How to Write a Five-Paragraph Essay

Updated: Oct 31, 2016

Usually reserved for undergraduates, a five-paragraph essay is a fairly simple method of academic writing.

Whether for an assignment or an exam, students in higher education are often required to write a five-paragraph essay. While many are taught early in their academic career how to write this kind of essay, it can still seem a foreign concept for many students at the college/university level. Usually reserved for undergraduates, a five-paragraph essay is a fairly simple method of academic writing, with a purpose of having a student demonstrate to their professor that they have completed their assigned reading, have comprehended it, and can critically analyze its content.

This kind of essay also demonstrates the student can make an argument, and can simply evaluate information on a given topic. Most times, instructions may not always specify that the student responds to a question in the form of this particular kind of essay; but unless they are instructed to write an extensive paper or a one-paragraph response to a question, this method of academic writing may serve them best. The student taking entry-level composition courses will be assigned five-paragraph essays because their professors will want the student to build their analytical and writing skills through writing them.

Steps to Writing a Five-Paragraph Essay

1. Select a topic that is neither too broad nor limited. To organize and coordinate points to make an argument strong, it’s best to explore a narrowed topic. 

2. Organize an essay using the basic five-paragraph essay outline below: 

I. Introduction 

A. Make a Thesis Statement so that it attracts the reader; introduce your main thought
1. Introduce subtopic 1 (elaborate on it in Paragraph 1)
2. Introduce subtopic 2 (elaborate on it in Paragraph 2)
3. Introduce subtopic 3 (elaborate on it in Paragraph 3)
B. Transition into Body Paragraph 1
 
II. Body Paragraph 
A. Restate subtopic 1
1. Provide supporting evidence or give examples (4-5 sentences)
B. Transition into Body Paragraph 2
 
III. Body Paragraph 2
A. Restate subtopic 2
1. Provide supporting evidence or give examples (4-5 sentences)
B. Transition into Body Paragraph 3
 
IV. Body Paragraph 3
A. Restate subtopic 3
1. Provide supporting evidence or give examples (4-5 sentences)
B. Transition into Conclusion
 
V. Conclusion (summary)
1. Restate the thesis statement
2. Restate the main topics or subtopics
 

The student needs a topic first, and then an introductory paragraph declaring the thesis statement (the statement or theory that is put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved or argued throughout the rest of a five-paragraph essay); a body – the three paragraphs discussing the ideas or points, one idea/point in each paragraph, with supporting details, and lastly a concluding paragraph. 

3. Write the essay. This is the result of the writer formulating sentences that are drawn from the outline previously created in Step 2. Writing a successful five-paragraph essay requires a strong topical sentence and a confidently asserted Thesis Statement in the introductory paragraph. Transitions, “First of all,” “Secondly,” “Next,” and “Finally,” help the reader, and the professor, follow the argument or the claim the student is making in their response to a question or writing prompt. Each of those body paragraphs serves to evidence the thesis – to build and support a strong argument for the student making the case of something. 

Lastly, the student needs a conclusive paragraph to tie it all together. This includes the student restating in a creative, clever way the reasoning behind their argument, or thesis statement, and the points supporting that argument. Again, this should amount to five paragraphs, with each comprising five to seven sentences in total.  

4. Proofread and reread the essay before moving on. The student should read their response at least once before moving onto another question, in the case of an exam, or several times before turning in their essay for a grade. It should be free of grammatical errors, erroneous statements, incomplete sentences, as well as claims that are not supported with logical evidence. They must look to confirm that their essay has argued a position in a thorough, persuasive manner.

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