When first learning to write an essay, I had an instructor that used to pound the structure of a supporting paragraph in my head. I literally had to break down the entire essay into each section before I was allowed to write it and turn it in. I hated it at the time, and now it is one of the best gifts I have been given. This same teacher taught me the value of an outline.
So, first, let’s tackle outlining a paper. For a typical, 5 page essay, you need an intro, 3 body paragraphs, and a concluding one. Break it down into each section that you want to support. It helps; I promise! The more detailed an outline, the less work you have to do later on. Review the sample outline below:
A. Thesis: Insert your thesis
II. Body Paragraph 1:
A. Topic Sentence
B. Concrete Detail/ Supporting point 1
C. Supporting point 2/ Concrete Detail.
D. Closing Sentence
III. Body Paragraph 2:
E. Topic Sentence
F. Concrete Detail/ Supporting point 1
G. Supporting point 2/ Concrete Detail.
H. Closing Sentence
IV. Body Paragraph 3:
I. Topic Sentence
J. Concrete Detail/ Supporting point 1
K. Supporting point 2/ Concrete Detail.
L. Closing Sentence
Now, let’s tackle the body paragraph. For a basic body paragraph, you first need a topic sentence (TS). The topic sentence is what your paragraph is about, or what point you are going to argue. After, insert a concrete detail (CD). This is anything that is a direct quote or fact from the book, essay or poem. Next, insert two commentary sentences (CM). The commentary is your opinion of this detail; why it matters, why it is important. Typically, you include two to three CDs, and then your concluding sentence. Your concluding sentence should wrap up the paragraph, and provide a segue into the next paragraph in the paper.
Remember, once you have mastered these basic tools, you can always bend the rules a bit. But these are important tools to help you write a clear, organized essay, so use them!