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Essay writing: the main body

The role of the main body

This should present a logical, clear and focused response to the question that has been set. 

What should be in the main body?

Your main body should be written as a series of paragraphs. Each paragraph should contribute to the overall argument or idea that you are trying to present. It is better to discuss and evidence a few key points in detail, rather than to include lots of points that are dealt with in a superficial way. 

Constructing focused paragraphs

You will develop your own writing style but, as a general rule, each paragraph should:
  • Contain one main idea or argument
  • Outline the main idea of the paragraph in the first sentence(s)
  • Provide evidence to support that main idea. You might use data, facts, quotations, arguments, statistics, research, etc. from your readings as evidence. If you don't have any evidence to support a point, do not include it! You must provide references
  • Explain how and why you think this evidence supports your point
  • At the end of the paragraph show the significance of the point to the overall argument or idea you are trying to convey in the essay, or link to the next paragraph if you are going to build upon that main point further (e.g. examine the same point from a different perspective)
  • A reader should be able to look at just the first and last sentence of each paragraph and grasp what your main ideas are. 
This short video, The Power of the Paragraph, gives a basic explanation of how to structure a paragraph.

Example of a well structured paragraph 

Take a look at an example of a well-structured paragraph taken from a first class third year Politics essay.

Writing your paragraphs in this way will help to make your writing less descriptive and more critical and analytical. For further help with thinking and writing critically, please visit our Critical thinking topic page.  

Connecting your paragraphs

  • Your paragraphs should connect to each other and follow on in a logical order.
  • Generally, you should not start a paragraph by reiterating what you have just talked about. Your first sentence of a paragraph should alert the reader to a change of focus, and each paragraph should build to show how your ideas are progressing.
  • Once you have finished the essay, read the first sentence of each paragraph (it can be helpful to read out loud). You should be able to follow your ideas or argument even without the details of the rest of the paragraph. Does the order of your argument make sense, or are you finding yourself jumping from one thought to another and back again? If this is the case, you need to rethink the structure.
Here is some great advice for how to write in paragraphs from a blog post on Medium.com.