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How to Write a Five Paragraph Essay: In Three Easy Steps

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

During high school, I was lucky enough to have multiple teachers that made a real difference in how I approached life and my ambitions. From teaching me about the nuances of the human condition through “Moby Dick” to developing an appreciation for biology that would benefit me as a pre-med student, my teachers made a lasting impact. However, one of the most important lessons that I was taught in high school was how to write a five paragraph essay in 30 minutes, if I am unbothered during my writing at least. The teacher of my English class told us that his method of writing a five paragraph essay was a survival guide in case we were too busy partying to remember an assignment. To be honest, I am sure many of the students from this class have utilized his teachings for this exact purpose.

A five paragraph essay does not need to be a death sentence. In fact, the method that I am going to share with you can be expanded if needed. The steps that I am about to teach you can be applied to a five paragraph essay or to a term paper that has to be 10 pages. And yes, I have had friends utilize these steps to write 10 page term papers within a few hours. 

Here are the three steps that are full-proof for writing a clear and concise five (or more) paragraph essay.

1. The Thesis

Your first paragraph is the basis of your entire essay. Not only does this paragraph have to hook the reader into going further in the essay, it also must convey what your message will be in the subsequent paragraphs. Therefore, a good first paragraph is going to consist of a hook within the first sentence, an explanation of the essay’s worth in two to three sentences with an ending sentence that serves as the thesis for the entire paper.

While we have all been trained on hooks and background information, the thesis can be skipped over when we are drilled on how to write the perfect sentence. With the thesis being the backbone of the essay, the thesis will also be vital in explaining how to write a high quality five paragraph essay. 

The thesis for learning purposes will be as follows:

I love Harry Styles because he is kind, talented and hot.

This thesis is an elementary style of clearly conveying the main parts of the essay to keep readers from being confused. Due to the nature of the sentence, the reader can identify that the paper will be an opinion piece about Harry Styles with the purpose of persuading the reader to also find a deep admiration for the singer. The three points made at the end of the sentence about Harry being kind, talented and hot will show the readers that these will be the qualities that the paper will focus on.

2. Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs are based around the thesis statement. The point of these paragraphs is to support your claims in the first paragraph. Regardless if your paragraphs are about the inequity of the American education system or your love for a certain pop singer, the idea will remain the same.

The first thing to remember about a body paragraph is that it must begin with a topic sentence. In theory, the topic sentence should be able to tell the reader exactly what is going to occur in the paragraph. The topic sentence being a clear explanation of the paragraph will also help the reader skim the paper at a future date when looking for a specific fact shared. Following the topic sentence, information can be added to support your point. When you are finished adding your evidence, a conclusion sentence is needed to connect all the evidence provided back to your main point. From our example thesis, we can extract simple topic sentences for three body paragraphs:

I love Harry Styles because he is kind.

I love Harry Styles because he is talented.

I love Harry Styles because he is hot.

Each of these statements will lead to their own evidence that must be provided to prove why Harry Styles is kind, talented and hot. Thus, this will be the body of the essay. Although a college level professor will expect your thesis statement to be more wordy and the topic sentence to not be a direct copy of the thesis, the idea will remain the same regardless of the level of insight expected in the essay. What is important to remember is how everything can be simplified because your main enemy in completing an essay of any length is thinking that it will be too complicated to complete in a timely and concise manner.

3. The Conclusion

The conclusion is where you restate the thesis and validate your points further. This is usually the paragraph that people struggle with the most. Unlike the thesis or body paragraphs, the conclusion occurs when there really is not anything left to be said. There is no argument to be made and no other information can really be shared without risking the ending being unclear. So, what is a writer to do with this? The short answer is that you repeat what you have already said.

Although you cannot repeat what you said verbatim, you can get fairly close as you begin to condense the main points of the thesis and body paragraphs into a single paragraph that will convey the whole message of the essay. Ideally, this section should be able to be read without the rest of the essay and explain the whole thing.

The order of your sentences in this paragraph should be a rewrite of the thesis statement, summary of body paragraphs in order and a clinching conclusion sentence to end the entire essay. Usually your ending sentence will be something to the effect of proving your point or a call to action if appropriate. For example, our essay that we have been writing about Harry Styles could end like this:

I love Harry Styles because he is kind, talented and hot. Harry Styles is kind because of his charity work. Harry Styles is talented as proven by his Grammy award win in 2021. Harry Styles is hot because of his symmetrical face. Due to these reasons, Harry Styles has earned my love by being a good human.

Regardless if the essay is in an elementary format as my example has been or if it is written for a college level that focuses on deficiencies in America’s healthcare initiatives, the essay that you are struggling to write can be done. So, whether your next paper is on the nuances of Shakespeare or if it is about the economic state of Europe, don’t let yourself become too overwhelmed by the sheer length of the assignment. Instead, remember how easy the essay will be once your thesis is written. Your thesis can begin as a short sentence that will easily grow as you gather information for your body paragraphs and fully round out your thoughts on the topic.

Hi!! My name is Danielle McTigue and I am a biomedical engineering major at Saint Louis University! I'm originally from the St. Louis area, and I love reading, watching Netflix, and playing guitar (I've been playing since I was nine) in my spare time. I'm currently working in a tissue engineering lab and applying to medical schools in hopes of becoming a surgeon! I love the community of strong and diverse writers that Her Campus has created and look forward to contributing to it!