Body Paragraphs

In a typical academic paper, the basic structure includes an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. See our handouts on introductions and conclusions for more information on the particulars related to them, but for this handout, we will be covering body paragraphs and what to include when you write them.

Body paragraphs are situated between the introduction and the conclusion and reveal the support for your argument. You can organize these body paragraphs in a variety of ways (see our handout on Organizational Strategies), but whichever way you choose, make sure you are consistent, so your reader always knows what is coming next in your paper.

Flowchart of the parts of a body paragraph. Begins with Topic Sentence, then an arrow points to a circle divided into thirds and labeled with the parts of the Evidence Cycle, Assertion, Evidence, and Commentary. An arrow then points to Concluding Statement, and a final arrow points to Transition.Basic Parts of a Body Paragraph:

  • Topic sentence
  • Evidence cycle (Assertion, evidence, commentary)
  • Concluding statement
  • Transition

As you can tell, there are several “moving parts” to a successful body paragraph. However, with a clear understanding of your paper’s purpose and guidelines, you should be able to tackle your content, no problem.

Now the handout will go over each of these aspects of a body paragraph in detail, with examples, so you can see how easy it is for a body paragraph to take shape!

Transition Placement

Transitions can be placed either at the end of a body paragraph to preview the next or at the beginning of the next body paragraph to connect it to the previous. If you’re unsure which you should use, check with your instructor to see if they have any particular preference.

The transition also does not have to be a separate sentence—sometimes the topic sentence and concluding statements can also do the work of the transition sentence.

Sample Paragraph

Since “Tick Tock” is played in reverse, we are not able to physically hear or make out what the characters are saying. As an alternative, Ien Chi uses subtitles to ensure the audience knows what the characters are conflicting about and to understand the plot at a higher level. With the use of the subtitles, the audience is able to see and relate to Emit’s mindset. Also, we are given a taste of the pain Emit is going through as he thinks he is about to die. Emit confesses his love for Rena in a way where one can tell he screwed up somewhere in the past. Then, we see him telling off his professor saying his teaching sucks and his lectures are stupid. With this, one can tell that Emit has a lot of anger built up inside of him. Then, we see him donating his whole wallet to a donation station. Emit calls his parents and apologizes for being a horrible son and for treating them so badly, but he loved them. He wanted to clear some things up and leave this earth on a good note, and the subtitles help us realize that. What better time to let it all out than when you are about to die? We are soon exposed to the whole reason why Emit is racing around asking for forgiveness. He has taken some pills that his buddy claims will kill him within minutes. This is a prank but quite a life changing one. Without the use of subtitles, we would not be exposed to the plot correctly. We would just see this guy running around frantically. This may have caused people to see this story as comedic rather than serious like it is supposed to be. Through the use of subtitles as an alternative dialogue, we are able to understand what is truly important to Emit when he is put at the face of death and how he got in this position in the first place.

This body paragraph contains all of the necessary parts to make it successful. Let’s dissect it to see each of these parts in more detail.

Transition

As we mentioned above in the tip box, transitions can go either at the end of a body paragraph to preview the next, or at the beginning of a body paragraph to sum up the previous. In this paragraph, the transition comes first:

“Since ‘Tick Tock’ is played in reverse, we are not able to physically hear or make out what the characters are saying.”

We know that the previous body paragraph dealt with the way the film plays in reverse, and can see that the direction for this new paragraph is how that affects the sound, or lack of sound, in the film.

Topic Sentence

The topic sentence follows the transition to give a more detailed introduction to the main idea of this paragraph. The topic sentence from the example paragraph above is:

“As an alternative, Ien Chi uses subtitles to ensure the audience knows what the characters are conflicting about and to understand the plot at a higher level.”

While it is still a little vague (the argument could be specified here and connected more clearly to the thesis of the paper), it allows the reader a preview so they’re prepared for the evidence to come.

Evidence Cycle

Next comes the support, which is the main bulk of the paragraph. This three-prong system repeats again and again until the paragraph is complete. In this paragraph, we have identified two different evidence cycles for you.

Assertion

The assertion introduces or provides context for the evidence you are about to give your reader. From the paragraph above there are two assertions.

First assertion: “Also, we are given a taste of the pain Emit is going through as he thinks he is about to die.”

Second assertion: “We are soon exposed to the whole reason why Emit is racing around asking for forgiveness.”

In these two examples from the above paragraph, we get a preview about this more specific point.

Evidence

The evidence is the actual example or detail you will use, usually from a source of some kind. The first piece of evidence from the sample paragraph above is:

“Emit confesses his love for Rena in a way where one can tell he screwed up somewhere in the past. Then, we see him telling off his professor saying his teaching sucks and his lectures are stupid.”

The second piece of evidence is:

“He has taken some pills that his buddy claims will kill him within minutes.”

These two examples are specific moments from the short film that the author is using to prove the point posed in the topic sentence, and which builds on the argument made in the thesis statement.

Commentary

The commentary follows through on the evidence presented with the author’s own ideas or analysis. The first example of commentary from the above sample paragraph is:

“With this, one can tell that Emit has a lot of anger built up inside of him.”

The second example of commentary from the above sample paragraph is:

“This is a prank but quite a life changing one. Without the use of subtitles, we would not be exposed to the plot correctly. We would just see this guy running around frantically. This may have caused people to see this story as comedic rather than serious like it is supposed to be.”

These examples of commentary provide further information to tie the details more fully and exactly to the argument of the paragraph and, thus, the paper as a whole.

Concluding Statement

Before moving on to the next paragraph, a body paragraph should end with some sort of concluding statement that provides closure to the main idea of that paragraph. The concluding statement from the above sample paragraph is:

“Through the use of subtitles as an alternative dialogue, we are able to understand what is truly important to Emit when he is put at the face of death and how he got in this position in the first place.”

With this sentence, the reader fully understands the point of the body paragraph and is ready to learn more and become more convinced by the information in the next body paragraph.