Which elements build successful body paragraphs?
This is the second of four chapters About Body Paragraphs. To complete this reader, read each chapter carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.
– Introduce the example evaluative essay body paragraph
– Describe the four key elements of effective body paragraphs
– Explore authentic examples to study the elements in context
Having explored the basic purpose of an essay body paragraph, this second chapter on the topic next explores the various elements that help guarantee essay-writing success. While it is true that an essay does not have to follow any set formula, students who wish to increase their grades (particularly at the bachelor’s degree level) should try to include key elements such as topic sentences, main ideas, supporting details and summary-transition sentences. To successfully identify these body-paragraph elements, you may wish to read our example evaluative essay about global warming in full before completing this chapter.
Element 1: Topic Sentence
As our example essay has four body paragraphs, a reader can expect that essay to also have four topic sentences. This is because topic sentences are commonly included as the first or second sentence of a body paragraph and are used to inform the reader of the specific argumentative focus of that paragraph. To see this in action, let’s take a look at the four topic sentences from our example essay:
Successful topic sentences such as these should always contain the topic of the essay (taken from the thesis statement in the introduction) and the main idea or ideas of that particular body paragraph, seen above highlighted in bold. Topic sentences are also a good opportunity for the writer to demonstrate concession (the aspect of the counter argument that the writer agrees with) and rebuttal (the aspect of the counter argument that the writer intends to refute).
Element 2: Main Ideas
An effective topic sentence is concise and specific and directly informs the reader of the main idea (claim) being argued in that body paragraph. As is visible in the previous four topic sentences from our example essay, the topic of ’global warming’ remains consistent throughout but the main ideas are varied, being about (1) an increase in plant-life, (2) the destruction of existing species, (3) the increased challenges that humans face, and (4) the melting of the ice caps. A successful topic sentence, then, should contain only one or two main ideas that connect directly to the essay topic and which provide a specific exploration of the thesis.
Element 3: Supporting Details
While topic sentences and main ideas are of course important, it is the supporting details that are the most critical aspect of forming successful, convincing and engaging body paragraphs. Broadly speaking, supporting details are the source-based examples, evidence and explanations which are used to support the main claims of the topic sentence.
To see this in action, let’s take a look at the first body paragraph from our example essay. After reading the paragraph below carefully, you should be able to see a strong connection between the topic-sentence main idea (the increase in plant-life) and the paragraph’s two supporting details. These supporting details may be arguments or counter arguments and may be presented as either explanations, evidence or examples:
[TOPIC SENTENCE] One commonly highlighted positive impact of global warming is the possible increase in plant-life in cold regions of the planet.8 [SUPPORTING DETAIL 1] [EVIDENCE] Butler (2017) argues that by 2030 there will be 8% more arable land available in areas that have historically been too cold for agriculture.9 [EXAMPLE] For example, uninhabited parts of Siberia may become more likely to have wide expanses of fertile and farmable land.10 [EXPLANATION] White (2018) claims that regions such as Siberia could experience an agricultural boom, and that climate change in this respect may encourage different migration patterns for both humans and animals.11 [IMPLICATION] From this perspective, global warming is not necessarily a threat to humanity and the Earth.12 [SUPPORTING DETAIL 2] [EVIDENCE/EXAMPLE] Similarly, Jenkins (2013) suggests that the arctic tundra will see an increase in plant reproduction, which will almost certainly result in new species emerging within that region.13 [EXPLANATION] However, scientists such as Jenkins also acknowledge that the regions to which they are referring are often those which ‘do not receive a significant amount of sunlight’ (White, 2018, p. 09).14 [IMPLICATION] Therefore, in terms of agricultural land, these areas cannot be considered a viable option to replace current land.15 [SUMMARY-TRANSITION SENTENCE] Ultimately, the argument that global warming will provide life new opportunities is not yet well developed.16
You should also notice in this paragraph that the writer includes implications between the supporting details, providing also a summary-transition sentence to complete the argument. Such implications are used to explain to the reader the significance of the information being provided and are important elements of a body-paragraph’s supporting details.
Element 4: Summary-Transition Sentences
The final key element of an effective body paragraph is what’s known as the ‘summary’ or ‘transition’ sentence, fulfilling the role of either summarising the main idea discussed in that paragraph or of transitioning smoothly from one paragraph to another by introducing the next paragraph’s main idea. This can be seen in action in the four tables below which compare our example essay’s four topic sentences and their associated summary-transition sentences:
Now that we’ve discussed the key elements of a successful body paragraph, continue reading with Chapter 3 to learn more about the language structures that can be used to help guarantee an effective academic style.
Chapter 4 explores the topic: Which tips make for effective essay body sections? Our Chapter 4 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button.
There are currently no PowerPoint activities, additional teacher resources or audio and video recordings created for this topic. Please come back again next semester.
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