The unfortunate truth is that teachers, professors, examiners (or whoever else is marking your essay) all have their own ideas as to what makes a good essay; and their opinion will likely differ from the next marker. However, there are a few things every student can do to almost guarantee a top grade – or at the very least ensure they don’t get marked down for things they could have easily implemented or amended. One of the key ingredients that makes up a great essay is a great structure and that’s where the ‘the five paragraph essay’ comes in.
The Benefits of the Five Paragraph Essay
Though absolutely not suitable for a university dissertation, the five paragraph essay has many merits. It’s certainly suitable for high school level work, being simple yet effective. As a student begins to develop her or his composition skills it’s important to have a system in place for them to work from, a sort of blueprint for formatting a winning essay.
The method might also prove useful when it comes to taking exams at any academic level. Having the five paragraph method to fall back on in such a high-pressured situation might just be the key to great success and, wait for it, outstanding grades! Examiners certainly place as much emphasis on the structure and stylistic points of a student’s essay as they do on the arguments the student is presenting. If they didn’t, you’d just be able to write a long bland list of bullet points to get an A grade.
So, even if your ideas and arguments are a pile of codswallop, you will indeed get brownie points from the examiner for the super structuring of your essay. Though this is true, it’s unlikely that your arguments will be rubbish. By using this method your line of argument will likely be much stronger. In essence, you will be giving a clear response to the question at hand. And a good structure will make sure that you provide a transparent line of argumentation backed up by examples and sources. In most instances you can argue whatever you want to argue, as long as you use evidence to support your thesis.
How to Write a Five Paragraph Essay
Remember when you started writing stories when you were a little kid? You were told that all you need is a beginning, a middle and an end. This is also true of the five paragraph essay. It comprises an arresting and informative introductory paragraph, three detailed supporting paragraphs with examples and evidence, and finally, a strong conclusion to convince the reader of your argument. Here’s the layout of the five paragraph essay in a little more detail:
Here’s some sound advice on how to complete each segment of the five paragraph essay:
- Outline your thesis – The introductory paragraph should set the tone for the rest of your essay and summarise your main argument.
- Use the active voice – This will make your words much more powerful. Avoid using ‘I’ as in ‘I believe’ etc. at all costs.
- Grab the reader’s attention – Make the reader want to carry on reading. You can do this by starting with a controversial statement or proposal.
- Summarise the body of your essay – Briefly mention what each of your three main body paragraphs will cover i.e. the subtopics, themes or theories.
- Introduce your evidence – This might mean mentioning some key statistics or the books you will be discussing for example.
- Use one theme per paragraph – Each paragraph should discuss one idea only in order to cover the idea in depth.
- Make it flow – Don’t think of each paragraph as a separate entity, make sure one paragraph flows into the next with strong transitions to make the essay easier to read.
- Use a topic sentence – A clear topic sentence is a great way to introduce the theme of each paragraph. This can also be a way of making a transition from one paragraph to the next.
- Use specific examples/evidence – The idea here isn’t to simply show the breadth of your knowledge; it’s to use specific pieces of supporting evidence that support your arguments.
- Vary your sentences – Don’t be boring. Try not to start sentences in the same way, for example repeating connectors such as ‘also’ and ‘furthermore’.
- Be original – Your argument should be fully formed by now, which means re-emphasising your main thesis from the introduction. Don’t simply repeat it however; be unique in your description.
- Summarise your argument – Make sure the reader has no doubt in their mind as to the point you’re trying to make.
- Write with confidence – In essence your conclusion should be like an ‘I told you so’ to the reader.
- Add a final statement – A strong final statement lets the reader know that your discussion on the topic has come to an end.
4. General Points
- Plan your essay – Know the direction you’ll be going in before you start and make a mind map of all of your ideas.
- Check your essay – Leave yourself time to go over your essay, checking for spelling and grammatical mistakes because there’s nothing worse than this kind of sloppiness.
- Be concise – Don’t waffle! In many instances examiners prefer the student to make their ideas clear in as few words as possible – now that’s a skill to have.
- Be consistent – Give enough weight to each of your arguments/themes/ideas.
- Consider the order of your paragraphs carefully – In order to make your argument you might want to split paragraphs into pros and cons for example.
It’s clear therefore that the five paragraph essay provides beginners with the means to create strong essays. And there is an opportunity for this formatting tool to be expanded upon for longer essays that require greater detail too. Instead of writing three paragraphs, you could choose three themes and write three paragraphs for each theme.