3.3 Body Paragraphs

If the thesis is the roadmap for the essay, then body paragraphs should closely follow that map. The reader should be able to predict what follows an introductory paragraph by simply reading the thesis statement. The body paragraphs present the evidence the reader has gathered to support the overall thesis. Before writers begin to support the thesis within the body paragraphs, they should find information from a variety of sources that support the topic.

Select Primary Support for the Thesis

Without primary support, the argument is not likely to be convincing. Primary support can be described as the major points writers choose to expand on the thesis. It is the most important information they select to argue their chosen points of view. Each point they choose will be incorporated into the topic sentence for each body paragraph they write. The primary foundational points are further supported by evidentiary details within the paragraphs.

Identify the Characteristics of Good Primary Support

In order to fulfill the requirements of good primary support, the information writers choose must meet the following standards:

Be Specific

The main points they make about the thesis and the examples they use to expand on those points need to be specific. Writers use specific examples to provide the evidence and to build upon the general ideas. These types of examples give the reader something narrow to focus on, and, if used properly, they leave little doubt about their claim. General examples, while they convey the necessary information, are not nearly as compelling or useful in writing because they are too obvious and typical.

Be Relevant to the Thesis

Primary support is considered strong when it relates directly to the thesis. Primary support should show, explain, or prove their main argument without delving into irrelevant details. When faced with a great deal of information that could be used to prove the thesis, writers may think all the information should be included in the body paragraphs. However, effective writers resist the temptation to lose focus. Good writers choose examples wisely by making sure they directly connect to the thesis.

Add Details

The thesis, while specific, should not be very detailed. Discussion develops in the body paragraphs. Using detailed support shows readers that the writer has considered all the facts and chosen only the most precise details to enhance the point of view.

Prewrite to Identify Primary Supporting Points for a Thesis Statement

When writers brainstorm on a topic, they essentially make a list of examples or reasons they support the stance. Stemming from each point, the writer should provide details to support those reasons. After prewriting, the writer is then able to look back at the information and choose the most compelling pieces to use in writing body paragraphs.

Select the Most Effective Primary Supporting Points for a Thesis Statement

After writers have engaged in prewriting to formulate working thesis statements, they may have generated a large amount of information, which may be edited later. It is helpful to remember that primary support must be relevant to the thesis. Focusing on the main argument, any ideas that do not directly relate to it can be deleted. Omitting unrelated ideas ensures that writers will use only the most convincing information in their body paragraphs. For many first-year writing assignments, students would do well to choose at least three of the most compelling points. These will serve as the content for the topic sentences that will usually begin each of the body paragraphs.

Body Paragraph Structure

One wat to think about a body paragraph is that it, essentially, consists of three main parts: the main point or topic sentence, information and evidence that supports the main point, and an example of how the information gives foundation to the main point and the essay’s overall thesis. The three parts of a paragraph can be referred to as the following:

P = Point

I = Information

E = Explanation

An Example of Abbreviated Version of P.I.E.

As a pedestrian in Hawai‘i, it is important to be aware of one’s surroundings. In 2018, 43 pedestrians died in car accidents (Gordon 3). Hawai‘i’s roadways can be dangerous, and being vigilant is necessary in order to increase pedestrian safety.

Point: As a pedestrian in Hawai‘i, it is important to be aware of your surroundings.

Information: In 2018, 43 pedestrians died in car accident.

Explanation: Hawai‘i’s roadways can be dangerous, and being vigilant is necessary to increase pedestrian safety.

Use Transitions

Transitional words and phrases help to organize an essay and improve clarity for the reader. Some examples of transitions can be found at “Transitional Devices,” The Purdue Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).

 

Activities

  1. Write a paragraph that contains a main point, follow-up and substantial information, and an explanation about how that information relates to the main point of the paragraph or to the overall thesis of the essay. The topic of your paragraph is up to you. What topic would you like to write about?

P: What is the main point of your paragraph?

I: What information backs up your point?

E: Explain how this information proves that your main point is correct.

Combine these three parts to form a paragraph.

Further Resources

Ashford University Writing Center: “Essay Development: Good paragraph development: as easy as P.I.E.Writing resources.

Sources

Parts of this section are adapted from OER material from “Writing Body Paragraphs“ in Writing for Success v. 1.0 (2012). Writing for Success was adapted by Saylor Academy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensor.

License

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English Composition by Contributing Authors is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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