How To Write The Main Body Of An Essay

SUMMARY:

  • The body paragraphs are where you present your paper’s main points.
  • Your body paragraphs should contain ample textual evidence, be correctly formatted, and have seamless transitions.

The body is the meat and potatoes of your essay. As such, it needs to contain lots of juicy textual evidence and meaty support, not fluff.

Each body paragraph contains one main idea, backed up by textual evidence and your own analysis. Your analysis should make up the majority of your paragraph.

Remember that (unless your teacher specifically says so), there’s nothing magic about having three body paragraphs. Have as many as you need to get your ideas across. The topic sentences of your body paragraphs should be determined by how you grouped your notes when you were outlining.

With your outline in hand, it’s time to draft your essay.

 

1) What makes a good quote

SUMMARY:

  • The best quotes contain in-depth analysis, opinion, or interpretation, not facts.

LINKS:

When choosing quotes to put in your final paper, keep in mind that some information works better in quote form and some is better as an indirect quote (paraphrased).

Take the following example: According to the CIA Factbook, “all of China falls within one time zone” (CIA Factbook).

How exciting of a quote is that? Not very.

The best quotes contain analysis, opinion, or interpretation. When quoting directly from a source, be sure that the quote is interesting. Take the following example:

According to Lina Song, a professor of economic sociology and social policy at the University of Nottingham, “Local government debt in China is a time bomb waiting to go off” (A Time Bomb, NY Times). In China, local government debt has swelled to 14 trillion yuan (People’s Bank of China).

The opinion part–that local debts in China are a time bomb–is a direct quotation from a credible source (a professor). This makes a good quote since her opinion paints an interesting picture of China’s current economic situation. The fact–that debt is now 14 trillion yuan–is not quoted, since it would be a boring quote. But it does provide substantial factual support to Song’s opinion.

When looking for quotes, look for the most concise parts of the text that explain the author’s points. You don’t want to devote too much of your paper’s length to quoting from your sources.

Try to embed quotes into your writing smoothly by placing them in a sentence of your own, rather than just plopping them in your paper. These ‘lead up’ sentences should contain transitions that give your reader the context behind the quote.

 

2) Making good points

SUMMARY:

  • Good points follow a formula: introduction of evidence + evidence + analysis.
  • The above structure can be modified based on the paper you are writing.

LINKS:

RESOURCES:

  • They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing – Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein

Your paper should contain a number of points that make your argument. These points should be substantiated by data–either in the form of direct quotes or paraphrasing. Good points are usually written with the following framework: introduction of evidence + evidence + analysis.
Let’s break down each part:

  1. Introduction of evidence

    – The first part of your point should be a sentence or two that transitions into your quote and explains the topic your quote addresses. Why are you citing this particular evidence? What is the quote adding to your paper?

    For humanities papers, you’ll probably be introducing the work you’re analyzing at the beginning (introductory paragraph) of your essay. Therefore, when you bring up quotes, your ‘introduction of evidence’ will usually contain a transition saying how your quote relates to the rest of your paper.

    Examples:
    “Another example of Healthcliff’s indifference is seen in…”
    “Also, Rowling uses scenic detail to add drama to the book. For example…”
    “Finally, Venus’ frustration comes to a crescendo when the goddess…”
    Notice how each of these examples contains transition words that prepare the reader to hear the quote.

    For social science papers and research papers, you’ll probably be using a lot of sources for support, and as such, you’ll want to introduce each before you quote directly from it. When you bring up a source for the first time, you will want to state its credentials to demonstrate that you are citing an authoritative source (and not just a random person).

    Examples:
    “Further insight into income inequality is provided by Dr. Delaney, an economist at Stanford, who is of the opinion that…” “Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, writes that our preconceived notions influence our perceptions…”

    Keep in mind that if you are paraphrasing from a source, it may not be necessary to introduce it. Use your own discretion.

    Example: It sounds funny to say, “The CIA World Factbook, an authority on world statistics, states that “Mali is a landlocked country highly dependent on gold mining and agricultural exports for revenue” (CIA World Factbook).

    Instead, you can just weave the facts about Mali into your essay and provide a parenthetical citation for the Factbook.

  2. Evidence

    – Here is where you substantiate your claim with a direct quote or text that is paraphrased. If you are quoting, be sure to transcribe from your source exactly, word-for-word. If you are paraphrasing, be sure you are doing the citations properly (See our guide to Parenthetical Citations).

  3. Analysis

    – It is important that your evidence isn’t just plopped in your paper. The quote’s relevance to the rest of your paper may seem obvious to you, but you cannot assume that your reader will make the connection. You need to make it explicit. Your analysis should explain why the stated quote helps further an idea promoted in your essay.

    “…This unique rhyming scheme, made famous by Shakespeare, makes the text lighthearted although the poem’s themes of love and timelessness are weighty.” “…The fearful closing lines juxtapose the cheery opening lines, heightening the reader’s sense of unease.”

    “…Abraham Lincoln’s gracious words in this passage indicate his gratitude toward Americans and thankfulness to God.”

    Keep in mind that the above formula can be modified to fit the flow of your paper. For example, if you are comparing two passages of text, you may want to quote them both first before analyzing them. Your analysis might be a discussion of the similarities/differences between the passages.

    Let’s take a look at how this point-making formula works within a paper, provided by George Mason University’s Department of English:

The opening lines of “The Cask of Amontillado” are cunningly crafted to both entice the reader and immediately situate the narrative: “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged…” (123). With incredible economy we are presented with a troubled relationship between the narrator and Fortunato, which has reached its breaking point. It is also made clear that we are not the intended audience of this narrative. The “you” addressed knows the narrator well; we do not. This and the epistolary tone would suggest that we are looking upon some long forgotten piece of correspondence, which only heightens the atmosphere of mystery and dread already created by this sparse introduction.Here the writer introduces the work, “The Case of Amontillado” and provides a topic sentence. We know what to expect: a discussion on how the opening lines of the text grab the reader and set up the rest of the work. 

The quote is presented. It is cited correctly.

 

 

 

Here, the writer analyzes the the quote. He discusses how the troubled relationship between two people helps frame the book. Notice how he’s building this using this textual evidence to support his topic sentence.

 

 

 

But the writer goes further. He analyzes how details in the text grab the reader through use of literary technique. We are told that this adds to the “atmosphere of mystery and dread” of the short story.

 

E. 3) Formatting quotes and parenthetical citations MLA/APA

SUMMARY:

  • Format your quotes properly, and cite them correctly.

LINKS:

You have done a lot of hard work gathering your sources and selecting quotes. You want to make sure that your quotes are beautifully integrated into your paper. You want the text of the quote to be formatted correctly, and you want your citations to be correct. For that, check out our site for Parenthetical Citations

 

4) Transitioning

SUMMARY:

  • Transitions provide links between ideas of your paper.

LINKS:

Transitions are key to a kick-butt paper. They provide the connections between the major ideas in your paper, and they give the reader cues to tell him where you are going. Remember (from when you researched and outlined) that your transitions should reflect how your notes are grouped. Now is the time to forge your transitions into words!

There should be a transition between each paragraph of the paper that introduces what the new paragraph is about and how it relates to the previous one. An effective way to transition is by using the following format: clause that references the claim in the previous paragraph (making a smooth transition between one claim and the next) + comma + topic sentence of next paragraph:

  • “In contrast to Marsha’s heartfelt feelings toward her sister in the first half of the book, in the second half they dissolve, only to be replaced by anger…”
    Here the words “in contrast” tell the reader that the text after the comma will be in juxtaposition to the text in front of the comma. Marsha’s relationship with her sister has changed, and this transition cues the reader that the next paragraph will be about anger in their relationship.
  • “Similar to how Tom dealt with the dragon the first time, he…”
    The words “similar to” indicate that Tom handled the dragon using the same technique twice Here, the reader is prepared to learn about how Tom dealt with the dragon the second time around, and how that was similar to the first time.
  • “Despite all that Tony did for Robin, she…”
    “Despite” indicates that there will be a shift in the second part of the sentence. The reader is prepared to hear about how Robin verbally abused Tom (or some other negative action) in the latter paragraph despite the fact that Tony did a lot for her.

Transitions should be used within paragraphs too. They help lead your reader down your intended path. Here’s a list of useful transitions (provided by UNC):

Here are a couple examples:

  • “Jay Gatsby spares no expense at his extravagant Saturday night parties, as seen when…”
    Here, the phrase “as seen when” transitions your reader from your statement at the beginning of the sentence to a quote that will fit nicely at the end.
  • Steven’s behavior towards his family members is generally affable, but he treats only his parents with utmost respect.
    Here, the use of the world “but” indicates that the second half of the sentence will modify the first half. In this example, “but” helps the author refine the argument. Steven doesn’t treat everyone in his as best as he can. He treats his parents with his best behavior.

Tip: The transitions can also be used to transition between paragraphs.

 

5) Avoiding plagiarism

SUMMARY:

  • Make sure that the sources you cite in your paper are quoted or paraphrased correctly.
  • Don’t have too much of your paper’s text be from a source other than yourself.

LINKS:

Your essay should be well supported with credible sources, but you don’t want too much of your paper to be written by another person. Your teacher wants to hear your own insight. The sources you reference in your paper should be cited correctly (paraphrased or directly quoted). If an idea is not your own, don’t take credit for it!

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary plagiarizing means to:

  • Steal and pass off the ideas or words of another as one’s own
  • Use another’s production without crediting the source
  • Commit literary theft
  • Present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

All of the following are considered plagiarism:

  • Turning in someone else’s work as your own
  • Copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • Failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • Giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • Changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • Copying so many ideas or words from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not

Teachers and professors simply love assigning papers. They are doing so not to scare you, but to check your knowledge and teach you to manage your time. If you wish to impress your tutor in a good way, follow these easy steps and example on the way to “A”-level academic essay, personal statement, or research paper.

Write Your Essay: Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Begin with the idea and in-depth research

To collect relevant and up-to-date information or example, you need to go online. The essay should start with the first paragraph with a clear thesis statement (idea), but you must read background information first. You should start with the following steps:

  • Learn which topics and primary/secondary sources are acceptable to your tutor.
  • Use a good essay example to find how many sources are usually included and the way some sources are cited.
  • Avoid Wikipedia as a source for your essay.
  • Write down in-class notes to take an idea from them later. It is better to note all in-text citations and references the way they should appear at the start. It will save a plenty of time.
  • Fight for your main essay idea. However, do not ignore or avoid contradictive information or opposing example. You need strong evidence to support your arguments.
  1. Analyze at least one good example

It does not obligatory have to be an essay of another student – read samples of introduction, body paragraph, main idea, and conclusion by famous authors or recognized journalists.

  • What arguments does the author use, and how does he support them?
  • What is the best about given written example: what is its structure, main idea, logic, sources, easy words, etc.?
  • What answers and conclusions does the writer give in his essay?
  • Were the research and the specific approach to writing each sentence effective?
  • Is there any nice and easy example to follow or to write from?
  1. Brainstorming to pick one main idea

You cannot use all of your thoughts in a single essay. The main idea you mention in thesis statement in the introduction has to be covered through the text. Decide on an original topic to encourage your audience to read and discuss your idea. Then start your paper.

  • Begin with putting every idea and different points on the list. Try to write and use mind mapping.
  • Read the brainstorming list of other themes as an example.
  • Manage your time. Make a schedule. When it comes to the final sentence of your essay, you should not realize that your deadline is over. Think about your main topic even when having a walk in the park.
  1. State your thesis statement clearly
  • Look at the list of thoughts and main idea with the supportive argument that you have prepared.
  • Which example topic are you able to explain the best? Select and write down 1-3 bullet points to support the main topic and provide evidence. Recall your research conclusion.
  • Write a clear and easy to understand thesis statement which briefly and clearly describes the main idea and argument list author is about to present in his essay. Your example must show the path to a reader.
  • A thesis statement and entire paragraph has to focus on your topic as well as what you are about to present. People want to learn what they will read and decide whether they need this information.
  • To focus means to write on a specific topic based on a specific source and evidence. A good thesis example would sound like: “Americans should reduce the regular consumption of fast food because it leads to preventable and expensive health issues such as diabetes and obesity.”
  • Do not write your introduction or any other paragraph in the first person unless you deal with a personal statement or reflective essay. Avoid asking questions around your main idea.

Thesis statement and introduction are just two parts of one essay. You can read more about each section of your academic paper here.

  1. Plan paper example and write the final draft

It is easy to control the time when you realize WHAT and WHEN to write. Your main idea, introduction paragraph, and thesis statement should clearly come first. But before you write these elements for your essay, read how to develop a proper outline. It is similar to the table of contents and should come before introduction and any other paragraph. These bullet points will support your flow. Every step should involve different argument support in the shape of evidence.

  • An example of the topic sentence would be: “Homeless people in Berkeley should be given access to services, such as regular food donations and public WCs as it would improve life for all citizens."
  • Ex: "The lack of food enforces poor and homeless inhabitants to steal."
  1. Write body paragraph step-by-step

Each sentence of each paragraph should relate to the introduction of your essay. You may find a good example on the web. The body must support and refer to the main topic idea as well. Usually, you need only 5 paragraphs all-in-all: introduction, body, and conclusion. So, do not write several pages instead of the required one or two – avoid overwhelming your essay with unnecessary information. If you notice that size of your essay is too long, edit and make it shorter but still clear in the end.

  • Avoid sweeping generalizations. Make each sentence more specific – do not write “the best, most popular,” etc. Instead, show that “global warming is a critical problem to discuss today.”
  • Don’t use personal pronouns "you,""we,""my,""your" or "our." Replace sentence in your paragraph like “I think that Kant was right in his judgments…” by paraphrasing “Kant’s judgments seem objective as…”
  1. Transform a topic of your interest into the powerful title and introduction

Search for example titles if you have no key. These elements may inspire to read your essay. Write like you are going to show your essay to college admission board.

  • Don’t write "The main topic of this paper is…."
  • Everyone understands your idea as they read each paragraph step by step.
  • Describe your topic broadly first, and narrow it down closer to your conclusion. In the introduction, your thesis statement is a clear culmination which explains the idea briefly.
  • The one-page essay or up to 5 sentences per paragraph are fine.
  1. Write your conclusion

No example would help as your last sentence or two should be based on your own thoughts and main idea.

  • In your conclusion, manage to provide the answer to the central topic questions such as, "What are the implications of your thesis statement being true?"
  • Use every argument and evidence to let your reader achieve conclusion on his own. Write your thesis statement once again, but present it in a new light. It should sound like a more persuasive sentence now. "As it was proved by the National Cancer Center and other authorities, second-hand smoke is as harmful as active smoking and leads to a higher prevalence of cancer and heart disease."

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