The Five Paragraph Essay

One of the easiest ways to begin most essays is to think in terms of what is commonly called the “Five Paragraph Essay.”

Please note that the five paragraph essay is generally a minimally acceptable format for a short essay. It is likely that you will have more than three body paragraphs in your essays. However, it is unlikely that you will ever have less than three.

A graphic illustration of the five paragraph essay appears with explanations appears to the left.

Formal Outlines

Following is a formal outline for the Five Paragraph Essay.

  1. Introduction
  2. Topic Sentence
    1. Example 1
    2. Example 2
  3. Topic Sentence
    1. Example 1
    2. Example 2
  4. Topic Sentence
    1. Example 1
    2. Example 2
  5. Conclusion


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Five Paragraph Essay


First Paragraph

Introduction

Introduce the subject. Include a thesis statement.

Arrow pointing down to show transition between paragraphs.

The topic sentence for the first body paragraph (second paragraph) should provide a logical transition from the introductory paragraph.


Second Paragraph

First Body Paragraph

Include a topic sentence that relates to your thesis. Then include examples to support your topic sentence.

Arrow pointing down to show transition between paragraphs.

The topic sentence for the second body paragraph (third paragraph) should continue to develop your thesis while providing a logical transition from the first body paragraph.


Third Paragraph

Second Body Paragraph
Include a topic sentence that relates to your thesis. Then include examples to support your topic sentence.

Arrow pointing down to show transition between paragraphs.

The topic sentence for the third body paragraph (fourth paragraph) should continue to develop your thesis while providing a logical transition from the second body paragraph.


Fourth Paragraph

Third Body Paragraph

Include a topic sentence that relates to your thesis. Then include examples to support your topic sentence.

Arrow pointing down to show transition between paragraphs.


Fifth Paragraph

Conclusion

“A conclusion is satisfactory when it reiterates the paper's or report’s focus in a new way, reviews or summarizes the paper’s main points, and/or provides a recommendation, argument, or point with which to end the discourse meaningfully.” (Source: Schoolcraft College English Department)