Body Paragraphs (Composition)

Body Paragraphs (Composition)

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The body paragraphs are the part of an essay, report, or speech that explain and develop 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:
Topic Sentence (a sentence that states the one point the paragraph will make)
Assertion statements (statements that present your ideas)
eXample(s) (specific passages, factual material, or concrete detail)
Explanation (commentary that shows how the examples support your assertion)
Significance (commentary that shows how the paragraph supports the thesis statement). 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:

  • How to Catch River Crabs (paragraphs 2 and 3)
  • Learning to Hate Mathematics (paragraphs 2-4)
  • Rhetorical Analysis of U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (paragraphs 2-13)
  • Time for an Anthem the Country Can Sing (paragraphs 2-4)
  • Watching Baseball, Playing Softball (paragraphs 2-4)

If you would like more information on composition, check out information on the five-paragraph essay structure and different modes of discourse, or formats that your paper can take. You may also find useful the exercise, "Practice in Supporting a Topic Sentence with Specific Details."


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