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The Five Paragraph Essay
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You may have your topic assigned, or you may be given free reign to write on the subject of your choice. If you are given the topic, you should think about the type of paper that you want to produce. Should it be a general overview of the subject or a specific analysis? Narrow your focus if necessary. If you have not been assigned a topic, you have a little more work to do.

However, this opportunity also gives you the advantage to choose a subject that is interesting or relevant to you. First, define your purpose. Is your essay to inform or persuade? Once you have determined the purpose, you will need to do some research on topics that you find intriguing.

Think about your life. What is it that interests you? Jot these subjects down. Finally, evaluate your options. If your goal is to educate, choose a subject that you have already studied. If your goal is to persuade, choose a subject that you are passionate about. Whatever the mission of the essay, make sure that you are interested in your topic. In order to write a successful essay, you must organize your thoughts.

This structure serves as a foundation for your paper. Use either an outline or a diagram to jot down your ideas and organize them. To create a diagram, write your topic in the middle of your page. Draw three to five lines branching off from this topic and write down your main ideas at the ends of these lines. Draw more lines off these main ideas and include any thoughts you may have on these ideas. If you prefer to create an outline, write your topic at the top of the page.

From there, begin to list your main ideas, leaving space under each one. In this space, make sure to list other smaller ideas that relate to each main idea. Doing this will allow you to see connections and will help you to write a more organized essay.

Now that you have chosen a topic and sorted your ideas into relevant categories, you must create a thesis statement. Your thesis statement tells the reader the point of your essay. Look at your outline or diagram. What are the main ideas? Your thesis statement will have two parts. The first part states the topic, and the second part states the point of the essay. The body of your essay argues, explains or describes your topic. Each main idea that you wrote in your diagram or outline will become a separate section within the body of your essay.

Each body paragraph will have the same basic structure. For the first body paragraph you should use your strongest argument or most significant example unless some other more obvious beginning point as in the case of chronological explanations is required.

The first sentence of this paragraph should be the topic sentence of the paragraph that directly relates to the examples listed in the mini-outline of introductory paragraph.

A one sentence body paragraph that simply cites the example of "George Washington" or "LeBron James" is not enough, however. No, following this an effective essay will follow up on this topic sentence by explaining to the reader, in detail, who or what an example is and, more importantly, why that example is relevant. Even the most famous examples need context. The reader needs to know this and it is your job as the writer to paint the appropriate picture for them. To do this, it is a good idea to provide the reader with five or six relevant facts about the life in general or event in particular you believe most clearly illustrates your point.

Having done that, you then need to explain exactly why this example proves your thesis. The importance of this step cannot be understated although it clearly can be underlined ; this is, after all, the whole reason you are providing the example in the first place.

Seal the deal by directly stating why this example is relevant. The first sentence — the topic sentence - of your body paragraphs needs to have a lot individual pieces to be truly effective. Not only should it open with a transition that signals the change from one idea to the next but also it should ideally also have a common thread which ties all of the body paragraphs together.

For example, if you used "first" in the first body paragraph then you should used "secondly" in the second or "on the one hand" and "on the other hand" accordingly. Examples should be relevant to the thesis and so should the explanatory details you provide for them. It can be hard to summarize the full richness of a given example in just a few lines so make them count.

If you are trying to explain why George Washington is a great example of a strong leader, for instance, his childhood adventure with the cherry tree though interesting in another essay should probably be skipped over. You may have noticed that, though the above paragraph aligns pretty closely with the provided outline, there is one large exception: These words are example of a transitional phrase — others include "furthermore," "moreover," but also "by contrast" and "on the other hand" — and are the hallmark of good writing.

Transitional phrases are useful for showing the reader where one section ends and another begins. It may be helpful to see them as the written equivalent of the kinds of spoken cues used in formal speeches that signal the end of one set of ideas and the beginning of another. In essence, they lead the reader from one section of the paragraph of another.

Hopefully this example not only provides another example of an effective body paragraph but also illustrates how transitional phrases can be used to distinguish between them. Although the conclusion paragraph comes at the end of your essay it should not be seen as an afterthought.

As the final paragraph is represents your last chance to make your case and, as such, should follow an extremely rigid format. One way to think of the conclusion is, paradoxically, as a second introduction because it does in fact contain many of the same features. While it does not need to be too long — four well-crafted sentence should be enough — it can make or break and essay. Effective conclusions open with a concluding transition "in conclusion," "in the end," etc.

After that you should immediately provide a restatement of your thesis statement. This should be the fourth or fifth time you have repeated your thesis so while you should use a variety of word choice in the body paragraphs it is a acceptable idea to use some but not all of the original language you used in the introduction. This echoing effect not only reinforces your argument but also ties it nicely to the second key element of the conclusion: Having done all of that, the final element — and final sentence in your essay — should be a "global statement" or "call to action" that gives the reader signals that the discussion has come to an end.

The conclusion paragraph can be a difficult paragraph to write effectively but, as it is your last chance to convince or otherwise impress the reader, it is worth investing some time in. Take this opportunity to restate your thesis with confidence; if you present your argument as "obvious" then the reader might just do the same. Although you can reuse the same key words in the conclusion as you did in the introduction, try not to copy whole phrases word for word.

Instead, try to use this last paragraph to really show your skills as a writer by being as artful in your rephrasing as possible.

Although it may seem like a waste of time — especially during exams where time is tight — it is almost always better to brainstorm a bit before beginning your essay. This should enable you to find the best supporting ideas — rather than simply the first ones that come to mind — and position them in your essay accordingly.

Your best supporting idea — the one that most strongly makes your case and, simultaneously, about which you have the most knowledge — should go first.

Even the best-written essays can fail because of ineffectively placed arguments. Sentences and vocabulary of varying complexity are one of the hallmarks of effective writing. When you are writing, try to avoid using the same words and phrases over and over again.

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