Format of a Five Paragraph Essay

(from notes provided by Professor Cheryl Curtis - Education)

The five paragraph essay follows a defined format. The first paragraph introduces the thesis of the essay and directs the reader to the three main supporting subtopics. The second through fourth paragraphs are all similar in format. They individually restate the subtopics and are developed by giving supporting information. The fifth (Final) paragraph restates the main thesis idea and reminds the reader of the three main supporting ideas that were developed. All of these paragraphs are important.

The introductory paragraph is the place in which the writer introduces the reader to the topic. It is important to make this a clear and limited statement. This is where the reader's attention is grabbed. Because of its key purpose, this statement is often the first sentence of the paragraph. It is followed by three subtopics that develop the thesis. Between this paragraph and all paragraphs of the essay, there must be a transition word, phrase, or sentence.

The body of the essay next contains paragraphs two through four. They are all similarly constructed. Their topic sentences, each, are restatements, often in original form, of the three supporting ideas presented in the first paragraph. The subtopic supported in each of the body paragraphs is again supported by three or more supporting sentences. These solidify, in the reader's mind, the relationship and relevance of each of the subtopics to the thesis statement.

The fifth or final paragraph is the summary paragraph. It is important to restate the thesis and the three supporting ideas in an original and powerful manner as this is the last chance the writer has to convince the reader of the validity of the information presented. Because the purposes of the first and fifth paragraph are so similar that some writers often construct them at the same time. They will then edit them, as needed, as they edit the entire the essay.

It is important to reiterate that each of the paragraphs is joined together by a transition word, phrase or sentence. Transitions help the reader to follow the flow of the logic and sequencing. All of the essay types follow this basic transition format. However, there is more latitude with the narrative essay because of its nature.

To put it more visually, the structure model looks like this:

Introductory Paragraph

General Topic Sentence

1. Subtopic One
2. Subtopic Two
3. Subtopic Three

Transition

First Supporting Paragraph

Restate Subtopic One

1. First Supporting Detail or Example
2. Second Supporting Detail or Example
3. Third Supporting Detail or Example

Transition

Second Supporting Paragraph

Restate Subtopic Two

1. First Supporting Detail or Example
2. Second Supporting Detail or Example
3. Third Supporting Detail or Example

Transition

Third Supporting Paragraph

Restate Subtopic Three

1. First Supporting Detail or Example
2. Second Supporting Detail or Example
3. Third Supporting Detail or Example

Transition

Closing or Summary Paragraph

Synthesis of main topic

1. Synthesis of Subtopic One
2. Synthesis of Subtopic Two
3. Synthesis of Subtopic Three