Now you know how to introduce your essay, and the fact that paragraphs are important, its time to learn what to actually put into each paragraph. Every year, the most common criticism from the marking centre is that students do not integrate their responses. Their complaint is that instead of structuring their essays by ideas, students write an introduction, write a paragraph on each of their texts and write a conclusion at the end. Integrated responses are no mean feat, as you must try and come up with arguments that you can support with evidence from all of your texts. However, attempting to integrate is better than not integrating at all, so use the advice below to give it a try, write a practice essay and see how it works.
The first sentence will contain the point or argument that you intend to make in the paragraph-essentially you make a thesis statement that you can back up using examples in this paragraph. Like the overall thesis statement for the essay, this sentence needs to contain an argument that helps you to show you have understood and responded to the question posed. Developing these topic sentences/thesis statements is often difficult, so further guidance on how to do this is provided in later posts.
The next sentence/few sentences will explain in greater detail the point you are making and how it relates to the question. This is where you are expected to expand on your topic sentence and thus develop the argument you are trying to make. Again, most students will find this difficult, so it is covered in detail in later posts. However, including this explanation of the thesis statement and doing it well is often what separates an A or B from a C, so remember to do it and learn to do it well!
Once you have set up your argument, it is time to prove it. This is where you draw in examples from your texts to support the statement you have made. How exactly you word these next few sentences depends on the modules, but in general it’s best to start with a statement that says something like “This is evident in (text A) where —-“ and then you describe the example before giving quotes and/or techniques to support this. There is no golden number of examples you will need to give to support your thesis statement-it is sometimes better to have one completely relevant example rather than three not-so relevant ones.
The final sentence of your perfect body paragraph will sum up what you have said but most importantly, link it all back to the question. This sentence is again one of the things that distinguishes an A or B from a C as it shows you are trying to maintain your line of argument and respond directly to the question.
There are a lot of different acronyms people use to help them remember what is needed in each paragraph-the following are the three most common ones given to students. Use them at your own discretion.
P = Point you are making in the paragraph (topic sentence/thesis)
E = Explanation of the topic sentence/thesis
E = Evidence/Examples to support your point
L = Link your argument back to thesis
S = State your point
E = Explain your point
X = Give examples to support your point
Y = Y? Why did you include this point-link back to the thesis
P = Point you are making in the paragraph
I = Illustrations – evidence from texts to illustrate your point
E = Evaluation of the evidence and its relevance to your point/the question
This method of writing body paragraphs is not limited to English-it can be used in a range of essay subjects including Modern and Ancient History, Studies of Religion and Geography.
Finally in regards to body paragraphs, one of the most common question students have is how many points they should make in their essays. The standard response to this question from teachers is “how long is a piece of string?” or equivalent smart-ass remark. Unfortunately, it’s true that there’s no definitive answer-it depends on how in-depth your arguments are, which module you are writing for and how many solid arguments you can construct in the given amount of time.