The Ultimate Guide to the 5-Paragraph Essay

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  • M.Ed., Education Administration, University of Georgia
  • B.A., History, Armstrong State University

A five-paragraph essay is a prose composition that follows a prescribed format of an introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph, and is typically taught during primary English education and applied on standardized testing throughout schooling.

Learning to write a high-quality five-paragraph essay is an essential skill for students in early English classes as it allows them to express certain ideas, claims, or concepts in an organized manner, complete with evidence that supports each of these notions. Later, though, students may decide to stray from the standard five-paragraph format and venture into writing an  exploratory essay  instead.

Still, teaching students to organize essays into the five-paragraph format is an easy way to introduce them to writing literary criticism, which will be tested time and again throughout their primary, secondary, and further education.

Writing a Good Introduction

The introduction is the first paragraph in your essay, and it should accomplish a few specific goals: capture the reader's interest, introduce the topic, and make a claim or express an opinion in a thesis statement.

It's a good idea to start your essay with a hook (fascinating statement) to pique the reader's interest, though this can also be accomplished by using descriptive words, an anecdote, an intriguing question, or an interesting fact. Students can practice with creative writing prompts to get some ideas for interesting ways to start an essay.

The next few sentences should explain your first statement, and prepare the reader for your thesis statement, which is typically the last sentence in the introduction. Your  thesis sentence  should provide your specific assertion and convey a clear point of view, which is typically divided into three distinct arguments that support this assertation, which will each serve as central themes for the body paragraphs.

Writing Body Paragraphs

The body of the essay will include three body paragraphs in a five-paragraph essay format, each limited to one main idea that supports your thesis.

To correctly write each of these three body paragraphs, you should state your supporting idea, your topic sentence, then back it up with two or three sentences of evidence. Use examples that validate the claim before concluding the paragraph and using transition words to lead to the paragraph that follows — meaning that all of your body paragraphs should follow the pattern of "statement, supporting ideas, transition statement."

Words to use as you transition from one paragraph to another include: moreover, in fact, on the whole, furthermore, as a result, simply put, for this reason, similarly, likewise, it follows that, naturally, by comparison, surely, and yet.

Writing a Conclusion

The final paragraph will summarize your main points and re-assert your main claim (from your thesis sentence). It should point out your main points, but should not repeat specific examples, and should, as always, leave a lasting impression on the reader.

The first sentence of the conclusion, therefore, should be used to restate the supporting claims argued in the body paragraphs as they relate to the thesis statement, then the next few sentences should be used to explain how the essay's main points can lead outward, perhaps to further thought on the topic. Ending the conclusion with a question, anecdote, or final pondering is a great way to leave a lasting impact.

Once you complete the first draft of your essay, it's a good idea to re-visit the thesis statement in your first paragraph. Read your essay to see if it flows well, and you might find that the supporting paragraphs are strong, but they don't address the exact focus of your thesis. Simply re-write your thesis sentence to fit your body and summary more exactly, and adjust the conclusion to wrap it all up nicely.

Practice Writing a Five-Paragraph Essay

Students can use the following steps to write a standard essay on any given topic. First, choose a topic, or ask your students to choose their topic, then allow them to form a basic five-paragraph by following these steps:

  • Decide on your  basic thesis , your idea of a topic to discuss.
  • Decide on three pieces of supporting evidence you will use to prove your thesis.
  • Write an introductory paragraph, including your thesis and evidence (in order of strength).
  • Write your first body paragraph, starting with restating your thesis and focusing on your first piece of supporting evidence.
  • End your first paragraph with a transitional sentence that leads to the next body paragraph.
  • Write paragraph two of the body focussing on your second piece of evidence. Once again make the connection between your thesis and this piece of evidence.
  • End your second paragraph with a transitional sentence that leads to paragraph number three.
  • Repeat step 6 using your third piece of evidence.
  • Begin your concluding paragraph by restating your thesis. Include the three points you've used to prove your thesis.
  • End with a punch, a question, an anecdote, or an entertaining thought that will stay with the reader.

Once a student can master these 10 simple steps, writing a basic five-paragraph essay will be a piece of cake, so long as the student does so correctly and includes enough supporting information in each paragraph that all relate to the same centralized main idea, the thesis of the essay.

Limitations of the Five-Paragraph Essay

The five-paragraph essay is merely a starting point for students hoping to express their ideas in academic writing; there are some other forms and styles of writing that students should use to express their vocabulary in the written form.

According to Tory Young's "Studying English Literature: A Practical Guide":

"Although school students in the U.S. are examined on their ability to write a  five-paragraph essay , its  raison d'être  is purportedly to give practice in basic writing skills that will lead to future success in more varied forms. Detractors feel, however, that writing to rule in this way is more likely to discourage imaginative writing and thinking than enable it. . . . The five-paragraph essay is less aware of its  audience  and sets out only to present information, an account or a kind of story rather than explicitly to persuade the reader."

Students should instead be asked to write other forms, such as journal entries, blog posts, reviews of goods or services, multi-paragraph research papers, and freeform expository writing around a central theme. Although five-paragraph essays are the golden rule when writing for standardized tests, experimentation with expression should be encouraged throughout primary schooling to bolster students' abilities to utilize the English language fully.

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Guide on How to Write a 5 Paragraph Essay Effortlessly

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Defining What Is a 5 Paragraph Essay

Have you ever been assigned a five-paragraph essay and wondered what exactly it means? Don't worry; we all have been there. A five-paragraph essay is a standard academic writing format consisting of an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

In the introduction, you present your thesis statement, which is the main idea or argument you will discuss in your essay. The three body paragraphs present a separate supporting argument, while the conclusion summarizes the main points and restates the thesis differently.

While the five-paragraph essay is a tried and true format for many academic assignments, it's important to note that it's not the only way to write an essay. In fact, some educators argue that strict adherence to this format can stifle creativity and limit the development of more complex ideas.

However, mastering the five-paragraph essay is a valuable skill for any student, as it teaches the importance of structure and organization in writing. Also, it enables you to communicate your thoughts clearly and eloquently, which is crucial for effective communication in any area. So the next time you're faced with a five-paragraph essay assignment, embrace the challenge and use it as an opportunity to hone your writing skills.

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How to Write a 5 Paragraph Essay: General Tips

If you are struggling with how to write a 5 paragraph essay, don't worry! It's a common format that many students learn in their academic careers. Here are some tips from our admission essay writing service to help you write a successful five paragraph essay example:

How to Write a 5 Paragraph Essay Effortlessly

  • Start with a strong thesis statement : Among the 5 parts of essay, the thesis statement can be the most important. It presents the major topic you will debate throughout your essay while being explicit and simple.
  • Use topic sentences to introduce each paragraph : The major idea you will address in each of the three body paragraphs should be established in a concise subject sentence.
  • Use evidence to support your arguments : The evidence you present in your body paragraphs should back up your thesis. This can include facts, statistics, or examples from your research or personal experience.
  • Include transitions: Use transitional words and phrases to make the flow of your essay easier. Words like 'although,' 'in addition,' and 'on the other hand' are examples of these.
  • Write a strong conclusion: In addition to restating your thesis statement in a new way, your conclusion should highlight the key ideas of your essay. You might also leave the reader with a closing idea or query to reflect on.
  • Edit and proofread: When you've completed writing your essay, thoroughly revise and proofread it. Make sure your thoughts are brief and clear and proofread your writing for grammatical and spelling mistakes.

By following these tips, you can write strong and effective five paragraph essays examples that will impress your teacher or professor.

5 Paragraph Essay Format

Let's readdress the five-paragraph essay format and explain it in more detail. So, as already mentioned, it is a widely-used writing structure taught in many schools and universities. A five-paragraph essay comprises an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion, each playing a significant role in creating a well-structured and coherent essay.

The introduction serves as the opening paragraph of the essay and sets the tone for the entire piece. It should captivate the reader's attention, provide relevant background information, and include a clear and concise thesis statement that presents the primary argument of the essay. For example, if the essay topic is about the benefits of exercise, the introduction may look something like this:

'Regular exercise provides numerous health benefits, including increased energy levels, improved mental health, and reduced risk of chronic diseases.'

The body paragraphs are the meat of the essay and should provide evidence and examples to support the thesis statement. Each body paragraph should begin with a subject sentence that states the major idea of the paragraph. Then, the writer should provide evidence to support the topic sentence. This evidence can be in the form of statistics, facts, or examples. For instance, if the essay is discussing the health benefits of exercise, a body paragraph might look like this:

'One of the key benefits of exercise is improved mental health. Regular exercise has been demonstrated in studies to lessen depressive and anxious symptoms and enhance mood.'

The essay's final paragraph, the conclusion, should repeat the thesis statement and summarize the essay's important ideas. A concluding idea or query might be included to give the reader something to ponder. For example, a conclusion for an essay on the benefits of exercise might look like this:

'In conclusion, exercise provides numerous health benefits, from increased energy levels to reduced risk of chronic diseases. We may enhance both our physical and emotional health and enjoy happier, more satisfying lives by including exercise into our daily routines.'

Overall, the 5 paragraph essay format is useful for organizing thoughts and ideas clearly and concisely. By following this format, writers can present their arguments logically and effectively, which is easy for the reader to follow.

Types of 5 Paragraph Essay 

There are several types of five-paragraph essays, each with a slightly different focus or purpose. Here are some of the most common types of five-paragraph essays:

How to Write a 5 Paragraph Essay Effortlessly

  • Narrative essay : A narrative essay tells a story or recounts a personal experience. It typically includes a clear introductory paragraph, body sections that provide details about the story, and a conclusion that wraps up the narrative.
  • Descriptive essay: A descriptive essay uses sensory language to describe a person, place, or thing. It often includes a clear thesis statement that identifies the subject of the description and body paragraphs that provide specific details to support the thesis.
  • Expository essay: An expository essay offers details or clarifies a subject. It usually starts with a concise introduction that introduces the subject, is followed by body paragraphs that provide evidence and examples to back up the thesis, and ends with a summary of the key points.
  • Persuasive essay: A persuasive essay argues for a particular viewpoint or position. It has a thesis statement that is clear, body paragraphs that give evidence and arguments in favor of it, and a conclusion that summarizes the important ideas and restates the thesis.
  • Compare and contrast essay: An essay that compares and contrasts two or more subjects and looks at their similarities and differences. It usually starts out simply by introducing the topics being contrasted or compared, followed by body paragraphs that go into more depth on the similarities and differences, and a concluding paragraph that restates the important points.

Each type of five-paragraph essay has its own unique characteristics and requirements. When unsure how to write five paragraph essay, writers can choose the most appropriate structure for their topic by understanding the differences between these types.

5 Paragraph Essay Example Topics

Here are some potential topics for a 5 paragraph essay example. These essay topics are just a starting point and can be expanded upon to fit a wide range of writing essays and prompts.

  • The Impact of Social Media on Teenage Communication Skills.
  • How Daily Exercise Benefits Mental and Physical Health.
  • The Importance of Learning a Second Language.
  • The Effects of Global Warming on Marine Life.
  • The Role of Technology in Modern Education.
  • The Influence of Music on Youth Culture.
  • The Pros and Cons of Uniform Policies in Schools.
  • The Significance of Historical Monuments in Cultural Identity.
  • The Growing Importance of Cybersecurity.
  • The Evolution of the American Dream.
  • The Impact of Diet on Cognitive Functioning.
  • The Role of Art in Society.
  • The Future of Renewable Energy Sources.
  • The Effects of Urbanization on Wildlife.
  • The Importance of Financial Literacy for Young Adults.
  • The Influence of Advertising on Consumer Choices.
  • The Role of Books in the Digital Age.\
  • The Benefits and Challenges of Space Exploration.
  • The Impact of Climate Change on Agriculture.
  • The Ethical Implications of Genetic Modification.

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General Grading Rubric for a 5 Paragraph Essay

The following is a general grading rubric that can be used to evaluate a five-paragraph essay:

Content (40%)

  • A thesis statement is clear and specific
  • The main points are well-developed and supported by evidence
  • Ideas are organized logically and coherently
  • Evidence and examples are relevant and support the main points
  • The essay demonstrates a strong understanding of the topic

Organization (20%)

  • The introduction effectively introduces the topic and thesis statement
  • Body paragraphs are well-structured and have clear topic sentences
  • Transitions between paragraphs are smooth and effective
  • The concluding sentence effectively summarizes the main points and restates the thesis statement

Language and Style (20%)

  • Writing is clear, concise, and easy to understand
  • Language is appropriate for the audience and purpose
  • Vocabulary is varied and appropriate
  • Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are correct

Critical Thinking (20%)

  • Student demonstrate an understanding of the topic beyond surface-level knowledge
  • Student present a unique perspective or argument
  • Student show evidence of critical thinking and analysis
  • Students write well-supported conclusions

Considering the above, the paper should demonstrate a thorough understanding of the topic, clear organization, strong essay writing skills, and critical thinking. By using this grading rubric, the teacher can evaluate the essay holistically and provide detailed feedback to the student on areas of strength and areas for improvement.

Five Paragraph Essay Examples

Wrapping up: things to remember.

In conclusion, writing a five paragraph essay example can seem daunting at first, but it doesn't have to be a difficult task. Following these simple steps and tips, you can break down the process into manageable parts and create a clear, concise, and well-organized essay.

Remember to start with a strong thesis statement, use topic sentences to guide your paragraphs, and provide evidence and analysis to support your ideas. Don't forget to revise and proofread your work to make sure it is error-free and coherent. With time and practice, you'll be able to write a 5 paragraph essay with ease and assurance. Whether you're writing for school, work, or personal projects, these skills will serve you well and help you to communicate your ideas effectively.

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Adam Jason

is an expert in nursing and healthcare, with a strong background in history, law, and literature. Holding advanced degrees in nursing and public health, his analytical approach and comprehensive knowledge help students navigate complex topics. On EssayPro blog, Adam provides insightful articles on everything from historical analysis to the intricacies of healthcare policies. In his downtime, he enjoys historical documentaries and volunteering at local clinics.

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Essay Papers Writing Online

Ultimate guide to writing a five paragraph essay.

How to write a five paragraph essay

Are you struggling with writing essays? Do you find yourself lost in a sea of ideas, unable to structure your thoughts cohesively? The five paragraph essay is a tried-and-true method that can guide you through the writing process with ease. By mastering this format, you can unlock the key to successful and organized writing.

In this article, we will break down the five paragraph essay into easy steps that anyone can follow. From crafting a strong thesis statement to effectively supporting your arguments, we will cover all the essential components of a well-written essay. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned writer, these tips will help you hone your skills and express your ideas clearly.

Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering the Five Paragraph Essay

Writing a successful five paragraph essay can seem like a daunting task, but with the right approach and strategies, it can become much more manageable. Follow these steps to master the art of writing a powerful five paragraph essay:

  • Understand the structure: The five paragraph essay consists of an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Each paragraph serves a specific purpose in conveying your message effectively.
  • Brainstorm and plan: Before you start writing, take the time to brainstorm ideas and create an outline. This will help you organize your thoughts and ensure that your essay flows smoothly.
  • Write the introduction: Start your essay with a strong hook to grab the reader’s attention. Your introduction should also include a thesis statement, which is the main argument of your essay.
  • Develop the body paragraphs: Each body paragraph should focus on a single point that supports your thesis. Use evidence, examples, and analysis to strengthen your argument and make your points clear.
  • Conclude effectively: In your conclusion, summarize your main points and restate your thesis in a new way. Leave the reader with a thought-provoking statement or a call to action.

By following these steps and practicing regularly, you can become proficient in writing five paragraph essays that are clear, coherent, and impactful. Remember to revise and edit your work for grammar, punctuation, and clarity to ensure that your essay is polished and professional.

Understanding the Structure of a Five Paragraph Essay

Understanding the Structure of a Five Paragraph Essay

When writing a five paragraph essay, it is important to understand the basic structure that makes up this type of essay. The five paragraph essay consists of an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Introduction: The introduction is the first paragraph of the essay and sets the tone for the rest of the piece. It should include a hook to grab the reader’s attention, a thesis statement that presents the main idea of the essay, and a brief overview of what will be discussed in the body paragraphs.

Body Paragraphs: The body paragraphs make up the core of the essay and each paragraph should focus on a single point that supports the thesis statement. These paragraphs should include a topic sentence that introduces the main idea, supporting details or evidence, and explanations or analysis of how the evidence supports the thesis.

Conclusion: The conclusion is the final paragraph of the essay and it should summarize the main points discussed in the body paragraphs. It should restate the thesis in different words, and provide a closing thought or reflection on the topic.

By understanding the structure of a five paragraph essay, writers can effectively organize their thoughts and present their ideas in a clear and coherent manner.

Choosing a Strong Thesis Statement

One of the most critical elements of a successful five-paragraph essay is a strong thesis statement. Your thesis statement should clearly and concisely present the main argument or point you will be making in your essay. It serves as the foundation for the entire essay, guiding the reader on what to expect and helping you stay focused throughout your writing.

When choosing a thesis statement, it’s important to make sure it is specific, debatable, and relevant to your topic. Avoid vague statements or generalizations, as they will weaken your argument and fail to provide a clear direction for your essay. Instead, choose a thesis statement that is narrow enough to be effectively supported within the confines of a five-paragraph essay, but broad enough to allow for meaningful discussion.

Tip 1: Brainstorm several potential thesis statements before settling on one. Consider different angles or perspectives on your topic to find the most compelling argument.
Tip 2: Make sure your thesis statement is arguable. You want to present a position that can be debated or challenged, as this will lead to a more engaging and persuasive essay.
Tip 3: Ensure your thesis statement directly addresses the prompt or question you are responding to. It should be relevant to the assigned topic and provide a clear focus for your essay.

By choosing a strong thesis statement, you set yourself up for a successful essay that is well-organized, coherent, and persuasive. Take the time to carefully craft your thesis statement, as it will serve as the guiding force behind your entire essay.

Developing Supporting Arguments in Body Paragraphs

When crafting the body paragraphs of your five paragraph essay, it is crucial to develop strong and coherent supporting arguments that back up your thesis statement. Each body paragraph should focus on a single supporting argument that contributes to the overall discussion of your topic.

To effectively develop your supporting arguments, consider using a table to organize your ideas. Start by listing your main argument in the left column, and then provide evidence, examples, and analysis in the right column. This structured approach can help you ensure that each supporting argument is fully developed and logically presented.

Additionally, be sure to use transitional phrases to smoothly connect your supporting arguments within and between paragraphs. Words like “furthermore,” “in addition,” and “on the other hand” can help readers follow your train of thought and understand the progression of your ideas.

Remember, the body paragraphs are where you provide the meat of your argument, so take the time to develop each supporting argument thoroughly and clearly. By presenting compelling evidence and analysis, you can effectively persuade your readers and strengthen the overall impact of your essay.

Polishing Your Writing: Editing and Proofreading Tips

Editing and proofreading are crucial steps in the writing process that can make a significant difference in the clarity and effectiveness of your essay. Here are some tips to help you polish your writing:

1. Take a break before editing: After you finish writing your essay, take a break before starting the editing process. This will help you approach your work with fresh eyes and catch mistakes more easily.

2. Read your essay aloud: Reading your essay aloud can help you identify awkward phrasing, grammar errors, and inconsistencies. This technique can also help you evaluate the flow and coherence of your writing.

3. Use a spelling and grammar checker: Utilize spelling and grammar checkers available in word processing software to catch common errors. However, be mindful that these tools may not catch all mistakes, so it’s essential to manually review your essay as well.

4. Check for coherence and organization: Make sure your ideas flow logically and cohesively throughout your essay. Ensure that each paragraph connects smoothly to the next, and that your arguments are supported by relevant evidence.

5. Look for consistency: Check for consistency in your writing style, tone, and formatting. Ensure that you maintain a consistent voice and perspective throughout your essay to keep your argument coherent.

6. Seek feedback from others: Consider asking a peer, teacher, or tutor to review your essay and provide feedback. External perspectives can help you identify blind spots and areas for improvement in your writing.

7. Proofread carefully: Finally, proofread your essay carefully to catch any remaining errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and formatting. Pay attention to details and make any necessary revisions before submitting your final draft.

By following these editing and proofreading tips, you can refine your writing and ensure that your essay is polished and ready for submission.

Tips for Successful Writing: Practice and Feedback

Writing is a skill that improves with practice. The more you write, the better you will become. Set aside time each day to practice writing essays, paragraph by paragraph. This consistent practice will help you develop your writing skills and grow more confident in expressing your ideas.

Seek feedback from your teachers, peers, or mentors. Constructive criticism can help you identify areas for improvement and provide valuable insights into your writing. Take their suggestions into consideration and use them to refine your writing style and structure.

  • Set writing goals for yourself and track your progress. Whether it’s completing a certain number of essays in a week or improving your introductions, having specific goals will keep you motivated and focused on your writing development.
  • Read widely to expand your vocabulary and expose yourself to different writing styles. The more you read, the more you will learn about effective writing techniques and ways to engage your readers.
  • Revise and edit your essays carefully. Pay attention to sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, and spelling. A well-polished essay will demonstrate your attention to detail and dedication to producing high-quality work.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What this handout is about

This handout will help you understand how paragraphs are formed, how to develop stronger paragraphs, and how to completely and clearly express your ideas.

What is a paragraph?

Paragraphs are the building blocks of papers. Many students define paragraphs in terms of length: a paragraph is a group of at least five sentences, a paragraph is half a page long, etc. In reality, though, the unity and coherence of ideas among sentences is what constitutes a paragraph. A paragraph is defined as “a group of sentences or a single sentence that forms a unit” (Lunsford and Connors 116). Length and appearance do not determine whether a section in a paper is a paragraph. For instance, in some styles of writing, particularly journalistic styles, a paragraph can be just one sentence long. Ultimately, a paragraph is a sentence or group of sentences that support one main idea. In this handout, we will refer to this as the “controlling idea,” because it controls what happens in the rest of the paragraph.

How do I decide what to put in a paragraph?

Before you can begin to determine what the composition of a particular paragraph will be, you must first decide on an argument and a working thesis statement for your paper. What is the most important idea that you are trying to convey to your reader? The information in each paragraph must be related to that idea. In other words, your paragraphs should remind your reader that there is a recurrent relationship between your thesis and the information in each paragraph. A working thesis functions like a seed from which your paper, and your ideas, will grow. The whole process is an organic one—a natural progression from a seed to a full-blown paper where there are direct, familial relationships between all of the ideas in the paper.

The decision about what to put into your paragraphs begins with the germination of a seed of ideas; this “germination process” is better known as brainstorming . There are many techniques for brainstorming; whichever one you choose, this stage of paragraph development cannot be skipped. Building paragraphs can be like building a skyscraper: there must be a well-planned foundation that supports what you are building. Any cracks, inconsistencies, or other corruptions of the foundation can cause your whole paper to crumble.

So, let’s suppose that you have done some brainstorming to develop your thesis. What else should you keep in mind as you begin to create paragraphs? Every paragraph in a paper should be :

  • Unified : All of the sentences in a single paragraph should be related to a single controlling idea (often expressed in the topic sentence of the paragraph).
  • Clearly related to the thesis : The sentences should all refer to the central idea, or thesis, of the paper (Rosen and Behrens 119).
  • Coherent : The sentences should be arranged in a logical manner and should follow a definite plan for development (Rosen and Behrens 119).
  • Well-developed : Every idea discussed in the paragraph should be adequately explained and supported through evidence and details that work together to explain the paragraph’s controlling idea (Rosen and Behrens 119).

How do I organize a paragraph?

There are many different ways to organize a paragraph. The organization you choose will depend on the controlling idea of the paragraph. Below are a few possibilities for organization, with links to brief examples:

  • Narration : Tell a story. Go chronologically, from start to finish. ( See an example. )
  • Description : Provide specific details about what something looks, smells, tastes, sounds, or feels like. Organize spatially, in order of appearance, or by topic. ( See an example. )
  • Process : Explain how something works, step by step. Perhaps follow a sequence—first, second, third. ( See an example. )
  • Classification : Separate into groups or explain the various parts of a topic. ( See an example. )
  • Illustration : Give examples and explain how those examples support your point. (See an example in the 5-step process below.)

Illustration paragraph: a 5-step example

From the list above, let’s choose “illustration” as our rhetorical purpose. We’ll walk through a 5-step process for building a paragraph that illustrates a point in an argument. For each step there is an explanation and example. Our example paragraph will be about human misconceptions of piranhas.

Step 1. Decide on a controlling idea and create a topic sentence

Paragraph development begins with the formulation of the controlling idea. This idea directs the paragraph’s development. Often, the controlling idea of a paragraph will appear in the form of a topic sentence. In some cases, you may need more than one sentence to express a paragraph’s controlling idea.

Controlling idea and topic sentence — Despite the fact that piranhas are relatively harmless, many people continue to believe the pervasive myth that piranhas are dangerous to humans.

Step 2. Elaborate on the controlling idea

Paragraph development continues with an elaboration on the controlling idea, perhaps with an explanation, implication, or statement about significance. Our example offers a possible explanation for the pervasiveness of the myth.

Elaboration — This impression of piranhas is exacerbated by their mischaracterization in popular media.

Step 3. Give an example (or multiple examples)

Paragraph development progresses with an example (or more) that illustrates the claims made in the previous sentences.

Example — For example, the promotional poster for the 1978 horror film Piranha features an oversized piranha poised to bite the leg of an unsuspecting woman.

Step 4. Explain the example(s)

The next movement in paragraph development is an explanation of each example and its relevance to the topic sentence. The explanation should demonstrate the value of the example as evidence to support the major claim, or focus, in your paragraph.

Continue the pattern of giving examples and explaining them until all points/examples that the writer deems necessary have been made and explained. NONE of your examples should be left unexplained. You might be able to explain the relationship between the example and the topic sentence in the same sentence which introduced the example. More often, however, you will need to explain that relationship in a separate sentence.

Explanation for example — Such a terrifying representation easily captures the imagination and promotes unnecessary fear.

Notice that the example and explanation steps of this 5-step process (steps 3 and 4) can be repeated as needed. The idea is that you continue to use this pattern until you have completely developed the main idea of the paragraph.

Step 5. Complete the paragraph’s idea or transition into the next paragraph

The final movement in paragraph development involves tying up the loose ends of the paragraph. At this point, you can remind your reader about the relevance of the information to the larger paper, or you can make a concluding point for this example. You might, however, simply transition to the next paragraph.

Sentences for completing a paragraph — While the trope of the man-eating piranhas lends excitement to the adventure stories, it bears little resemblance to the real-life piranha. By paying more attention to fact than fiction, humans may finally be able to let go of this inaccurate belief.

Finished paragraph

Despite the fact that piranhas are relatively harmless, many people continue to believe the pervasive myth that piranhas are dangerous to humans. This impression of piranhas is exacerbated by their mischaracterization in popular media. For example, the promotional poster for the 1978 horror film Piranha features an oversized piranha poised to bite the leg of an unsuspecting woman. Such a terrifying representation easily captures the imagination and promotes unnecessary fear. While the trope of the man-eating piranhas lends excitement to the adventure stories, it bears little resemblance to the real-life piranha. By paying more attention to fact than fiction, humans may finally be able to let go of this inaccurate belief.

Troubleshooting paragraphs

Problem: the paragraph has no topic sentence.

Imagine each paragraph as a sandwich. The real content of the sandwich—the meat or other filling—is in the middle. It includes all the evidence you need to make the point. But it gets kind of messy to eat a sandwich without any bread. Your readers don’t know what to do with all the evidence you’ve given them. So, the top slice of bread (the first sentence of the paragraph) explains the topic (or controlling idea) of the paragraph. And, the bottom slice (the last sentence of the paragraph) tells the reader how the paragraph relates to the broader argument. In the original and revised paragraphs below, notice how a topic sentence expressing the controlling idea tells the reader the point of all the evidence.

Original paragraph

Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and aquatic plants. When confronted with humans, piranhas’ first instinct is to flee, not attack. Their fear of humans makes sense. Far more piranhas are eaten by people than people are eaten by piranhas. If the fish are well-fed, they won’t bite humans.

Revised paragraph

Although most people consider piranhas to be quite dangerous, they are, for the most part, entirely harmless. Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and aquatic plants. When confronted with humans, piranhas’ first instinct is to flee, not attack. Their fear of humans makes sense. Far more piranhas are eaten by people than people are eaten by piranhas. If the fish are well-fed, they won’t bite humans.

Once you have mastered the use of topic sentences, you may decide that the topic sentence for a particular paragraph really shouldn’t be the first sentence of the paragraph. This is fine—the topic sentence can actually go at the beginning, middle, or end of a paragraph; what’s important is that it is in there somewhere so that readers know what the main idea of the paragraph is and how it relates back to the thesis of your paper. Suppose that we wanted to start the piranha paragraph with a transition sentence—something that reminds the reader of what happened in the previous paragraph—rather than with the topic sentence. Let’s suppose that the previous paragraph was about all kinds of animals that people are afraid of, like sharks, snakes, and spiders. Our paragraph might look like this (the topic sentence is bold):

Like sharks, snakes, and spiders, piranhas are widely feared. Although most people consider piranhas to be quite dangerous, they are, for the most part, entirely harmless . Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and aquatic plants. When confronted with humans, piranhas’ first instinct is to flee, not attack. Their fear of humans makes sense. Far more piranhas are eaten by people than people are eaten by piranhas. If the fish are well-fed, they won’t bite humans.

Problem: the paragraph has more than one controlling idea

If a paragraph has more than one main idea, consider eliminating sentences that relate to the second idea, or split the paragraph into two or more paragraphs, each with only one main idea. Watch our short video on reverse outlining to learn a quick way to test whether your paragraphs are unified. In the following paragraph, the final two sentences branch off into a different topic; so, the revised paragraph eliminates them and concludes with a sentence that reminds the reader of the paragraph’s main idea.

Although most people consider piranhas to be quite dangerous, they are, for the most part, entirely harmless. Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and aquatic plants. When confronted with humans, piranhas’ first instinct is to flee, not attack. Their fear of humans makes sense. Far more piranhas are eaten by people than people are eaten by piranhas. A number of South American groups eat piranhas. They fry or grill the fish and then serve them with coconut milk or tucupi, a sauce made from fermented manioc juices.

Problem: transitions are needed within the paragraph

You are probably familiar with the idea that transitions may be needed between paragraphs or sections in a paper (see our handout on transitions ). Sometimes they are also helpful within the body of a single paragraph. Within a paragraph, transitions are often single words or short phrases that help to establish relationships between ideas and to create a logical progression of those ideas in a paragraph. This is especially likely to be true within paragraphs that discuss multiple examples. Let’s take a look at a version of our piranha paragraph that uses transitions to orient the reader:

Although most people consider piranhas to be quite dangerous, they are, except in two main situations, entirely harmless. Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and aquatic plants. When confronted with humans, piranhas’ instinct is to flee, not attack. But there are two situations in which a piranha bite is likely. The first is when a frightened piranha is lifted out of the water—for example, if it has been caught in a fishing net. The second is when the water level in pools where piranhas are living falls too low. A large number of fish may be trapped in a single pool, and if they are hungry, they may attack anything that enters the water.

In this example, you can see how the phrases “the first” and “the second” help the reader follow the organization of the ideas in the paragraph.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Lunsford, Andrea. 2008. The St. Martin’s Handbook: Annotated Instructor’s Edition , 6th ed. New York: St. Martin’s.

Rosen, Leonard J., and Laurence Behrens. 2003. The Allyn & Bacon Handbook , 5th ed. New York: Longman.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Paragraphs & topic sentences.

A paragraph is a series of sentences that are organized and coherent, and are all related to a single topic. Almost every piece of writing you do that is longer than a few sentences should be organized into paragraphs. This is because paragraphs show a reader where the subdivisions of an essay begin and end, and thus help the reader see the organization of the essay and grasp its main points.

Paragraphs can contain many different kinds of information. A paragraph could contain a series of brief examples or a single long illustration of a general point. It might describe a place, character, or process; narrate a series of events; compare or contrast two or more things; classify items into categories; or describe causes and effects. Regardless of the kind of information they contain, all paragraphs share certain characteristics. One of the most important of these is a topic sentence.

TOPIC SENTENCES

A well-organized paragraph supports or develops a single controlling idea, which is expressed in a sentence called the topic sentence. A topic sentence has several important functions: it substantiates or supports an essay’s thesis statement; it unifies the content of a paragraph and directs the order of the sentences; and it advises the reader of the subject to be discussed and how the paragraph will discuss it. Readers generally look to the first few sentences in a paragraph to determine the subject and perspective of the paragraph. That’s why it’s often best to put the topic sentence at the very beginning of the paragraph. In some cases, however, it’s more effective to place another sentence before the topic sentence—for example, a sentence linking the current paragraph to the previous one, or one providing background information.

Although most paragraphs should have a topic sentence, there are a few situations when a paragraph might not need a topic sentence. For example, you might be able to omit a topic sentence in a paragraph that narrates a series of events, if a paragraph continues developing an idea that you introduced (with a topic sentence) in the previous paragraph, or if all the sentences and details in a paragraph clearly refer—perhaps indirectly—to a main point. The vast majority of your paragraphs, however, should have a topic sentence.

PARAGRAPH STRUCTURE

Most paragraphs in an essay have a three-part structure—introduction, body, and conclusion. You can see this structure in paragraphs whether they are narrating, describing, comparing, contrasting, or analyzing information. Each part of the paragraph plays an important role in communicating your meaning to your reader.

Introduction : the first section of a paragraph; should include the topic sentence and any other sentences at the beginning of the paragraph that give background information or provide a transition.

Body : follows the introduction; discusses the controlling idea, using facts, arguments, analysis, examples, and other information.

Conclusion : the final section; summarizes the connections between the information discussed in the body of the paragraph and the paragraph’s controlling idea.

The following paragraph illustrates this pattern of organization. In this paragraph the topic sentence and concluding sentence (CAPITALIZED) both help the reader keep the paragraph’s main point in mind.

SCIENTISTS HAVE LEARNED TO SUPPLEMENT THE SENSE OF SIGHT IN NUMEROUS WAYS. In front of the tiny pupil of the eye they put , on Mount Palomar, a great monocle 200 inches in diameter, and with it see 2000 times farther into the depths of space. Or they look through a small pair of lenses arranged as a microscope into a drop of water or blood, and magnify by as much as 2000 diameters the living creatures there, many of which are among man’s most dangerous enemies. Or , if we want to see distant happenings on earth, they use some of the previously wasted electromagnetic waves to carry television images which they re-create as light by whipping tiny crystals on a screen with electrons in a vacuum. Or they can bring happenings of long ago and far away as colored motion pictures, by arranging silver atoms and color-absorbing molecules to force light waves into the patterns of original reality. Or if we want to see into the center of a steel casting or the chest of an injured child, they send the information on a beam of penetrating short-wave X rays, and then convert it back into images we can see on a screen or photograph. THUS ALMOST EVERY TYPE OF ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION YET DISCOVERED HAS BEEN USED TO EXTEND OUR SENSE OF SIGHT IN SOME WAY. George Harrison, “Faith and the Scientist”

In a coherent paragraph, each sentence relates clearly to the topic sentence or controlling idea, but there is more to coherence than this. If a paragraph is coherent, each sentence flows smoothly into the next without obvious shifts or jumps. A coherent paragraph also highlights the ties between old information and new information to make the structure of ideas or arguments clear to the reader.

Along with the smooth flow of sentences, a paragraph’s coherence may also be related to its length. If you have written a very long paragraph, one that fills a double-spaced typed page, for example, you should check it carefully to see if it should start a new paragraph where the original paragraph wanders from its controlling idea. On the other hand, if a paragraph is very short (only one or two sentences, perhaps), you may need to develop its controlling idea more thoroughly, or combine it with another paragraph.

A number of other techniques that you can use to establish coherence in paragraphs are described below.

Repeat key words or phrases. Particularly in paragraphs in which you define or identify an important idea or theory, be consistent in how you refer to it. This consistency and repetition will bind the paragraph together and help your reader understand your definition or description.

Create parallel structures. Parallel structures are created by constructing two or more phrases or sentences that have the same grammatical structure and use the same parts of speech. By creating parallel structures you make your sentences clearer and easier to read. In addition, repeating a pattern in a series of consecutive sentences helps your reader see the connections between ideas. In the paragraph above about scientists and the sense of sight, several sentences in the body of the paragraph have been constructed in a parallel way. The parallel structures (which have been emphasized ) help the reader see that the paragraph is organized as a set of examples of a general statement.

Be consistent in point of view, verb tense, and number. Consistency in point of view, verb tense, and number is a subtle but important aspect of coherence. If you shift from the more personal "you" to the impersonal “one,” from past to present tense, or from “a man” to “they,” for example, you make your paragraph less coherent. Such inconsistencies can also confuse your reader and make your argument more difficult to follow.

Use transition words or phrases between sentences and between paragraphs. Transitional expressions emphasize the relationships between ideas, so they help readers follow your train of thought or see connections that they might otherwise miss or misunderstand. The following paragraph shows how carefully chosen transitions (CAPITALIZED) lead the reader smoothly from the introduction to the conclusion of the paragraph.

I don’t wish to deny that the flattened, minuscule head of the large-bodied "stegosaurus" houses little brain from our subjective, top-heavy perspective, BUT I do wish to assert that we should not expect more of the beast. FIRST OF ALL, large animals have relatively smaller brains than related, small animals. The correlation of brain size with body size among kindred animals (all reptiles, all mammals, FOR EXAMPLE) is remarkably regular. AS we move from small to large animals, from mice to elephants or small lizards to Komodo dragons, brain size increases, BUT not so fast as body size. IN OTHER WORDS, bodies grow faster than brains, AND large animals have low ratios of brain weight to body weight. IN FACT, brains grow only about two-thirds as fast as bodies. SINCE we have no reason to believe that large animals are consistently stupider than their smaller relatives, we must conclude that large animals require relatively less brain to do as well as smaller animals. IF we do not recognize this relationship, we are likely to underestimate the mental power of very large animals, dinosaurs in particular. Stephen Jay Gould, “Were Dinosaurs Dumb?”

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It’s the roadmap to your essay, it’s the forecast for your argument, it’s...your introduction paragraph, and writing one can feel pretty intimidating. The introduction paragraph is a part of just about every kind of academic writing , from persuasive essays to research papers. But that doesn’t mean writing one is easy!

If trying to write an intro paragraph makes you feel like a Muggle trying to do magic, trust us: you aren’t alone. But there are some tips and tricks that can make the process easier—and that’s where we come in.

In this article, we’re going to explain how to write a captivating intro paragraph by covering the following info:  

  • A discussion of what an introduction paragraph is and its purpose in an essay
  • An overview of the most effective introduction paragraph format, with explanations of the three main parts of an intro paragraph
  • An analysis of real intro paragraph examples, with a discussion of what works and what doesn’t
  • A list of four top tips on how to write an introduction paragraph

Are you ready? Let’s begin!

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What Is an Introduction Paragraph? 

An introduction paragraph is the first paragraph of an essay , paper, or other type of academic writing. Argumentative essays , book reports, research papers, and even personal  essays are common types of writing that require an introduction paragraph. Whether you’re writing a research paper for a science course or an argumentative essay for English class , you’re going to have to write an intro paragraph. 

So what’s the purpose of an intro paragraph? As a reader’s first impression of your essay, the intro paragraph should introduce the topic of your paper. 

Your introduction will also state any claims, questions, or issues that your paper will focus on. This is commonly known as your paper’s thesis . This condenses the overall point of your paper into one or two short sentences that your reader can come back and reference later.

But intro paragraphs need to do a bit more than just introduce your topic. An intro paragraph is also supposed to grab your reader’s attention. The intro paragraph is your chance to provide just enough info and intrigue to make your reader say, “Hey, this topic sounds interesting. I think I’ll keep reading this essay!” That can help your essay stand out from the crowd.

In most cases, an intro paragraph will be relatively short. A good intro will be clear, brief, purposeful, and focused. While there are some exceptions to this rule, it’s common for intro paragraphs to consist of three to five sentences . 

Effectively introducing your essay’s topic, purpose, and getting your reader invested in your essay sounds like a lot to ask from one little paragraph, huh? In the next section, we’ll demystify the intro paragraph format by breaking it down into its core parts . When you learn how to approach each part of an intro, writing one won’t seem so scary!

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Once you figure out the three parts of an intro paragraph, writing one will be a piece of cake!

The 3 Main Parts of an Intro Paragraph

In general, an intro paragraph is going to have three main parts: a hook, context, and a thesis statement . Each of these pieces of the intro plays a key role in acquainting the reader with the topic and purpose of your essay. 

Below, we’ll explain how to start an introduction paragraph by writing an effective hook, providing context, and crafting a thesis statement. When you put these elements together, you’ll have an intro paragraph that does a great job of making a great first impression on your audience!

Intro Paragraph Part 1: The Hook

When it comes to how to start an introduction paragraph, o ne of the most common approaches is to start with something called a hook. 

What does hook mean here, though? Think of it this way: it’s like when you start a new Netflix series: you look up a few hours (and a few episodes) later and you say, “Whoa. I guess I must be hooked on this show!” 

That’s how the hook is supposed to work in an intro paragrap h: it should get your reader interested enough that they don’t want to press the proverbial “pause” button while they’re reading it . In other words, a hook is designed to grab your reader’s attention and keep them reading your essay! 

This means that the hook comes first in the intro paragraph format—it’ll be the opening sentence of your intro. 

It’s important to realize  that there are many different ways to write a good hook. But generally speaking, hooks must include these two things: what your topic is, and the angle you’re taking on that topic in your essay. 

One approach to writing a hook that works is starting with a general, but interesting, statement on your topic. In this type of hook, you’re trying to provide a broad introduction to your topic and your angle on the topic in an engaging way . 

For example, if you’re writing an essay about the role of the government in the American healthcare system, your hook might look something like this: 

There's a growing movement to require that the federal government provide affordable, effective healthcare for all Americans. 

This hook introduces the essay topic in a broad way (government and healthcare) by presenting a general statement on the topic. But the assumption presented in the hook can also be seen as controversial, which gets readers interested in learning more about what the writer—and the essay—has to say.

In other words, the statement above fulfills the goals of a good hook: it’s intriguing and provides a general introduction to the essay topic.

Intro Paragraph Part 2: Context

Once you’ve provided an attention-grabbing hook, you’ll want to give more context about your essay topic. Context refers to additional details that reveal the specific focus of your paper. So, whereas the hook provides a general introduction to your topic, context starts helping readers understand what exactly you’re going to be writing about

You can include anywhere from one to several sentences of context in your intro, depending on your teacher’s expectations, the length of your paper, and complexity of your topic. In these context-providing sentences, you want to begin narrowing the focus of your intro. You can do this by describing a specific issue or question about your topic that you’ll address in your essay. It also helps readers start to understand why the topic you’re writing about matters and why they should read about it. 

So, what counts as context for an intro paragraph? Context can be any important details or descriptions that provide background on existing perspectives, common cultural attitudes, or a specific situation or controversy relating to your essay topic. The context you include should acquaint your reader with the issues, questions, or events that motivated you to write an essay on your topic...and that your reader should know in order to understand your thesis. 

For instance, if you’re writing an essay analyzing the consequences of sexism in Hollywood, the context you include after your hook might make reference to the #metoo and #timesup movements that have generated public support for victims of sexual harassment. 

The key takeaway here is that context establishes why you’re addressing your topic and what makes it important. It also sets you up for success on the final piece of an intro paragraph: the thesis statement.

Elle Woods' statement offers a specific point of view on the topic of murder...which means it could serve as a pretty decent thesis statement!

Intro Paragraph Part 3: The Thesis

The final key part of how to write an intro paragraph is the thesis statement. The thesis statement is the backbone of your introduction: it conveys your argument or point of view on your topic in a clear, concise, and compelling way . The thesis is usually the last sentence of your intro paragraph. 

Whether it’s making a claim, outlining key points, or stating a hypothesis, your thesis statement will tell your reader exactly what idea(s) are going to be addressed in your essay. A good thesis statement will be clear, straightforward, and highlight the overall point you’re trying to make.

Some instructors also ask students to include an essay map as part of their thesis. An essay map is a section that outlines the major topics a paper will address. So for instance, say you’re writing a paper that argues for the importance of public transport in rural communities. Your thesis and essay map might look like this: 

Having public transport in rural communities helps people improve their economic situation by giving them reliable transportation to their job, reducing the amount of money they spend on gas, and providing new and unionized work .

The underlined section is the essay map because it touches on the three big things the writer will talk about later. It literally maps out the rest of the essay!

So let’s review: Your thesis takes the idea you’ve introduced in your hook and context and wraps it up. Think of it like a television episode: the hook sets the scene by presenting a general statement and/or interesting idea that sucks you in. The context advances the plot by describing the topic in more detail and helping readers understand why the topic is important. And finally, the thesis statement provides the climax by telling the reader what you have to say about the topic. 

The thesis statement is the most important part of the intro. Without it, your reader won’t know what the purpose of your essay is! And for a piece of writing to be effective, it needs to have a clear purpose. Your thesis statement conveys that purpose , so it’s important to put careful thought into writing a clear and compelling thesis statement. 

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How To Write an Introduction Paragraph: Example and Analysis

Now that we’ve provided an intro paragraph outline and have explained the three key parts of an intro paragraph, let’s take a look at an intro paragraph in action.

To show you how an intro paragraph works, we’ve included a sample introduction paragraph below, followed by an analysis of its strengths and weaknesses.

Example of Introduction Paragraph

While college students in the U.S. are struggling with how to pay for college, there is another surprising demographic that’s affected by the pressure to pay for college: families and parents. In the face of tuition price tags that total more than $100,000 (as a low estimate), families must make difficult decisions about how to save for their children’s college education. Charting a feasible path to saving for college is further complicated by the FAFSA’s estimates for an “Expected Family Contribution”—an amount of money that is rarely feasible for most American families. Due to these challenging financial circumstances and cultural pressure to give one’s children the best possible chance of success in adulthood, many families are going into serious debt to pay for their children’s college education. The U.S. government should move toward bearing more of the financial burden of college education. 

Example of Introduction Paragraph: Analysis

Before we dive into analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of this example intro paragraph, let’s establish the essay topic. The sample intro indicates that t he essay topic will focus on one specific issue: who should cover the cost of college education in the U.S., and why. Both the hook and the context help us identify the topic, while the thesis in the last sentence tells us why this topic matters to the writer—they think the U.S. Government needs to help finance college education. This is also the writer’s argument, which they’ll cover in the body of their essay. 

Now that we’ve identified the essay topic presented in the sample intro, let’s dig into some analysis. To pin down its strengths and weaknesses, we’re going to use the following three questions to guide our example of introduction paragraph analysis: 

  • Does this intro provide an attention-grabbing opening sentence that conveys the essay topic? 
  • Does this intro provide relevant, engaging context about the essay topic? 
  • Does this intro provide a thesis statement that establishes the writer’s point of view on the topic and what specific aspects of the issue the essay will address? 

Now, let’s use the questions above to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this sample intro paragraph. 

Does the Intro Have a Good Hook? 

First, the intro starts out with an attention-grabbing hook . The writer starts by presenting  an assumption (that the U.S. federal government bears most of the financial burden of college education), which makes the topic relatable to a wide audience of readers. Also note that the hook relates to the general topic of the essay, which is the high cost of college education. 

The hook then takes a surprising turn by presenting a counterclaim : that American families, rather than students, feel the true burden of paying for college. Some readers will have a strong emotional reaction to this provocative counterclaim, which will make them want to keep reading! As such, this intro provides an effective opening sentence that conveys the essay topic. 

Does the Intro Give Context?

T he second, third, and fourth sentences of the intro provide contextual details that reveal the specific focus of the writer’s paper . Remember: the context helps readers start to zoom in on what the paper will focus on, and what aspect of the general topic (college costs) will be discussed later on. 

The context in this intro reveals the intent and direction of the paper by explaining why the issue of families financing college is important. In other words, the context helps readers understand why this issue matters , and what aspects of this issue will be addressed in the paper.  

To provide effective context, the writer refers to issues (the exorbitant cost of college and high levels of family debt) that have received a lot of recent scholarly and media attention. These sentences of context also elaborate on the interesting perspective included in the hook: that American families are most affected by college costs.

Does the Intro Have a Thesis? 

Finally, this intro provides a thesis statement that conveys the writer’s point of view on the issue of financing college education. This writer believes that the U.S. government should do more to pay for students’ college educations. 

However, the thesis statement doesn’t give us any details about why the writer has made this claim or why this will help American families . There isn’t an essay map that helps readers understand what points the writer will make in the essay.

To revise this thesis statement so that it establishes the specific aspects of the topic that the essay will address, the writer could add the following to the beginning of the thesis statement:

The U.S. government should take on more of the financial burden of college education because other countries have shown this can improve education rates while reducing levels of familial poverty.

Check out the new section in bold. Not only does it clarify that the writer is talking about the pressure put on families, it touches on the big topics the writer will address in the paper: improving education rates and reduction of poverty. So not only do we have a clearer argumentative statement in this thesis, we also have an essay map!  

So, let’s recap our analysis. This sample intro paragraph does an effective job of providing an engaging hook and relatable, interesting context, but the thesis statement needs some work ! As you write your own intro paragraphs, you might consider using the questions above to evaluate and revise your work. Doing this will help ensure you’ve covered all of your bases and written an intro that your readers will find interesting!

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4 Tips for How To Write an Introduction Paragraph

Now that we’ve gone over an example of introduction paragraph analysis, let’s talk about how to write an introduction paragraph of your own. Keep reading for four tips for writing a successful intro paragraph for any essay. 

Tip 1: Analyze Your Essay Prompt

If you’re having trouble with how to start an introduction paragraph, analyze your essay prompt! Most teachers give you some kind of assignment sheet, formal instructions, or prompt to set the expectations for an essay they’ve assigned, right? Those instructions can help guide you as you write your intro paragraph!

Because they’ll be reading and responding to your essay, you want to make sure you meet your teacher’s expectations for an intro paragraph . For instance, if they’ve provided specific instructions about how long the intro should be or where the thesis statement should be located, be sure to follow them!

The type of paper you’re writing can give you clues as to how to approach your intro as well. If you’re writing a research paper, your professor might expect you to provide a research question or state a hypothesis in your intro. If you’re writing an argumentative essay, you’ll need to make sure your intro overviews the context surrounding your argument and your thesis statement includes a clear, defensible claim. 

Using the parameters set out by your instructor and assignment sheet can put some easy-to-follow boundaries in place for things like your intro’s length, structure, and content. Following these guidelines can free you up to focus on other aspects of your intro... like coming up with an exciting hook and conveying your point of view on your topic!

Tip 2: Narrow Your Topic

You can’t write an intro paragraph without first identifying your topic. To make your intro as effective as possible, you need to define the parameters of your topic clearly—and you need to be specific. 

For example, let’s say you want to write about college football. “NCAA football” is too broad of a topic for a paper. There is a lot to talk about in terms of college football! It would be tough to write an intro paragraph that’s focused, purposeful, and engaging on this topic. In fact, if you did try to address this whole topic, you’d probably end up writing a book!

Instead, you should narrow broad topics to  identify a specific question, claim, or issue pertaining to some aspect of NCAA football for your intro to be effective. So, for instance, you could frame your topic as, “How can college professors better support NCAA football players in academics?” This focused topic pertaining to NCAA football would give you a more manageable angle to discuss in your paper.

So before you think about writing your intro, ask yourself: Is my essay topic specific, focused, and logical? Does it convey an issue or question that I can explore over the course of several pages? Once you’ve established a good topic, you’ll have the foundation you need to write an effective intro paragraph . 

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Once you've figured out your topic, it's time to hit the books!

Tip 3: Do Your Research

This tip is tightly intertwined with the one above, and it’s crucial to writing a good intro: do your research! And, guess what? This tip applies to all papers—even ones that aren’t technically research papers. 

Here’s why you need to do some research: getting the lay of the land on what others have said about your topic—whether that’s scholars and researchers or the mass media— will help you narrow your topic, write an engaging hook, and provide relatable context. 

You don't want to sit down to write your intro without a solid understanding of the different perspectives on your topic. Whether those are the perspectives of experts or the general public, these points of view will help you write your intro in a way that is intriguing and compelling for your audience of readers. 

Tip 4: Write Multiple Drafts

Some say to write your intro first; others say write it last. The truth is, there isn’t a right or wrong time to write your intro—but you do need to have enough time to write multiple drafts . 

Oftentimes, your professor will ask you to write multiple drafts of your paper, which gives you a built-in way to make sure you revise your intro. Another approach you could take is to write out a rough draft of your intro before you begin writing your essay, then revise it multiple times as you draft out your paper. 

Here’s why this approach can work: as you write your paper, you’ll probably come up with new insights on your topic that you didn’t have right from the start. You can use these “light bulb” moments to reevaluate your intro and make revisions that keep it in line with your developing essay draft. 

Once you’ve written your entire essay, consider going back and revising your intro again . You can ask yourself these questions as you evaluate your intro: 

  • Is my hook still relevant to the way I’ve approached the topic in my essay?
  • Do I provide enough appropriate context to introduce my essay? 
  • Now that my essay is written, does my thesis statement still accurately reflect the point of view that I present in my essay?

Using these questions as a guide and putting your intro through multiple revisions will help ensure that you’ve written the best intro for the final draft of your essay. Also, revising your writing is always a good thing to do—and this applies to your intro, too!

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Your college essays also need great intro paragraphs. Here’s a guide that focuses on how to write the perfect intro for your admissions essays. 

Of course, the intro is just one part of your college essay . This article will teach you how to write a college essay that makes admissions counselors sit up and take notice.

Are you trying to write an analytical essay? Our step-by-step guide can help you knock it out of the park.

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Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.

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  • The Writing Process
  • Definition of a Paragraph
  • Parts of a Paragraph; Multi-Paragraph Documents
  • Rhetorical Modes; Review of Paragraphs
  • Unity and Coherence in Essays
  • Proving the Thesis/Critical Thinking
  • Appropriate Language

Related Pages

What is a paragraph.

A paragraph is a series of sentences on a specific point or topic. A well written paragraph must have a topic sentence which states the main idea: what the paragraph is about. While some say the  topic sentence can be anywhere in the paragraph, it is best to put it as the first sentence in a paragraph. The rest of the sentences in the paragraph support, elaborate, and/or further explain the main idea expressed in the topic sentence.

Paragraphs have varying length depending upon various factors. An average paragraph in an academic essay is about six to eight sentences.

Types of Paragraphs

There are various types of paragraphs such as summaries, abstracts, and answers to questions for a specific assignment.  In addition, there are specialized types of paragraphs for various reports such as feasibility studies or performance reports.

The types of paragraphs covered in this lesson are general paragraphs as would be used in the body of a letter or an academic essay, including general research papers (research essays).

Parts of a Paragraph

Topic sentence – purpose of a paragraph.

Unless you are writing specialized report such as a scientific research paper or a feasibility study that may otherwise show the purpose of a paragraph such as a heading , a well written paragraph must have a topic sentence which states what the paragraph is about.

Whether you are writing a paragraph for a specific assignment, an academic essay, a research paper, or a simple letter, each paragraph should include a topic sentence. The topic sentence should be the first sentence of the paragraph so that the reader knows what the paragraph is about.  The topic sentence in a body paragraph of an essay must be in support for the thesis: a reason why the thesis is true or accurate.

The rest of the sentences in the paragraph of an essay support, elaborate, and/or further explain the topic sentence.

Here is an example of a paragraph:

The first sentence is the topic sentence. See how the rest of the sentences support, elaborate, and/or or further explain it.

Almost every aspect of modern life has been improved through convenience provided by technology. From the alarm clock in the morning to the entertainment center at night, everyday life is improved. The automatic coffee maker has the coffee ready at a certain time. Cars or public transportation bring people to work where computers operate at the push of a button. At home, there’s the convenience of washing machines and dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners, and power lawn mowers. Modern technology has made life better with many conveniences.

Everything in this paragraph is about how modern life has been improved through convenience provided by technology.

Unity and Coherence

A paragraph must have unity.

All of the sentences of a particular paragraph must focus on one point to achieve one goal: to support the topic sentence.

A paragraph must have coherence.

The sentences must flow smoothly and logically from one to the next as they support the topic sentence.

The last sentence of the paragraph should restate the topic sentence to help achieve unity and coherence.

Here is an example with information that  does not  support the topic sentence.

Almost every aspect of modern life has been improved through convenience provided by modern technology.  From the alarm clock in the morning to the entertainment center at night, everyday life is improved. The automatic coffee maker has the coffee ready at a certain time. People are more concerned about health issues and good air quality, so they have started walking or riding a bike to work even though they have the option of using a car or public transportation. There’s the convenience of washing machines and dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners, and power lawn mowers. Modern technology has made life better with many conveniences.

See how just one non-supporting sentence takes away from the effectiveness of the paragraph in showing how modern conveniences make life better since the unity and coherence are affected.  There is no longer unity among all the sentences.  The thought pattern is disjointed and the paragraph loses its coherence.

Here’s another example of a paragraph

Not only has modern technology improved life through convenience, it has improved life through efficiency. The time saved with machines doing most of the work leaves more time for people to develop their personal goals or to just relax. Years ago, when doing laundry could take all day, there wasn’t time left over to read or go to school or even just to take a leisurely walk. Nowadays, people have more time and energy than ever to simply enjoy their lives thanks to the efficiency of modern technology.

Note: See how all the sentences work together to support the point that technology has improved lives through efficiency.

Transitions – Words that Connect

Transitions  are words, groups of words, or sentences that connect one sentence to another or one paragraph to another.

They promote a logical flow from one idea to the next.

While they are not needed in every sentence, they are missed when they are omitted since the flow of thoughts becomes disjointed or even confusing.

There are different types of transitions such as the following:

  • Time – before, after, during, in the meantime, nowadays
  • Space – over, around, under
  • Examples – for instance, one example is
  • Comparison –  on the other hand, the opposing view
  • Consequence – as a result, subsequently

These are just a few examples. The idea is to paint a clear, logical connection between sentences and between paragraphs.

Here’s how transitions help make a paragraph unified and coherent

Not only  has modern technology improved life through convenience, it has improved life through efficiency.  The time saved with machines doing most of the work leaves more time for people to develop their personal goals or to just relax.   Years ago,  when doing laundry could take all day, there wasn’t time left over to read or go to school or even just to take a leisurely walk.   Nowadays , people have more time and energy than ever to simply enjoy their lives thanks to the efficiency of modern technology.

Each part of a paragraph must support the topic sentence. In addition, the sentences must flow logically from one to the other.

See how the following paragraph has ideas that don’t seem to belong

Growing flowers is fun. The sun rises in the morning and warms the soil. Flowers come in all different sizes, shapes, and colors.  Sometimes, there is not enough rain.  Flowers also bloom during different times of the year. Flowers need nutrients to grow strong and beautiful. There are some children who like to pick the flowers. There are different growing seasons in different parts of the country.  Flowers that will grow high should be planted behind those that will not grow as high. Some people let their dog’s leash extend allowing the dog to go into the flower beds which is not very nice. Designing a flower bed has to consider the different times the flowers will bloom. A substitute for rainfall should be planned. It is fun to grow flowers.

Here is a revised version with unity and coherence.  See how each sentence is clearly part of the whole which is to show how it is fun to grow flowers.

Growing flowers is fun.  Planning the garden is the first step, and it is part of the fun. Flowers must be selected for their size, color, and time of bloom. Selections should be made so that there is at least one type of flower blooming throughout the season and that taller flowers are behind shorter ones. Meeting the challenges to assure growth such as with an irrigation system or hand watering and fertilizing when needed is also part of the fun. It’s wonderful to check the garden every day to see the little green sprouts starting to appear. It gives a great sense of accomplishment and joy to see the flowers in bloom. It is fun to grow flowers.

An example of a paragraph from a business letter  which does  have unity and coherence:

There are several reasons to select my company to do this job. We are a family owned and operated business and have been in business in this county for thirty-five years. In addition to thousands of satisfied customers, we have proudly sponsored many community events and organizations. All of our employees live in this county, and most have stayed with us for years. We have successfully kept our overhead low and pass those savings onto our customers. By far, we are the best company to complete this project.

Note: See how all the sentences work together to support the point that we are the best company to hire.

Here’s a version of the paragraph which  does not  have unity and coherence:

I am happy that the warm weather is finally here! It’s been a cold winter. There are several reasons to select my company to do this job. By far, we are the best company to complete this project. I have a large family, and in addition to having Sunday dinners, we work together in the company, which has many satisfied customers. Some of my employees take the bus to work, so I am concerned about our public transportation system. We have proudly served our community and we use cost saving methods to keep prices low.

An example of a paragraph in an inter-office memo

Beginning January 1, we will have a revised policy concerning new customers. The updated intake form includes additional information, so please be sure to read through and complete each section. Pay particular addition to the additional questions at the bottom as they are now required by the insurance company. We would like to have e-mail addresses as well. You can assure customers that we will not be sending them solicitations nor giving the list to any other businesses. Be sure to fill in the information neatly and accurately. It is preferred that the information be entered directly into the computer although we realize there are times when that is not practical and a hard-copy form will have to be completed by hand. Review the instructions on the back page of the form for more details on the revised policy for new customers.

Note: See how all the sentences work together to support the point shown in the topic sentence that modern technology has expanded accessibility.

Closing/Transitional Statements in Paragraphs

The last sentence of a paragraph should remind the reader of the point of the paragraph and transition into the next paragraph if there is one.  See how the last sentence, for example, in the above paragraph reminds the reader of what the paragraph is about: Review the instructions on the back page of the form for more details on the revised policy for new customers.

Multi-Paragraph Documents

Most paragraphs we see are part of a multi-paragraph document: newspaper and magazine articles, books, business letters and inter-office memorandum, “how-to” documents, and other informational documents.  Usually, there is an organization of the paragraphs in a specific way. The opening paragraph generally gives some idea of what the document is about. The middle paragraphs give more details about the specific point. The last paragraph ends the writing, generally by summing up and repeating the point.

There are some context-specific documents that have more clearly defined paragraphs which are something included as sections of the writing.  For example, a feasibility report might have the following paragraphs: abstract and/or summary, introduction, discussion, conclusion and recommendations.

Paragraphs in Business Letters and Inter-Office Memorandum

Business letters and inter-office memorandums basically have the same organization of the content:  an introduction paragraph, paragraphs that prove or further explain, and a concluding paragraph which sums up and repeats the point.  A business letter, however, is generally written on company stationery and has the date and address block in the upper left, a Re: line, a salutation such as Dear Mr. Haller (although some are no longer using a formal salutation), and a complimentary closing such as Sincerely. An inter-office memorandum is generally written on plain paper, sometimes with the company logo as part of the template, lines with To:, From:, Date:, and Re: in the upper left, and no complimentary closing.

Paragraphs in Informational Documents and Academic Essays

Informational documents.

This refers to groups of writings that are designed to give information about a topic or position on a topic. While they all include a specific thesis (point), have an introduction and concluding paragraph, and have paragraphs that proof or explain the point, there can be wide variety on where the thesis is expressed and the ancillary information presented that is supplemental to the thesis. These are sometimes called essays.  However,  academic  essays do have a very specific organizational pattern.

Academic Essays

The introduction paragraph and the concluding paragraph of an essay are different from a general paragraph. An introduction contains general background information on a topic and leads into a thesis statement. The sentences with background information should be general and not contain proof of the thesis. The sentences should be relevant, however, and logically flow into the thesis. Background sentences include information about the topic and the controversy. Some instructors may prefer other types of content in the introduction in addition to the thesis. It is best to check with an instructor as to whether he or she has a preference for content. In any case, there must be unity and coherence in an introduction paragraph as well. 

While the body paragraph of an academic is the same as a general paragraph in that they have a topic sentence and sentences that support it, the topic sentence must be a reason why the thesis of the essay is accurate. Body paragraphs should clearly support the thesis and not contain any extraneous information. However, one way of proving your thesis is right is by presenting the opposing view and then rebutting it, that is, showing how it is not valid.  

Some instructors say that any opposing information should be in a separate rebuttal paragraph before the concluding paragraph. If not specifically indicated by your instructor, either putting opposing information into the paragraphs related to the specific information or having a separate rebuttal paragraph is appropriate, but not both in the same essay.

A concluding paragraph sums up the proof and restates the thesis. Some instructors ask for a statement drawing an implication of the information presented instead of or in addition to a restatement of the thesis. In either case, while a concluding paragraph, as with the introduction paragraph, does not start with a topic sentence and has the rest of the sentences support the topic sentence, the concluding paragraph is similar in that the summary of the proof ties directly into the thesis or statement of general implication. A concluding paragraph does not have extraneous, off-topic sentences.

Rhetorical Modes as Types of Paragraphs

Narration is when an author writes as though he or she is telling a story. This mode is used more often in fiction, but it can be used in academic essay writing when the best way to help prove the thesis is by relating a sequence of events.

Description/Definition/Exemplification, and Classification

These closely related modes use specific information about certain aspects of a thing, event, or situation. The terms speak for themselves.  Description uses details describing the thing, event, or situation. Definition defines it. Exemplification uses examples, and classification uses categories.

  • The rose was red. (description)
  • A rose is a flower with soft petals and a beautiful, brief bloom. (definition)
  • Roses comes in a variety of colors such as red, yellow, and white. (example)
  • Roses come in a variety of types including miniature, climbing, hybrid tea, and floribunda. (classification)

Compare/Contrast

Comparing and/or contrasting one thing, event, or situation is a helpful way to show what it is and isn't. If someone were arguing that a particular type of sneaker was the best, it would be useful to compare to others for support, durability, and price.

Cause and/or Effect

This mode is useful in arguing for or again an action. Showing the cause and/or effect of an action can be persuasive. For example, if someone were arguing for an increase in the speed limit, statistics showing an increase in fatalities where limits are higher would be a persuasive argument.

Persuasion/Argumentation

In a sense, the ultimate intent of all communication is persuasion. Argumentation is one way of talking about debate. We think of arguing as what we do among friends or family members — and it is — but there is a formal way to argue to prove our point. Actually, we can learn how to better have civil arguments, which will be constructive. In thinking about persuasion/argumentation as a rhetorical mode, it refers to a type of writing that is clearly arguing in support of a specific point.

  • A paragraph is a series of sentences on a particular point.
  • A paragraph should begin with a topic sentence that states that point.
  • Sentences with supporting details, such as examples, should follow.
  • A paragraph must have unity and coherence where the sentences smoothly and logically flow from one to the next and stay focused on supporting the topic sentence.
  • Transition words and phrases should be used to connect sentences and paragraphs for unity and coherence.
  • Paragraphs that are part of multi-paragraph documents serve specific functions.
  • The special types of paragraphs in business letters and inter-office memorandums.
  • The special types of paragraphs in informational documents and academic essays.
  • The rhetorical modes that can be used as different types of paragraphs.
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30 Topic Sentence Examples

June 24, 2024

topic sentence examples

What is an essay without a topic sentence? Well, confusion. In your writing, the topic sentence introduces what the paragraph will be about. It should cover the topic of the paragraph and the prime focus of what you want to discuss in the next several lines. And it can assist in smoothly transitioning into the next paragraph, the next point you’re about to make. Depending on the complexity of your argument, the topic sentence can also weave together several paragraphs. So when the topic sentence is missing, it’s easy to lose track of what your specific message is. Below, you find 30 topic sentence examples.

Think of the topic sentence as a tool in your writing kit. It’s there to help you signpost and structure the argument of your essay. Having it, while making sure the topic is interesting and clear, is essential to help your reader truly understand your thesis.

How do you write a topic sentence?

When you’re about to write an essay, you won’t find yourself immediately thinking of every topic sentence example at once. Figuring out what your thesis is going to be, the very purpose and argument of your essay, will be a necessary first step . Then you might want to create an outline . The outline can draft out what you want to cover in each paragraph or how your argument will be supported.

This is where the topic sentence comes in. For every paragraph, you can begin to think of topic sentence examples that best sum up the rest of your idea. The more interesting you can make the topic sentence, the better it will be, so long as you can support it. Remember, the topic sentence will introduce what you are going to discuss and expand on in the rest of the paragraph.

Examples (Continued)

Let’s take a look at these six topic sentence examples below that introduce a paragraph:

1) Studies over the last ten years have shown that the use of social media has a significant role in teenage mental health.

2) Kate Jackson and her family, who have all been San Francisco residents for 30 years, noted that this was the hottest summer yet.

3) Book sales across the country have actually increased this year, contrary to popular belief.

4) During COVID-19, people rushed to adopt pets, but after the pandemic ended many of those pets were surrendered to shelters.

5) It is undeniable what impact the meat industry has had on our environment.

6) In the 19th century in France, the creation of the Braille system was a significant turning point for those with disabilities.

How do you imagine the rest of the paragraph will turn out? How can you best support your topic sentence to strengthen your overall essay?

Support your paragraph with evidence

The topic sentence of your paragraph will not hold well if it is not backed up with the right evidence. After writing a topic sentence like the topic sentence examples above, the rest of your paragraph should include strong examples of evidence to support your argument. Doing so will only help validate your topic sentence and allow your reader to have more insight into your thesis.

Considering each topic sentence examples above, try to think of what types of evidence you would expect in that same paragraph. There could be reports on statistics, interviews, and other forms of evidence provided. How will yours be?

Where should the topic sentence go?

Now you know that your topic sentence should be followed by the right evidence. So it’s safe to assume that the topic sentence belongs at the very beginning of the paragraph.

Yet depending on the paragraph you’re working on, you can also place your “main” topic sentence after an “intro” topic sentence. Let’s take a look at the two examples below:

7) Due to rising temperatures around the world, people have had to flee their homes and relocate to areas less prone to fires or floods. (Intro topic sentence)

8) However, many have found that even these “safer” locations are still susceptible to eventual natural disasters. (Main topic sentence)

When we combine the two sentences, we get:

Due to rising temperatures around the world, people have had to flee their homes and relocate to areas less prone to fires or floods. However, many have found that even these “safer” locations are still susceptible to eventual natural disasters.

The first (intro) topic sentence example is more generic and introductory, functioning like a summary of an observation. The second (main) topic sentence example then presents another contradictory argument to that first point. Depending on the tone or argument you want to make in your paragraph, you can format your topic sentences in such a way to further sharpen your thesis. Whenever you have doubt though, you can always place one topic sentence at the beginning of the paragraph.

Sometimes less is more in writing the topic sentence

The topic sentence introduces the key concept of that paragraph, along with evidence and research findings. It can even be written as more than one sentence or perspective, as noted directly above. However, you also don’t want to say too much. Why?

You don’t want to give all of your information away at once. While it is imperative to write a clear, specific, and even complex topic sentence, it’s just as important to avoid being too general or too informative. Striking the right balance is going to help you structure the rest of your essay. After all, you have the rest of the paragraph and the rest of your essay to do that, which leads us to our next point.

Topic sentences for smoother transitions

Like a game of dominoes, your paragraphs are all connected and should flow smoothly into the next statement you are making. As you are building your outline, or even as you’re already writing, consider how your previous paragraph transitions into the next . This depends on the intention of each paragraph and how you are structuring your argument.

Topic sentences for paragraph transitions have many functions. They will elaborate on more examples. They can wrap up or summarize a preceding point you made, providing another perspective. Also, they can go against a fact or opinion you wrote, which is a great way to strengthen your overall thesis and they can also be posed as a question.

Take a look at these transitional topic sentence examples below:

9) In fact, walking as a form of exercise has shown to reduce cortisol levels.

10) Furthermore, city council representatives have said that environmental sustainability has remained at the top of the agenda, but activists have largely disagreed.

11) While the strike in Hollywood has come to an end, many writers are still without employment and searching for new ways to restart their careers.

12) However, grocery prices across the country still seem to have risen.

13) Despite the state’s discontinued funding for the arts, is there another feasible way for these students to gather together and flourish as young artists at their school?

More than one paragraph: Topic sentences that expand into several key points

So far we’ve covered topic sentences that elaborate on just one paragraph. However, you might find that one topic sentence (or two) can best address several paragraphs. This usually occurs when you’re trying to introduce a bigger argument to serve your essay.

Let’s take one of the single paragraph topic sentences from earlier above and expand it by adding a connecting topic sentence to it:

14)Book sales across the country have actually increased this year, contrary to popular belief.

15) A report from the Association of American Publishers’ StatShot program states that in April sales over a year there has been an 18% increase.

These two topic sentence examples can even serve as their own introductory paragraph. This can then lead into more paragraphs related to the topic of specific book sales increasing across the country:

Book sales across the country have actually increased this year, contrary to popular belief. A report from the Association of American Publishers’ StatShot program states that in April sales over a year there has been an 18% increase.

Make the topic sentence interesting, not obvious

Check out 15 more topic sentence examples below. How do they introduce the topic, and what does it make you want to learn more about? You can imagine what kind of paragraph, or paragraphs, might follow afterwards:

16) When brewed correctly, coffee can hold strong, subtle hints of flavors such as chocolate or fruit, depending on the level of acidity.

17) Although today life in 1920s Paris is often romanticized for its glamor, jazz, and fashion, the city was still struggling to recover from the devastation of World War I.

18) Strict social rules dominated the Victorian Era, despite Britain’s expansion around the world in pursuit of wealth and power.

19) Dogs have a keen sense of time, so much so that they can predict when you’re late to take them out for a walk.

20) Before winter arrives, birds such as cranes and waterfowl follow preferred aerial pathways during their yearly migrations.

21) Conservation methods have helped local farms in their efforts to prioritize sustainability.

22) Did you know that humans would have a better chance of reaching Mars if they had a base set up on the moon?

23) The Pacific Ocean covers more than 30 percent of the earth’s surface, and it is home to so many life forms that have not yet been studied.

24) It is often debated whether or not student athletes should be paid for their performance, considering the cost for them to succeed.

25) Becoming a successful CEO doesn’t just happen overnight.

26) Although purchasing a home is considered a great form of investment, potential buyers should look at the real estate market first.

27) Watching my mother work three jobs to support our family has taught me the importance of resilience and strong work ethic.

28) Historical fiction not only has the power to teach us of actual past events. It also allows us to step into the lives of those we would have never met.

29) Parents and teachers at Sunnyroad School District are advocating for schools to provide free computers for their students – but the administrators aren’t so sure.

30) Across the country, the debate around whether teenagers should be allowed to use smart phones on campus has been circulating.

The topic sentence as a guide

One way to look at topic sentences is to imagine them as guiding compasses of your essay. Whatever point you are trying to make, the topic sentence has the power to guide your reader down a certain path. Choose wisely! And if you’re ever unsure about how to steer your essay and you need a personal guide, we’re here to help .

Additional Resources

  • 100 Creative Writing Prompts for Middle & High School
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  • 160 Good Argumentative Essay Topics for Students in 2024
  • How to Write the AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay (With Example)
  • How to Write the AP Lang Argument Essay (With Example)
  • 400 Adjectives to Describe a Person
  • High School Success

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Joanna Hong

With a BA from Pitzer College and an MA from University College London, Joanna has worked in London, Berlin, and Los Angeles covering many cultural and political issues with organizations such as Byline Media, NK News, and Free Turkey Media. A freelancer for The New York Times, her work has also appeared in Newsweek, Dazed and Confused Magazine, and The Guardian, among others. In addition, Joanna was the recipient of the 2021 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellowship in Fiction and is currently completing her first novel.

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Essay Topics – List of 500+ Essay Writing Topics and Ideas

List of 500+ essay writing topics and ideas.

Essay topics in English can be difficult to come up with. While writing essays , many college and high school students face writer’s block and have a hard time to think about topics and ideas for an essay. In this article, we will list out many good essay topics from different categories like argumentative essays, essays on technology, environment essays for students from 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th grades. Following list of essay topics are for all – from kids to college students. We have the largest collection of essays. An essay is nothing but a piece of content which is written from the perception of writer or author. Essays are similar to a story, pamphlet, thesis, etc. The best thing about Essay is you can use any type of language – formal or informal. It can biography, the autobiography of anyone. Following is a great list of 100 essay topics. We will be adding 400 more soon!

But Before that you may wanna read some awesome Essay Writing Tips here .

500+ essay topics for students and children

Get the Huge list of 100+ Speech Topics here

Argumentative Essay Topics

  • Should plastic be banned?
  • Pollution due to Urbanization
  • Education should be free
  • Should Students get limited access to the Internet?
  • Selling Tobacco should be banned
  • Smoking in public places should be banned
  • Facebook should be banned
  • Students should not be allowed to play PUBG

Essay Topics on Technology

  • Wonder Of Science
  • Mobile Phone

Essay Topics on Festivals on Events

  • Independence Day (15 August)
  • Teachers Day
  • Summer Vacation
  • Children’s Day
  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyan
  • Janmashtami
  • Republic Day

Essay Topics on Education

  • Education Essay
  • Importance of Education
  • Contribution of Technology in Education

paragraph essay about

Essay Topics on Famous Leaders

  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • APJ Abdul Kalam
  • Jawaharlal Nehru
  • Swami Vivekananda
  • Mother Teresa
  • Rabindranath Tagore
  • Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
  • Subhash Chandra Bose
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Martin Luther King
  • Lal Bahadur Shashtri

Essay Topics on Animals and Birds

  • My Favorite Animal

Essays Topics About Yourself

  • My Best Friend
  • My Favourite Teacher
  • My Aim In Life
  • My Favourite Game – Badminton
  • My Favourite Game – Essay
  • My Favourite Book
  • My Ambition
  • How I Spent My Summer Vacation
  • India of My Dreams
  • My School Life
  • I Love My Family
  • My Favourite Subject
  • My Favourite Game Badminton
  • My Father My Hero
  • My School Library
  • My Favourite Author
  • My plans for summer vacation

Essay Topics Based on Environment and Nature

  • Global Warming
  • Environment
  • Air Pollution
  • Environmental Pollution
  • Water Pollution
  • Rainy Season
  • Climate Change
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Hillary Clinton to release essay collection about personal and public life

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This cover image released by Simon & Schuster shows “Something Lost, Something Gained: Reflections on Life, Love and Liberty” by Hillary Rodham Clinton. The book will be released Sept. 17. (Simon & Schuster via AP)

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Hillary Clinton’s next book is a collection of essays, touching upon everything from marriage to politics to faith, that her publisher is calling her most personal yet.

Simon and Schuster announced Tuesday that Clinton’s “Something Lost, Something Gained: Reflections on Life, Love and Liberty” will be released Sept. 17.

Among the topics she will cover: Her marriage to former President Bill Clinton, her Methodist faith, adjusting to private life after her failed presidential runs, her friendships with other first ladies and her takes on climate change, democracy and Vladimir Putin.

“The book reads like you’re sitting down with your smartest, funniest, most passionate friend over a long meal,” Clinton’s editor, Priscilla Painton, said in a statement.

“This is the Hillary Americans have come to know and love: candid, engaged, humorous, self-deprecating — and always learning.”

Clinton, the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary and presidential candidate, will promote her book with a cross country tour. “Something Lost, Something Gained” comes out two months before Bill Clinton’s memoir about post-presidential life, “Citizen.”

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Financial terms were not disclosed. Clinton was represented by Washington attorney Robert Barnett, whose other clients have included former President George W. Bush and former President Barack Obama.

Clinton’s previous books include such bestsellers as “It Takes a Village,” “Living History” and “What Happened.”

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Revealed: Harvard Business School’s New MBA Essays For Applicants

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Harvard Business School’s Baker Library.

With just 10 weeks before its first application deadline on Sept. 4th, Harvard Business School today (June 25) revealed a newly revised application for MBA candidates, including a new set of three short essays along with a refresh on how it will evaluate applicants for future classes.

The new prompts?

Business-Minded Essay : Please reflect on how your experiences have influenced your career choices and aspirations and the impact you will have on the businesses, organizations, and communities you plan to serve. (up to 300 words)

Leadership-Focused Essay : What experiences have shaped who you are, how you invest in others, and what kind of leader you want to become? (up to 250 words)

Growth-Oriented Essay : Curiosity can be seen in many ways. Please share an example of how you have demonstrated curiosity and how that has influenced your growth. (up to 250 words)

NEW HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL ESSAYS PUT THROUGH BY NEW MBA ADMISSIONS CHIEF

Eagerly awaited by thousands of prospective students and admission consultants, you can bet that the admissions pages of the HBS website were continually refreshed all morning for a glimpse at the new essay. The Harvard Business School essay prompt for the Class of 2027 was posted at 10:30 a.m. with the opening of the 2024-2025 application online.

This year’s change was put through by Rupal Gadhia , who joined the school as managing director of admissions and financial aid last October. A 2004 Harvard MBA, Gadhia came to the school with no previous admissions experience, having been the global head of marketing for SharkNinja robots.

In explaining the change in a blog post , Gadhia noted that “we have refreshed the criteria on which we evaluate candidates. We are looking for applicants who are business-minded, leadership-focused, and growth-oriented…This is your opportunity to discuss meaningful or formative experiences that are important to you that you haven’t had a chance to fully explore elsewhere in your application…Be authentic, be yourself.”

WHAT HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL IS REALLY LOOKING FOR IN THE NEW ESSAYS

The school added some context to its new criteria for admission, more clearly defining what it means by business-minded, leadership-focused, and growth-oriented.

Business-Minded

We are looking for individuals who are passionate about using business as a force for good – who strive to improve and transform companies, industries, and the world. We are seeking those who are eager to solve today’s biggest problems and shape the future through creative and integrated thinking. Being business-minded is about the interest to help organizations succeed, whether in the private, public, or non-profit sector. This business inclination can be found in individuals with a variety of professional and educational experiences, not just those who come from traditional business backgrounds.

In Your Application: We will look for evidence of your interpersonal skills, quantitative abilities, and the ways in which you plan to create impact through business in the future.

Leadership-Focused

We are looking for individuals who aspire to lead others toward making a difference in the world, and those who recognize that to build and sustain successful organizations, they must develop and nurture diverse teams. Leadership takes many forms in many contexts – you do not have to have a formal leadership role to make a difference. We deliberately create a class that includes different kinds of leaders, from the front-line manager to the startup founder to the behind-the-scenes thought leader.

In Your Application: Your leadership impact may be most evident in extracurriculars, community initiatives, or your professional work.

Growth-Oriented

We are looking for individuals who desire to broaden their perspectives through creative problem solving, active listening, and lively discussion. At HBS you will be surrounded by future leaders from around the world who will make you think more expansively about what impact you might have. Our case and field-based learning methods depend on the active participation of curious students who are excited to listen and learn from faculty and classmates, as well as contribute their own ideas and perspectives.

In Your Application: We will look for the ways in which you have grown, developed, and how you engage with the world around you.

TIGHTER TIMEFRAME FOR ROUND ONE APPLICANTS

The new essay prompts come  nearly two months after candidates to the school’s MBA program would more typically know what was expected of them. Some admission consultants say the delay over the prompt’s release, along with nearly a month’s slow down in releasing application deadlines, is “wildly insensitive” to applicants who will have less time than normal to prepare for the round one deadline of Sept. 4th.

That’s especially true because the most successful applicants to HBS have highly demanding jobs that consume the vast majority of their time. Many candidates go through multiple drafts of their essays to get them as close to perfection as humanly possible. MBA admission consultants are expecting a lot of up-to-the-deadline work this year to help prep candidates for Harvard and other top business schools.

The new application still preserves the post-interview reflection for applicants who are invited to a 30-minute admissions interview. Within 24 hours of the interview, candidates are required to submit a written reflection through the school’s online application system.

REACTION TO THE NEW CHANGE IS MIXED

Early reaction to the change suggests the likelihood of mixed reviews. “This is an uninspired and odd set of questions,” says Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com and an MBA admissions consultant who closely reads the tea leaves of Harvard’s admissions process. “I don’t know how it’s different from what else do you want us to know about you, frankly,” he adds in a reference to last year’s single essay prompt.

“HBS has certainly moved from the abstract to the concrete,” believes Jeremy Shinewald, founder and CEO of mbaMission, a leading MBA admissions consulting firm. “Some applicants previously felt like they didn’t know where to start and some weren’t sure if they had answered the question, even when they were done. Now, the questions are quite straightforward and all have a cause and effect relationship — one where the applicant discusses the past to reveal the present or future. Smart applicants will understand how to share their experiences and, more importantly, how to relay their values. Some will mistakenly try to whack HBS over the head with stories of their epic feats, but the key isn’t to brag or embellish – the key is to simply create a clear relationship, via narrative, between past experience and true motivations.”

Shinewald found it astonishing that Harvard could not have made the change earlier. “It is, of course, surprising that HBS left applicants on edge until the last minute, all to create very traditional essays,” he adds. “As applicants learn in MBA classrooms, change can be hard and take time. The bottom line here is that these essays are somewhat of an applicant’s dream – they allow the savvy applicant to play to their strengths and draw on their best anecdotes and experiences to create a complete story. Some applicants will lament the absence of a ‘Why HBS?’ prompt, but my guess is that the admissions committee recognized that they would get an almost homogenous collection of essays touting the case method and other well known features. HBS gets some kudos for keeping the focus on the applicant.”

Adds Petia Whitmore of My MBA Path: “I think they reflect one of the traits of this new generation of candidates which is that they don’t handle ambiguity well. So it seems like Harvard had to spell out what they’re looking for way more prescriptively than in the past.”

Some, however, find the new essays a return to the past. “To me, the prompts feel quite regressive, and a return to the more formulaic approach that pervaded MBA applications two decades ago,” believes Justin Marshall, a New York-based MBA admissions consultant. “Because the previous prompt was so open ended, it forced applicants to be introspective and self-aware. You couldn’t just ramble for 900 words; you had to identify themes in your life to show how your personal experiences shaped your values, your leadership style, and your goals. Comparatively, these new prompts are much more paint-by-numbers. Applicants will likely cover the same ground in terms of topic, but there’s very little room for nuance and self-expression. I think it will be harder for applicants with less conventional backgrounds and experiences to differentiate themselves. I’m sure HBS grew tired of reading so many painfully earnest ‘life story’ essays, but I suspect they’ll soon find themselves yearning for essays that have a heartbeat and personality. 250 words just doesn’t allow for that unless you’re a very crafty writer.”

Whatever the case, getting into Harvard’s MBA program is still a daunting exercise. Last year, 1,076 of the 8,264 candidates who applied for admission to Harvard Business School gained admission, an acceptance rate of 13.2%, making HBS the second most selective prestige MBA program in the country after Stanford Graduate School of Business which had an admit rate of 8.4%. Harvard saw a 15.4% drop in MBA applications from the 9,773 it received a year-earlier.

Joint degree applicants for the Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Law School, and Harvard Kennedy School must provide an additional essay: How do you expect the joint degree experience to benefit you on both a professional and a personal level? (up to 400 words)

BIGGEST CHANGE IN HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL ESSAY IN NEARLY A DECADE

Joint degree applicants for the Harvard Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences must provide an additional essay: The MS/MBA Engineering Sciences program is focused on entrepreneurship, design, and innovation. Describe your past experiences in these areas and your reasons for pursuing a program with this focus. (recommended length: 500 words). Applicants will also be able to respond to an optional essay.

In any case, it’s the biggest change in Harvard Business School’s application in nearly a decade. The last time HBS made a major switch, moving to the essay prompt it just eliminated, was in 2016. That change to just one essay with no word limit and a post-interview reflection was made by then admissions chief Dee Leopold.

When Leopold applied to Harvard as an MBA candidate in 1978, she had to write eight essays. Over her years as managing director of admissions, she first cut the essays down to four and then one, making it optional, and finally the one last prompt with a post-interview reflection, saying that applying to HBS should not be a writing contest .

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OUR BUSINESS CASUAL PODCAST: The New HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL MBA Application:   Fortuna Admissions’ Caroline Diarte-Edwards and ApplicantLab’s Maria Wich-Vila join P&Q’s John A. Byrne to offer applicant advice on how to answer the new HBS essay prompts

DON’T MISS: 2024-2024 MBA APPLICATION DEADLINES or  HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL WILL NOW UPDATE ITS MBA ESSAY 

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.

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More From Forbes

How not to write your college essay.

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If you are looking for the “secret formula” for writing a “winning” college essay, you have come to the wrong place. The reality is there is no silver bullet or strategy to write your way to an acceptance. There is not one topic or approach that will guarantee a favorable outcome.

At the end of the day, every admission office just wants to know more about you, what you value, and what excites you. They want to hear about your experiences through your own words and in your own voice. As you set out to write your essay, you will no doubt get input (both sought-after and unsolicited) on what to write. But how about what NOT Notcoin to write? There are avoidable blunders that applicants frequently make in drafting their essays. I asked college admission leaders, who have read thousands of submissions, to share their thoughts.

Don’t Go In There

There is wide consensus on this first one, so before you call on your Jedi mind tricks or predictive analytics, listen to the voices of a diverse range of admission deans. Peter Hagan, executive director of admissions at Syracuse University, sums it up best, saying, “I would recommend that students try not to get inside of our heads. He adds, “Too often the focus is on what they think we want.”

Andy Strickler, dean of admission and financial aid at Connecticut College agrees, warning, “Do NOT get caught in the trap of trying to figure out what is going to impress the admission committee. You have NO idea who is going to read your essay and what is going to connect with them. So, don't try to guess that.” Victoria Romero, vice president for enrollment, at Scripps College adds, “Do not write about something you don’t care about.” She says, “I think students try to figure out what an admission officer wants to read, and the reality is the reader begins every next essay with no expectations about the content THEY want to read.” Chrystal Russell, dean of admission at Hampden-Sydney College, agrees, saying, “If you're not interested in writing it, we will not be interested when reading it.” Jay Jacobs, vice provost for enrollment management at the University of Vermont elaborates, advising. “Don’t try to make yourself sound any different than you are.” He says, “The number one goal for admission officers is to better understand the applicant, what they like to do, what they want to do, where they spend the majority of their time, and what makes them tick. If a student stays genuine to that, it will shine through and make an engaging and successful essay.”

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Don’t Be Artificial

The headlines about college admission are dominated by stories about artificial intelligence and the college essay. Let’s set some ground rules–to allow ChatGPT or some other tool to do your work is not only unethical, it is also unintelligent. The only worse mistake you could make is to let another human write your essay for you. Instead of preoccupying yourself with whether or not colleges are using AI detection software (most are not), spend your time focused on how best to express yourself authentically. Rick Clark is the executive director of strategic student success at Georgia Institute of Technology, one of the first institutions to clearly outline their AI policy for applicants. He says, “Much of a college application is devoted to lines, boxes, and numbers. Essays and supplements are the one place to establish connection, personality, and distinction. AI, in its current state, is terrible at all three.” He adds, “My hope is that students will use ChatGPT or other tools for brainstorming and to get started, but then move quickly into crafting an essay that will provide insight and value.”

Don’t Overdo It

Michael Stefanowicz, vice president for enrollment management at Landmark College says, “You can only cover so much detail about yourself in an admission essay, and a lot of students feel pressure to tell their life story or choose their most defining experience to date as an essay topic. Admission professionals know that you’re sharing just one part of your lived experience in the essay.” He adds, “Some of the favorite essays I’ve read have been episodic, reflecting on the way you’ve found meaning in a seemingly ordinary experience, advice you’ve lived out, a mistake you’ve learned from, or a special tradition in your life.” Gary Ross, vice president for admission and financial aid at Colgate University adds, “More than a few applicants each year craft essays that talk about the frustration and struggles they have experienced in identifying a topic for their college application essay. Presenting your college application essay as a smorgasbord of topics that ultimately landed on the cutting room floor does not give us much insight into an applicant.”

Don’t Believe In Magic

Jason Nevinger, senior director of admission at the University of Rochester warns, “Be skeptical of anyone or any company telling you, ‘This is the essay that got me into _____.’ There is no magic topic, approach, sentence structure, or prose that got any student into any institution ever.” Social media is littered with advertisements promising strategic essay help. Don’t waste your time, energy, or money trying to emulate a certain style, topic, or tone. Liz Cheron is chief executive officer for the Coalition for College and former assistant vice president of enrollment & dean of admissions at Northeastern University. She agrees with Nevinger, saying “Don't put pressure on yourself to find the perfect, slam dunk topic. The vast majority of college essays do exactly what they're supposed to do–they are well-written and tell the admission officer more about the student in that student's voice–and that can take many different forms.”

Don’t Over Recycle

Beatrice Atkinson-Myers, associate director of global recruitment at the University of California at Santa Cruz tells students, “Do not use the same response for each university; research and craft your essay to match the program at the university you are interested in studying. Don't waste time telling me things I can read elsewhere in your application. Use your essay to give the admissions officer insights into your motivations, interests, and thinking. Don't make your essay the kitchen sink, focus on one or two examples which demonstrate your depth and creativity.” Her UC colleague, Jim Rawlins, associate vice chancellor of enrollment management at the University of California at San Diego agrees, saying “Answer the question. Not doing so is the surest way we can tell you are simply giving us a snippet of something you actually wrote for a different purpose.”

Don’t Overedit

Emily Roper-Doten, vice president for undergraduate admissions and financial assistance at Clark University warns against “Too many editors!” She says, “Pick a couple of trusted folks to be your sounding board when considering topics and as readers once you have drafts. You don’t want too many voices in your essay to drown you out!” Scripps’ Romero agrees, suggesting, “Ask a good friend, someone you trust and knows you well, to read your essays.” She adds, “The goal is for the admission committee to get to know a little about you and who better to help you create that framework, than a good friend. This may not work for all students because of content but helps them understand it’s important to be themselves.” Whitney Soule, vice provost and dean of admissions at The University of Pennsylvania adds, “Avoid well-meaning editorial interference that might seem to polish your writing but actually takes your own personal ‘shine’ right out of the message.” She says, “As readers, we connect to applicants through their genuine tone and style. Considering editorial advice for flow and message is OK but hold on to the 'you' for what you want to say and how you want to say it.”

Don’t Get Showy

Palmer Muntz, senior regional admissions counselor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks cautions applicants, “Don’t be fancier than you are. You don’t need to put on airs.” He adds, “Yes, proofread your work for grammar and spelling, but be natural. Craft something you’d want to read yourself, which probably means keeping your paragraphs short, using familiar words, and writing in an active voice.” Connecticut College’s Strickler agrees, warning, “Don't try to be someone you are not. If you are not funny, don't try to write a funny essay. If you are not an intellectual, trying to write an intellectual essay is a bad idea.”

Anthony Jones, the vice president of enrollment management at Loyola University New Orleans offers a unique metaphor for thinking about the essay. He says, “In the new world of the hyper-fast college admission process, it's become easy to overlook the essential meaning of the college application. It's meant to reveal Y...O...U, the real you, not some phony digital avatar. Think of the essay as the essence of that voice but in analog. Like the completeness and authenticity captured in a vinyl record, the few lines you're given to explain your view should be a slow walk through unrestrained expression chock full of unapologetic nuances, crevices of emotion, and exactness about how you feel in the moment. Then, and only then, can you give the admissions officer an experience that makes them want to tune in and listen for more.”

Don’t Be A Downer

James Nondorf, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid at The University of Chicago says, “Don’t be negative about other people, be appreciative of those who have supported you, and be excited about who you are and what you will bring to our campus!” He adds, “While admissions offices want smart students for our classrooms, we also want kind-hearted, caring, and joyous students who will add to our campus communities too.”

Don’t Pattern Match

Alan Ramirez is the dean of admission and financial aid at Sewanee, The University of the South. He explains, “A big concern I have is when students find themselves comparing their writing to other students or past applicants and transform their writing to be more like those individuals as a way to better their chances of offering a more-compelling essay.” He emphasizes that the result is that the “essay is no longer authentic nor the best representation of themselves and the whole point of the essay is lost. Their distinctive voice and viewpoint contribute to the range of voices in the incoming class, enhancing the diversity of perspectives we aim to achieve.” Ramirez simple tells students, “Be yourself, that’s what we want to see, plus there's no one else who can do it better than you!”

Don’t Feel Tied To A Topic

Jessica Ricker is the vice president for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid at Skidmore College. She says, “Sometimes students feel they must tell a story of grief or hardship, and then end up reliving that during the essay-writing process in ways that are emotionally detrimental. I encourage students to choose a topic they can reflect upon positively but recommend that if they choose a more challenging experience to write about, they avoid belaboring the details and instead focus on the outcome of that journey.” She adds, "They simply need to name it, frame its impact, and then help us as the reader understand how it has shaped their lens on life and their approach moving forward.”

Landmark College’s Stefanowicz adds, “A lot of students worry about how personal to get in sharing a part of their identity like your race or heritage (recalling last year’s Supreme Court case about race-conscious admissions), a learning difference or other disability, your religious values, LGBTQ identity…the list goes on.” He emphasizes, “This is always your choice, and your essay doesn’t have to be about a defining identity. But I encourage you to be fully yourself as you present yourself to colleges—because the college admission process is about finding a school where your whole self is welcome and you find a setting to flourish!”

Don’t Be Redundant

Hillen Grason Jr., dean of admission at Franklin & Marshall College, advises, “Don't repeat academic or co-curricular information that is easily identifiable within other parts of your application unless the topic is a core tenant of you as an individual.” He adds, “Use your essay, and other parts of your application, wisely. Your essay is the best way to convey who your authentic self is to the schools you apply. If you navigated a situation that led to a dip in your grades or co-curricular involvement, leverage the ‘additional information’ section of the application.

Thomas Marr is a regional manager of admissions for the Americas at The University of St Andrews in Scotland and points out that “Not all international schools use the main college essay as part of their assessment when reviewing student applications.” He says, “At the University of St Andrews, we focus on the supplemental essay and students should avoid the mistake of making the supplemental a repeat of their other essay. The supplemental (called the Personal Statement if using the UCAS application process) is to show the extent of their passion and enthusiasm for the subject/s to which they are applying and we expect about 75% of the content to cover this. They can use the remaining space to mention their interests outside of the classroom. Some students confuse passion for the school with passion for their subject; do not fall into that trap.”

A Few Final Don’ts

Don’t delay. Every college applicant I have ever worked with has wished they had started earlier. You can best avoid the pitfalls above if you give yourself the time and space to write a thoughtful essay and welcome feedback openly but cautiously. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect . Do your best, share your voice, and stay true to who you are.

Brennan Barnard

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A year after affirmative action ban, how students are pitching themselves to colleges

  • Deep Read ( 13 Min. )
  • By Olivia Sanchez, Nirvi Shah, and Meredith Kolodner The Hechinger Report

June 28, 2024

In the year since the U.S. Supreme Court banned the consideration of race in college admissions, students have had to give more thought to how they present themselves in their application essays – to what they will disclose.

Data from the Common Application shows that in this admissions cycle, about 12% of students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups used at least one of 38 identity-related phrases in their essays, a decrease of roughly 1% from the previous year. The data shows that about 20% of American Indian and Alaskan Native applicants used one of these phrases; meanwhile 15% of Asian students, 14% of Black students, 11% of Latinx students, and fewer than 3% of white students did so.

Why We Wrote This

A year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court barred affirmative action in college admissions. Students have since used their application essays as a place to explore identity.

To better understand how students were deciding what to include, The Hechinger Report asked newly accepted students from across the United States to share their application essays and to describe how they thought their writing choices ultimately influenced their admissions outcomes. Among them was Jaleel Gomes Cardoso from Boston, who wrote about being Black. 

“If you’re not going to see what my race is in my application, then I’m definitely putting it in my writing,” he says, “because you have to know that this is the person who I am.”   

In the year since the Supreme Court banned  the consideration of race in college admissions last June, students have had to give more thought to how they present themselves in their application essays .

Previously, they could write about their racial or ethnic identity if they wanted to, but colleges would usually know it either way and could use it as a factor in admissions. Now, it’s entirely up to students to disclose their identity or not.

Data from the Common Application shows that in this admissions cycle about 12% of students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups used at least one of 38 identity-related phrases in their essays, a decrease of roughly 1% from the previous year. The data shows that about 20% of American Indian and Alaskan Native applicants used one of these phrases; meanwhile 15% of Asian students, 14% of Black students, 11% of Latinx students, and fewer than 3% of white students did so.

To better understand how students were making this decision and introducing themselves to colleges, The Hechinger Report asked newly accepted students from across the country to share their college application essays. The Hechinger staff read more than 50 essays and talked to many students about their writing process, who gave them advice, and how they think their choices ultimately influenced their admissions outcomes.

Here are thoughts from a sampling of those students, with excerpts from their essays. 

Jaleel Gomes Cardoso of Boston: A risky decision

As Jaleel Gomes Cardoso sat looking at the essay prompt for Yale University, he wasn’t sure how honest he should be. “Reflect on your membership in a community to which you feel connected,” it read. “Why is this community meaningful to you?” He wanted to write about being part of the Black community – it was the obvious choice – but the Supreme Court’s decision to ban the consideration of a student’s race in admissions gave him pause.

“Ever since the decision about affirmative action, it kind of worried me about talking about race,” says Mr. Cardoso, who grew up in Boston. “That entire topic felt like a risky decision.” 

In the past, he had always felt that taking a risk produced some of his best writing, but he thought that an entire essay about being Black might be going too far. 

“The risk was just so heavy on the topic of race when the Court’s decision was to not take race into account,” he says. “It was as if I was disregarding that decision. It felt very controversial, just to make it so out in the open.” 

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In the end, he did write an essay that put his racial identity front and center. He wasn’t accepted to Yale, but he has no regrets about his choice.

“If you’re not going to see what my race is in my application, then I’m definitely putting it in my writing,” says Mr. Cardoso, who will attend Dartmouth College this fall, “because you have to know that this is the person who I am.”                       

 – Meredith Kolodner

Essay excerpt:

I was thrust into a narrative of indifference and insignificance from the moment I entered this world. I was labeled as black, which placed me in the margins of society. It seemed that my destiny had been predetermined; to be part of a minority group constantly oppressed under the weight of a social construct called race. Blackness became my life, an identity I initially battled against. I knew others viewed it as a flaw that tainted their perception of me. As I matured, I realized that being different was not easy, but it was what I loved most about myself.  

Klaryssa Cobian of Los Angeles: A seminomadic mattress life

Klaryssa Cobian is Latina – a first-generation Mexican American – and so was nearly everyone else in the Southeast Los Angeles community where she grew up. Because that world was so homogenous, she really didn’t notice her race until she was a teenager.

Then she earned a scholarship to a prestigious private high school in Pasadena. For the first time, she was meaningfully interacting with people of other races and ethnicities, but she felt the greatest gulf between her and her peers came from her socioeconomic status, not the color of her skin. 

Although Ms. Cobian has generally tried to keep her home life private, she felt that colleges needed to understand the way her family’s severe economic disadvantages had affected her. She wrote about how she’d long been “desperate to feel at home.”

She was 16 years old before she had a mattress of her own. Her essay cataloged all the places she lay her head before that. She wrote about her first bed, a queen-sized mattress shared with her parents and younger sister. She wrote about sleeping in the backseat of her mother’s red Mustang, before they lost the car. She wrote about moving into her grandparents’ home and sharing a mattress on the floor with her sister, in the same room as two uncles. She wrote about the great independence she felt when she “moved out” into the living room and onto the couch.  

“Which mattress I sleep on has defined my life, my independence, my dependence,” Ms. Cobian wrote. 

She’d initially considered writing about the ways she felt she’d had to sacrifice her Latino culture and identity to pursue her education, but said she hesitated after the Supreme Court ruled on the use of affirmative action in admissions. Ultimately, she decided that her experience of poverty was more pertinent. 

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“If I’m in a room of people, it’s like, I can talk to other Latinos, and I can talk to other brown people, but that does not mean I’m going to connect with them. Because, I learned, brown people can be rich,” Ms. Cobian says.  She’s headed to the University of California, Berkeley, in the fall.

– Olivia Sanchez

Essay excerpt: 

With the only income, my mom automatically assumed custody of me and my younger sister, Alyssa. With no mattress and no home, the backseat of my mom’s red mustang became my new mattress. Bob Marley blasted from her red convertible as we sang out “could you be loved” every day on our ride back from elementary school. Eventually, we lost the mustang too and would take the bus home from Downtown Los Angeles, still singing “could you be loved” to each other.  

Oluwademilade Egunjobi of Providence, Rhode Island: The perfect introduction

Oluwademilade Egunjobi worked on her college essay from June until November. Not every single day, and not on only one version, but for five months she was writing and editing and asking anyone who would listen for advice.

She considered submitting essays about the value of sex education, or the philosophical theory of solipsism (in which the only thing that is guaranteed to exist is your own mind). 

But most of the advice she got was to write about her identity. So, to introduce herself to colleges, Oluwademilade Egunjobi wrote about her name.

Ms. Egunjobi is the daughter of Nigerian immigrants who, she wrote, chose her first name because it means she’s been crowned by God. In naming her, she said, her parents prioritized pride in their heritage over ease of pronunciation for people outside their culture. 

And although Ms. Egunjobi loves that she will always be connected to her culture, this choice has put her in a lifelong loop of exasperating introductions and questions from non-Nigerians about her name. 

The loop often ends when the person asks if they can call her by her nickname, Demi. “I smile through my irritation and say I prefer it anyways, and then the situation repeats time and time again,” Egunjobi wrote. 

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She was nervous when she learned about the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision, wondering what it might mean for where she would get into college. Her teachers and college advisors from a program called Matriculate told her she didn’t have to write a sob story, but that she should write about her identity, how it affects the way she moves through the world and the resilience it’s taught her. 

She heeded their advice, and it worked out. In the fall, she will enter the University of Pennsylvania to study philosophy, politics, and economics. 

I don’t think I’ve ever had to fight so hard to love something as hard as I’ve fought to love my name. I’m grateful for it because it’ll never allow me to reject my culture and my identity, but I get frustrated by this daily performance. I’ve learned that this performance is an inescapable fate, but the best way to deal with fate is to show up with joy. I am Nigerian, but specifically from the ethnic group, Yoruba. In Yoruba culture, most names are manifestations. Oluwademilade means God has crowned me, and my middle name is Favor, so my parents have manifested that I’ll be favored above others and have good success in life. No matter where I go, people familiar with the language will recognize my name and understand its meaning. I love that I’ll always carry a piece of my culture with me.  

Francisco Garcia of Fort Worth, Texas: Accepted to college and by his community

In the opening paragraph of his college application essay, Francisco Garcia quotes his mother, speaking to him in Spanish, expressing disappointment that her son was failing to live up to her Catholic ideals. It was her reaction to Mr. Garcia revealing his bisexuality. 

Mr. Garcia said those nine Spanish words were “the most intentional thing I did to share my background” with colleges. The rest of his essay delves into how his Catholic upbringing, at least for a time, squelched his ability to be honest with friends about his sexual identity, and how his relationship with the church changed. He said he had striven, however, to avoid coming across as pessimistic or sad, aiming instead to share “what I’ve been through [and] how I’ve become a better person because of it.” 

He worked on his essay throughout July, August, and September, with guidance from college officials he met during campus visits and from an adviser he was paired with by Matriculate, which works with students who are high achievers from low-income families. Be very personal, they told Mr. Garcia, but within limits. 

“I am fortunate to have support from all my friends, who encourage me to explore complexities within myself,” he wrote. “My friends give me what my mother denied me: acceptance.”

He was accepted by Dartmouth, one of the eight schools to which he applied, after graduating from Saginaw High School near Fort Worth, Texas, this spring.

– Nirvi Shah

Essay excerpt:  

By the time I got to high school, I had made new friends who I felt safe around. While I felt I was more authentic with them, I was still unsure whether they would judge me for who I liked. It became increasingly difficult for me to keep hiding this part of myself, so I vented to both my mom and my closest friend, Yoana ... When I confessed that I was bisexual to Yoana, they were shocked, and I almost lost hope. However, after the initial shock, they texted back, “I’m really chill with this. Nothing has changed Francisco:)”. The smiley face, even if it took 2 characters, was enough to bring me to tears. 

Hafsa Sheikh of Pearland, Texas: Family focus above all 

Hafsa Sheikh felt her applications would be incomplete without the important context of her home life: She became a primary financial contributor to her household when she was just 15, because her father, once the family’s sole breadwinner, could not work due to his major depressive disorder. Her work in a pizza parlor on the weekends and as a tutor after school helped pay the bills. 

She found it challenging to open up this way, but felt she needed to tell colleges that, although working two jobs throughout high school made her feel like crying from exhaustion every night, she would do anything for her family. 

paragraph essay about

“It’s definitely not easy sharing some of the things that you’ve been through with, like really a stranger,” she says, “because you don’t know who’s reading it.”

And especially after the Supreme Court ruled against affirmative action, Ms. Sheikh felt she needed to write about her cultural identity. It’s a core part of who she is, but it’s also a major part of why her father’s mental illness affected her life so profoundly. 

Ms. Sheikh, the daughter of Pakistani immigrants, said her family became isolated because of the negative stigma surrounding mental health in their South Asian culture. She said they became the point of gossip in the community and even among extended family members, and they were excluded from many social gatherings. This was happening as she was watching the typical high school experiences pass her by, she wrote. Because of the long hours she had to work, she had to forgo the opportunity to try out for the girls’ basketball team and debate club, and often couldn’t justify cutting back her hours to spend time with her friends.  

She wrote that reflecting on one of her favorite passages in the Holy Quran gave her hope:

“One of my favorite ayahs, ‘verily, with every hardship comes ease,’ serves as a timeless reminder that adversity is not the end; rather, there is always light on the other side,” Ms. Sheikh wrote.

Her perseverance paid off, with admission to Princeton University.

-- Olivia Sanchez

Besides the financial responsibility on my mother and I, we had to deal with the stigma surrounding mental health in South Asian culture and the importance of upholding traditional gender roles. My family became a point of great gossip within the local Pakistani community and even extended family. Slowly, the invitations to social gatherings diminished, and I bailed on plans with friends because I couldn’t afford to miss even a single hour of earnings.

David Arturo Munoz-Matta of McAllen, Texas: Weighing the risks of being honest

It was Nov. 30 and David Arturo Munoz-Matta had eight college essays due the next day. He had spent the prior weeks slammed with homework while also grieving the loss of his uncle who had just died. He knew the essays were going to require all the mental energy he could muster – not to mention whatever hours were left in the day. But he got home from school to discover he had no electricity. 

“I was like, ‘What am I gonna do?’” says Mr. Munoz-Matta, who graduated from Lamar Academy in McAllen, Texas. “I was panicking for a while, and my mom was like, ‘You know what? I’m just gonna drop you off at Starbucks and then just call me when you finish with all your essays.’ And so I was there at Starbucks from 4 until 12 in the morning.” 

The personal statement he agonized over most was the one he submitted to Georgetown University.  

“I don’t want to be mean or anything, but I feel like a lot of these institutions are very elitist, and that my story might not resonate with the admissions officers,” Mr. Munoz-Matta says. “It was a very big risk, especially when I said I was born in Mexico, when I said I grew up in an abusive environment. I believed at the time that would not be good for universities, that they might feel like, ‘I don’t want this kid, he won’t be a good fit with the student body.’”

He didn’t have an adult to help him with his essay, but another student encouraged him to be honest. It worked. He got into his dream school, Georgetown University, with a full ride. Many of his peers were not as fortunate. 

“I know because of the affirmative action decision, a lot of my friends did not even apply to these universities, like the Ivies, because they felt like they were not going to get in,” he says. “That was a very big sentiment in my school.”                       

– Meredith Kolodner  

While many others in my grade level had lawyers and doctors for parents and came from exemplary middle schools at the top of their classes, I was the opposite. I came into Lamar without middle school recognition, recalling my 8th-grade science teacher’s claim that I would never make it. At Lamar, freshman year was a significant challenge as I constantly struggled, feeling like I had reached my wit’s end. By the middle of Freshman year, I was the only kid left from my middle school, since everyone else had dropped out. Rather than following suit, I kept going. I felt like I had something to prove to myself because I knew I could make it.

Kendall Martin of Austin, Texas: From frustration to love

Kendall Martin wanted to be clear with college admissions officers about one thing: She is a young Black woman, and her race is central to who she is. Ms. Martin was ranked 15th in her graduating class from KIPP Austin Collegiate. She was a key figure on her high school basketball team. She wanted colleges to know she had overcome adversity. But most importantly, Ms. Martin says, she wanted to be sure, when her application was reviewed, “Y’all know who you are accepting.”

paragraph essay about

It wouldn’t be as simple as checking a box, though, which led Ms. Martin, of Kyle, Texas, to the topic she chose for her college admissions essay, the year after the Supreme Court said race could not be a factor in college admissions. Instead, she looked at the hair framing her face, hair still scarred from being straightened time and again. 

Ms. Martin wrote about the struggles she faced growing up with hair that she says required extensive time to tame so she could simply run her fingers through it. Now headed to Rice University in Houston – her first choice from a half-dozen options – she included a photo of her braids as part of her application. Her essay described her journey from hating her hair to embracing it, from heat damage to learning to braid, from frustration to love, a feeling she now hopes to inspire in her sister.  

“That’s what I wanted to get across: my growing up, my experiences, everything that made me who I am,” she says.

–  Nirvi Shah

I’m still recovering from the heat damage I caused by straightening my hair every day, because I was so determined to prove that I had length. When I was younger, a lot of my self worth was based on how long my hair was, so when kids made fun of my “short hair,” I despised my curls more and more. I begged my mom to let me get a relaxer, but she continued to deny my wish. This would make me so angry, because who was she to tell me what I could and couldn’t do with my hair? But looking back, I’m so glad she never let me. I see now that a relaxer wasn’t the key to making me prettier, and my love for my curls has reached an all-time high. 

This story about  college admission essays  was produced by  The Hechinger Report , a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for Hechinger’s  higher education newsletter . Listen to Hechinger’s  higher education podcast .

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Patrick Skerrett

By Patrick Skerrett June 29, 2024

Illustration of a large open envelope with many symbols of healthcare and science pouring out, on a purple background

F irst Opinion is STAT’s platform for interesting, illuminating, and maybe even provocative articles about the life sciences writ large, written by biotech insiders, health care workers, researchers, and others.

To encourage robust, good-faith discussion about issues raised in First Opinion essays, STAT publishes selected Letters to the Editor received in response to them. You can submit a Letter to the Editor here , or find the submission form at the end of any First Opinion essay.

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“Long Covid feels like a gun to my head,” by Rachel Hall-Clifford

As someone living with chronic illness, I just want to a) applaud the author and everyone else out there who continues surviving and fighting for answers about long Covid and other post-viral syndromes and b) want to provide a bit of a public service announcement:

It’s well known amongst the community of people living with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) at this juncture that long Covid is largely a trauma/virus induced dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system (aka dysautonomia), specifically POTS. Many of us have lived with the symptoms of “long Covid” long before there was Covid. Folks genetically predisposed to autoimmunity and other precursors to POTS were extremely likely triggered by the coronavirus. It pains me that this is still not common knowledge for sufferers. Please seek out help from a POTS specialist and continue digging into your underlying condition, when you have the energy, so that you can eventually regain a fuller life. It’s not easy and takes a tremendous amount of time and will. But it will be worth it. Be as well as possible!

— Sandra Ivanov

“FDA: Don’t rush publishing your diversity guidance plan. Take your time and do it right,” by Tamei Elliott and Maria Vassileva

“Equity” in clinical trial participation doesn’t mean that trials “look like America,” but rather that they “look like the therapeutic population.” But it’s got to be more than just about clinical trial participants. What’s equally important is that we must also expand diversity in clinical trial designers, recruiters, principal investigators, FDA review teams, and advisory committee members — and not just patient representatives. This isn’t the end, it is only the beginning, and the goal mustn’t be diversity for diversity’s sake, but to facilitate better trials leading to better data, better agency reviews, better and more precise labeling, resulting in and better patient options and outcomes.

— Peter Pitts, Center for Medicine in the Public Interest

“AI and rural health care: A paradigm shift in America’s heartland,” by Bill Gassen

I found some of AI’s potential cures misleading. While the article states AI does not save clinician time reducing cognitive burden, the burden of responding to patients is not lifted by text prompts. And those fully transcribed clinical encounters have to be fully reviewed. Without knowing the why of higher rates of later-stage cancers, risk calculators and reminders may not deliver on their supposed promise. Much of what AI promises is to repair the unintended consequences of the last great idea, electronic health records.

Can AI make inroads into the disparities of care for our rural citizens? Perhaps. But this, like many other articles, is more about vested interests looking at the newest shiny object that promises to “move fast, break things, and apologize later.”

— Charles Dinerstein, American Council on Science and Health

About the Author Reprints

Patrick skerrett.

Acting First Opinion Editor

Patrick Skerrett is filling in as editor of First Opinion , STAT's platform for perspective and opinion on the life sciences writ large, and host of the First Opinion Podcast .

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  • The four main types of essay | Quick guide with examples

The Four Main Types of Essay | Quick Guide with Examples

Published on September 4, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

An essay is a focused piece of writing designed to inform or persuade. There are many different types of essay, but they are often defined in four categories: argumentative, expository, narrative, and descriptive essays.

Argumentative and expository essays are focused on conveying information and making clear points, while narrative and descriptive essays are about exercising creativity and writing in an interesting way. At university level, argumentative essays are the most common type. 

Essay type Skills tested Example prompt
Has the rise of the internet had a positive or negative impact on education?
Explain how the invention of the printing press changed European society in the 15th century.
Write about an experience where you learned something about yourself.
Describe an object that has sentimental value for you.

In high school and college, you will also often have to write textual analysis essays, which test your skills in close reading and interpretation.

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Table of contents

Argumentative essays, expository essays, narrative essays, descriptive essays, textual analysis essays, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about types of essays.

An argumentative essay presents an extended, evidence-based argument. It requires a strong thesis statement —a clearly defined stance on your topic. Your aim is to convince the reader of your thesis using evidence (such as quotations ) and analysis.

Argumentative essays test your ability to research and present your own position on a topic. This is the most common type of essay at college level—most papers you write will involve some kind of argumentation.

The essay is divided into an introduction, body, and conclusion:

  • The introduction provides your topic and thesis statement
  • The body presents your evidence and arguments
  • The conclusion summarizes your argument and emphasizes its importance

The example below is a paragraph from the body of an argumentative essay about the effects of the internet on education. Mouse over it to learn more.

A common frustration for teachers is students’ use of Wikipedia as a source in their writing. Its prevalence among students is not exaggerated; a survey found that the vast majority of the students surveyed used Wikipedia (Head & Eisenberg, 2010). An article in The Guardian stresses a common objection to its use: “a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing” (Coomer, 2013). Teachers are clearly not mistaken in viewing Wikipedia usage as ubiquitous among their students; but the claim that it discourages engagement with academic sources requires further investigation. This point is treated as self-evident by many teachers, but Wikipedia itself explicitly encourages students to look into other sources. Its articles often provide references to academic publications and include warning notes where citations are missing; the site’s own guidelines for research make clear that it should be used as a starting point, emphasizing that users should always “read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says” (“Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia,” 2020). Indeed, for many students, Wikipedia is their first encounter with the concepts of citation and referencing. The use of Wikipedia therefore has a positive side that merits deeper consideration than it often receives.

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An expository essay provides a clear, focused explanation of a topic. It doesn’t require an original argument, just a balanced and well-organized view of the topic.

Expository essays test your familiarity with a topic and your ability to organize and convey information. They are commonly assigned at high school or in exam questions at college level.

The introduction of an expository essay states your topic and provides some general background, the body presents the details, and the conclusion summarizes the information presented.

A typical body paragraph from an expository essay about the invention of the printing press is shown below. Mouse over it to learn more.

The invention of the printing press in 1440 changed this situation dramatically. Johannes Gutenberg, who had worked as a goldsmith, used his knowledge of metals in the design of the press. He made his type from an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony, whose durability allowed for the reliable production of high-quality books. This new technology allowed texts to be reproduced and disseminated on a much larger scale than was previously possible. The Gutenberg Bible appeared in the 1450s, and a large number of printing presses sprang up across the continent in the following decades. Gutenberg’s invention rapidly transformed cultural production in Europe; among other things, it would lead to the Protestant Reformation.

A narrative essay is one that tells a story. This is usually a story about a personal experience you had, but it may also be an imaginative exploration of something you have not experienced.

Narrative essays test your ability to build up a narrative in an engaging, well-structured way. They are much more personal and creative than other kinds of academic writing . Writing a personal statement for an application requires the same skills as a narrative essay.

A narrative essay isn’t strictly divided into introduction, body, and conclusion, but it should still begin by setting up the narrative and finish by expressing the point of the story—what you learned from your experience, or why it made an impression on you.

Mouse over the example below, a short narrative essay responding to the prompt “Write about an experience where you learned something about yourself,” to explore its structure.

Since elementary school, I have always favored subjects like science and math over the humanities. My instinct was always to think of these subjects as more solid and serious than classes like English. If there was no right answer, I thought, why bother? But recently I had an experience that taught me my academic interests are more flexible than I had thought: I took my first philosophy class.

Before I entered the classroom, I was skeptical. I waited outside with the other students and wondered what exactly philosophy would involve—I really had no idea. I imagined something pretty abstract: long, stilted conversations pondering the meaning of life. But what I got was something quite different.

A young man in jeans, Mr. Jones—“but you can call me Rob”—was far from the white-haired, buttoned-up old man I had half-expected. And rather than pulling us into pedantic arguments about obscure philosophical points, Rob engaged us on our level. To talk free will, we looked at our own choices. To talk ethics, we looked at dilemmas we had faced ourselves. By the end of class, I’d discovered that questions with no right answer can turn out to be the most interesting ones.

The experience has taught me to look at things a little more “philosophically”—and not just because it was a philosophy class! I learned that if I let go of my preconceptions, I can actually get a lot out of subjects I was previously dismissive of. The class taught me—in more ways than one—to look at things with an open mind.

A descriptive essay provides a detailed sensory description of something. Like narrative essays, they allow you to be more creative than most academic writing, but they are more tightly focused than narrative essays. You might describe a specific place or object, rather than telling a whole story.

Descriptive essays test your ability to use language creatively, making striking word choices to convey a memorable picture of what you’re describing.

A descriptive essay can be quite loosely structured, though it should usually begin by introducing the object of your description and end by drawing an overall picture of it. The important thing is to use careful word choices and figurative language to create an original description of your object.

Mouse over the example below, a response to the prompt “Describe a place you love to spend time in,” to learn more about descriptive essays.

On Sunday afternoons I like to spend my time in the garden behind my house. The garden is narrow but long, a corridor of green extending from the back of the house, and I sit on a lawn chair at the far end to read and relax. I am in my small peaceful paradise: the shade of the tree, the feel of the grass on my feet, the gentle activity of the fish in the pond beside me.

My cat crosses the garden nimbly and leaps onto the fence to survey it from above. From his perch he can watch over his little kingdom and keep an eye on the neighbours. He does this until the barking of next door’s dog scares him from his post and he bolts for the cat flap to govern from the safety of the kitchen.

With that, I am left alone with the fish, whose whole world is the pond by my feet. The fish explore the pond every day as if for the first time, prodding and inspecting every stone. I sometimes feel the same about sitting here in the garden; I know the place better than anyone, but whenever I return I still feel compelled to pay attention to all its details and novelties—a new bird perched in the tree, the growth of the grass, and the movement of the insects it shelters…

Sitting out in the garden, I feel serene. I feel at home. And yet I always feel there is more to discover. The bounds of my garden may be small, but there is a whole world contained within it, and it is one I will never get tired of inhabiting.

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Though every essay type tests your writing skills, some essays also test your ability to read carefully and critically. In a textual analysis essay, you don’t just present information on a topic, but closely analyze a text to explain how it achieves certain effects.

Rhetorical analysis

A rhetorical analysis looks at a persuasive text (e.g. a speech, an essay, a political cartoon) in terms of the rhetorical devices it uses, and evaluates their effectiveness.

The goal is not to state whether you agree with the author’s argument but to look at how they have constructed it.

The introduction of a rhetorical analysis presents the text, some background information, and your thesis statement; the body comprises the analysis itself; and the conclusion wraps up your analysis of the text, emphasizing its relevance to broader concerns.

The example below is from a rhetorical analysis of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech . Mouse over it to learn more.

King’s speech is infused with prophetic language throughout. Even before the famous “dream” part of the speech, King’s language consistently strikes a prophetic tone. He refers to the Lincoln Memorial as a “hallowed spot” and speaks of rising “from the dark and desolate valley of segregation” to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” The assumption of this prophetic voice constitutes the text’s strongest ethical appeal; after linking himself with political figures like Lincoln and the Founding Fathers, King’s ethos adopts a distinctly religious tone, recalling Biblical prophets and preachers of change from across history. This adds significant force to his words; standing before an audience of hundreds of thousands, he states not just what the future should be, but what it will be: “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” This warning is almost apocalyptic in tone, though it concludes with the positive image of the “bright day of justice.” The power of King’s rhetoric thus stems not only from the pathos of his vision of a brighter future, but from the ethos of the prophetic voice he adopts in expressing this vision.

Literary analysis

A literary analysis essay presents a close reading of a work of literature—e.g. a poem or novel—to explore the choices made by the author and how they help to convey the text’s theme. It is not simply a book report or a review, but an in-depth interpretation of the text.

Literary analysis looks at things like setting, characters, themes, and figurative language. The goal is to closely analyze what the author conveys and how.

The introduction of a literary analysis essay presents the text and background, and provides your thesis statement; the body consists of close readings of the text with quotations and analysis in support of your argument; and the conclusion emphasizes what your approach tells us about the text.

Mouse over the example below, the introduction to a literary analysis essay on Frankenstein , to learn more.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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At high school and in composition classes at university, you’ll often be told to write a specific type of essay , but you might also just be given prompts.

Look for keywords in these prompts that suggest a certain approach: The word “explain” suggests you should write an expository essay , while the word “describe” implies a descriptive essay . An argumentative essay might be prompted with the word “assess” or “argue.”

The vast majority of essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Almost all academic writing involves building up an argument, though other types of essay might be assigned in composition classes.

Essays can present arguments about all kinds of different topics. For example:

  • In a literary analysis essay, you might make an argument for a specific interpretation of a text
  • In a history essay, you might present an argument for the importance of a particular event
  • In a politics essay, you might argue for the validity of a certain political theory

An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.

An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.

The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.

Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.

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  25. The Four Main Types of Essay

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