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The 5-paragraph essay is a format of essay having five paragraphs: one introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs with support and development, and one concluding paragraph. The five paragraph essay measures a student’s basic writing skills, and is often a timed exercise.

While the classic five paragraph essay is a form seldom if ever used by professional writers, it is commonly assigned to students to help them organize and develop their ideas in writing. It can also be a very useful way to write a complete and clear response to an essay question on an exam. It has, not surprisingly, five paragraphs:
  1. Introduction:Introducing a topic. An important part of this is the three-pronged thesis.
  2. Body paragraph 1:Explaining the first part of the three-pronged thesis
  3. Body paragraph 2:Explaining the second part of the three-pronged thesis
  4. Body paragraph 3:Explaining the third part of the three-pronged thesis
  5. Conclusion:Summing up points and restating thesis

We’ll look at each type of paragraph, and at transitions, the glue that holds them together.

How to Write a 5 Paragraph Essay

Introductory Paragraph

The introductory paragraph should also include the thesis statement, a kind of mini-outline for the essay. This is where the writer grabs the reader’s attention. It tells the reader what the paper is about. The last sentence of this paragraph must also include a transitional “hook” which moves the reader to the first paragraph of the body of the essay.

Body – First Paragraph

The first paragraph of the body should include the strongest argument, most significant example, cleverest illustration, or an obvious beginning point. The first sentence should contain the “reverse hook” which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the introductory paragraph. The subject for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This subject should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional hook to tie into the second paragraph of the body.

Body – Second Paragraph

The second paragraph of the body should include the second strongest argument, second most significant example, second cleverest illustration, or an obvious follow up the first paragraph in the body. The first sentence of this paragraph should contain the reverse hook, which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the first paragraph of the body. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional hook to tie into the third paragraph of the body.

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Body – Third Paragraph

The third paragraph of the body should include the weakest argument, weakest example, weakest illustration, or an obvious follow up to the second paragraph in the body. The first sentence of this paragraph should contain the reverse hook, which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the second paragraph. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional concluding hook that signals the reader that this is the final major point being made in this essay. This hook also leads into the concluding paragraph.

Concluding Paragraph

The fifth paragraph is the summary paragraph. It is important to restate the thesis and three supporting ideas in an original and powerful way as this is the last chance the writer has to convince the reader of the validity of the information presented.

This paragraph should include the following:

  1. an allusion to the pattern used in the introductory paragraph,
  2. a restatement of the thesis statement, using some of the original language or language that “echoes” the original language. (The restatement, however, must not be a duplicate thesis statement.)
  3. a summary of the three main points from the body of the essay.
  4. a final statement that gives the reader signals that the discussion has come to an end. (This final statement may be a “call to action” in a persuasive essay.)

5 Paragraph Essay Example

Introductory Paragraph

1Stephen King, creator of such stories as Carrie and Pet Sematary, stated that the Edgar Allan Poe stories he read as a child gave him the inspiration and instruction he needed to become the writer that he is. 2Poe, as does Stephen King, fills the reader’s imagination with the images that he wishes the reader to see, hear, and feel. 3His use of vivid, concrete visual imagery to present both static and dynamic settings and to describe people is part of his technique. 4Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a story about a young man who kills an old man who cares for him, dismembers the corpse, then goes mad when he thinks he hears the old man’s heart beating beneath the floor boards under his feet as he sits and discusses the old man’s absence with the police. 5In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” a careful reader can observe Poe’s skillful manipulation of the senses.

The introductory paragraph includes a paraphrase of something said by a famous person in order to get the reader’s attention. The second sentence leads up to the thesis statement which is the third sentence. The thesis statement (sentence 3) presents topic of the paper to the reader and provides a mini- outline. The topic is Poe’s use of visual imagery. The mini- outline tells the reader that this paper will present Poe’s use of imagery in three places in his writing: (1) description of static setting; (2) description of dynamic setting; and (3) description of a person. The last sentence of the paragraph uses the words “manipulation” and “senses” as transitional hooks.

Body – First Paragraph

1The sense of sight, the primary sense, is particularly susceptible to manipulation. 2In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Poe uses the following image to describe a static scene: “His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness . . .” Poe used the words “black,” “pitch,” and “thick darkness” not only to show the reader the condition of the old man’s room, but also to make the reader feel the darkness.” 3“Thick” is a word that is not usually associated with color (darkness), yet in using it, Poe stimulates the reader’s sense of feeling as well as his sense of sight.

In the first sentence of the second paragraph (first paragraph of the body) the words “sense” and “manipulation” are used to hook into the end of the introductory paragraph. The first part of the second sentence provides the topic for this paragraph–imagery in a static scene. Then a quotation from “The Tell-Tale Heart” is presented and briefly discussed. The last sentence of this paragraph uses the expressions “sense of feeling” and “sense of sight” as hooks for leading into the third paragraph.

Body – Second Paragraph

1Further on in the story, Poe uses a couple of words that cross not only the sense of sight but also the sense of feeling to describe a dynamic scene. 2The youth in the story has been standing in the open doorway of the old man’s room for a long time, waiting for just the right moment to reveal himself to the old man in order to frighten him. 3Poe writes: “So I opened it [the lantern opening]–you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily–until, at length, a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.” 4By using the metaphor of the thread of the spider (which we all know is a creepy creature) and the word “shot,” Poe almost makes the reader gasp, as surely did the old man whose one blind eye the young man describes as “the vulture eye.”

The first sentence of the third paragraph (second paragraph of the body) uses the words “sense of sight” and “sense of feeling” to hook back into the previous paragraph. Note that in the second paragraph “feeling” came first, and in this paragraph “sight” comes first. The first sentence also includes the topic for this paragraph–imagery in a dynamic scene. Again, a quotation is taken from the story, and it is briefly discussed. The last sentence uses the words “one blind eye” which was in the quotation. This expression provides the transitional hook for the last paragraph in the body of the paper.

Body – Third Paragraph

1The reader does not know much about what the old man in this story looks like except that he has one blind eye. 2In the second paragraph of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Poe establishes the young man’s obsession with that blind eye when he writes: “He had the eye of the vulture–a pale blue eye, with a film over it.” 3This “vulture eye” is evoked over and over again in the story until the reader becomes as obsessed with it as does the young man. 4His use of the vivid, concrete word “vulture” establishes a specific image in the mind of the reader that is inescapable.

In the first sentence of the fourth paragraph (third paragraph in the body), “one blind eye” is used that hooks into the previous paragraph. This first sentence also lets the reader know that this paragraph will deal with descriptions of people: “. . . what the old man looks like . . ..” Once again Poe is quoted and discussed. The last sentence uses the word “image” which hooks into the last paragraph. (It is less important that this paragraph has a hook since the last paragraph is going to include a summary of the body of the paper.)

Concluding Paragraph

1“Thick darkness,” “thread of the spider,” and “vulture eye” are three images that Poe used in “The Tell-Tale Heart” to stimulate a reader’s senses. 2Poe wanted the reader to see and feel real life. 3He used concrete imagery rather than vague abstract words to describe settings and people. If Edgar Allan Poe was one of Stephen King’s teachers, then readers of King owe a debt of gratitude to that nineteenth-century creator of horror stories.

The first sentence of the concluding paragraph uses the principal words from the quotations from each paragraph of the body of the paper. This summarizes those three paragraphs. The second and third sentences provide observations which can also be considered a summary, not only of the content of the paper, but also offers personal opinion which was logically drawn as the result of this study. The last sentence returns to the Edgar Allan Poe-Stephen King relationship that began this paper. This sentence also provides a “wrap-up” and gives the paper a sense of finality.

5 Paragraph Essay Topics

5 paragraph essay topics are not limited to anything, as anything can be discussed in this type of essay. Here are 30 essay writing prompts for five paragraph essays:

  1. Discuss the influence advertising has had on your life or the lives of your friends. Use specific examples.
  2. Many teenagers run away from home. What are some of the primary reasons this happens?
  3. Should American citizens be able to own and carry firearms? Give reasons as to why or why not.
  4. Should every able-bodied American citizen be required to serve for a certain period of time in a branch of the military service? Discuss.
  5. Obesity is explained by some as an “epidemic.” Is this the case? Explain why or why not.
  6. Would you like to live in a big city? Explain.
  7. What do you think are the chief reasons students drop out of college?
  8. If the average human life span were increased to 200, what major societal changes would you expect? Discuss.
  9. What would you place in a time capsule to allow people opening the capsule 2,000 years from now to understand like in the year 2009? Explain.
  10. If you could make one major scientific breakthrough or discovery, what would it be, and why?
  11. Should public agencies be required to inform parents when their legally minor children seek out birth control? Explain.
  12. The societal changes brought about by the women’s liberation movement are generally seen as benefitting women. Do men also benefit by these changes? Discuss.
  13. America has many regional foods. What do you recommend to a traveler who wanted to experience Southern food? Explain.
  14. Do you believe that it is the responsibility of the young to provide financial security to the elderly? Why or why not?
  15. If you had to choose between a job that you loved that paid $15,000 a year and one you hated that paid $40,000 a year, which job would you choose? Explain why.
  16. There is a shortage of mathematics teachers in the secondary schools. What actions should be taken to lessen this shortage? Discuss.
  17. According to Vince Lombardi, “Winning is not the most important thing; it’s the only thing.” Explain why you either agree or disagree with this statement.
  18. Are robots a blessing or a curse to the labor force? Explain.
  19. What single experience do you think every human being should have, one without which human life, in your opinion, would not be complete? Discuss.
  20. Many college freshmen complain that they have never really learned how to study. What pointers could you give to help people with poor study habits?
  21. One suggested partial solution to the drug problem is to furnish drugs to certified addicts, thus removing the profit for drug dealers. Is this a good or a bad idea? Discuss.
  22. Would you rather spend a weekend with your friends or your family? Explain.
  23. What types of reading materials do you prefer? Explain why.
  24. What career, other than the one for which you are preparing, do you find most appealing? Explain.
  25. Given the choice, would you rather live in the mountains or near the beach? Discuss.
  26. Should animals be used in medical research? Discuss.
  27. Has media scrutiny of public officials’ personal lives become excessive? Explain.
  28. How is the threat of AIDS changing dating habits? Discuss.
  29. Women today are waiting until they are older to marry for the first time. Why?
  30. Name your favorite pastime and explain why you enjoy it.

Remember when writing these 5 paragraph essays that most lower-level English professors (and exam evaluators) are looking for form rather than content. Of course, content is important and a student should take pride in her writing, but pay especially close attention to that structure.