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Basic, failsafe, no-frills essay form

(Particularly useful for in-class essays)


The introductory paragraph may begin by catching the reader's attention with:

  • a bold statement
  • a scenario
  • a question
  • a compelling statistic
  • a formulation of a problem

It should provide background information.

  • Identify the topic of the paper (e.g., Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" or The unification of Italy).
  • Give some context, a summary, or the main components of that topic. Sometimes it helps to answer a few of the 5 W's: who, what, where, when, why . . . and how.

The thesis statement should state the specific, main idea the paper will discuss.

  • For many in-class essays, you can rephrase the question as a statement.

Body of the essay:

Each body paragraph should:

  • have a topic sentence that clearly connects to the thesis & tells what point the whole paragraph will make
  • develop support specific to the point of the topic sentence using authorities cited, explanations, facts, examples, details or statistics.
  • use analysis to show "how" and "why" the types of support give insight into the topic
  • provide transition (a word or two: "On the other hand"; a phrase: "An equally important program..."; or a sentence: "Frost uses this ironic theme again in 'The Road Not Taken.'") to show how your paragraphs are connected.


  1. Return to the thesis idea so the reader understands the importance of the main point of your paper.
  2. Don't just repeat what was in the paper -- that has already been said.
  3. State what you most want readers to remember or think about from your essay.
  4. However, do not bring up new topics!


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