Creating a Body Paragraph What goes through your teachers' own brain as the paragraph is born

Thought One: Look at my prompt.

Always be in the habit of examining the prompt closely, as you begin each new body paragraph, as you include each concrete detail, and as you work through commentary for your chosen paraphrases and quotations. If you don't, you run the risk of going off track, and scoring rather poorly on a paper.

Thought two: Create a solid topic sentence!

Create a topic sentence (TS) that is like a mini-thesis for the focus of each body paragraph AND is gathered from the overall thesis idea. This may include all or a portion of the overall thesis focus. For instance, in my essay discussing the struggles and inspiration of Jonathan Edwards, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Dan Atkins (our Connections GLC), my TS might just mention Edwards struggles to start, and I can transition into discussing his inspiration later within the paragraph. Keep your topic sentence tight and focused, so that you can easily move into quotations.

Thought three: Quotes?!?!!?!

This can be the trickiest part of any essay in which you are pulling quotes from multiple sources of text in order to prove a point. Such is the case with research papers, persuasive papers, informative papers, and synthesis papers alike. How do you find the best quotations?

First, make sure that you are pulling quotations from a credible source. If you are unsure, a helpful checkpoint worksheet for this can be found here: You want to avoid blogs, Wikipedia, sites like enotes, sparknotes, etc., and use more academic sources. You can Google "Google scholar", which opens up a unique search engine, but be advised that you may need to pay for some of those articles. For now, simply going through a website validity checklist, and not choosing your first result on a Google search (in most cases) is helpful.

Second, consider what you are trying to prove. For instance, if you are trying to prove that Jonathan Edwards did indeed have life struggles, then this is what you will look for as you peruse your academic websites and articles. When you find evidence to help prove your point, do not copy and paste gigantic chunks of material, but rather, what seems most relevant and important, and can be easily blended in with your own words. Before you even copy and paste the quotation, consider how your own words of your paper can weave into this quote.

Third, remember that you need to provide context. Your context should include what the source is, who the author is (if possible), and a little about the author, which helps builds your own credibility as a writer. This context may be a stand-alone sentence, or it may be built into the quotation itself if not much explanation is needed.

Fourth, paraphrase if necessary (especially if you are using a smaller quote that you know will not be one of your two primary concrete details, or the quote is particularly confusing), but realize that paraphrasing a quotation does not count toward your commentary.

Fifth, don't forget your proper parenthetical citation!!!! This comes at the end of each sentence that has a quotation mark, unless multiple sentences with quotations are all from the same source and specific page number. You must cite correctly, including an author's name and page number (for websites, this is "1" in most cases, unless you have happened upon a multiple-page article), and if the author's name is not available, the first few words of the title of the website, "done like this" (Butterfield 1). Or, it can be "done like this" ("Creating" 1).

Thought Four: Commentary Clarity

Beyond your thesis statement--and making sure this remains consistent throughout your paper--commentary is your next important thing. Here, you avoid simply summarizing your quote or jumping all over the place with ideas. Commentary gives you the chance to connect the concrete details you have chosen with your overall thesis, and to form and write your own opinions confidently--as if they were facts. You may need to embellish a little and create some logical-but-gutsy guesses/ inferences in order for your ideas to truly make sense. It may be helpful to create a series of questions connecting to your thesis statement (as we did with the "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" rhetorical analysis paragraph), just to make sure you are on track.

Thought Five: There is so much to write!

Yes, yes there is. Following a structure and guideline like this one, then, becomes extremely valuable and takes the guess work out of writing your paragraph. As you continue to write, make sure your ideas remain consistent within each paragraph, and make sure to include transitional words and phrases. A list of helpful transition words and phrases can be found here:

Thought Six: Can I use more than two quotes per paragraph?

The simple answer is yes, especially if you are using minor quotes to help prove your major concrete details. In fact, you may have to (or at least paraphrase and cite material from other sources) if you wish to claim something that is debatable or questionable as fact.

Thought Seven: So how do I wrap it up?

Read through your thesis in your introduction, your TS in your paragraph, the entire paragraph itself, and then the thesis again. Your TS should summarize and wrap up ideas within this paragraph, as well as serve as a reminder of the thesis as a whole (so that you can transition to the ideas in your next paragraph).

Thought Eight: I need a model!

Here it is!

Created By
Melyndee Dewey

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