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body paragraphs in english literature

Body Paragraphs

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This resource outlines the generally accepted structure for introductions, body paragraphs, and conclusions in an academic argument paper. Keep in mind that this resource contains guidelines and not strict rules about organization. Your structure needs to be flexible enough to meet the requirements of your purpose and audience.

Body paragraphs: Moving from general to specific information

Your paper should be organized in a manner that moves from general to specific information. Every time you begin a new subject, think of an inverted pyramid - The broadest range of information sits at the top, and as the paragraph or paper progresses, the author becomes more and more focused on the argument ending with specific, detailed evidence supporting a claim. Lastly, the author explains how and why the information she has just provided connects to and supports her thesis (a brief wrap-up or warrant).

This image shows an inverted pyramid that contains the following text. At the wide top of the pyramid, the text reads general information introduction, topic sentence. Moving down the pyramid to the narrow point, the text reads focusing direction of paper, telling. Getting more specific, showing. Supporting details, data. Conclusions and brief wrap up, warrant.

Moving from General to Specific Information

The four elements of a good paragraph (TTEB)

A good paragraph should contain at least the following four elements: T ransition, T opic sentence, specific E vidence and analysis, and a B rief wrap-up sentence (also known as a warrant ) –TTEB!

Supporting evidence (induction and deduction)

Induction is the type of reasoning that moves from specific facts to a general conclusion. When you use induction in your paper, you will state your thesis (which is actually the conclusion you have come to after looking at all the facts) and then support your thesis with the facts. The following is an example of induction taken from Dorothy U. Seyler’s Understanding Argument :

There is the dead body of Smith. Smith was shot in his bedroom between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m., according to the coroner. Smith was shot with a .32 caliber pistol. The pistol left in the bedroom contains Jones’s fingerprints. Jones was seen, by a neighbor, entering the Smith home at around 11:00 p.m. the night of Smith’s death. A coworker heard Smith and Jones arguing in Smith’s office the morning of the day Smith died.

Conclusion: Jones killed Smith.

Here, then, is the example in bullet form:

When you use deduction in an argument, you begin with general premises and move to a specific conclusion. There is a precise pattern you must use when you reason deductively. This pattern is called syllogistic reasoning (the syllogism). Syllogistic reasoning (deduction) is organized in three steps:

In order for the syllogism (deduction) to work, you must accept that the relationship of the two premises lead, logically, to the conclusion. Here are two examples of deduction or syllogistic reasoning:

So in order for deduction to work in the example involving Socrates, you must agree that (1) all men are mortal (they all die); and (2) Socrates is a man. If you disagree with either of these premises, the conclusion is invalid. The example using Socrates isn’t so difficult to validate. But when you move into more murky water (when you use terms such as courage , clear purpose , and great ), the connections get tenuous.

For example, some historians might argue that Lincoln didn’t really shine until a few years into the Civil War, after many Union losses to Southern leaders such as Robert E. Lee.

The following is a clear example of deduction gone awry:

If you don’t agree that all dogs make good pets, then the conclusion that Doogle will make a good pet is invalid.

When a premise in a syllogism is missing, the syllogism becomes an enthymeme. Enthymemes can be very effective in argument, but they can also be unethical and lead to invalid conclusions. Authors often use enthymemes to persuade audiences. The following is an example of an enthymeme:

If you have a plasma TV, you are not poor.

The first part of the enthymeme (If you have a plasma TV) is the stated premise. The second part of the statement (you are not poor) is the conclusion. Therefore, the unstated premise is “Only rich people have plasma TVs.” The enthymeme above leads us to an invalid conclusion (people who own plasma TVs are not poor) because there are plenty of people who own plasma TVs who are poor. Let’s look at this enthymeme in a syllogistic structure:

To help you understand how induction and deduction can work together to form a solid argument, you may want to look at the United States Declaration of Independence. The first section of the Declaration contains a series of syllogisms, while the middle section is an inductive list of examples. The final section brings the first and second sections together in a compelling conclusion.

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Traditional Academic Essays In Three Parts

Part i: the introduction.

An introduction is usually the first paragraph of your academic essay. If you’re writing a long essay, you might need 2 or 3 paragraphs to introduce your topic to your reader. A good introduction does 2 things:

Part II: The Body Paragraphs

Body paragraphs help you prove your thesis and move you along a compelling trajectory from your introduction to your conclusion. If your thesis is a simple one, you might not need a lot of body paragraphs to prove it. If it’s more complicated, you’ll need more body paragraphs. An easy way to remember the parts of a body paragraph is to think of them as the MEAT of your essay:

Main Idea. The part of a topic sentence that states the main idea of the body paragraph. All of the sentences in the paragraph connect to it. Keep in mind that main ideas are…

Evidence. The parts of a paragraph that prove the main idea. You might include different types of evidence in different sentences. Keep in mind that different disciplines have different ideas about what counts as evidence and they adhere to different citation styles. Examples of evidence include…

Analysis. The parts of a paragraph that explain the evidence. Make sure you tie the evidence you provide back to the paragraph’s main idea. In other words, discuss the evidence.

Transition. The part of a paragraph that helps you move fluidly from the last paragraph. Transitions appear in topic sentences along with main ideas, and they look both backward and forward in order to help you connect your ideas for your reader. Don’t end paragraphs with transitions; start with them.

Keep in mind that MEAT does not occur in that order. The “ T ransition” and the “ M ain Idea” often combine to form the first sentence—the topic sentence—and then paragraphs contain multiple sentences of evidence and analysis. For example, a paragraph might look like this: TM. E. E. A. E. E. A. A.

Part III: The Conclusion

A conclusion is the last paragraph of your essay, or, if you’re writing a really long essay, you might need 2 or 3 paragraphs to conclude. A conclusion typically does one of two things—or, of course, it can do both:

Handout by Dr. Liliana Naydan. Do not reproduce without permission.

LSA - College of Literature, Science, and The Arts - University of Michigan

3. Writing About Literature in Academic Settings

The paragraph body: supporting your ideas.

Whether the drafting of a paragraph begins with a main idea or whether that idea surfaces in the revision process, once you have that main idea, you’ll want to make sure that the idea has enough support. The job of the paragraph body is to develop and support the topic. Here’s one way that you might think about it:

• Topic sentence: what is the main claim of your paragraph; what is the most important idea that you want your readers to take away from this paragraph? • Support in the form of evidence: how can you prove that your claim or idea is true (or important, or noteworthy, or relevant)? • Support in the form of analysis or evaluation: what discussion can you provide that helps your readers see the connection between the evidence and your claim? • Transition: how can you help your readers move from the idea you’re currently discussing to the next idea presented? (For more specific discussion about transitions, see the following section on “Developing Relationships between Ideas”). For more on methods of development that can help you to develop and organize your ideas within paragraphs, see “Patterns of Organization and Methods of Development” later in this section of this text.

Now that we have a good idea what it means to develop support for the main ideas of your paragraphs, let’s talk about how to make sure that those supporting details are solid and convincing.

Good vs. Weak Support

What questions will your readers have? What will they need to know? What makes for good supporting details? Why might readers consider some evidence to be weak?

If you’re already developing paragraphs, it’s likely that you already have a plan for your essay, at least at the most basic level. You know what your topic is, you might have a working thesis, and you probably have at least a couple of supporting ideas in mind that will further develop and support your thesis.

So imagine you’re developing a paragraph on one of these supporting ideas and you need to make sure that the support that you develop for this idea is solid. Considering some of the points about understanding and appealing to your audience (from the Audience and Purpose and the Prewriting sections of this text) can also be helpful in determining what your readers will consider good support and what they’ll consider to be weak. Here are some tips on what to strive for and what to avoid when it comes to supporting details.

Good support • Is relevant and focused (sticks to the point). • Is well developed. • Provides sufficient detail. • Is vivid and descriptive. • Is well organized. • Is coherent and consistent. • Highlights key terms and ideas.

Weak Support • Lacks a clear connection to the point that it’s meant to support. • Lacks development. • Lacks detail or gives too much detail. • Is vague and imprecise. • Lacks organization. • Seems disjointed (ideas don’t clearly relate to each other). • Lacks emphasis of key terms and ideas.

Breaking, Combining, or Beginning New Paragraphs

Like sentence length, paragraph length varies. There is no single ideal length for “the perfect paragraph.” There are some general guidelines, however. Some writing handbooks or resources suggest that a paragraph should be at least three or four sentences; others suggest that 100 to 200 words is a good target to shoot for. In academic writing, paragraphs tend to be longer, while in less formal or less complex writing, such as in a newspaper, paragraphs tend to be much shorter. Two-thirds to three-fourths of a page is usually a good target length for paragraphs at your current level of college writing. If your readers can’t see a paragraph break on the page, they might wonder if the paragraph is ever going to end or they might lose interest.

The most important thing to keep in mind here is that the amount of space needed to develop one idea will likely be different than the amount of space needed to develop another. So when is a paragraph complete? The answer is, when it’s fully developed. The guidelines above for providing good support should help.

Some signals that it’s time to end a paragraph and start a new one include that • You’re ready to begin developing a new idea. • You want to emphasize a point by setting it apart. • You’re getting ready to continue discussing the same idea but in a different way (e.g. shifting from comparison to contrast). • You notice that your current paragraph is getting too long (more than three-fourths of a page or so), and you think your writers will need a visual break. Some signals that you may want to combine paragraphs include that • You notice that some of your paragraphs appear to be short and choppy. • You have multiple paragraphs on the same topic. • You have undeveloped material that needs to be united under a clear topic.

Finally, paragraph number is a lot like paragraph length. You may have been asked in the past to write a five paragraph essay. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a five-paragraph essay, but just like sentence length and paragraph length, the number of paragraphs in an essay depends upon what’s needed to get the job done. There’s really no way to know that until you start writing. So try not to worry too much about the proper length and number of things. Just start writing and see where the essay and the paragraphs take you. There will be plenty of time to sort out the organization in the revision process. You’re not trying to fit pegs into holes here. You’re letting your ideas unfold. Give yourself—and them—the space to let that happen.

Developing Relationships Between Ideas

So you have a main idea, and you have supporting ideas, but how can you be sure that your readers will understand the relationships between them? How are the ideas tied to each other? One way to emphasize these relationships is through the use of clear transitions between ideas. Like every other part of your essay, transitions have a job to do. They form logical connections between the ideas presented in an essay or paragraph, and they give readers clues that reveal how you want them to think about (process, organize, or use) the topics presented.

Why are Transitions Important?

Transitions signal the order of ideas, highlight relationships, unify concepts, and let readers know what’s coming next or remind them about what’s already been covered. When instructors or peers comment that your writing is choppy, abrupt, or needs to “flow better,” those are some signals that you might need to work on building some better transitions into your writing. If a reader comments that she’s not sure how something relates to your thesis or main idea, a transition is probably the right tool for the job.

When Is the Right Time to Build in Transitions?

There’s no right answer to this question. Sometimes transitions occur spontaneously, but just as often (or maybe even more often) good transitions are developed in revision. While drafting, we often write what we think, sometimes without much reflection about how the ideas fit together or relate to one another. If your thought process jumps around a lot (and that’s okay), it’s more likely that you will need to pay careful attention to reorganization and to providing solid transitions as you revise.

When you’re working on building transitions into an essay, consider the essay’s overall organization. Consider using reverse outlining and other organizational strategies presented in this text to identify key ideas in your essay and to get a clearer look at how the ideas can be best organized. This can help you determine where transitions are needed.

Let’s take some time to consider the importance of transitions at the sentence level and transitions between paragraphs.

Sentence-Level Transitions

Transitions between sentences often use “connecting words” to emphasize relationships between one sentence and another. A friend and coworker suggests the “something old something new” approach, meaning that the idea behind a transition is to introduce something new while connecting it to something old from an earlier point in the essay or paragraph. Here are some examples of ways that writers use connecting words (highlighted with red text and italicized) to show connections between ideas in adjacent sentences:

To Show Similarity When I was growing up, my mother taught me to say “please” and “thank you” as one small way that I could show appreciation and respect for others. In the same way, I have tried to impress the importance of manners onmy own children. Other connecting words that show similarity include also, similarly, and likewise.

To Show Contrast Some scientists take the existence of black holes for granted; however, in 2014, a physicist at the University of North Carolina claimed to have mathematically proven that they do not exist. Other connecting words that show contrast include in spite of, on the other hand, in contrast, and yet.

To Exemplify The cost of college tuition is higher than ever, so students are becoming increasingly motivated to keep costs as low as possible. For example, a rising number of students are signing up to spend their first two years at a less costly community college before transferring to a more expensive four-year school to finish their degrees. Other connecting words that show example include for instance, specifically, and to illustrate.

To Show Cause and Effect Where previously painters had to grind and mix their own dry pigments with linseed oil inside their studios, in the 1840s, new innovations in pigments allowed paints to be premixed in tubes. Consequently, this new technology facilitated the practice of painting outdoors and was a crucial tool for impressionist painters, such as Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, and Cassatt. Other connecting words that show cause and effect include therefore, so, and thus.

To Show Additional Support When choosing a good trail bike, experts recommend 120–140 millimeters of suspension travel; that’s the amount that the frame or fork is able to flex or compress. Additionally, they recommend a 67–69 degree head-tube angle, as a steeper head-tube angle allows for faster turning and climbing. Other connecting words that show additional support include also, besides, equally important, and in addition.

A Word of Caution

Single-word or short-phrase transitions can be helpful to signal a shift in ideas within a paragraph, rather than between paragraphs (see the discussion below about transitions between paragraphs). But it’s also important to understand that these types of transitions shouldn’t be frequent within a paragraph. As with anything else that happens in your writing, they should be used when they feel natural and feel like the right choice. Here are some examples to help you see the difference between transitions that feel like they occur naturally and transitions that seem forced and make the paragraph awkward to read:

Too Many Transitions : The Impressionist painters of the late 19th century are well known for their visible brush strokes, for their ability to convey a realistic sense of light, and for their everyday subjects portrayed in outdoor settings. In spite of this fact, many casual admirers of their work are unaware of the scientific innovations that made it possible this movement in art to take place. Then, In 1841, an American painter named John Rand invented the collapsible paint tube. To illustrate the importance of this invention, pigments previously had to be ground and mixed in a fairly complex process that made it difficult for artists to travel with them. For example, the mixtures were commonly stored in pieces of pig bladder to keep the paint from drying out. In addition, when working with their palettes, painters had to puncture the bladder, squeeze out some paint, and then mend the bladder again to keep the rest of the paint mixture from drying out. Thus, Rand’s collapsible tube freed the painters from these cumbersome and messy processes, allowing artists to be more mobile and to paint in the open air.

Subtle Transitions that Aid Reader Understanding : The Impressionist painters of the late 19th century are well known for their visible brush strokes, for their ability to convey a realistic sense of light, for their everyday subjects portrayed in outdoor settings. However, many casual admirers of their work are unaware of the scientific innovations that made it possible for this movement in art to take place. In 1841, an American painter named John Rand invented the collapsible paint tube. Before this invention, pigments had to be ground and mixed in a fairly complex process that made it difficult for artists to travel with them. The mixtures were commonly stored in pieces of pig bladder to keep the paint from drying out. When working with their palettes, painters had to puncture the bladder, squeeze out some paint, and then mend the bladder again to keep the rest of the paint mixture from drying out. Rand’s collapsible tube freed the painters from these cumbersome and messy processes, allowing artists to be more mobile and to paint in the open air.

Transitions between Paragraphs and Sections

It’s important to consider how to emphasize the relationships not just between sentences but also between paragraphs in your essay. Here are a few strategies to help you show your readers how the main ideas of your paragraphs relate to each other and also to your thesis.

Use Signposts

Signposts are words or phrases that indicate where you are in the process of organizing an idea; for example, signposts might indicate that you are introducing a new concept, that you are summarizing an idea, or that you are concluding your thoughts. Some of the most common signposts include words and phrases like first, then, next, finally, in sum, and in conclusion. Be careful not to overuse these types of transitions in your writing. Your readers will quickly find them tiring or too obvious. Instead, think of more creative ways to let your readers know where they are situated within the ideas presented in your essay. You might say, “The first problem with this practice is…” Or you might say, “The next thing to consider is…” Or you might say, “Some final thoughts about this topic are….”

Use Forward-Looking Sentences at the End of Paragraphs Sometimes, as you conclude a paragraph, you might want to give your readers a hint about what’s coming next. For example, imagine that you’re writing an essay about the benefits of trees to the environment and you’ve just wrapped up a paragraph about how trees absorb pollutants and provide oxygen. You might conclude with a forward- looking sentence like this: “Trees benefits to local air quality are important, but surely they have more to offer our communities than clean air.” This might conclude a paragraph (or series of paragraphs) and then prepare your readers for additional paragraphs to come that cover the topics of trees’ shade value and ability to slow water evaporation on hot summer days. This transitional strategy can be tricky to employ smoothly. Make sure that the conclusion of your paragraph doesn’t sound like you’re leaving your readers hanging with the introduction of a completely new or unrelated topic.

Use Backward-Looking Sentences at the Beginning of Paragraphs Rather than concluding a paragraph by looking forward, you might instead begin a paragraph by looking back. Continuing with the example above of an essay about the value of trees, let’s think about how we might begin a new paragraph or section by first taking a moment to look back. Maybe you just concluded a paragraph on the topic of trees’ ability to decrease soil erosion and you’re getting ready to talk about how they provide habitats for urban wildlife. Beginning the opening of a new paragraph or section of the essay with a backward-looking transition might look something like this: “While their benefits to soil and water conservation are great, the value that trees provide to our urban wildlife also cannot be overlooked.”

Evaluate Transitions for Predictability or Conspicuousness

Finally, the most important thing about transitions is that you don’t want them to become repetitive or too obvious. Reading your draft aloud is a great revision strategy for so many reasons, and revising your essay for transitions is no exception to this rule. If you read your essay aloud, you’re likely to hear the areas that sound choppy or abrupt. This can help you make note of areas where transitions need to be added. Repetition is another problem that can be easier to spot if you read your essay aloud. If you notice yourself using the same transitions over and over again, take time to find some alternatives. And if the transitions frequently stand out as you read aloud, you may want to see if you can find some subtler strategies.

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Definition and Examples of Body Paragraphs in Composition

Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

The body paragraphs are the part of an essay , report , or speech that explains and develops the main idea (or thesis ). They come after the introduction and before the conclusion . The body is usually the longest part of an essay, and each body paragraph may begin with a topic sentence  to introduce what the paragraph will be about. 

Taken together, they form the support for your thesis, stated in your introduction. They represent the  development  of your idea, where you present your evidence. 

"The following  acronym  will help you achieve the hourglass structure of a well-developed body paragraph:

TAXES  gives you a formula for building the supporting paragraphs in a thesis-driven essay." (Kathleen Muller Moore and Susie Lan Cassel,  Techniques for College Writing: The Thesis Statement and Beyond . Wadsworth, 2011)

Organization Tips

Aim for  coherence  to your paragraphs. They should be  cohesive  around one point. Don't try to do too much and cram all your ideas in one place. Pace your information for your readers, so that they can understand your points individually and follow how they collectively relate to your main thesis or topic.

Watch for overly long paragraphs in your piece. If, after drafting, you realize that you have a paragraph that extends for most of a page, examine each sentence's topic, and see if there is a place where you can make a natural break, where you can group the sentences into two or more paragraphs. Examine your sentences to see if you're repeating yourself, making the same point in two different ways. Do you need both examples or explanations? 

Paragraph Caveats

A body paragraph doesn't always have to have a topic sentence. A formal report or paper is more likely to be structured more rigidly than, say, a narrative or creative essay, because you're out to make a point, persuade, show evidence backing up an idea, or report findings.  

Next, a body paragraph will differ from a  transitional paragraph , which serves as a short bridge between sections. When you just go from paragraph to paragraph within a section, you likely will just need a sentence at the end of one to lead the reader to the next, which will be the next point that you need to make to support the main idea of the paper.

Examples of Body Paragraphs in Student Essays

Completed examples are often useful to see, to give you a place to start analyzing and preparing for your own writing. Check these out: 

Watch Now: Elements of a Research Paper

body paragraphs in english literature

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How to structure a GCSE English Literature essay

26th July 2021

body paragraphs in english literature

Learning how to improve your structure when writing essays can make a big difference to your grade. Your GCSE English essay structure will not only help your examiner read and understand your essay with ease, it can also help your flow of writing when taking the exam.

We’ve listed out our top writing tips to help you with the structure of essay writing in English Literature.

And if you need a bit more help, we’ve got you covered: sign up for a   free trial of Your Favourite Teacher   to access 16 English Language and 14 English Literature courses.

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1. Understand the assessment objectives

Blogs_Structuring an Essay Icon 01

Before you even get into the exam hall, it is crucial to understand what is expected of you for each English Lit essay. You might have already come across the AO’s (Assessment Objectives). These are universal across all exam boards, and they are used by examiners to mark your essay. 

Below are all the   Assessment Objectives   that your essay will be marked against. It is important to note that you will not be expected to have an equal amount of each AO in your essay, however evidence of each must be present to avoid losing marks.

Blogs_Structuring an Essay - Table

2. Spend 10-15 minutes highlighting, annotating and planning

Read the question carefully.

body paragraphs in english literature

Now that you know what you’ll have to include in your essay, you can tackle the question and begin essay planning. The first thing you should do when faced with the question is to read it a few times to ensure you’ve fully understood it. 

Highlight and annotate

A top tip is to highlight the important words in the question. You can then start to annotate your paper. You might have an extract or poem, and even if you know what quotes or points you will make, it is best to read it through and annotate. You’ll likely find that more ideas float into your head whilst doing so, and it will help you when you write out your plan.

Plan your essay structure and ideas

It might be tempting to jump straight into writing your essay. Whilst you may have a clear idea of what you’ll write, it is always a better idea to write out a plan. This will ensure your essay flows and has a clear structure, and will also prevent your mind from going blank halfway through your exam.

Every student has a different way of writing a plan; you might like to create tables, whilst others prefer mind maps. But every plan should have the following:

A brief outline of your introduction

3 main points/arguments

Quotes to back up your arguments (and a note of the technique the writer is using)

Relevant contextual points for each point

A brief outline of your conclusion

This might look like a lot, but a detailed plan will actually save you time in the exam. Imagine how much longer you would spend searching for quotes or trying to come up with ideas! You should spend around  10-15 minutes  in total reading the question, highlighting, annotating and planning.

3. Start with the introd uction

Blogs_Structuring an Essay Icon 03

Now that you know how to plan, what content should you actually write in each section of your essay? The best place to start with any essay is an introduction. This is a short summative paragraph that will let your examiner know what you will be writing about, also known as a thesis statement. 

The first thing you’ll need to do is address the question. Think about your overriding point or argument, or the bigger picture of your essay. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate, complex idea, but as long as your examiner has a clear understanding of your overall argument, then you’re good to go!

Top tip : Why not weave some context into your introduction? If you can think of a relevant point to back up your overall argument, it will really show off your understanding of the text. 

4. Write the main body

body of essay

While every essay will look different, you should generally aim to include three main points in the main body. You can structure this however you please, but keep in mind that you should use body paragraphs correctly. 

Each paragraph should explain  how  the writer makes his or her point. For example, “Shakespeare uses metaphors to depict Macbeth’s deterioration into an obsessive tyrant”. Then, you should give evidence to support your point in the form of a quote. 

After giving your evidence, you are free to analyse the quote. For top marks, you’ll really want to pick apart the quote, but your analysis should always be relevant to the point you have made. You might also explore alternative interpretations to really elevate your point, as it shows you have a wider understanding of the text.

By now, you will have included AO1, AO2 and AO4. Context (AO3) should be weaved in wherever relevant to your argument. However, wherever you decide to add context, always ensure it is relevant to your point. It is better to include fewer contextual points that actually back up your argument, than trying to add too much random context.

Top tip : If you struggle with structuring the main body of your essay, use the PETAL paragraphs:

body paragraphs in english literature

5. Finish with the conclusion

conclusion essay

The conclusion is the least important part of your essay, but you still need to always include one. It is a great way to summarise your points and explain your overall stance on the question.  If you don’t have time to make it the best that you can, don’t worry.  

The best way to do this is by writing a summative sentence for each of your main points. It is great if you can weave in some context too, but again, make sure it is relevant to what you’re writing. 

You should also include a concluding sentence that might explore a wider social question or a wider point. To put it simply, you should try and make a point about the writer’s overarching intention, and perhaps how it might have impacted society.

To put these tips into practice, download our   GCSE English Literature essay plan worksheet.

Study For   GCSE English Literature   with Your Favourite Teacher

Now that you’re a pro at structuring your English Literature essays, you can learn and revise your novels, poems and plays!

At Your Favourite Teacher, we have 14 English Literature courses that cover everything you’ll need to know to ace your GCSE English Literature essay. Each course is made up of multiple lessons that cover everything from context to character analysis and key themes. And each lesson comes with videos, quizzes, worksheets and more to make sure you’re fully prepared.

Summary: How to Structure a GCSE English Literature Essay

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How to Write Topic Sentences | 4 Steps, Examples & Purpose

Published on July 21, 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on November 29, 2022.

Every paragraph in your paper needs a topic sentence . The topic sentence expresses what the paragraph is about. It should include two key things:

After the topic sentence, you expand on the point with evidence and examples.

To build a well-structured argument, you can also use your topic sentences to transition smoothly between paragraphs and show the connections between your points.

Table of contents

Writing strong topic sentences, topic sentences as transitions between paragraphs, topic sentences that introduce more than one paragraph, where does the topic sentence go, frequently asked questions about topic sentences.

Topic sentences aren’t the first or the last thing you write—you’ll develop them throughout the writing process. To make sure every topic sentence and paragraph serves your argument, follow these steps.

Step 1: Write a thesis statement

The first step to developing your topic sentences is to make sure you have a strong thesis statement . The thesis statement sums up the purpose and argument of the whole paper.

Thesis statement example

Food is an increasingly urgent environmental issue, and to reduce humans’ impact on the planet, it is necessary to change global patterns of food production and consumption.

Step 2: Make an essay outline and draft topic sentences

Next, you should make an outline of your essay’s structure , planning what you want to say in each paragraph and what evidence you’ll use.

At this stage, you can draft a topic sentence that sums up the main point you want to make in each paragraph. The topic sentences should be more specific than the thesis statement, but always clearly related to it.

Topic sentence example

Research has consistently shown that the meat industry has a significant environmental impact .

Step 3: Expand with evidence

The rest of the paragraph should flow logically from the topic sentence, expanding on the point with evidence, examples, or argumentation. This helps keep your paragraphs focused: everything you write should relate to the central idea expressed in the topic sentence.

In our example, you might mention specific research studies and statistics that support your point about the overall impact of the meat industry.

Step 4: Refine your topic sentences

Topic sentences usually start out as simple statements. But it’s important to revise them as you write, making sure they match the content of each paragraph.

A good topic sentence is specific enough to give a clear sense of what to expect from the paragraph, but general enough that it doesn’t give everything away. You can think of it like a signpost: it should tell the reader which direction your argument is going in.

To make your writing stronger and ensure the connections between your paragraphs are clear and logical, you can also use topic sentences to create smooth transitions.

As you write each topic sentence, ask yourself: how does this point relate to what you wrote in the preceding paragraph? It’s often helpful to use transition words in your topic sentences to show the connections between your ideas.

Emphasize and expand

If the paragraph goes into more detail or gives another example to make the same point, the topic sentence can use words that imply emphasis or similarity (for example, furthermore , indeed , in fact , also ).

Indeed , cattle farming alone is responsible for a large proportion of greenhouse gas emissions.

Summarize and anticipate

If the paragraph turns to a different aspect of the same subject, the topic sentence can briefly sum up the previous paragraph and anticipate the new information that will appear in this one.

While beef clearly has the most dramatic footprint, other animal products also have serious impacts in terms of emissions, water and land use.

Compare and contrast

If the paragraph makes a comparison or introduces contrasting information, the topic sentence can use words that highlight difference or conflict (for example, in contrast , however , yet , on the other hand ).

However , the environmental costs of dietary choices are not always clear-cut; in some cases, small-scale livestock farming is more sustainable than plant-based food production.

You can also imply contrast or complicate your argument by formulating the topic sentence as a question.

Is veganism the only solution, or are there more sustainable ways of producing meat and dairy?

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Sometimes you can use a topic sentence to introduce several paragraphs at once.

All of the examples above address the environmental impact of meat-eating versus veganism. Together, they make up one coherent part of a larger argument, so the first paragraph could use a topic sentence to introduce the whole section.

In countries with high levels of meat consumption, a move towards plant-based diets is the most obvious route to making food more sustainable. Research has consistently shown that the meat industry has significant environmental impacts.

The topic sentence usually goes at the very start of a paragraph, but sometimes it can come later to indicate a change of direction in the paragraph’s argument.

Given this evidence of the meat industry’s impact on the planet, veganism seems like the only environmentally responsible option for consumers. However, the environmental costs of dietary choices are not always clear-cut; in some cases, small-scale livestock farming is more sustainable than plant-based food production.

In this example, the first sentence summarizes the main point that has been made so far. Then the topic sentence indicates that this paragraph will address evidence that complicates or contradicts that point.

In more advanced or creative forms of academic writing , you can play with the placement of topic sentences to build suspense and give your arguments more force. But if in doubt, to keep your research paper clear and focused, the easiest method is to place the topic sentence at the start of the paragraph.

View topic sentences in an example essay

A topic sentence is a sentence that expresses the main point of a paragraph . Everything else in the paragraph should relate to the topic sentence.

Topic sentences help keep your writing focused and guide the reader through your argument.

In an essay or paper , each paragraph should focus on a single idea. By stating the main idea in the topic sentence, you clarify what the paragraph is about for both yourself and your reader.

The topic sentence usually comes at the very start of the paragraph .

However, sometimes you might start with a transition sentence to summarize what was discussed in previous paragraphs, followed by the topic sentence that expresses the focus of the current paragraph.

Let’s say you’re writing a five-paragraph  essay about the environmental impacts of dietary choices. Here are three examples of topic sentences you could use for each of the three body paragraphs :

Each of these sentences expresses one main idea – by listing them in order, we can see the overall structure of the essay at a glance. Each paragraph will expand on the topic sentence with relevant detail, evidence, and arguments.

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How to Write Strong Paragraphs

Matt Ellis

Paragraphs are medium-sized units of writing, longer than sentences , but shorter than sections, chapters, or entire works. Because they connect the “small” ideas of individual sentences to a “bigger” idea, paragraph structure is essential to any writing for organization , flow, and comprehension. 

Students have a lot of questions when it comes to writing a paragraph: How many sentences should you use ? How do you transition within a paragraph? When do you end a paragraph? Etc. Below we explain everything you need to know about paragraph structure to write like an expert, including several paragraph examples. 

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How is a paragraph structured? 

Before we dive into paragraph structure, let’s start with paragraph meaning. A paragraph is an individual segment of writing that discusses a central idea, typically with more than one sentence. It even has its own paragraph symbol in copyediting, called the pilcrow (¶), not to be confused with the section symbol called the silcrow (§) that’s common in legal code. 

Here we focus mainly on paragraph structure, but feel free to read our ultimate guide to paragraphs for more of the basics. 

Parts of a paragraph

Like other forms of writing, paragraphs follow a standard three-part structure with a beginning, middle, and end. These parts are the topic sentence , development and support , and conclusion . 

Topic sentences , also known as “paragraph leaders,” introduce the main idea that the paragraph is about. They shouldn’t reveal too much on their own, but rather prepare the reader for the rest of the paragraph by stating clearly what topic will be discussed. 

The development and support sentences act as the body of the paragraph. Development sentences elaborate and explain the idea with details too specific for the topic sentence, while support sentences provide evidence, opinions, or other statements that back up or confirm the paragraph’s main idea. 

Last, the conclusion wraps up the idea, sometimes summarizing what’s been presented or transitioning to the next paragraph. The content of the conclusion depends on the type of paragraph, and it’s often acceptable to end a paragraph with a final piece of support that concludes the thought instead of a summary. 

How many sentences are in a paragraph?

Most paragraphs contain between three and five sentences, but there are plenty of exceptions. Different types of paragraphs have different numbers of sentences, like those in narrative writing, in particular, where single-sentence paragraphs are common.

Likewise, the number of sentences in a paragraph can change based on the style of the writer. Some authors prefer longer, more descriptive paragraphs, while other authors prefer shorter, faster-paced paragraphs. 

When it comes to nonfiction writing, like research papers or reports , most paragraphs have at least three sentences: a topic sentence, a development/support sentence, and a conclusion sentence. 

Types of paragraphs 

Depending on the kind of writing you’re doing, you may need to use different types of paragraphs. Here’s a brief explanation of the common paragraph types most writing deals with. 

The type of paragraph used usually depends on the type of writing. For example, if you’re writing a research paper, it would be difficult to justify a narrative paragraph. 

Example paragraphs from literature 

Rather than merely talk about paragraph structure, let’s look at some paragraph examples so you can see structure in action. 

The first paragraph example comes from Bertrand Russell in his essay “Icarus, or the Future of Science.” This excerpt uses the same paragraph structure often used in research papers, essays, and other nonfiction writing. The first sentence makes a claim, and the subsequent sentences defend that claim, ending in a strong conclusion that ties everything together. 

If men were rational in their conduct, that is to say, if they acted in the way most likely to bring about the ends that they deliberately desire, intelligence would be enough to make the world almost a paradise. In the main, what is in the long run advantageous to one man is also advantageous to another. But men are actuated by passions which distort their view; feeling an impulse to injure others, they persuade themselves that it is to their interest to do so. They will not, therefore, act in the way which is in fact to their own interest unless they are actuated by generous impulses which make them indifferent to their own interest. This is why the heart is as important as the head. By the “heart” I mean, for the moment, the sum-total of kindly impulses. Where they exist, science helps them to be effective; where they are absent, science only makes men more cleverly diabolic.

Notice how all sentences in the paragraph relate to the same idea: That humans act emotionally more than rationally. However, each sentence makes its own unique point, and when taken together, they connect to the central topic. 

Another nonfiction paragraph example comes from Twelve Years a Slave , a memoir from freeborn African-American Solomon Northup who was kidnapped and forced into slavery for twelve years before friends and family intervened with the help of the law. 

I expected to die. Though there was little in the prospect before me worth living for, the near approach of death appalled me. I thought I could have been resigned to yield up my life in the bosom of my family, but to expire in the midst of strangers, under such circumstances, was a bitter reflection.

Each sentence in this paragraph example relates to the feeling described in the topic sentence. Although writing in a narrative form, Northup waits until a new paragraph to continue the story—this paragraph focuses solely on that one emotion. 

Finally, let’s look at a fiction paragraph example. In Bram Stoker’s Dracula , one of the protagonists, Jonathan Harker, describes the appearance of Count Dracula. 

His face was a strong—a very strong—aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils; with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth; these protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years. For the rest, his ears were pale, and at the tops extremely pointed; the chin was broad and strong, and the cheeks firm though thin. The general effect was one of extraordinary pallor.

Paragraphs in fiction are more flexible with the rules, but nonetheless, this paragraph includes both a topic sentence and a concluding summary. Notice how all the details pertain to Dracula’s face and head; Stoker begins a new paragraph when describing other parts of his appearance, like his hands, because the author treats it as a separate topic. 

How to write a paragraph 

Paragraph structure isn’t just for the benefit of readers, it also helps authors organize their thoughts and communicate clearly. Below we explain the different steps of how to write a paragraph, from the paragraph introduction all the way to the conclusion.

How to plan a paragraph

Before you begin writing a paragraph, look at how the paragraph fits into the writing as a whole. As mentioned above, different types of writing use different types of paragraphs, so make sure the paragraph type you’re planning matches the context. 

Ideally, you’ll already have an outline for whatever you’re writing, which will tell you what the paragraph is about and what to include. If not, your first step is to decide on the paragraph topic and which facts to include as support and development. 

Keep in mind what comes before and after the paragraph so you can plan the right topic for the flow of your writing. It’s jarring for the reader when the author jumps wildly from one topic to the next, so try to keep all related paragraphs together and in a logical sequence. If that’s not possible, plan your topic sentence as a segue, perhaps using a transition word . 

It also helps to sketch out the parts of your paragraph: topic sentence, development and support, and conclusion. The more you prepare these parts now, the easier it will be to put them into words later. 

How to start a paragraph

Unless you’re doing narrative writing, your paragraph introduction should always be the topic sentence. The trick is to avoid overexplaining—say only what’s necessary. The goal of the topic sentence is to inform the reader what the paragraph is about; everything extra should be saved for the following sentences. 

For example, in the Twelve Years a Slave paragraph sample, the topic sentence is only four words long. Northup saves the details for the following sentences. As an added effect, the brevity of his first sentence adds both mystery and potency, piquing the reader’s interest and enticing them to continue. 

On a technical note, when beginning a new paragraph, follow the rules of paragraph indentation for whatever style guide you’re using. There is a paragraph indentation debate about when to indent the first line and when not to; really, it depends on the assignment or audience. 

How to transition within a paragraph

It’s not enough to just throw all your support sentences into a paragraph and hope for the best. For the convenience of your reader, it’s best to connect the sentences in a way that lets the reader move from one point to the next without getting confused. 

While some paragraph sentences will run together on their own, sometimes you need transition sentences to assist the flow. Transition sentences make use of transition words like “however,” “therefore,” or “similarly,” or sometimes directly reference the preceding sentence. 

Consider the sentence in Russell’s paragraph example: “This is why the heart is as important as the head.” If Russell had said only “The heart is as important as the head,” it would have created an abrupt tone—he adds “this is why” to ease the transition. 

If your sentences create a list, such as instructions, you can transition from one item to another using ordinals like “first,” “second,” “third,” etc. Ordinals work well with difficult transitions because they can fit almost any paragraph. 

How/when to end a paragraph

When you’ve said everything you need to say about a topic, it’s time to end the paragraph. If the paragraph looks like it’s too long after you’ve said everything, consider breaking it up into separate topics and paragraphs for the sake of the reader. 

The best way to end a paragraph is to sum up the topic with all the new information from the support sentences. In the excerpt from Dracula , Stoker concludes with an overall impression of the Count from all the details listed in the previous sentences. 

However, it’s not always necessary to restate the topic, which can sometimes come across as padding. It’s equally viable to end a sentence stating one final piece of support. In these instances, it’s best to conclude with the piece of information that has the most profound effect, as with Northup’s excerpt. 

Paragraph structure FAQs 

What is a paragraph .

A paragraph is a collection of sentences that relate to a single topic. 

What are the keys to a strong paragraph? 

A strong paragraph explores a single topic with details following in a logical order. Paragraphs often use transitions to connect otherwise disjointed sentences, helping every piece of information to work together. 

How is a paragraph structured?

Good paragraphs begin with a topic sentence that briefly explains what the paragraph is about. Next come a few sentences for development and support, elaborating on the topic with more detail. Paragraphs end with a conclusion sentence that summarizes the topic or presents one final piece of support to wrap up. 

body paragraphs in english literature

body paragraphs in english literature

Writing About Literature: Drafting Body Paragraphs

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 12880

You've got a topic to write about, but you want to make sure it makes sense and is easy to read. An introduction without a proper body is like introducing The Invisible Man: there's nothing there!

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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When you hear a speaker, that speaker is introduced before the speech, not during or after.

The speaker spends more time preparing the speech than the introduction. It's the content that gives the speech its value and validates the speaker.

Learn how that applies to writing your essay!

You may have heard that the best place to start is at the beginning.

"But wait," you think. "This lesson is supposed to be about writing body paragraphs, and I haven't written my introduction yet."

You are correct — you haven't started writing your introduction paragraph, and that is because it can be easier to start writing a paper by writing the body paragraphs FIRST!

There are no rules that say you have to start writing a paper with the introduction and write the paper from beginning to end in order.

Some writers are comfortable with starting a paper at the beginning, and others find it intimidating. Just remember that there is no one correct way to write a paper, and every paper you write doesn't have to be written in the same way.

However, for this series, you will practice writing the body paragraphs first, so whether you discover that you enjoy this technique or don't find it productive for your writing style, at least you will have had the opportunity to try a different way of writing.

The answer is simple: you developed all the information you need for them in the previous Literary Response Paper lesson, found under Related Lessons in the right-hand sidebar.

Your cluster chart contains all the information you need to write your body paragraphs. Therefore, you have specific information about which you can write, so you don't have to worry about staring at a blank screen or page wondering what to write first.

Before you begin drafting your body paragraphs, it's important to understand the components that body paragraphs in a literary response paper should have.

As you read through the parts of a body paragraph for a literary response paper, take notes on these elements. The components are:

The beginning of a body paragraph should start with a transition word or phrase.

This helps the reader move from the previous paragraph to the new paragraph. The writer is leaving a sign-post that the topic is changing.

Transitions might include numbers such as:

Or they might include prepositional words or phrases such as:

Topic sentence

The topic sentence could be part of the first sentence where the transition is used, or it might be in a second sentence.

It is placed at the beginning of the paragraph to inform the reader of the paragraph's focus.

A strong body paragraph will only have one focus because it helps keep the paper's material organized and helps the reader better understand what he or she is reading.

Explanation of topic sentence

This is a sentence, or a few sentences, in the writer's own words that describes the topic more fully.

A simple topic might only need a sentence of explanation, but a more complex topic might need more description in the writer's own words to fully explain the topic to the reader.

This description is a general explanation of the topic. It is the writer's job to make sure a reader understands a topic, so always add as much explanation as you can.

Example(s) to illustrate topic

This is a sentence, or a few sentences, that provides the specific example(s) from the text that prove the claim the topic the paragraph is making.

A paragraph should include one or two examples, depending on the depth of explanation needed for each example. This is where direct quotes should be included in the paragraph.

Be as specific as you can when choosing examples so the reader understands them if he or she has not read the text on which you are writing.

Explanation of examples

It is not enough to simply include examples. A writer must explain how the examples support the paragraph's topic.

A writer can't assume that a reader will interpret an idea in the way that a writer intends, so to make sure a reader understands the point and can see the connection between the example(s) and the paragraph's topic, the writer has to explain in a sentence or a few sentences what the connection is.

Summary sentence

A paragraph should end with a summary sentence to conclude and recap the main idea of the paragraph.

Think of it as a mini-conclusion to the paragraph. You wouldn't end an essay without a conclusion paragraph, so you don't want to end a paragraph without a conclusion sentence.

A body paragraph should be at least five to seven sentences in length, but it can be longer if it takes more sentences to set up or explain the examples.

Now that you have read about the parts of a body paragraph for a literary response paper, some of them might already be familiar to you.

When you're ready, move on to the Got It? section to practice decoding a paragraph.

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Paragraph Structure: How to Write a Body Paragraph | Essay Writing Part 4

In part four of our Essay Series, we explain to structure your body paragraphs for a Band 6 result.


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Welcome to our post on How to Write a Body Paragraph. This is part 4 in our Essay Writing Series. It will teach you Band 6 paragraph structure for your essays. Some common issues students have with their essays are:

What is paragraph structure?

In this post, we will explain what a sustained argument is; what the theory behind paragraph structure is; and discuss how to produce a body paragraph that develops a sustained argument. We will then show you an easy step-by-step process for writing great body paragraphs.

Table of Contents

1.  Basic Paragraph Structure 2. Sustained Arguments 3. Recapping Essay Structure 4. Writing a Body Paragraph with a T.E.E.L structure 5. Organising Notes 6. Paragraph Structure: How to Write a Body Paragraph – A Step-by-Step Guide 7. Body Paragraph Structure – A Checklist for Using Evidence

Read on to learn how to write Band 6 body paragraphs.

Basic paragraph structure: How to write a body paragraph | Essay writing Part 4

While many students think otherwise, essay writing is not a mystery. Essay writing is a practical skill that can be learned and improved through practice and dedication. One of the most important skills you must learn is how to develop examples from a text into an argument that supports your thesis.

Body paragraphs are where you support your thesis with evidence. In the case of an English essay, these are where you present your examples and quotations from the text and explain how they support your argument. For example:

Do you see the value of this paragraph structure?

This structure introduces your ideas, supports them, and then connects your evidence back to your thesis. This is the structure of a sustained argument.

Body paragraphs only work well if they are clearly signposted and well structured. Remember, the aim of a good essay is to produce a sustained argument . In this series of posts you have seen us use that term consistently.

But what does a sustained argument actually achieve?

A sustained argument develops an argument so that the work is done for the reader!

The information the reader wants is presented and developed in such a way that it is clearly and easily digestible. Having a strong paragraph structure is crucial for this.

Paragraph structure, sustained arguments, and the ease of reading

Let’s explain how this works and why ease of reading is important.

When we read we don’t like to have our concentration broken. We like to have an argument and its evidence presented clearly and logically. This means that we don’t need to stop and think, or stop and reread, in the midst of reading a piece of writing. This is why signposting is important.

Signposting gives structure and signals to a reader where in an essay they are. Signposting, especially by using topic sentences, consistently orientates readers in the argument – these signposts enable you to see what is being argued and how it relates to the bigger picture in the essay.

If the signposting is flawed and the argument is not consistent, the reader will get distracted. Or worse, they will stop reading and have to start again further up. People are more often convinced by an argument if it is well structured and easy to follow.

Think about what that means for a moment.

Arguments seem more logical if they are easy to read and follow.

So, your essay needs to be easy to read and follow. You don’t want your marker to have to reread part of your essay or stop and think about whether your argument is logical or makes sense. To do this, you must ensure that you have a sustained argument.

Let’s recap how to build the foundations of this in the introduction before we move on to explain how to write body paragraphs that sustain your thesis.

Recapping introductions and topic sentences

In our previous posts, we discussed how the key parts of an introduction – the thesis and thematic framework – connect to the signposting in the body paragraph.

Let’s see how that worked again:


Diagram: Essay Structure and Signposting (©Matrix education, 2017)

As you can see, there is a clear and direct connection between the topic sentence and the two central parts of the introduction. This is integral to a sustained argument and what you need to capitalise on in your body paragraphs.

The best way to do this is to present evidence in a methodical way that both supports and reasserts your topic sentence. This, in turn, will clearly sustain your overall thesis throughout your response. Consequently, this will increase its readability and make it more persuasive.

Let’s have a look at how to do this using a T.E.E.L structure.

Writing body paragraphs using a T.E.E.L structure

Remember, body paragraphs are where you present your evidence. You need to present evidence in a way that supports your thesis and topic sentence. This kind of paragraph structure will increase readability and aid the logic of your argument.

The best method for this is to use a  T.E.E.L . structure.

What is a T.E.E.L structure?

T.E.E.L refers to:

This is the ideal structure that Matrix English students are taught to use when writing their body paragraphs. Rather than presenting a list of quotations and techniques, a T.E.E.L structure develops these pieces of evidence into a thorough argument. This is essential for a sustained argument and, thus, a Band 6 result.

The diagram below may help you to visualize T.E.E.L parts of the paragraph:

Diagram: Elements of a T.E.E.L paragraph (© Matrix Education 2017)

It is important to note that these components can be presented in any order. You can begin with the evidence or the explanation of how it links to the topic at hand. The important thing is doing all of the steps involved.

Let’s consider a student who is writing an essay on William Shakespeare’s Macbeth for Year 11 Critical Study of Literature . To do this we must first assemble some notes.

Organising your notes for better body paragraph structure

A good body paragraph needs evidence. So be sure to analyse your text thoroughly for evidence to discuss before starting an essay.

It is important that you organise your evidence and notes in a logical manner that makes it easy to write practice essays. Matrix students learn how to tabulate notes so they can learn to write dynamic essays, rather than learning how to memorise essays. Good paragraph structure is meaningless without meaningful analysis!

For this example, we will continue looking at Macbeth and the question from the previous posts in this series. For the purpose of writing a body paragraph, we will look at the text through the lens of Year 11 Module B – Critical Study of Literature.

What is Year 11 Module B?

Year 11 Module B is the Critical Study of Literature. In this module, students study canonical texts and engage in a critical study of their themes and construction. They take into account a text’s context and develop their own critical interpretation of the text and decide whether it has distinctive qualities and textual integrity .

When we develop our analysis of Macbeth we will connect it to the requirements of this module.

Let’s have a look at one way to tabulate your notes for study:

In this table, the text is broken down by character, themes, technique, effect, and connection to the module.

Think about that for a moment.

Do you do this? You should!

Tabulating your notes like this allows you to easily transform your notes into part of an argument.

This table layout allows you to easily see the connections between the different components of a T.E.E.L paragraph. You can draw these components together to craft powerful analytical statements about the text that are supported by evidence. This is the most important part of paragraph structure: connecting these pieces of information to develop an argument.

Thus, we can use the information from this table to produce a body paragraph. Let’s look at how to use this evidence and analysis to put together a Band 6 response. But first we need to have quick refresher of the question, thesis, and topic sentences that we developed in the previous posts.

Recapping our thesis and topic sentences

Before we consider the details of paragraph structure, we need to revisit the thesis statement and topic sentence. In the first post in the series , we looked at the following question:

“William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is not about revenge, it is a play concerned with morality and madness.”

To what extent do you agree with this statement? Make use of detailed references to the play in your response.

And in the second post , we developed the following thesis in response to it:

We decided to look at the following themes:

And in the third post , we produced the following topic sentences to support our argument.

Now we have evidence and a question to work from, we will write a body paragraph using the second topic sentence and the theme of morality.

Paragraph structure: how to write a body paragraph – A step-by-step guide

Evidence supports your arguments and demonstrates your logic to the reader.

Take a second to let that sink in.

This means that your evidence must be relevant to your argument and be explained clearly.

Let’s see the steps that Matrix English Students are taught to use for writing Band 6 responses:

Step 1: Analyse the text

Paragraph structure begins with analysis. We have done this already. This is the information that we have organised into our table above. You will need to ensure that you have gone through you text, in detail, as we have above.

If you need help analysing your texts, look at our Literary Technique Series of posts .

Step 2: Decide which evidence is best for the point you are trying to make

We have several quotations in the table above, but they don’t all suit the argument we are trying to make.

For the purposes of this example we will write a shorter body paragraph that uses the following to quotations.

We will use these because they both directly address the statement – “ Macbeth’s struggle with his increasing immorality foreshadows the text’s depiction of vengeance.”

Step 3: Decide the order of your evidence

Paragraph structure requires logical ordering. We need to organise the evidence in a logical manner that best supports our position. This may be a sequential order that reflects the order of events in the text, or it could be more of a thematic approach that develops a theme.

In this instance we are trying to analyse the character development of Macbeth, so we will present and discuss the quotations in the sequential order they appear in the text.

Our body paragraph outline is dictated by our examples:

Notice how these quotations follow the character arc of Macbeth? This will give our paragraph a logical structure.

It is important to mentally draw up a body paragraph outline that is logically structured. This is essential for a sustained argument.

Step 4: Introduce your first example

There must be a logical progression to paragraph structure. The segue, that is the transition , between topic sentence and your first example must develop the idea and seem like part of an argument, not the introduction of a list.

Thus, this statement needs to connect the idea we have introduced in the topic sentence to the example from the text. So, in keeping with this process we need to connect the theme of morality and concept of character development to our first example.

That would look like this:

Consider the logical structure of this:

The next step in paragraph structure is to introduce the example and discuss how it is developing meaning (its technique) and what this represents (its effect).

Step 5: Explain the technique and effect present in the example

The body paragraph requires evidence to make an argument. Good paragraph structure requires examples to be introduced and explained.

So, now we need to explain how this example develops meaning in the text. To do this we have to present the technique and explain how it develops a theme. In this case, the theme is Macbeth’s flawed morality. We need to present information in this rough sequence:

For our example, the statement we would produce is:

The bolded statement above introduces the example and states the technique – extended metaphor. (If you are unsure of what a metaphor is, and how one works you should read this post that explains metaphors. )

The underlined sentences introduce the example and explain what the technique is doing, this is its effect.

Now we need to explain why this example is relevant to our argument.

Step 6: Explain why this example supports your argument

Explaining why evidence supports your point is  THE most important part of paragraph structure. It is the connective tissue that yokes your argument together – joining evidence to your thesis and topic sentence. You don’t have paragraph structure without these statements!

Presenting evidence is important. But it alone doesn’t develop an argument.

If you are being told that your “evidence does not support your position”; that you “don’t have a sustained argument”; or you are “listing evidence”, then you are either not doing this step, or not doing it adequately. This is why your paragraph structure is flawed. So let’s fix it!

Our example supports our topic sentence because it develops the character arc of Macbeth from noble to corrupted. Macbeth’s uncertainty and self-awareness, here, gives us a hint of the downfall that awaits him later in the text.

This is important analysis and an explanation of our logic. So, we should state that in our body paragraph. Matrix English students would learn to write something along the lines of:

The bolded statement explains how this piece of evidence supports the topic sentence. Now we need to introduce a new example and develop it in the same way.

Step 7: Introduce the next example and discuss it

Now that we have produced the first example and developed it into an argument, we need to continue doing this. We will repeat this process with our second example. Good paragraph structure requires a series of examples discussed in depth.

The second part of our paragraph will look like this:

Notice how we have included the same steps, only this time they are presented in a slightly different order.

This is perfectly fine. The main point is that you ensure all the steps are present. The order is not important as long as it reads clearly and logically.

Changing up your order of information is a way of keeping your readers engaged. You don’t want them to find your writing monotonous. It needs to be engaging!

We need to use one more example to show the development of Macbeth’s character. Let’s consider Macbeth’s significant moment of aganorisis (a moment of personal insight or realisation) from his soliloquy in Act 2 and use this to finish this body paragraph’s argument:

This piece of evidence concludes the logic of our argument. Remember the logical argument structured into our body paragraph was:

Next, we need to finish off our body paragraph with a statement that reflects the content and logic while connecting to the topic sentence and thesis.

Step 8: Write a concluding statement that summarises your paragraph and connects it to your thesis

Good paragraph structure requires a body paragraph to have an independent structure as well as fit into a larger argument – the essay as a whole – as an integral part.

To finish a paragraph effectively, we need to summarise what we have been talking about. You need to craft a statement that reflects the concerns of the paragraph and connects it to the thesis statement. It needs to do this in a way that orientates the paragraph as part of an argument.

Remember our thesis was:

And our topic sentence was:

We argued that:

“Macbeth is a good man with a moral centre led astray by ambition.”

But this doesn’t account for the notion of vengeance we introduced in the topic sentence. Our final statement needs to address the mode of Macbeth’s downfall so it can be developed further in the essay’s final paragraph.

We can sum up our argument by stating that:

You can see that this clearly connects the body paragraph to the overall argument we are making while summing up what we have just discussed.

Note that rather than making one long statement, we have broken this idea down into bite-sized chunks. This increases the readability and ensures that our readers can follow our argument. This is what good body paragraph structure does – it structures arguments logically and enhances their readability. You need to marry clarity and complexity in a body paragraph!

An exemplar body paragraph

Take a second to read through the whole paragraph we have written.

Clearly, this is a sustained argument. Matrix students get one-to-one help from tutors and teachers to learn how to write these during the Matrix Term and Holiday courses. You must follow the same approach when you try to write you own sustained argument for your essays!

Step 9: Begin your next paragraph

Now that you have produced one body paragraph, you need to produce one to two more to further support your argument.

If you are unsure what to do, use this handy body paragraph structure checklist to make sure you are doing all of the steps!

Body paragraph structure – A checklist for how to use evidence:

Always be mindful that is very important that you structure your body paragraphs in a logical and systematic manner. Why?

Body paragraphs need to do more than present examples, they explain their relevance to audiences.

Doing this every time will always ensure that you are producing a sustained argument. Remember, killer body paragraph structure is the secret-sauce of a Band 6 result!

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How to Structure Paragraphs in an Essay

Last Updated: January 31, 2023 References

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Danielle Blinka, MA, MPA . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 167,555 times.

Writing an essay can be challenging, especially if you're not sure how to structure your paragraphs. If you’re struggling to organize your essay, you’re in luck! Putting your paragraphs in order may become easier after you understand their purpose. Additionally, knowing what to include in your introduction, body, and conclusion paragraphs will help you more easily get your writing assignment finished.

Essay Template and Sample Essay

body paragraphs in english literature

Putting Your Paragraphs in Order

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Structuring Your Introduction

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Crafting Good Body Paragraphs

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Arranging Your Conclusion

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Body paragraphs (sometimes called "discussion sections") are the...

Body paragraphs (sometimes called "discussion sections") are the...

Body paragraphs (sometimes called "discussion sections") are the parts of your essay that aren't the intro or conclusion. Each of these paragraphs will have: a leading topic sentence that states the paragraph's focus, evidence (quotes, examples, or research), and analysis (your explanation of how the evidence supports the paragraph's main idea. 

   "A Rose for Emily"  Book by William Faulkne

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    The Paragraph Body: Supporting Your Ideas. Whether the drafting of a paragraph begins with a main idea or whether that idea surfaces in the revision process, once you have that main idea, you'll want to make sure that the idea has enough support. The job of the paragraph. body is to develop and support the topic.

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    Step 3: Expand with evidence. The rest of the paragraph should flow logically from the topic sentence, expanding on the point with evidence, examples, or argumentation. This helps keep your paragraphs focused: everything you write should relate to the central idea expressed in the topic sentence. In our example, you might mention specific ...

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    Step 4: Introduce your first example. There must be a logical progression to paragraph structure. The segue, that is the transition, between topic sentence and your first example must develop the idea and seem like part of an argument, not the introduction of a list.

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    Begin each body paragraph when you have a new idea to introduce. The "body" paragraphs are the paragraphs between your introduction and conclusion. Paragraphs begin with a new idea, which should be explained in the topic sentence. ... He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014 ...

  18. Body paragraphs (sometimes called "discussion sections") are the

    Body paragraphs (sometimes called "discussion sections") are the parts of your essay that aren't the intro or conclusion. Each of these paragraphs will have: a leading topic sentence that states the paragraph's focus, evidence (quotes, examples, or research), and analysis (your explanation of how the evidence supports the paragraph's main idea.