Five Paragraph Essay Outline

The five paragraph essay format ensures a complete and compelling essay that is persuasive and easy to understand. Five paragraph essays are used by teachers to help students organize their thoughts and create succinct answers to essay questions.

A five paragraph essay includes an Introduction (Paragraph 1); Paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 (Body Paragraphs), and a Conclusion (Paragraph 5). 

What is a Paragraph?

A paragraph is a piece of writing with one main idea. The topic sentence and additional sentences discuss and explain the main idea.

Paragraph 1 - Introductory Paragraph

The introduction begins the discussion and highlights the author's viewpoint. It has a thesis statement -- a very specific statement of the main point, and the topics for the next three paragraphs.

Different essay introductory paragraph types can be used to hook readers, including:

  • telling a story
  • giving a strong opinion
  • asking a question
  • stating a fact or statistic

For example, in an essay about the importance of safety helmets for motorcycle riders, the introduction could include information about motorcycle accidents and survival rates. Or, the writer could use an example of someone who avoided serious brain injury by using a helmet. Finally, the thesis could state three reasons for enacting rules about wearing helmets.

Paragraph 2

Paragraph 2 contains the most compelling argument in support of the thesis statement. A clear topic sentence states the main idea of the paragraph. Details and specific examples make ideas clear and convincing. All sentences are unified around the central idea and relate to the topic sentence.

In our example, the writer could highlight the lives saved when helmets are worn. At the end of the paragraph, the writer could note that there are other compelling reasons to wear helmets - transitioning to Paragraph 3.

Paragraph 3

Paragraph 3 begins with a topic sentence that states the main idea of the paragraph along with details and specific examples.

For our example, this paragraph could highlight the economic impact of increased medical and productivity costs when helmets are not worn. Finally, in order to transition to Paragraph 4, the writer could state that many feel that rider training will help reduce injuries and medical costs.

Paragraph 4

Paragraph 4 starts with a clear topic sentence and continues with details and specific examples.

In our example, this paragraph's topic sentence could boldly state that rider training has not reduced injuries or medical costs. In fact, training is costly and ineffective. Of course, statistics and quotes from experts document this statement.

Paragraph 5 - Conclusion

The conclusion summarizes the essay's thesis, reviews the ideas and main points introduced in the essay, and ends with a final thought or opinion. Do not repeat the wording of previous paragraphs and do not introduce new or unrelated ideas.

The conclusion for our example could state those motorcycle helmets are the safest, most fiscally responsible and effective means of protecting motorcycle riders and for these reasons, the proposed helmet law should be supported.

Final Thoughts

So the reader can follow your thoughts, use the end of one paragraph and/or the beginning of the next to compare and contrast the relationship between ideas.

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