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Subsection 4.2.4 Writing Body Paragraphs

If your introduction is your roadmap, the main body of your paper is the journey you’re taking your reader on. Like your grandparents, your reader doesn’t trust Google Maps, so you’re going to need to make sure that they don’t get lost trying to understand your argument. You can help your reader out in this endeavor by carefully considering how to organize your body paragraphs, what topic sentences best summarize the claims that support your thesis, and what transitions will cue your reader in on how your ideas are connected to one another.

The Landmarks & Sights.

Body paragraphs are the different “landmarks” of your essay. These are the spaces where you can offer evidence for your claims, explain how and why specific details support your claims, and discuss the implications each claim has for the overall argument.

Cartoon binoculars with a text bubble that says, "I spot some evidence ahead!!"

Tip 4.2.17. Five Elements Every Body Paragraph Needs.

  1. A transition from the previous paragraph

  2. A topic sentence that states the main idea (can include the transition)

  3. The evidence supporting that claim

  4. Analysis of how the evidence supports the claim

  5. A statement on how this contributes to the overall argument/thesis

If you need more than one body paragraph to make a point, don't be afraid to take that space! You may need a few body paragraphs to give yourself enough space to fully explicate your evidence or support a single claim. However, if you find yourself needing to write pages and pages about one part of your argument, this may be an indication that you are trying to cover too much ground. When you go back and revise, you may want to consider either eliminating extraneous or unnecessary information or refocusing your thesis around the part of your argument you feel is the strongest or the most interesting to you.

If you find yourself writing paragraphs that are pages long, don't worry—they can almost always be broken down into smaller paragraphs. Try identifying points in the paragraph that would be a logical place for a paragraph break. These include transitions shifting from one idea to another (“however,” “although,” “in contrast,” etc.), sudden changes in topic, and introductions to a new claim or a new piece of evidence. Enter a paragraph break at these points and see if the paragraphs work as two distinct entities within the larger body; keep in mind you may need to write a new topic sentence or two to preserve logic fluency.

If you find yourself writing paragraphs that are only a couple of sentences long, don't stress. Shorter paragraphs are sometimes helpful for filling in the gaps or acting as transitions between larger claims. However, a proliferation of shorter paragraphs may confuse and disorient the audience. Try outlining each of your paragraphs before you begin writing to help you flesh them out (see Section 3.6 and Subsection 4.1.3 for more tips on how to structure your paragraphs).