|A classic format for compositions is the five-paragraph essay. It is not the only format for writing an essay, of course, but it is a useful model for you to keep in mind, especially as you begin to develop your composition skills. The following material is adapted from a handout prepared by Harry Livermore for his high school English classes at Cook High School in Adel, Georgia. It is used here with his permission.|
See, first, Writing Introductory Paragraphs for different ways of getting your reader involved in your essay. The introductory paragraph should also include the thesis statement, a kind of mini-outline for the paper: it tells the reader what the essay is about. The last sentence of this paragraph must also contain a transitional "hook" which moves the reader to the first paragraph of the body of the paper.
Body First paragraph:
The first paragraph of the body should contain the strongest argument, most significant example, cleverest illustration, or an obvious beginning point. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the "reverse hook" which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the introductory paragraph. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional hook to tie into the second paragraph of the body.
Body Second paragraph:
The second paragraph of the body should contain the second strongest argument, second most significant example, second cleverest illustration, or an obvious follow up the first paragraph in the body. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the reverse hook which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the first paragraph of the body. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional hook to tie into the third paragraph of the body.
Body Third paragraph:
The third paragraph of the body should contain the weakest argument, weakest example, weakest illustration, or an obvious follow up to the second paragraph in the body. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the reverse hook which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the second paragraph. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional concluding hook that signals the reader that this is the final major point being made in this paper. This hook also leads into the last, or concluding, paragraph.
This paragraph should include the following:
- an allusion to the pattern used in the introductory paragraph,
- a restatement of the thesis statement, using some of the original language or language that "echoes" the original language. (The restatement, however, must not be a duplicate thesis statement.)
- a summary of the three main points from the body of the paper.
- a final statement that gives the reader signals that the discussion has come to an end. (This final statement may be a "call to action" in an persuasive paper.)
A Sample Paper
|1Stephen King, creator of such stories as Carrie and Pet Sematary, stated that the Edgar Allan Poe stories he read as a child gave him the inspiration and instruction he needed to become the writer that he is. 2Poe, as does Stephen King, fills the reader's imagination with the images that he wishes the reader to see, hear, and feel. 3His use of vivid, concrete visual imagery to present both static and dynamic settings and to describe people is part of his technique. 4Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" is a story about a young man who kills an old man who cares for him, dismembers the corpse, then goes mad when he thinks he hears the old man's heart beating beneath the floor boards under his feet as he sits and discusses the old man's absence with the police. 5In "The Tell-Tale Heart," a careful reader can observe Poe's skillful manipulation of the senses.||The introductory paragraph includes a paraphrase of something said by a famous person in order to get the reader's attention. The second sentence leads up to the thesis statement which is the third sentence. The thesis statement (sentence 3) presents topic of the paper to the reader and provides a mini- outline. The topic is Poe's use of visual imagery. The mini- outline tells the reader that this paper will present Poe's use of imagery in three places in his writing: (1) description of static setting; (2) description of dynamic setting; and (3) description of a person. The last sentence of the paragraph uses the words "manipulation" and "senses" as transitional hooks.|
|1The sense of sight, the primary sense, is particularly susceptible to manipulation. 2In "The Tell-Tale Heart," Poe uses the following image to describe a static scene: "His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness . . ." Poe used the words "black," "pitch," and "thick darkness" not only to show the reader the condition of the old man's room, but also to make the reader feel the darkness." 3"Thick" is a word that is not usually associated with color (darkness), yet in using it, Poe stimulates the reader's sense of feeling as well as his sense of sight.||In the first sentence of the second paragraph (first paragraph of the body) the words "sense" and "manipulation" are used to hook into the end of the introductory paragraph. The first part of the second sentence provides the topic for this paragraph--imagery in a static scene. Then a quotation from "The Tell-Tale Heart" is presented and briefly discussed. The last sentence of this paragraph uses the expressions "sense of feeling" and "sense of sight" as hooks for leading into the third paragraph.|
|1Further on in the story, Poe uses a couple of words that cross not only the sense of sight but also the sense of feeling to describe a dynamic scene. 2The youth in the story has been standing in the open doorway of the old man's room for a long time, waiting for just the right moment to reveal himself to the old man in order to frighten him. 3Poe writes: "So I opened it [the lantern opening]--you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily--until, at length, a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye." 4By using the metaphor of the thread of the spider (which we all know is a creepy creature) and the word "shot," Poe almost makes the reader gasp, as surely did the old man whose one blind eye the young man describes as "the vulture eye."||The first sentence of the third paragraph (second paragraph of the body) uses the words "sense of sight" and "sense of feeling" to hook back into the previous paragraph. Note that in the second paragraph "feeling" came first, and in this paragraph "sight" comes first. The first sentence also includes the topic for this paragraph--imagery in a dynamic scene. Again, a quotation is taken from the story, and it is briefly discussed. The last sentence uses the words "one blind eye" which was in the quotation. This expression provides the transitional hook for the last paragraph in the body of the paper.|
|1The reader does not know much about what the old man in this story looks like except that he has one blind eye. 2In the second paragraph of "The Tell-Tale Heart," Poe establishes the young man's obsession with that blind eye when he writes: "He had the eye of the vulture--a pale blue eye, with a film over it." 3This "vulture eye" is evoked over and over again in the story until the reader becomes as obsessed with it as does the young man. 4His use of the vivid, concrete word "vulture" establishes a specific image in the mind of the reader that is inescapable.||In the first sentence of the fourth paragraph (third paragraph in the body), "one blind eye" is used that hooks into the previous paragraph. This first sentence also lets the reader know that this paragraph will deal with descriptions of people: ". . . what the old man looks like . . .." Once again Poe is quoted and discussed. The last sentence uses the word "image" which hooks into the last paragraph. (It is less important that this paragraph has a hook since the last paragraph is going to include a summary of the body of the paper.)|
|1"Thick darkness," "thread of the spider," and "vulture eye" are three images that Poe used in "The Tell-Tale Heart" to stimulate a reader's senses. 2Poe wanted the reader to see and feel real life. 3He used concrete imagery rather than vague abstract words to describe settings and people. 4If Edgar Allan Poe was one of Stephen King's teachers, then readers of King owe a debt of gratitude to that nineteenth-century creator of horror stories.||The first sentence of the concluding paragraph uses the principal words from the quotations from each paragraph of the body of the paper. This summarizes those three paragraph. The second and third sentences provide observations which can also be considered a summary, not only of the content of the paper, but also offers personal opinion which was logically drawn as the result of this study. The last sentence returns to the Edgar Allan Poe-Stephen King relationship which began this paper. This sentence also provides a "wrap-up" and gives the paper a sense of finality.|
An outline is a tool used to organize written ideas about a topic or thesis into a logical order. Outlines arrange major topics, subtopics, and supporting details. Writers use outlines when writing their papers in order to know which topic to cover in what order. Outlines for papers can be very general or very detailed. Check with your instructor to know which is expected of you. Here are some examples of different outlines. You can also learn more by watching the short video below.
The most common type of outline is an alphanumeric outline, or an outline that uses letters and numbers in the following order:
I. Roman Numerals
A. I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, etc.
B. Represent main ideas to be covered in the paper in the order they will be presented
II. Uppercase Letters
A. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, etc.
B. Represent subtopics within each main idea
III. Arabic Numbers
A. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, etc.
B. Represent details or subdivisions within subtopics
IV. Lowercase Letters
A. a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, l, m, etc.
B. Represent details within subdivisions
Outline with main ideas, subtopics, subdivisions and details:
Thesis: Drugs should be legalized.
I. Legalization of drugs would reduce crime rates
1. Before Prohibition, crime rate related to alcohol were low-to-medium
2. During Prohibition, crime rates related to alcohol were high
a. Arrests for drunkenness and disorderly conduct increase 41%
b. Federal prison population increased 366%
3. After Prohibition, crime rates related to alcohol were very low
1. Before Amsterdam had legalized marijuana, drug-related crime rates were high
2. After Amsterdam had legalized marijuana, drug-related crime rates dropped
II. Legalization of drugs would benefit the economy
1. Local taxes
2. State taxes
3. Federal taxes
B. Business Owners
1. Drug production
2. Drug quality testing
3. Drug sales
III. Legalization of drugs would benefit public health
A. Quality of drugs would increase
1. Fake/dangerous drugs eliminated
2. Fake/placebo drugs eliminated
3. Amount of active ingredient standardized and stabilized
B. Drug users with addiction issues would get more help
3. Public health clinics
C. Your people would be less likely to start drugs
- Each roman numeral (I, II, III, IV…) indicates the start of a new paragraph. So I. is the first sentence of the introduction, II. is the first sentence of the first paragraph of the body, III. is the first sentence of the second paragraph of the body, and so on.
- Each capital letter (A, B, C, D…) indicates a main point within the structure of the paragraph. So in our introduction, A. is the attention getter, B. is another attention getter, C. describes a point that makes the topic personal, and D. is the thesis statement.
- Each Arabic numeral (1, 2, 3, 4…) indicates a sentence or piece of supporting evidence for each main point. So in the first body paragraph (II.), point A. is a general statement that needs some additional support, so 1. provides a supporting statement of fact and the citation of where that information came from. 2. provides another sentence with supporting evidence, as does 3.
Example of a full-sentence outline:
Warming Our World and Chilling Our Future
Thesis Statement: Today I want to share what I have learned about global warming and its causes.
I. Global warming is alive and well and thriving in Antarctica.
A. In winter 1995, an iceberg the size of Rhode Island broke off.
B. In October 1998, an iceberg the size of Delaware broke off.
C. All of us have a lot at stake.
1. Now, I am what you call a “country mouse.”
2. I love the outdoors.
3. You can be a “city mouse,” and like clean air, good water, and not having to worry about sun.
D. Today I want to share what I have learned about global warming and its causes.
II. Global warming is a gradual warming of the Earth from human activities (citation).
A. It is characterized by a high concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
1. Each year five tons of CO2 are pumped into the atmosphere (citation).
2. The carbon dioxide traps heat.
3. 1998 set temperature records (citation).
B. Carbon pollutants also eat a hole in the ozone layer (citation).
1. In 1998 this hole set a size record.
2. This allows more ultraviolet radiation to reach Earth.
C. If this problem is not corrected; we may see disastrous results (citation).
1. There could be dramatic climate changes.
a. There could be drought in the middle of continents.
b. There could be many severe storms.
c. There could be rising sea levels that would destroy coastal areas.
2. There could be serious health problems.
a. There could be an increase in skin cancer.
b. There could be an increase in cataracts.
c. There could be damaged immune systems.
D. Now that you understand what global warming is and why it is important, let’s examine its major causes.
III. The loss of woodlands adds to global warming (citation).
IV. Industrial emissions accelerate global warming (citation).
V. Personal energy consumption magnifies global warming (citation).
VI. In conclusion, if you want to know why we have global warming, listen for the falling trees, watch the industrial smokestacks darkening the sky, and smell the exhaust fumes we are pumping into the air.
A. Gore told a story on how global warming can sneak up on us.
B. Addressing the National Academy of Sciences, the vice president said, “If dropped into a pot of boiling water….”
C. The more we know about global warming, the more likely we are to jump and the less likely we are to be cooked.