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That is a classic five-paragraph essay introduction.

But Alex’s professor doesn’t want it. She underlines the first two sentences, and she writes, “This is too general. Get to the point.” She underlines the next and fourth sentences, and she writes, “You’re just restating the question I inquired. What’s your point?” She underlines the sentence that is final and then writes in the margin, “What’s your thesis?” because the past sentence when you look at the paragraph only lists topics. It doesn’t make a disagreement.

Is Alex’s professor just a grouch? Well, no—she is wanting to teach this student that college writing isn’t about following a formula (the five-paragraph model), it’s about making a disagreement. Her first sentence is general, the way in which she learned a essay that is five-paragraph start. But through the professor’s perspective, it is way too general—so general, in fact, she didn’t ask students to define civil war that it’s completely outside of the assignment. The 3rd and fourth sentences say, in so many words, they just restate the prompt, without giving a single hint about where this student’s paper is going“ I am comparing and contrasting the reasons why the North and the South fought the Civil War”—as the professor says. The final sentence, that should make an argument, only lists topics; it doesn’t start to explore how or why something happened.

You can guess what Alex will write next if you’ve seen a lot of five-paragraph essays. Her body that is first paragraph begin, “We can see some of the different factors why the North and South fought the Civil War by studying the economy.” Exactly what will the professor say about that? She might ask, “What differences can we come across? What part of the economy will you be talking about? Why do the distinctions exist? Exactly why are they important?” After three such body paragraphs, the student might write a conclusion that says much exactly the same thing as her introduction, in slightly different words. Alex’s professor might already respond, “You’ve said this!”

What could Alex do differently? Let’s start over. This time, Alex does not begin with a notion that is preconceived of to arrange her essay. Instead of three “points,” she decides that she will brainstorm until she comes up with a primary argument, or thesis, that answers the question “Why did the North and South fight the Civil War?” Then she will decide how to arrange her draft by thinking about the argument’s parts and just how they can fit together.

After doing a bit of brainstorming and reading the Writing Center’s handout on thesis statements, Alex thinks about a main argument, or thesis statement:

    Both Northerners and Southerners believed they fought against oppression and tyranny, but Northerners dedicated to the oppression of slaves while Southerners defended their rights to property and self-government.

Then Alex writes her introduction. But rather of beginning with a statement that is general civil wars, she gives us the ideas we need to know to be able to understand all of the components of her argument:

    The United States broke away from England in response to British tyranny and oppression, so opposition to tyranny and a belief in individual freedom and liberty were important values into the young republic. But in the nineteenth century, slavery made Northerners and Southerners see these values in completely different ways. By 1860, the conflict of these values broke out into a war that is civil nearly tore the united states apart. Both Northerners and Southerners believed they fought against tyranny and oppression, but Northerners focused on the oppression of slaves while Southerners defended their rights to property and self-government in that war.

Every sentence in Alex’s introduction that is new the reader down the way to her thesis statement in an unbroken chain of ideas.

Now Alex turns to organization. You’ll find more about the thinking process she goes through within our handout on organization, but here you will find the basics: first, she decides, she’ll write a paragraph that gives background; she’ll explain how opposition to tyranny and a belief in individual liberty had become such values that are important the United States. Then she’ll write another background paragraph in which she shows how the conflict over slavery developed with time. Then she’ll have separate paragraphs about Northerners and Southerners, explaining in detail—and giving evidence for—her claims about each group’s reasons for likely to war.

Note that Alex now has four body paragraphs. She might have had three or two or seven; what’s important is that she allowed her argument to tell her exactly how many paragraphs she must have and just how to suit them together. Furthermore, her body paragraphs don’t all discuss “points,” like “the economy” and “politics”—two of them give background, therefore the other two explain Northerners’ and Southerners’ views at length.

Finally, having followed her sketch outline and written her paper, Alex turns to writing a conclusion. From our handout on conclusions, she knows that a “that’s my story and I’m sticking to it” conclusion doesn’t move her ideas forward. Applying the strategies she finds into the handout, she decides that she can use her conclusion to describe why the paper she’s just written really matters—perhaps by pointing out that the fissures inside our society that the Civil War opened are, quite often, still causing trouble today.

Will it be ever OK to write a essay that is five-paragraph?

Yes. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where somebody expects you to make sense of a body that is large of at that moment and write a well-organized, persuasive essay—in fifty minutes or less? Seems like an essay exam situation, right? When time is short and also the pressure is on, falling back in the good old fashioned essay that is five-paragraph help you save time and give you confidence. A five-paragraph essay may additionally act as the framework for a speech that is short. Try not to fall under the trap, however, of creating a” that is“listing statement when your instructor expects a disagreement; when planning your body paragraphs, think about three the different parts of an argument, as opposed to three “points” to go over. On the other side hand, most professors recognize the constraints of writing essays that are blue-book and a “listing” thesis is probably better than no thesis at all.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing the original type of this handout. This isn’t a comprehensive set of resources on the handout’s topic, so we encourage you to do your own research to find the latest publications on this topic. Please don’t use this list as a model for the format of your reference list, you are using as it may not match the citation style. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial. We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.