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Basic Essay Structure: The Five-Paragraph Essay

  • 0:07 The Five-Paragraph Essay
  • 2:12 Thesis Statement
  • 3:34 Body Paragraph Content
  • 4:37 Maintaining Focus and…
  • 6:13 Conclusion Paragraph
  • 8:02 The Power of Five
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bill Brown

Bill holds an M.A.T. He has taught English/Language Arts to secondary students.

Working with an established essay structure provides writers with the necessary elements of a successful essay. In this lesson, we'll work through the drafting process for the five-paragraph essay and make note of important dos and don'ts.

5-Paragraph Essay

Let's see. There are five senses, five fingers, five great lakes, 5-star restaurants - heck, five golden rings! Ok, I'll never sing again. Take my word for it; the number five is really important. We associate five with prime numbers, major world religions and yes, even the standard for basic essay construction.

The 5-paragraph essay is really a tried and true format that allows writers to adequately argue their thesis as well as provide readers a full circle experience by including an introduction and a conclusion. Antiquated? Some may say so, but this writing format really is the perfect example of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.'

Essay Components

Meet my friend Connie. Connie recently started a new semester at Five Rivers Academy. On the first day of class, and without much instruction, her new teacher assigns an essay on the most influential pop star of the last decade. While other students in her class panic, the calm and confident Connie knows exactly what to do. Not only does she love any chance to sing the praises of her idol, the desire of her affection, the reason she gets up in the morning - Just'n Beeber - she also remembers that constructing an essay around the always-important 'five' provides the perfect balance of information. All she needs is one introduction paragraph to grab readers' attention and present her argument in a thesis; three body paragraphs to argue each point identified in her thesis; and one conclusion paragraph to reiterate the importance of her ideas and leave the reader with a sense of closure. You can find additional information on the specifics of each type of essay paragraph in other videos for this course.

Thesis Statement

The three body paragraphs offer detailed support for the thesis
Five Paragraph Essay Example

Connie knows that the most important element of the introductory paragraph, perhaps even the whole paper, is the thesis statement. The thesis will identify the argument she'll make through her research and provide readers with a preview of the essay's main points. Without a properly formatted thesis statement, Connie's essay is doomed to failure. Since Connie has three body paragraphs to make her argument, she'll need to make sure she has - that's right - three main points or one for each paragraph.

Let's look at her thesis: 'Due to his supportive family, influential mentors and firm desire to succeed, Just'n Beeber is undoubtedly the most influential artist of the last decade.'

This one sentence provides readers with a wealth of information. What is Connie arguing? She'll use her research to make the case that Just'n Beeber is the most influential artist of the last decade. Readers will most likely know that Just'n Beeber is successful, but an opponent could easily take issue with identifying 'the Beebs' as the most influential artist of the past ten years. We know her thesis is arguable and not simply setting up a report on the artist.

Body Paragraph Content

How is she going to prove her argument? Here is where the body paragraphs come into play. Connie will identify quality information to support each of her claims identified in the thesis. In the order she laid out, Connie will devote one paragraph to the support Just'n receives from his family, one paragraph to the influence his mentors have in the industry and one paragraph on the importance of his desire to succeed.

When considering the evidence to incorporate in her argument, it's important for Connie to stick with a variety of quality, up-to-date information from reliable sources. Databases, validated educational websites and official music industry publications are all examples of reliable sources. Simply trolling the 'I Love Beeber' chat room for unconfirmed rumors posted by her BFF, Jane, doesn't give Connie's argument much authority and leads to an unreliable essay full of holes.

Stay Focused

It's also important that as Connie drafts each of her body paragraphs, she stays focused on the topic of each particular paragraph and does not confuse her readers with unrelated information. For example, a personal opinion on how much Connie loves Just'n or his rumored break-up with Celina Gomez has nothing to do with the importance of his influential mentors and has no business winding up in that body paragraph. In fact, as a general rule of thumb, personal statements on the subject of her essay like 'I think' or 'I feel' really have no place in a formal essay anyway. Connie needs to be sure each paragraph previews the specific argument in a topic sentence, and remains focused on the argument throughout. While crafting each sentence of her essay, Connie should ask herself if the information she is about to provide helps prove the argument of the paragraph and if it ultimately serves to support her thesis as a whole.

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