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Step 7. Body Paragraphs

Body paragraphs will make up the biggest portion of your essay. They go into the actual facts and data that you have found in your research and explain how it all proves your thesis statement to be true. Your professor will want to see you use a specific format for these so that the evidence is displayed in a logical and coherent way. Also, you will want to follow a format that is consistent and easy to follow. 

As they will comprise the lion's share of your essay, it is with these paragraphs that you’ll explore the various ideas that relate to your thesis, as outlined at the start of your paper. With one body paragraph after another, you’ll weigh evidence that either supports or challenges the concept at stake with your thesis. From a reader’s standpoint, the contents of these paragraphs are meant to provide clarity on the ideas being discussed, such that he or she would feel confident enough to draw an informed conclusion on the matters at hand. Essentially, body paragraphs serve as the limbs, hands and feet for the title and thesis at the head of an essay. Ultius is here to make the essay writing process accessible to everyone who needs it, and we're ready to do what we can to help you out. 

How to Structure Body Paragraphs

Structuring your essay body paragraphs is actually a pretty easy and simple format. It's important that you understand how long they should be and what they should include first. Each paragraph of your essay should be roughly 6-8 sentences or half a page. You should have taken this into account when you first made your essay outline in step 4. These paragraphs should follow this general format:

Core Body Paragraph Structure

1. Topic Sentence: What is the paragraph about? Think of this as a mini-thesis statement for the paragraph.

2. Introduce sources or data: What kind of evidence do you have to support your mini-thesis?

3. Use facts or quotes: Integrate 2-3 facts or quotes.

4. Explain facts or quotes: Explain what these facts or quotes mean in your own words.

5. Relation to thesis: Relate this evidence back to the overall thesis statement

6. Transitional Sentence: Smoothly transition to the next paragraph.

If you follow this format, you are sure to have a rock solid paragraph that is logical and doesn't confuse the reader. Please make sure to NOT start or end your paragraphs with quotes as this is another author's statement and shouldn't dominate the start and end of your section. For more information about how to integrate quotes and in-text citations, see Step 9: the citations section of this guide.

Sample Body Paragraph

Seeing the structure above may seem simple, but actually doing it can be a bit tricky. While it is the most common format, you are not always going to have every element in it and thus must sometimes take out parts. There are also certain preferences that your professor may have. In these cases, you should stick with what your professor has provided you. But, below is a sample color coded body paragraph with how a functional body paragraph should look like.

Core Body Paragraph Structure

Since the national road had to be built through three states during economic turmoil, there were emergent problems as well. The first, and most problematic, issue was the competing interests of the states in contrast to the NPS. The 1916 National Park Service Act “gave the National Park Service (NPS) a ‘dual mandate’ to ‘conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. (Citation)’” This meant that the most important aspect of the Parkway was preservation and a design that would both emphasize scenic beauty and ensure that future generations would have the availability to enjoy it as well. These goals were economic to a certain extent. A Parkway tailored towards its visitors would certainly help bring more tourists to enjoy it. However, the development of the Parkway also stirred intense local interest by the states.

Body paragraphs will comprise the lion’s share of an essay. It is with these paragraphs that you’ll explore the various ideas that relate to your thesis, as outlined at the start of your paper. With one body paragraph after another, you’ll weigh evidence that either supports or challenges the concept at stake with your thesis. From a reader’s standpoint, the contents of these paragraphs are meant to provide clarity on the ideas being discussed, such that he or she would feel confident enough to draw an informed conclusion on the matters at hand. Essentially, body paragraphs serve as the limbs, hands and feet for the title and thesis at the head of an essay. 

How Do Body Paragraphs Function?

In high schools, colleges and postgraduate institutions, professors will typically demand that you provide an in depth set of examples, facts, quotes and citations to prove the controlling idea behind your thesis. By following a format when composing body paragraphs, you’ll enjoy a smoother writing process and ultimately deliver work that reads easier in the eye’s of professors and anyone else in your intended audience. 

Topic Sentence 

Each new paragraph should contain a sentence that lays out a reason for that paragraph’s place within an overall text. This very purpose is highlighted in the topic sentence, where you draw attention to a specific point that relates to your main thesis. As such, topic sentences function as mini-theses to the main idea of your essay. While a topic sentence should be general enough to convey a paragraph’s overall concern, it should also be specific enough for the reader’s understanding. Barring the placement of an opening sentence that transitions from the topic of a prior section, the topic sentence should appear at the start of its own paragraph.  

The following two examples demonstrate how topic sentences can be formatted within the context of essays that deal with aspects of the music and film industries.  

Sample Topic Sentences

  • Despite their renown for one of the most enduring evergreens of oldies radio, the Ronettes were not actually one of Phil Spector's greatest successes. 
  • Of all the silent film stars that wound up crestfallen in the wake of talkies, few suffered a fate as morbid as that of Marie Prevost.
  • Jack Lemmon's androgynous character "Jerry/Daphne" has gone down in cinema as one of his greatest performances, and helps to explore gender roles of 1950s Miamii.
  •  

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Introduction of Information 

Any essay that you write will draw upon numerous strands of information. With each paragraph, your job is to place those strands into context with a corresponding sub-topic (mini-thesis). This will help readers understand the relevance of each new fact or example being brought to the table, regardless of how tangential such info might appear on the surface. Even with facts or data that might seem perfectly relevant to anyone with a basic knowledge of a given topic, it’s best to avoid dropping into the thick of an example without a proper lead-in. In some cases, a subordinate clause will do; in others, you might need a full sentence to introduce the supporting info of a body paragraph. 

The following example shows a poor introduction of data within the context of an essay on adult themes in comic books.  

Introduction of Data Example 1

One perennially tween-geared comics publisher with a penchant for adult-themed drama is Marvel,  whose superheroes typically lead harrowing romantic lives while out of costume. For instance, Peter Parker finally popped the question to his emotionally close yet long-platonic friend, Mary Jane Watson, years after the fatal freefall of his first love, Gwen Stacy.

The preceding example does a poor job of supporting the topic sentence, simply because it assumes that readers are already familiar with the characters of Parker, Stacy and Watson. In the following example, the second sentence has been rewritten to better accommodate the average person who might not be versed in the non-titular characters of the Marvel Universe. 

Introduction of Data Example 2

One perennially tween-geared comics publisher with a penchant for adult-themed drama is Marvel,  whose superheroes typically lead harrowing romantic lives while out of costume. For instance, Peter Parker finally popped the question to his emotionally close yet long-platonic friend, Mary Jane Watson, years after the fatal freefall of his first love, Gwen Stacy.

Facts, Quotes, and Supporting Evidence 

The next step is to add concrete facts or outside quotes that directly pertain to the mini-thesis of the paragraph at work. Facts could range from cited stats or figures to easily verifiable truths drawn from your own in depth knowledge of the topic in question. Quotes can be lifted from any living, dead or fictional persons, as well as from statements issued by corporate entities. Passages lifted for in-text quotes should be smoothly incorporated into your own, otherwise self-written sentences. Over the course of an essay, facts and quotes will add weight to your main argument. Within the context of a body paragraph, facts and quotes can be used to either prove or discount a theory brought to light in the topic sentence. 

Explanation of Facts and Quotes 

With any fact or quote that you insert into a paragraph, you’ll need to follow up on that information with your own insights. Figures and stats should be summarized in your own words, however briefly, for the clarity of your readers. While factual statements are often self-explanatory, the obscurity of many topics will beg further explanation whenever details come into play. When quotations appear, the should always be followed by a literal or figurative summary in your own words, regardless of whether you choose to openly endorse or challenge the statements in question. Explanations aid readability by presenting all supportive facts in their proper light. By explaining each piece of info presented in your essay, you’ll also be demonstrating authority over your chosen topic. 

Main Thesis Tie-In 

Once the ideas of a mini-thesis have been brought to clarity, the next step is to tie them back to the controlling idea of the essay’s main thesis. With many topics, the relationship between main and mini-theses will be readily  apparent, while other topics will demand further clarification on the relatedness of ideas. Either way, you’ll want to link each new conclusion to your main argument for the sake of coherency. It doesn’t even need to take a lot of words; you could possibly tie the ideas in a body paragraph to an overriding thesis with a simple eight-to-ten word subordinate clause. A tie-in clause could be suffixed to your explanation statement, or used as a lead-in to the preparational sentence for your next paragraph. 

Transition Sentence 

At the end of each paragraph in your essay’s body, you’ll want to include a sentence that transitions between the current and following group of ideas. With transitional sentences, you’ll demonstrate the continuity between each passing idea and in turn keep the reader’s attention focused on the overriding topic at hand. Transitional sentences will also reinforce your main thesis by tying each paragraph to an interrelated theme. As with main thesis tie-ins, paragraph transitions can be contained to a mere handful of words. For variety's sake, you might even choose to split your transitions between sections, or leave the honor to the opening clause of a following paragraph. If you ever find this step difficult with two neighboring paragraphs, you should probably reconsider their placement within the body of your essay. 

The Completed Body Paragraph

The following example presents a complete body paragraph comprised of six sentences, each of which covers one of the six structural steps that we’ve covered in this article: 1) the topic sentence; 2) the introduction of info 3) a quote; 4) an explanation of the quote; 5) a tie-in with the main thesis; 6) a transition to the topic of the next paragraph. 

Properly Formatted Essay Body Paragraph

One of the most prevalent musical styles of the 1970s was jazz fusion, which combined the rhythmic thrust and voltage of rock with the chromatic fluidity of post-bop. The chief purveyors of this style included Miles Davis, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, Herbie Hancock and Return to Forever, all of whom regularly headlined at auditorium-sized venues and charted albums in the Billboard Top 40. As stated by RTF’s keyboardist and leader Chick Corea during a 2011 JazzWax interview, “[m]usicians are open and there has always been an exchange program between rock and jazz.” (Citation)’” In other words, the two musical camps had long drawn inspiration from one another, which made it only natural for a hybrid of jazz and rock to coalesce at the dawn of the 70s. With its integration of two vastly different musical cultures, fusion reflected the eclecticism of the 70s listening public.But while fusion served as a stateside model for musical eclecticism, hybrids of rock and symphonic elements were brewing overseas.  

As you can tell, the mini-thesis of this paragraph concerns the importance of jazz fusion, which is being discussed within the context of a thesis dealing with 70s-era eclecticism in popular music. 

With the preceding steps in hand, the process of crafting body paragraphs should come with greater ease throughout each new essay-writing assignment. By including the six elements outlined in this article, you’ll not only ensure that each paragraph is pertinent to your thesis; you’ll also be able to weed out digressions that would otherwise weaken your finished essay. Better yet, you’ll be able to flesh out certain points in a manner that’s educational for both the intended readership and you as a writer.

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