- 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
- The best quotes contain in-depth analysis, opinion, or interpretation, not facts.
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
- Good points follow a formula: introduction of evidence + evidence + analysis.
- The above structure can be modified based on the paper you are writing.
- 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:
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.
“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).
“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.
– 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).
– 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
- Format your quotes properly, and cite them correctly.
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
- Transitions provide links between ideas of your paper.
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
- 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.
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
While essays give you an opportunity to showcase the knowledge of some subject, use vocabulary skills to make the paper more authoritative, and demonstrate your writing skills, they also have some rules you should follow. Writing a high-quality essay that will make your professor (or client) really happy doesn’t only depend on a thorough understanding of the topic, but the structure as well. There are various types of essay and they require the unique outline. I’ve already posted guidelines for other forms of an essay that you can check in previously published articles. This time, I’m going to show you how to create expository essay outline.
But, what is an expository essay?
It’s simple; if you don’t understand the purpose of the essay, you won’t be able to write it properly. For example, the expository essay is concerned with exposing, informing readers about a certain subject and backing up all your claims with accurate and reliable evidence. The primary purpose of this essay is to explain a topic in a straightforward and logical manner.
It is a fair, factual, and balanced analysis of subject with no references to the essay writer`s emotions or opinions. You have to write your paper in objective and unbiased manner. Yes, this means that you can’t simply dismiss some fact just because you don’t agree with it!
In most cases, expository essays are indicated by the words such as “define” or “explain”. When writing this type of paper, your goal is to inform the reader about the topic, provide useful information, and answer the potential questions associated with it.
Expository essay outline
As I’ve mentioned above, the successful completion of the paper doesn’t depend on the understanding of the topic only, but your ability to create a functional structure. That’s why it’s always useful to learn how to construct outlines for different types of essay writing. The diagram you see below shows how to create a useful outline for an expository essay.
To most people, body paragraphs are the only parts of the essay that matter. Wrong! In order to get to them, you have to catch the reader’s attention i.e. make him/her want to keep reading your paper. Let’s face it; when was the last time you read something from beginning to end if you didn’t like the introduction? If you assume the beginning of the paper, article, book, etc. is boring and uninteresting, the chances are high you will move on to something else.
When writing an expository essay you should, of course, open with the “hook”. It’s the first sentence of your paper, meaning it has to be extra interesting to “lure the reader in”. But, this doesn’t mean it should stray from the subject! This part of the intro should be both interesting and directly associated with the topic. There’s no “one size fits all” rule when it comes to the choice of a hook; it depends on your preferences, topic, context etc. You can use a question, statistics, facts…
After writing down the hook, you proceed to the next sentence (or more of them) which provide background information and the context. Don’t assume the reader knows a lot about the topic and move on. Instead, include general info to depict the context of your paper.
Every essay depends on the great thesis; its purpose is to provide a sort of navigation for your essay and keeps you on the right track. Without a thesis, you’d write about everything and anything, stray from the topic, and end up with too much information but nothing useful for the subject you were supposed to write about. Plus, thesis lets readers know what they`re going to read about. This is the last sentence of the introduction, it should be precise, powerful, and informative.
Now that you have a strong, informative, and interesting introduction it’s time to start with the body paragraphs. Of course, the main goal of this section is to offer a deeper investigation into your topic. Imagine you`re a detective or a journalist working on a big case or story. Your job is to find out as much as possible about the case (in this case subject) and gather all the evidence you can find.
The diagram you saw above showed three topics, so what are they? To simplify, body paragraphs are comprised of separate points that develop or contribute to the essay thesis. Each topic (point) requires separate paragraph and although diagram shows three, the exact number depends on the parameters of the assignment and topic. So, if the subject demands more points, then include more paragraphs. On the other hand, if the topic requires fewer points, then decrease the number of these sections.
Each body paragraph should comprise of the following:
- Topic sentence – refers to the main idea of the paragraph
- Factual evidence – you can’t start throwing ideas around without any evidence. Would some investigative journalist who’s about to expose corruption in the government or a detective working on the high-profile case do their assignments without facts to back them up? No, I don’t think so! For every information you include, you should also have evidence. Each paragraph with separate topic and evidence supports the thesis. I used two facts in diagram, but you can use fewer or more
- Analysis of said evidence – it’s not just about mentioning who proved what, statistics, other types of relevant info depending on the topic. Exposing also means analyzing. While unbiased, don’t be afraid to dig deep under the surface, discuss the importance of evidence you introduced as well as its meaning. Once again, don’t assume you shouldn’t elaborate anything just because readers can do it themselves
- Transition sentence – although these points and facts can be different (but contribute to the overall assignment and thesis), don’t jump from one topic or paragraph to another that easily. Ideally, the paper should have undisturbed flow and transition words, phrases prevent choppiness.
Avoid wordiness and fluff and ensure that every word you write contributes to the paper. It’s paramount to organize the evidence and topics you’re going to include. You can align points/topics according to importance or chronologically. Without proper order, you risk confusing readers by scattering evidence. You don’t want a professor, client, or someone else to get to the conclusion and think “What did I just read?”
After you explained or defined the subject with solid proof, you`re ready to conclude the work. Just like the intro, this part should be relatively short, but still strong enough not to ruin everything you`ve mentioned above. If you want to end the paper with a “BANG!” then you should do the following:
- Summarize the thesis, facts, and evidence you included – don’t overdo it, make it brief
- Discuss the significance of the subject – why is it important? Why should readers care about it?
- Reveal unanswered questions – you can use the opportunity to raise more questions about the essay topic. Take a few minutes to think about the subject in general, is there anything you wanted to know but that particular aspect isn’t widely discussed yet? This could also raise awareness of some problem
- Call-to-action – this depends on the topic you get, but don’t be afraid to motivate readers to do something about a certain issue. Is there anything one can do to make things better?
In essay writing, conclusions should be precise and logical. Don’t introduce new information because it would lead to a new discussion. That’s why a short summary, the importance of the topic, pointing out to some unanswered questions are always a good way to go.
Before you submit the essay and hit the send button, start revising, editing, and proofreading to make it the best it can be. To determine what types of modifications you should make to the essay, answer the following questions:
- Are there any unnecessary details that don’t contribute to the thesis or essay in general?
- Have you created a good essay topic?
- Did I make a proper transition from one paragraph to another?
- Does my work unfold logically with facts and examples?
- Does the conclusion depict significance of the topic?
- Is my essay choppy?
- Is my essay precise?
- Is the essay unbiased?
- Is the sentence structure okay?
Answering these questions will help you identify strengths and weaknesses in your paper. Then, start working on improving those flaws. For example, if there are unnecessary details, remove them. If your essay seems choppy, correct mistakes with the help of transition words and phrases.
Once you're done with modifications, start proofreading and editing. Read from top to bottom and look for grammar, spelling, typos, etc. Read again and when you`re happy with the essay, send it to your professor or client.
Expository essay aims to inform readers about some subject with solid evidence. As seen throughout this post, you should write your paper in an unbiased manner and analyze proof you used. Follow the outline from this post and you`ll have a well-structured essay without struggles and frustrations. Remember, with worthy