Writing a Five-Paragraph Essay
Paragraphs are usually the building blocks of larger formats like reports, articles, or essays.
Depending on their function in a piece of writing, paragraphs can have different purposes, and we can often identify their role by the way they are constructed. In general, paragraphs tend to have introductory sentences, supporting sentences, and concluding sentences. In this way, the structure of paragraphs resembles the structure of an essay.
✓ Be careful not to change focus in a paragraph. Paragraphs must stay "on topic" and be unified.
✓ Use transitional words or phrases (signal words). This will help your reader see the relationships between the sentences, between the paragraphs, and in the development and support of your ideas.
✓ Vary the length of your paragraphs to suit what you’re writing. There is a place in your writing for both long, complex paragraphs and short, impactful paragraphs. However, for most college writing, instructors may expect body paragraphs to all be a similar length, with introductions and conclusions being a little bit shorter if needed. Always check with your instructor/assignment guidelines if you're unsure.
Writing a Five-Paragraph Essay
Explore the various parts of academic five-paragraph essays in these tabs. Attribution information for each section is provided at the bottom of each tab.
Choosing a Title
Creating a title for your research paper or essay can be tough. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you create an interesting and informative title.
A good title:
Remember: creating a good title takes time; start by creating a working title and revise it as you go!
Early in your research process, create a working title. This will help you refine and focus on the topic of your paper throughout the research and writing process. Having a working title to refer back to can also help you orient yourself with your main purpose as you conduct your research and start writing.
Final Titles and Subtitles
For research or academic papers, an ideal title should be both interesting and descriptive. Include keywords and clearly indicate the subject or scope of your research. Avoid abbreviations and overly long titles (20+ words).
Many academic titles also include subtitles that typically come after the main title and a colon (:). Subtitles are intended for additional clarification or content and are useful in qualifying your research further.
A Deliberative Conception of Politics: How Francesco Saverio Merlino Related Anarchy and Democracy
A Comparison of the Progressive Era and the Depression Years: Societal Influences on Predictions of the Future of the Library, 1895-1940
The Geopolitics of the Eastern Border of the European Union: The Case of Romania-Moldova-Ukraine.
Examples from Sacred Heart University Library
Your introduction is the key to grabbing the reader's attention and giving them just enough information to keep them interested and let them know what they will be reading about. Your introduction will start out with an attention-grabbing sentence - a "hook" sentence - about your topic. Be interesting, but don't give away the whole idea in detail right at the beginning.
Your next few lines will be a little bit more specific, aiming to set up enough background/context on your topic for your reader to be able to follow your ideas later in the paper. Avoid including quotes or citations in the introduction; any summarized concepts or other ideas in this part should come from you.
The last line of the introduction will be your thesis statement. This line will be very specific, letting the reader know your position on the topic and exactly what you will be discussing (often in the form of one main idea and three sub-points). For more information on thesis statements, see the Creating an Argument page of this guide.
Think of your introductory paragraph as an inverted triangle: starting from the general and moving towards the very specific. You may not need to have all five sentences as laid out below, but be sure to have your hook, some background information, and your thesis statement in your introduction.
Check out this presentation by our Writing Support Specialist Claire Pienaar about how to write an introduction paragraph.
Introductory paragraph example from Claire's presentation
Even though Christopher Nolan’s Batman has been critically acclaimed, the fact remains that the most successful Batman ever made was Tim Burton’s version starring Michael Keaton (Aspen). Since Batman’s comic book debut in 1939, Batman has been portrayed in the 1960s hit television show (starring Adam West) and in a number of feature-length movies, with A-list actors such as Michael Keaton, George Clooney, and Christian Bale starring in the lead role. Though all of these actors brought their own unique style to the caped crusader, Michael Keaton’s performance stands out among the others. Michael Keaton’s comedic timing, on-screen presence, and ability to deliver flawless lines makes Keaton’s version of Batman one of the most effective on-screen portrayals of the character to date.
Example from Kibin.com
Background and context
Your body paragraphs will follow the structure laid out by your thesis statement and will only discuss examples that directly support your main idea. For example, if you are discussing pain management for children, you won't be talking about your experience in a nursing home.
topic sentence (what is this paragraph going to be about?)
setups to quotes/paraphrased information (where is the information/evidence from?)
justification and analysis of that information (why is this quote/paraphrase here? How does it support the thesis?)
either a wrap sentence to conclude the paragraph (what is the most important takeaway readers should have from this paragraph?) OR a transition sentence into the next paragraph (how do these ideas connect to or set up the idea in the next paragraph?)
You will usually be expected to have multiple quotes or paraphrases in one paragraph. Always remember to introduce your information and justify its use to readers - don't leave them wondering why you used it!
Check out this presentation by our Writing Support Specialist Claire Pienaar about how to write a body paragraph.
Examples of using the setup, quote/information, explanation/analysis structure from Claire's presentation
According to a recent study, over half of Canadians prefer chocolate to vanilla (Source, 2017). Thus, the company's decision to remove chocolate ice cream from its menu must have been related to something other than consumer preference.
Some researchers have called the study “inconsequential” and “worthless,” implying that the institution “simply needs to collect more data” (Sources, 2017). However, the majority of experts in the field still rely on this study and continue to implement practices based on its findings.
Stay on track within each paragraph by giving it a topic sentence. This sentence is like a mini-thesis statement for the paragraph: it guides the reader and lets them (and you) know what your paragraph is about.
Several things to note:
Each topic sentence should correspond to a specific aspect of the thesis statement (such as the three supporting points, as shown in the example below).
Including keywords from your thesis statement in topic, sentences can be a great way to indicate their connections, as shown by the underlined parts of the examples below.
When applicable, the order of the paragraphs should be the same as the order of information/ideas/sub-points indicated by the thesis statement.
If you want, your topic sentences can also build on each other, use connecting words, or feature call-backs to the earlier topic sentences, so the ideas really feel like they're working together to create a solid argument.
Sample Thesis Statement and Topic Sentences for an Essay About Telehealth Services
Thesis statement: Although providing health services online is a very recent development, the telehealth model is already showing huge benefits in terms of convenience, cost, and expanding access to health services across Canada.
Topic sentence 1: Telehealth services make many aspects of healthcare more convenient for both patients and healthcare providers.
Topic sentence 2: Another benefit of using telehealth is that it reduces the costs and increases the revenue of health services.
Topic sentence 3: The most important benefit of a telehealth model, especially in a country like Canada, is its ability to expand the reach of health services to remote areas and other underserved communities.
The conclusion paragraph is almost a mirror image of your introduction:
Then, briefly sum up all the main points in your argument and "hammer home" your assertion in 3-5 sentences. Not too much detail is needed here.
One option is to combine this process with restating your thesis - think about it as turning your one-sentence thesis statement from the introduction into 3-5 sentences: one for the main idea, then several more for the supporting points.
Thesis statement in the introduction:
"X is very important to Y because of A, B, and C."
Restating in the conclusion:
"It is clear that Y would not be what it is without X. A is a huge factor in this. B is crucial to X's role in Y as well. Above all else, C is what really makes this connection clear."
Remember to end your conclusion paragraph strong.
Just as you want to start an essay with something to draw the reader's interest, you also want to end strong with a good clincher, or a profound statement. This sentence should make the reader think "hmmm, interesting," or " "How true!" or something along those lines.
You can think of this as answering the "so what?" question for readers. If there's anything you want readers to take away from this paper, anything you wanted them to learn, see differently, or be left thinking about, what is it?
Check out this presentation by our Writing Support Specialist Claire Pienaar about how to write a conclusion paragraph.
Conclusion example from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School's "Writing a Conclusion" Tip Sheet
The problem of teen gang violence can be eliminated. It will, however, take time, money, and a combined effort on the part of many people. Organized, free, after-school programs such as: sports teams and games; art, music, and drama activities; internships in local area businesses and professional organizations; and interesting volunteer activities in the community would help engage teens in worthwhile pursuits outside of school hours. More job opportunities for teens, especially those funded by state and local programs, would offer income for teens as well as productive work for the community. Outreach to families through schools, community organizations, and places of worship would help promote inter-generational activities that could improve family closeness, helping teens to work on their problems at the family level, instead of taking them to the streets. If these programs can be implemented, we will surely see a decrease in teen gang activity and safer streets and neighbourhoods for us all.