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That is a vintage essay introduction that is five-paragraph.

That is a vintage essay introduction that is five-paragraph.

But Alex’s professor doesn’t want it. She underlines the initial two sentences, and she writes, “This is just too general. Get to the true point.” She underlines the 3rd and fourth sentences, and she writes, “You’re just restating the question I asked. What’s your point?” She underlines the sentence that is final after which writes in the margin, “What’s your thesis?” because the final sentence within the paragraph only lists topics. It does not make a disagreement.

Is Alex’s professor just a grouch? Well, no—she is trying to show this student that college writing isn’t about following a formula (the model that is five-paragraph, it is about making a disagreement. Her first sentence is general, just how she learned a essay that is five-paragraph start. But from the professor’s perspective, it’s way too general—so general, in fact, so it’s completely outside of the assignment: she didn’t ask students to define civil war. The third and fourth sentences say, in a lot of words, “I am comparing and contrasting the reasons why the North therefore the South fought the Civil War”—as the professor says, they just restate the prompt, without giving an individual hint about where this student’s paper is certainly going. The final sentence, that ought to make an argument, only lists topics; it doesn’t begin to explore how or why something happened.

In the event that you’ve seen plenty of five-paragraph essays, you are able to guess what Alex will write next. Her body that is first paragraph begin, “We can easily see some of the different explanations why the North and South fought the Civil War by studying the economy.” What will the professor say about that? She may ask, “What differences can we see? What part of the economy are you currently speaking about? How come the differences exist? Why are they important?” The student might write a conclusion that says much the same thing as her introduction, in slightly different words after three such body paragraphs. Alex’s professor might respond, “You’ve already said this!”

What could Alex do differently? Let’s start over. This time, Alex doesn’t begin with a preconceived notion of how to organize her essay. Instead of three “points,” she decides that she will brainstorm until she pops up with a primary argument, or thesis, that answers the question “Why did the North and South fight the Civil War?” Then she will determine how to prepare her draft by thinking about the argument’s parts and how they fit together.

After doing a bit of brainstorming and reading the Writing Center’s handout on thesis statements, Alex thinks about a main argument, or thesis statement:

Then Alex writes her introduction. But instead of beginning with a statement that is general civil wars, she gives us the ideas we have to know in order to understand all of the areas of her argument:

Every sentence in Alex’s introduction that is new your reader down the road to her thesis statement in an unbroken chain of ideas.

Now Alex turns to organization. You’ll find more about the thinking process she goes through in our handout on organization, but here are the basics: first, she decides, she’ll write a paragraph that gives background; she’ll explain how opposition to tyranny and a belief in individual liberty came to be such values that are important the usa. Then she’ll write another background paragraph for which she shows the way the conflict over slavery developed as time passes. Then she’ll have separate paragraphs about Northerners and Southerners, explaining in detail—and giving evidence for—her claims about each group’s cause of going to war.

Note that Alex now has four body paragraphs. She might have had three or two or seven; what’s important is her argument to tell her how many paragraphs she should have and how to fit them together that she allowed. Furthermore, her body paragraphs don’t all“points that are discuss” like “the economy” and “politics”—two of them give background, and also the other two explain Northerners’ and Southerners’ views at length.

Finally, having followed her sketch outline and written her paper, Alex turns to writing a conclusion. From our handout on conclusions, she understands that a “that’s my story and I’m sticking to it” conclusion does not move her ideas forward. Applying the strategies she finds in the handout, she decides that she can use her conclusion to describe why the paper she’s just written really matters—perhaps by pointing out that the fissures inside our society that the Civil War opened are, most of the time, still causing trouble today.

Is it ever OK to write a five-paragraph essay?

Yes. Have you ever found yourself in times where somebody expects you to seem sensible of a large body of information at that moment and write a well-organized, persuasive essay—in fifty minutes or less? Seems like an essay exam situation, right? When time is short in addition to pressure is on, falling back in the good old fashioned five-paragraph essay can save you some time give you confidence. A five-paragraph essay might also act as the framework for a short speech. Try not to get into the trap, however, of creating a “listing” thesis statement when your instructor expects an argument; when planning your body paragraphs, think of three aspects of a quarrel, rather than three “points” to go over. On the other side hand, most professors recognize the constraints of writing blue-book essays, and a “listing” thesis is probably much better than no thesis at all.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing the original version of this handout. This isn’t a comprehensive range of resources on the handout’s topic, and now we encourage you to do your very own research to obtain the latest publications with this topic. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your very own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you might be using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial. We revise these pointers periodically and welcome feedback.

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Written by Site Default • September 20, 2019
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