- Basic Approaches to Drafting a Five-Paragraph Essay
- 400 Writing Topics
- How to Write a Passing Essay for a Standardized Test
- Models of Composition
- Seven Secrets to Success in English 101
- Ten Tips for Composing a Successful Essay for the SAT or ACT
- Theme Writing
- Thesis Statement
Examples of Five-Paragraph Essays:
- Learning to Hate Mathematics (a revised cause-and-effect essay)
- Shopping at the Pig (a revised classification essay)
- Time for an Anthem the Country Can Sing (a revised argumentative essay)
- Watching Baseball, Playing Softball (a revised comparison-and-contrast essay)
Methods and Observations:
- "A five-paragraph essay has three central paragraphs, and each one helps support your thesis statement. Essentially, then, central paragraphs are simply one-paragraph essays that each support one item in your blueprint. . . .
"Specific support in a central paragraph supports the paragraph's topic sentence, and the three topic sentences, taken together, support the thesis. Therefore, if each central paragraph supports its own topic sentence, and if the topic sentences are properly related to one another and to your thesis, then the central paragraphs should persuade the reader to accept your thesis statement."
(Edward P. Bailey and Philip A. Powell, The Practical Writer, 9th ed. Thomson Wadsworth, 2008)
- Organizing a Five-Paragraph Essay
"Just as a topic sentence is the main focus of a single paragraph, five-paragraph essays are centered around a thesis statement (or thesis sentence), the central view or argument of the whole essay. . . .
"Your introductory paragraph should contain your thesis and also give a clear indication about what your body paragraphs will be about. . . . Your first paragraph should also include sentences that develop or build up to your thesis statement.
"Your body paragraphs give more elaborate support for your thesis statement. Each of your body paragraphs should contain a topic sentence and must be directly related to your thesis statement. In other words, one subtopic (one individual point) can be developed in each of your three body paragraphs. . . .
"Your concluding paragraph is a summary of what you've stated in your body paragraphs (of course, with different wording). In this paragraph, you can recap the preceding paragraphs and give additional emphasis to your individual points."
(Susan Thurman, The Only Grammar Book You'll Ever Need: A One-Stop Source for Every Writing Assignment. F+W Publications, 2003)
- Limitations of the Five-Paragraph Essay
"Although school students in the US are examined on their ability to write a five-paragraph essay, its raison d'être is purportedly to give practice in basic writing skills that will lead to future success in more varied forms. Detractors feel, however, that writing to rule in this way is more likely to discourage imaginative writing and thinking than enable it. . . . The five-paragraph essay is less aware of its audience and sets out only to present information, an account or a kind of story rather than explicitly to persuade the reader.
"No one at university is going to recommend that you adhere to a scheme as rigid as the five-paragraph essay (I hope) but there are certainly features common to all successful undergraduate essays that we can identify as the first step to practising them in our own work."
(Tory Young, Studying English Literature: A Practical Guide. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2008)
- Moving On From the Five-Paragraph Theme
"[The five-paragraph essay] is taught because it's easy for teachers to teach and easy for students to learn--something a beginning writer can accomplish at an early age. . . .
"The problem is that this adherence to a format tends to generate essays that oversimplify and under-explain your thinking. In the college essay, the main idea is more important than the format, so it's the format that should change for the sake of the idea and not vice versa. If an idea can be explained over five paragraphs, so be it. If the idea is so complex that it requires 16 supporting paragraphs grouped in two supporting sections, so be it.
"You may feel reluctant to leave the five-paragraph theme behind after all these years of good service, but it's important to move on."
(Roy K. Humble, The Humble Essay. Problem Child Press, 2008)
- The Perfect Theme
"Years ago, when I was instructing college freshmen in the humble craft of writing essays--or 'themes' as we called them--I noticed that many students had already been taught how to manufacture the Perfect Theme. It began with an introductory paragraph that contained a 'thesis statement' and often cited someone named Webster; it then pursued its expository path through three paragraphs that 'developed the main idea' until it finally reached a 'concluding' paragraph that diligently summarized all three previous paragraphs. The conclusion usually began 'Thus we see that . . . ' If the theme told a personal story, it usually concluded with the narrative cliche 'Suddenly I realized that . . .' Epiphanies abounded.
"What was especially maddening about the typical five-paragraph theme had less to do with its tedious structure than with its implicit message that writing should be the end product of thought and not the enactment of its process. My students seemed unaware that writing could be an act of discovery, an opportunity to say something they had never before thought of saying. The worst themes were largely the products of premature conclusions, of unearned assurances, of minds made up. . . . So perhaps it did make more sense to call these productions themes and not essays, since what was being written had almost no connection with the original sense of 'essaying'--trying out ideas and attitudes, writing out of a condition of uncertainty, of not-knowing."
(Robert Atwan, Foreword, The Best American Essays: 1998. Houghton Mifflin, 1998)
- Closed Texts vs. Open Texts
"[I]t is easy to see that expository composition--writing whose great virtue is to confine the reader to a single, unambiguous line of thought--is closed, in the sense of permitting, ideally, only one valid interpretation. An 'exploratory' essay, on the other hand, is an open work of nonfiction prose. It cultivates ambiguity and complexity to allow more than one reading or response to the work."
(William Zeiger, "The Exploratory Essay: Enfranchising the Spirit of Inquiry in College Composition." College English 47, 1985)