Chapter 6-2: Body Paragraphs

Writing > Persuasive Papers > Body Paragraphs


Overview of the Body Paragraph

The body paragraphs in a college-level argumentative essay defend the thesis statement. Each paragraph must examine the thesis statement through a different “angle,” “standpoint,” “viewpoint,” “perspective,” or “lens” (point de vue). No two paragraphs should try to examine the thesis statement using the same angle or lens. While this is true for short college-level essays, it is important to note that this technique will change once your essays are longer (2500+ words): you will find yourself dedicating several paragraphs to the same point of view before moving on to a different perspective.

Take a moment to examine the image to the left. This image attempts to encapsulate the concept of viewing the same thesis through a variety of perspectives. Notice that the frames of the glasses are different in form, that the tint of the glass in the frames is coloured differently, and that the direction the glasses are looking toward is different. Now, imagine yourself wearing each of these glasses and standing at different locations in a classroom as you read your thesis statement on the whiteboard or blackboard at the front of the room.

Take, for example, the following thesis statement: Students graduating from high school should move out of their parents’ home before attending college because they will learn many things from this experience that school cannot teach.

It is possible to consider and argue this statement from a variety of perspectives:

  • Developmental;

  • Financial;

  • Social;

  • Motivational;

  • Professional; and

  • assured, there are many other possibilities (and they don’t all have to end with the suffix “-al,” either). You can see a long list of possibilities here.

If a college-level essay requires three paragraphs, then the author would need to choose three of these five perspectives to discuss in his or or paper.

Having trouble coming up with ideas for perspectives from which you can examine your thesis statement? Check out Jamie's List of Perspectives for Essays and Other Production Types

As Dorothy Turner notes, “a thesis is a single, focused argument, and most [body] paragraphs prove or demonstrate a thesis through [opinions], explanations, examples and concrete details.”

Each paragraph should do the following:

  • Tell the reader which perspective the thesis is being observed and defended from. The technical term for this is the topic sentence;

  • Within this angle, perspective, lens, or point of view, present an opinion that defends the topic sentence. The technical term for this is the mini-claim;

  • Since this opinion or mini-claim is arguable (someone can disagree with it), convince the reader the opinion is made more convincing by providing unarguable evidence. The technical term for this is called the evidence, also known as substantiation, proof or details;

  • Often readers do not understand how or why the substantiation validates the mini-claim. You must always assume that you are writing to an intelligent but ignorant or uninformed audience. Your reader will have difficulty seeing the connection between the proof and the mini-claim. What is worse, they may not see how these two things defend the topic sentence. It is therefore necessary to make it clear to readers how the proof works with the mini-claim to defend the topic sentence. The technical term for this is called the clarification;

  • Finally, readers will not be convinced if you provide them with just one argument that shows that your topic sentence is justified. Readers will want to hear at least two arguments. So, within the same paragraph, the author must provide a second set of mini-claim, proof, and clarification—all of this still within the paragraph’s angle / perspective / lens / point of view.

Students that are looking to display advanced writing skills will include a transition sentence in their second and future body paragraphs.

This was just an overview of the argumentative body paragraph. Continue reading the following sections in order to receive clarification on the details concerning the components in these paragraphs and to learn about a process for developing your text.

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