Strong Body Paragraphs
A strong body paragraph explains, proves, and/or supports your paper’s
argumentative claim or thesis statement. If you’re not sure how to craft one, try
using this handy guide!
1. INSERT A TOPIC SENTENCE:
Encapsulates and organizes an entire paragraph. Although topic sentences may appear
anywhere in a paragraph, in academic essays they often appear at the beginning. When
creating a topic sentence, ask yourself what‟s going on in your paragraph. Why you
chosen to include the information you have? Why is the paragraph important in the
context of your argument or thesis statement? What point are your trying to make?
It should be noted that relating your topic sentences to your thesis can help strengthen
the coherence of your essay. If you include an argumentative claim or thesis statement
in your introduction, then think of incorporating a keyword from that statement into the
topic sentence. But you need not be overly explicit when you echo the thesis statement.
Better to be subtle rather than heavy-handed. Do not forget that your topic sentence
should do more than just establish a connection between your paragraph and your
thesis. Use a topic sentence to show how your paragraph contributes to the
development of your argument by moving it that one extra step forward. If your topic
sentence merely restates your thesis, then either your paragraph is redundant or your
topic sentence needs to be reformulated. If several of your topic sentences restate your
thesis, even if they do so in different words, then your essay is probably repetitive.
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.
2. EXPLAIN YOUR TOPIC SENTENCE:
Does your topic sentence require further explanation? If so, add another 1-2 sentences
explaining your topic sentence here.
3. INTRODUCE YOUR EVIDENCE:
Most academic papers require students to integrate evidence (often quotes, but it can
also include statistics, figures, common sense examples, etc.) to support the claim(s)
made in the paragraph and/or the paper as a whole. When including evidence, make
sure it is integrated smoothly into the text of the paper. Readers should be able to
move from your words to your evidence without feeling a logical or mechanical jolt.
When introducing quotes, always a) identify the source and b) summarize to provide
context. Many terms may be used to introduce quoted material: asserts, believes,
claims, comments, confirms, declares, defines, describes, explains, indicates, makes
clear, proposes, etc. However, these terms are not interchangeable. Make your choice
based on your meaning.
Example #1: All of us know the grammar of our own language because, as Robert C.
Pooley writes, “grammar is the structure: the observation of what people do when they
use English words in discourse” (95).
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Courtesy the Odegaard Writing & Research Center
Example #2: Edward P. J. Corbett, one of America’s most distinguished rhetoricians,
defines grammar clearly “as the study of how a language ‘works’–a study of how the
structural system of a language combines with a vocabulary to convey meaning” (111).
4. INSERT YOUR EVIDENCE:
Insert/drop-in your supporting evidence (often quotes but again, evidence can also be in
the form of personal examples, facts, statistics, etc.).
5. UNPACK YOUR EVIDENCE:
Explain what the quote means and why its important to your argument. The author
should agree with how you sum up the quotation—this will help you establish credibility,
by demonstrating that you do know what the author is saying even if you don‟t agree.
Often 1-2 sentences tops (unless you evidence is particularly long or complicated that
6. EXPLAIN YOUR EVIDENCE:
No matter how good your evidence is, it won‟t help your argument much if your reader
doesn‟t know why it‟s important. Ask yourself: how does this evidence prove the point
you are trying to make in this paragraph and/or your paper as a whole? Can be opinion
based and is often at least 1-3 sentences.
7. INSERT A CONCLUDING SENTENCE:
End your paragraph with a concluding sentence or sentences that reasserts how your
paragraph contributes to the development of your argument as a whole.
So, to recap…
1. Insert a Topic Sentence
2. Explain Your Topic Sentence
3. Introduce Your Evidence
4. Insert Your Evidence
5. Unpack Your Evidence
6. Explain Your Evidence
7. Insert a Concluding Sentence
Claim: In Amy Tan‟s short story “Two Kinds,” the author leads us on a journey of a
mother‟s expectations for her daughter to become a prodigy are too high and willingly not
obtainable. Upon a closer analysis of the writing, one can argue that the mother is not
allowing her daughter to become her own person. She is instilling all hopes of her lost
children on her sole child. In due course this short story looks at whether or not the
pressure from the mother, hinders the daughter.
Sample Body Paragraph: (1) Upon a further examination, the mother‟s
constant pressure on the daughter was beginning to wear on her. (2) Jing-mei‟s mother
would consistently give her daughter tests and the expectations to succeed were high. (3)
As the daughter states right after she failed to perform well at the climatic piano recital (4)
“After seeing my mother‟s disappointed face once again, something inside me began to die.
I hated the tests, the raised hopes and failed expectations” (Tan 1152). (5,6) After seeing
the dissatisfaction from her mother‟s face, the tests and hopes for success, began to eat
away at her. It began to tear at the daughter‟s emotional state. (7) The consistent
disappointment pushed the daughter to the point where she would not become someone
she is not.
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Courtesy the Odegaard Writing & Research Center
Claim: The University of Texas (UT) provides a diversity of social, academic and athletic
opportunities for students. This can be a powerful positive force, but it can also detract
from students‟ abilities to manage their time. More attention to time management training
is needed to ensure that all UT students graduate with the ability to succeed in their chosen
Sample Body Paragraph: (1) While there is little doubt that extracurricular
opportunities at UT are a positive and critical component of students‟ overall development,
providing students with time management skills is equally important. (3) One only needs to
look at past alumni to see the validity of this claim. As famous alum George W. Bush states,
(4) “I sometimes overdid