The 5-paragraph essay is a type of organization frequently taught in writing classes:


Introduction Thesis and three reasons

Body Paragraph One Discuss reason number one

Body Paragraph Two Discuss reason number two

Body Paragraph Three Discuss reason number three

Conclusion:  Summarize


The 5-paragraph essay format does provide a basic organization structure; however, there are many potential problems:







Though the 5-paragraph essay may be used as a foundation for developing writers, it is important for students to understand that essays (even academic essays) are not required to contain only five paragraphs.    


Paragraph divisions help the reader understand the text by organizing it into groups of ideas that work together, and they help the eye return to the proper place in the text after looking away for a brief moment.  A text without enough breaks is difficult to read because it's hard to keep track of your place.


How many paragraphs you have should depend on how much you have to say, and it should depend on what you have to say.


Think of the college essay as an intellectual journey, a journey you want the reader to take.






Ask yourself:

  • What is my main idea or thesis?
  • Who are my readers?  What do they know and believe?
  • Why is my idea important here and now?
  • How do I want my readers to respond?


Text Box: Body
The body of the essay moves the reader along toward the destination or goal.  It might have one paragraph, but usually it has several.  Each paragraph is related to one of the points you want to show the readers along the way.  Some points may take more than one paragraph to develop completely.  There should be connections and transitions between the points you show the reader.







Ask yourself:

  • What points do I want to make to help my readers understand my idea?
  • What examples can I use to help the reader understand each point?
  • What evidence do I have that each point is true?
  • How can I keep the reader interested in following my ideas?




Ask yourself:

  • How has the reader's mind been changed by following my points and examples?
  • If we continued this journey, where would we go next?
  • If the reader ignores the points you have made, what might happen?




This material was originally  developed at the University Writing Center, California State Univ.  

Los Angeles.  213-343-5350.  It has been adapted only minimally.