- Topic sentence. A topic sentence explains to the reader what the paragraph is about. It usually ties back to the bigger argument in some way, and it explains why the paragraph belongs in the essay. Sometimes a topic sentence might be 2 or even 3 sentences long, though it is usually just a single sentence.
- Evidence. Most body paragraphs in an argumentative paper include some kind of proof that your position is the correct one. This evidence can be all kinds of things: quotations, surveys, or even your own observations. Your paragraphs are where this evidence can be presented in a convincing way.
- Analysis. A good paragraph doesn't just present evidence. It also takes some time to explain why the evidence is worthwhile, what it means, and why it is better than other pieces of evidence out there. This is where your own analysis comes into play.
- Conclusions and transitions. After the analysis, a good paragraph will conclude by explaining why the paragraph is significant, how it fits in with the thesis of the essay, and will begin to set up the next paragraph.
Reread your thesis statement. If you are writing an argumentative essay, each paragraph should help further your overarching claim. Before you can write an argumentative paragraph, you must have your thesis statement firmly in mind. A thesis statement is a 1-3 sentence description of what you are arguing and why it is important. Are you arguing that all Americans should use energy-efficient bulbs in their homes? Or are you arguing that all citizens should have the freedom to choose which products they buy? Make sure you have a clear idea of your argument before you begin writing.
Write the evidence and analysis first. Often it is easier to start writing in the middle of an argumentative paragraph instead of at the beginning of the paragraph. If you are stressing out about starting a paragraph from the beginning, tell yourself that you will focus on the part of the paragraph that is easiest to write: the evidence and analysis. Once you have finished the more straightforward component of a paragraph, you can move on to the topic sentence.
List all the evidence that supports your thesis statement. No matter what kind of argument you are making, you will have to use evidence in order to convince your reader that you are correct. Your evidence could be many things: historical documentation, quotations from experts, results from a scientific study, a survey, or your own observations. Before you proceed with your paragraph, list out every piece of evidence that you think supports your claim.
- If they share common themes or ideas
- If they share a common source (such as the same document or study)
- If they share a common author
- If they are the same type of evidence (such as two surveys that demonstrate similar results)
- You must define any key terms or jargon that might be unfamiliar to your reader. (What)
- You must provide any key dates and locations, if relevant (such as where a historical document was signed). (When/Where)
- You must describe how evidence was obtained. For example, you might want to explain the methods of a scientific study that provided you with your evidence. (How)
- You must explain who provided you with your evidence. Do you have a quotation from an expert? Why is this person considered knowledgeable about your topic? (Who)
- You must explain why you think this evidence is important or notable. (Why)
- What is it that ties this evidence together?
- How does this evidence help prove my thesis?
- Are there any counterpoints or alternative explanations I should keep in mind?
- What makes this evidence stand out? Is there anything special or interesting about it?
- "The high ratings that Charlie Brown television specials have garnered for decades demonstrate the influence of this character."
- "Some people contend that superheroes such as Superman are more important than Charlie Brown. However, studies show that most Americans identify more readily with the hapless Charlie than with the powerful, alien Superman."
- "Media historians point to Charlie Brown's catchphrases, distinctive appearance, and sage wisdom as reasons why this character is beloved by adults and children alike."
- If there are too many ideas, you may need to break up the paragraph into two separate paragraphs.
- Be sure that your topic sentence isn't simply a restatement of the thesis itself. Each paragraph should have a distinct, unique topic sentence. If you are simply restating "Charlie Brown is important" at the beginning of each body paragraph, you will have to narrow down your topic sentences more thoroughly.
Conclude your paragraph. Unlike full essays, not every paragraph will have a full conclusion. However, it can be effective to devote a sentence to tying up the loose ends of your paragraph and emphasizing how your paragraph has just contributed to your thesis. You want to do this economically and quickly. Write one final sentence that bolsters your argument before moving on to the next set of ideas. Some key words and phrases to use in a concluding sentence include "Therefore," "Ultimately," "As you can see," and "Thus."
- When you begin to discuss a different theme or topic
- When you begin to address contrasting ideas or counterarguments
- When you address a different type of evidence
- When you discuss a different time period, generation, or person
- When your current paragraph is becoming unwieldy. If you have too many sentences in your paragraph, you may have too many ideas. Either cut your paragraph into two, or edit down your writing to make it more readable.