students are taught in high school how to write this particular type of essay, it may seem a foreign concept to others.

 

A fairly simple method of academic writing mostly reserved for undergraduates, the purpose of the five-paragraph essay is to have the student demonstrate (to their professor) that they have read, can comprehend and critically analyze subject material – that they can apply these skills and their knowledge of that material in the form of an essay. An essay of this sort may have them making an argument, or simply conveying information on a given topic, to their instructor or professor.

 


 

Here are other articles about writing a 5 paragraph essay:

     Five Paragraph Essay Outline

     Infographics: Writing a Five Paragraph Essay

 


 

In most instances, whether for an exam or an assignment, instructions will not always specify that the student responds to a question in the form of this particular kind of essay – “Respond to the following question/s in a five-paragraph essay.” Unless students are asked to write longer-type papers, or responses in brief one-paragraph segments in exams, writing a five-paragraph essay may be the safest approach – and it is always beneficial to know the formula for writing one.



Here is a useful diagram for writing the five-paragraph essay:

 

 

Looking at the diagram, this approach literally calls for an essay to be written in just FIVE paragraphs.

 

The first paragraph, the introduction, includes an opening, topical sentence as a way to ease the reader into the essay; secondly, this paragraph states the topic (a text, book, article, or issue, etc.) being examined in an accompanying thesis statement, a single-sentence summary of the argument the student is making in the rest of the paper – the claim the student is making about the topic. If it’s not an argument the student is making, it is best if they view the thesis statement as a declaration or theory that is put forward as a premise for the rest of the paper.

 

Often referred to as “the meat of the essay,” the next three paragraphs support and evidence the thesis statement. Each one usually begins with some kind of transition (first of all, secondly, lastly) and a topic sentence to keep the reader’s focus on the topic at hand – and each one includes very pertinent information and in no particular order: each paragraph needs to restate the thesis but in a different way than it was originally written in the introduction without diluting the original argument.

 

Once again, each of these body paragraphs serve to evidence the thesis – to build a stronger argument for the student making the case of something.

 

Each of these body paragraphs, usually, are to include a quote, or paraphrase, or summary, as well as a commentary on how these points of evidence defend or make a stronger argument. Also known as the body paragraphs, the three paragraphs take on different aspects or elements of a story or topic – whatever is needed to defend the thesis – and always tie into the argument being made.

 

The conclusion paragraph restates, in a clever way, the argument first declared in the introductory paragraph and summarizes the most important points that comprised the three body paragraphs. By this time, the student, if they have made a valid argument with this Five-Paragraph Essay, will have convinced a reader (most likely the professor or instructor) that their argument is valid.

 

Again, the five-paragraph essay format is used to argue a position in a thorough, persuasive manner; and, in some entry-level composition courses, a professor will require their students to submit papers in this genre to build the student’s analytical and writing skills and to demonstrate their understanding of a given topic.

 

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