How to Write a 5 Paragraph Essay

How to Write a 5 Paragraph Essay

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five-paragraph essay format 


I. The Introductory Paragraph begins with a general statement about the world, life, people, etc. as a way to introduce the topic.   The scope of the paragraph gradually narrows until the last sentence in the paragraph is the specific thesis (the statement of the author’s position on the topic) to be proven in the essay.  The paragraph starts broadly and comes to a definite point. Basic information about the book, name of author, and central characters should be included in the course of the introductory paragraph. Remember, the most important sentence of the whole essay appears at the very end of the introduction–the thesis statement.  

II.  Body Paragraph One–starts with a clear topic sentence that states the writer’s first reason in support of the thesis statement.  For example, if my thesis stated that “Canadian Bacon and pineapple pizza is the best food for humanity,” then my first (topic) sentence in my first paragraph might say: “Canadian Bacon and pineapple pizza includes elements of all five essential food groups.”  The rest of this paragraph will provide examples and support of this topic sentence. 

Clincher/Transition sentence: The last sentence of each body paragraph should be a “clincher” for the paragraph.  To form a clincher, include one or two key words from the topic sentence and restate the essential idea of the topic sentence.  In addition, the best clincher sentence will also echo the thesis.  As one becomes more confident in writing essays, one may also use the clincher sentence to lead into the next paragraph.  

III.  Body Paragraph Two–states the second point in support of the thesis and develops that point throughout the paragraph.   Of course, this body paragraph ends with a clincher sentence.

IV. Body Paragraph Three–states the third point in support of the thesis statement and develops that point throughout the paragraph.   Usually this is the strongest argument, saved for last.  The paragraph ends with a clincher sentence.

V. The final Concluding Paragraph begins with a restatement of the thesis.  By restating the thesis one need not use such phrases as “in conclusion” since the reader will recognize the end of the essay from the restatement of the thesis.  This paragraph is in some ways an inversion of the introductory paragraph.  Next, the concluding paragraph includes one or two sentences that review the major points (from the body paragraphs) in support of the thesis.   Finally, the conclusion must answer the “So what?” question.  Why is the thesis important?  How is it relevant to the life and world of the reader?  Try to conclude with force and power and some idea of why the thesis is important or compelling. The very last sentence should be memorable. 

Remember: Never say “I.”  

Many thanks to Ole Anderson,  my eximious Shakespeare instructor at Washington State University. 

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  • Essay Writing for Standardized Tests: Tips for Writing a Five Paragraph Essay

Essay Writing for Standardized Tests: Tips for Writing a Five Paragraph Essay

Most, if not all, high school and college standardized tests include a writing portion. Students are provided a writing prompt and must then write an essay on the topic. Writing for standardized tests can strike fear in the hearts and minds of students of all ages, but it doesn’t have to. If you know what to expect and understand how to write a five paragraph essay, you will be prepared to tackle any essay writing prompt.

Types of Essays on Standardized Tests

When you begin to write your essay for a standardized test, you must first decide what type of essay you are being asked to write. There are many different types of essays, including narrative, expository, argumentative, persuasive, comparative, literary, and so on. The type of essay will determine your topic and thesis. Essays for standardized tests are typically either persuasive, in which you will answer a question, or literary, in which you will write about something you read.

For standardized tests, students usually have to write a five paragraph essay, which should be 500 to 800 words long and include an introductory paragraph, three supporting paragraphs and a concluding paragraph.

The First Paragraph: The Introduction

The first paragraph will introduce your topic. The introduction is the most important paragraph because it provides direction for the entire essay. It also sets the tone, and you want to grab the reader’s attention with interest and clarity. The best way to tackle the introduction is to:

  • Describe your main idea, or what the essay is about, in one sentence. You can usually use the essay writing prompt or question to form this sentence.
  • Develop a thesis statement, or what you want to say about the main idea. When the writing prompt is a question, your thesis is typically the answer to the question.
  • List three points or arguments that support your thesis in order of importance (one sentence for each).

Voila! You’ve just written your introductory paragraph.

The Second, Third and Fourth Paragraphs: Supporting Details

These three paragraphs form the body of the essay. They provide details, such as facts, quotes, examples and concrete statistics, for the three points in your introductory paragraph that support your thesis. Take the points you listed in your introduction and discuss each in one body paragraph. Here’s how:

  • First, write a topic sentence that summarizes your point. This is the first sentence of your paragraph.
  • Next, write your argument, or why you feel the topic sentence is true.
  • Finally, present your evidence (facts, quotes, examples, and statistics) to support your argument.

Now you have a body paragraph. Repeat for points two and three. The best part about introducing your main points in the first paragraph is that it provides an outline for your body paragraphs and eliminates the need to write in transitions between paragraphs.

The Fifth Paragraph: The Conclusion

The concluding paragraph must summarize the essay. This is often the most difficult paragraph to write. In your conclusion, you should restate the thesis and connect it with the body of the essay in a sentence that explains how each point supports the thesis. Your final sentence should uphold your main idea in a clear and compelling manner. Be sure you do not present any new information in the conclusion.

Parting Thoughts

When writing an essay for a standardized test, outline your essay and get through each paragraph as quickly as possible. Think of it as a rough draft. When your time is up, a complete essay will score more points than an incomplete essay because the evaluator is expecting a beginning, middle and an end.

If you have time to review your essay before your time is up, by all means do so! Make any revisions that you think will enhance your “rough draft” and be sure to check for any grammatical errors or misspellings.

Online instruction like  the Time4Writing essay writing courses  for elementary, middle and high school students can help children prepare for state and college-entrance standardized writing tests. These interactive writing classes build basic writing skills, explain essay types and structure, and teach students how to organize their ideas.

For general tips on test preparation and details about each state’s standardized tests, please visit our standardized test overview page .

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English 3201

Handout: How to Write an Opinion Essay


The basic five-paragraph essay structure, which you have
probably used many times by this point, works extremely well for an opinion
essay. It�s a starting point, and when you get to university your profs will expect a more complex approach to essay writing.
If you feel confident about your essay-writing skills, you can certainly branch
out into longer and more complex essays. But this basic five-paragraph outline
is a good starting point, especially if you feel uncertain of your ability.


An opinion essay exists to prove your main point � your thesis. This should be clearly stated
in your opening paragraph. Don�t
leave the reader to guess what your position is on the issue � make a clear


Next, develop
your argument in the body of your essay. Each paragraph should contain a single, clear idea that support your point of view. You
can use examples and illustration, cause-and-effect reasoning,
comparison/contrast or other methods of development to support your argument.


Research: Any
statements you make that would cause a reader to say, �Wait, how do you know
that�s true?� need to be backed up with documentation from outside sources (�I
saw something on TV about it one time� would not be considered adequate
documentation). Refer to the handout �What is Research?� for further details.


Remember that a
paragraph is three to five sentences that develop a single, clear idea.A good paragraph often begins with a topic sentence that sums up your main


Paragraph One — The introduction.Here you state the main idea of your entire
essay — the point you are trying to make or prove.This paragraph should include your thesis statement plus three reasons why you believe this
statement to be true.


Paragraphs Two, Three and Four.These are the body of your essay.Remember back in Paragraph One, you gave
three reasons for your opinion? Three reasons, three body paragraphs.Each of the body paragraphs should take one of your reasons and explain it in
more detail, citing sources where necessary.


Paragraph Five — The conclusion.Former Newfoundland premier Joey Smallwood
once said about giving speeches: "First I tell them what I’m going to tell
them, then I tell them, then I tell them what I told them."That’s how you write an essay.In the conclusion, tell them what you told
them.Sum up your argument by restating
your thesis statement and reminding the reader what your three reasons
were.In an argumentative essay, you can
finish with a "call to action" — tell the reader what you would like
them to do as a result.

Sample Five-Paragraph Essay

Subject: Should
parents have their children vaccinated?







: Introduction


Three reasons for my opinion


Thesis statement




: Develops the first reason by giving examples


Topic Sentence




Topic Sentence


Develops the second reason, giving facts and
statistics to support the statement.



Topic sentence


Develops third reason, giving an example





Restatement of thesis

Summary of reasons






Why You Should Vaccinate Your Kids

sample essay for student
use by Trudy Morgan-Cole


Edward Jenner introduced the first successful smallpox vaccine by injecting
an eight-year-old boy with cowpox pus in 1796, vaccines have been an
important part of public health care around the world (�Edward Jenner�). Yet
today, many parents choose not to vaccinate their children. Because vaccines
are widely supported by research, have few side effects, and have proven
successful in halting the spread of disease, I believe it is important
that all parents continue to vaccinate their children.


major health organizations, including the Centres
for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, recommend vaccination.
The value of vaccination is supported by research from around the world,
and researchers are constantly working to improve the safety and
effectiveness of vaccines
. Epidemiologists, the scientists whose job is
to study the outbreak of disease, all recommend vaccination.


parents worry about the safety of vaccines. While side effects do occur,
they are usually minor
, like redness or swelling around the site of an
injection. In Canada, only about one in a million doses of vaccine leads to serious side effects (�Fact and Fiction�). The
most famous study linking vaccines to autism, one which got many parents
worried about vaccination, has been proven false and the doctor who conducted
the study has had his medical license taken away (Triggle).


the world, increased vaccination leads to better public health.
Diseases like smallpox and polio which once killed
and disabled millions of people are virtually unknown today thanks to
immunization programs. Yet in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan where
the Taliban discourage immunization, rates of polio are on the rise again (Nordland).


and when you have children, please get them vaccinated. The risks are minimal
and you�ll not only be following the best advice of medical science and
protecting your own child from disease; you�ll be helping in the fight to
eradicate infectious diseases in your community and around the world.


Sources Cited


�Edward Jenner
(1749-1823),� BBC History: Historic Figures.


�Immunization Fact and
Fiction,� Public Health Agency of Canada.


Nordland, Rod, �After Year of Decline, PolioCases in Afghanistan Triple in a
Year.� The New York Times, Jan. 17,


Triggle, Nick, �MMR Doctor Struck from Register,� BBC News.