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Elements of an Essay: Body Paragraphs

Last week, we broke down what a thesis statement is and how to use it in your essay.  Remember, your thesis statement is the glue and holds your entire paper together.  If you do not yet feel confident in your thesis statement, go back to our last blog and go through the workshop to refine your thesis statement, visit our Slideshare on thesis statements, or give us a call.

Body Paragraphs

Today, let’s take a look at body paragraphs and three of the elements that should be within each body paragraph.  To write strong body paragraphs, you need to make sure they are structured clearly and organized well.


How Many Body Paragraphs Do I Need?

For high school papers, you will want to have two to three body paragraphs, depending on the requirements of your paper and the goal of your essay (clarified in your thesis statement).

What Does My Body Paragraph Need to Include?

Despite the number of body paragraphs in your essay, all of your body paragraphs should have the following elements:

A Topic Sentence









Concluding/Transition Sentence


What Should My Body Paragraphs Look Like?

Your body paragraphs will change based on your assignment and goal.  However, what you do for one body paragraph, you should do for all the others, as well.


At minimum, follow this format:

Topic Sentence. Transition word, detail sentence. Commentary Sentence.  Commentary Sentence.  Concluding/Transition Sentence.

Note: You may need to provide additional detail sentences and commentary for those detail sentences.

Let’s take a look at three elements of body paragraphs: topic sentences, transition words, and concluding sentences.


Writing Topic Sentences


Your topic sentence tells the reader what you are going to be discussing throughout your whole body paragraph.  The body paragraph should not stray from this topic.  If it does, eliminate this information, or start a new body paragraph.


How Do I Write a Topic Sentence?

Some easy, yet powerful ways to begin a paragraph are to use the five W’s (who, what, where, when, why. . .or even how).

Let’s say we are writing a paper on bullying. Here is what each of these topic sentences could look like.

Starting with a WHO:


Many children have experienced some form of bullying.

Starting with a WHAT:


Bullying is harmful and can greatly affect children negatively.

Starting with a WHEN:


During lunch or after school when teachers are not around is when bullying often happens.

Starting with a WHERE:


At schools across the country, bullying has become a major issue.

Starting with a WHY:


Bullying should be prevented because it created fear at a place where students should feel safe.

Starting with a HOW:


By standing up for ourselves when we are intimidated, we can help prevent bullying.

Are There More Complex Ways to Write Topic Sentences?

Some more interesting and advanced ways to write topic sentences are:

Number Statements:


Bullying is such a major problem that three-quarters of all children have been bullied or teased.

Where or When + What’s Happening Statements:


When we see another student being bullied at school, we help by defending the student or telling an adult.

And, But, So Statements:


Bullying bothers everyone, so it should be discussed with students and prevented.

Action Verb Statements:


My friends and I were playing a game on the playground when I was first bullied by an older student.

Alike or Different Statements:


There are many different ways to react when being bullied.

Question and Answer Statement:


Why do some kids bully?  Often times, they are looking to receive attention.

Transition Words


Why do I Need to Include Transition Words?


First of all, transition words make your essay clearer.  Additionally, they connect the gaps in ideas. Furthermore, transition words provide a signal to the reader about what is coming next.

See what I just did there?

I used transition words to get my points across in an organized, easy to read, fashion.


Where Do I Put Transition Words?

Put transition words at the beginning of your detail sentences.  They can also be placed before topic sentences.



What are Some Examples of Transition Words?

Here are some lists of transition words.

summer deals!

To Give an Example: For example, For instance, In particular, In this manner, In this case, In another case, Namely, That is, To demonstrate, To illustrate

Transition WOrds1

To Order or Sequence: After, Afterwards, At this time, Before, Concurrently, Finally, First (Second, etc.), Following this, Hence, Next, Now, Previously, Simultaneously, So forth, Soon, Subsequently, Then

Transition Words (1)

To Contrast: Although, At the same time, But, By comparison, Compared to, Conversely, Despite, Either way, Even so, However, In spite of, Meanwhile, Nevertheless, Nonetheless, Notwithstanding, On the other hand, Otherwise, Whereas, Yet

Transition Words

To Add/Compare: Additionally, Again, And, then, Also, Besides, Finally, First (Second, etc.),Further, Furthermore, In addition, Lastly, Likewise, Moreover, One, Next, Similarly, Too

Transition Words- To Contrast

To Show Cause or Effect: Accordingly, As a result, Because, Consequently, For this reason, Hence, Since, So, Then, Therefore, Thus

Transition Words (2)

To Summarize or Conclude: As noted, As described, As explained, Clearly, Conclusively, Consequently, Hence, In conclusion, In brief, Finally, In short, In summary, Lastly, On the whole, Thus, To conclude

creativity is Intelligence having fun

To Emphasize: Certainly, Clearly, Conclusively, For this reason, In any case, In fact, In particular, Indeed, More importantly, Most Importantly, Naturally, Obviously, Particularly, Specifically, Surprisingly, To this end, Truly, Unfortunately, Without a doubt


Conclusion Sentences



What Do Conclusion Sentences Do?

The conclusion sentence wraps up the paragraph.  This is your chance to leave the reader with a clear idea of your topic and the message you want to send.


How Do I Write a Conclusion Sentence?

You can SUMMARIZE the information you wrote about in your paragraph.


There are many ways to prevent bullying from happening in the future and ways to handle bullying without getting angry or upset.

You can ENCOURAGE the reader to take action.


If we go to a teacher counselor, principal or parent, we can get the help we need to handle our interactions with bullies.

You can try to CONVINCE you reader once more of your position.


We can help stop bullying by trying to avoid bullies and telling someone we trust.

You can CHALLENGE your reader to think.


Think of how much safer school would be if we handled bullying in a different manner.

What Does My Conclusion Sentence Do?

The closing sentence if your last word about the body paragraph topic.  It is your clincher.

It Should:

Show the importance of your ideas.

Encourage the reader to a new view of the subject

End on a positive note.

These are just three of the elements of your body paragraphs.


Check back in next week, when we will look at detail sentences.


Check out the SlideShare presentation.



Oxford Tutoring specializes in K-12 tutoring in English, mathematics, science and test preparation. We provide skill building and homework help in private, one-on-one sessions coordinated with our student’s classroom programs, but focused on the way in which each student learns. Working to better each student’s academic success, Oxford Tutoring personalizes our tutoring approach to best meet the education needs of our students.

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