If you try to think of the greatest challenge that makes college students insecure, the answer would have to involve academic writing. Your professors ask for simple, complex, and sometimes ridiculous papers, but everything starts with the 5-paragraph essay.
When you master its structure, you’ll have the foundational skills to complete any other academic project.
Not all professors find the time to explain to their students how they are supposed to write an essay. If you get any instructions, they will be brief. You’ve probably heard something like “just follow the 5-paragraph structure and you’ll be okay.”
You’re aware that a standard essay should contain five paragraphs, but what exactly are you supposed to write in them? That’s what we’re here for. In the continuation, you’ll find an elaborate explanation of the basic 5-paragraph essay formula. Just follow it, and you’ll really be okay.
The Essay Formula
Before we continue any further, let’s give a brief explanation of the basic essay structure:
- Paragraph 1: an introduction with a thesis statement
- Paragraph 2: argument that explains the first point of the thesis statement
- Paragraph 3: argument that explains the second point of the thesis statement
- Paragraph 4: argument that explains the third point of the thesis statement.
- Paragraph 5: conclusion that brings all points together and restates the thesis statement
Now, let’s dissect all these parts into a comprehensive guide on essay writing.
Paragraph 1: Introduction
The introduction is the part that hooks the reader and holds their attention. It draws the reader into the arguments of your paper. If, for example, you’re writing a paper with a subject “The Dangers of Cinematography for Young People’s Development,” you can start by saying that you’re a movie fanatic, but you’re aware of the hazards cinematography has on modern culture. That will get the reader’s attention because they will understand you’re writing from personal experience, but you also conducted research and you see the wider picture.
After the brief entrance, the introduction should end with a thesis statement that grasps the very essence of the content. Since we’re talking about a 5-paragraph essay, it means that you’ll have 3 paragraphs for explaining the main points of the thesis statement. In other words, this structure usually imposes the need for a three-part thesis statement.
In our example, the thesis statement could look like this: The inclination of young people to follow examples, the shallow values presented as movie art, and the influence of celebrities on people’s behavior lead to the development of problematic youth.
These are the three points in our thesis:
- Young people follow examples
- The values presented in movies are shallow
- Celebrities have great influence over young people’s behavior
Once you have a powerful thesis statement, you can continue elaborating it in the rest of your paper.
Paragraph 2: First Supporting Statement
In this section, you will connect the first point of the thesis to its conclusion. This first argument is usually the strongest one. It should be supported with clever illustrations, significant examples, and authoritative research.
As our example implies, now we would have to talk about the way young people follow examples and how bad examples lead to the development of troubled youth.
When you’re developing the body of the paper, you have to make your statements believable. Although you can write from personal experience, you need to support the claims with facts from studies, statistics, surveys, and research. Use Google Scholar or ScienceDirect to locate the information you could use in the paper. When you write something like “scientists say that children develop their characters in accordance with the examples they follow,” you have to provide and cite a serious source that proves that statement for a fact.
Paragraph 3: Second Supporting Statement
You already have the thesis statement as your guiding point, so it won’t be difficult for you to figure out what the third paragraph should contain. In our case, this paragraph would talk about the values presented in the majority of today’s movies. We could provide examples of violence in the most popular movies, or we could talk about the degradation of women in Fifty Shades of Grey, as an example of an extremely popular film with no artistic value.
Remember to support your claims with examples or citations from relevant and trustworthy sources.
Paragraph 4: Third Supporting Statement
The third supporting argument is usually the weakest one in the thesis statement. However, that doesn’t mean your writing should be any less powerful in this section of the paper. Choose a strong argument and explain how it’s connected to the point of your paper.
In our case, the third supporting statement would be related to the way celebrities influence young people’s values and behavior. We can provide examples of daily news that show these people as bad examples, but we can also insert quotes by psychologies to prove that our claims make a point.
Remember: each supporting statement is directly related to the main thesis statement. If you read each sentence as an individual part of the paper, you should immediately find its connection with the thesis statement. That’s proof that you’ve written a coherent 5-paragraph essay.
Paragraph 5: the Conclusion
Now that you have all points that prove the thesis statement, you just need to connect the loose ends into a logical concluding paragraph. Here are the points your conclusion should contain:
- Reflection on the thesis statement. You should restate it with new words, but the echo of the original thesis statement should still be obvious. In our case, we won’t simply rephrase the statement about the way cinematography influences the development of young people. We introduced new information and facts throughout the body of the paper, so we’ll use some of them to bring new light on the thesis statement. We can include our own experience about the way a certain film influenced our behavior in a specific situation.
- A brief summary of the three main statements from the body of the essay.
- A final statement, which may come in the form of a lesson we learned or a hopeful idea for a change. Whatever the case is, this final part of the essay should clarify that the discussion has come to an end. The reader should be satisfied with the information they got – that’s the effect you want to achieve.
Final Thoughts: Only Practice Makes You a Great Essay Writer
Do you know why most college teachers don’t bother explaining the 5-paragraph essay formula to their students? They expect you to master it through lots of practice. They know that theory won’t make you perfect, but practice will keep making you a better writer. They are partially wrong because you do need precise guidelines about the standard essay structure. However, they are right from the aspect that practice makes you (almost) perfect.
Now that you have the information you need, you’re only left with one thing: practice essay writing!