For a 10-15 page paper, is it a good idea to build on my main idea in the 1st paragraph and place my thesis statement at the end of the 2nd paragraph?Trying to organize my term paper.

Expert Answers
Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'd like to go in a different direction than the comments so far.  Before that, though, this discussion and your concern for how to organize your essay is a victory in itself.  I'd suggest that the very practice of organizing an essay logically and coherently is one of the most important aspects of academic writing.  Regardless of where you end up placing your thesis and any differences that may appear in this discussion, you are learning to think logically and rationally.  You, in a sense, are already learning no matter what your end product turns out to be.

That said, concerning your thesis, I suggest that including your thesis in the opening paragraph at all is at least somewhat an artificial constraint created in classrooms over the years.  Doing so does make the job of reading/grading easier for teachers, but that's no reason to do it.  I suggest if you read essays by professional writers, you will find more essays with thesis statements that follow lengthy introductions, appear near the end of the essays, or are even implied rather than directly stated.   Just as there is really no such thing as a professionally-written five-paragraph essay, there is really no good reason for the thesis to appear in the opening paragraph as opposed to the concluding paragraph.  Indeed, I suggest most professional writers naturally prove their main points/offer details, etc. while they write and conclude with the results of their evidence/details, etc.  Not that I'd suggest going back and changing what you've done if you're already well into the essay, and not that you should ignore your teacher's preferences if he/she wants your thesis at the beginning of your essay.  I just think you should be aware of the issues.

James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm also in favor of the idea of delaying your thesis until the second paragraph, provided that the first paragraph has solid and relevant content. I often encourage my own students at the university level to explore the possibility of delaying their thesis in order to move past a cutter-cutter style of writing. (There's nothing wrong with writing patterns, of course, but patterns shouldn't be blindly followed by a student year after year after year, from middle school through high school and into college.)

In my own writing, too, I try to open an essay with something specific and concrete and completely relevant to my overall argument. I often do this by quoting or paraphrasing from a specific text.

As I see it, students are traditionally taught to move in the first paragraph from a very general statement (often beginning "Throughout history...") to a very specific statment (the thesis). This pattern of general to specific often is not used very well (the general is often overly general), and I think more compelling openings to essays can be very specific.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a question where the answer is really more up to the teacher and his/her personal tastes as opposed to there really being an objectively correct answer.

I always felt that I would like to see the thesis statement in the opening paragraph.  I like the thesis to come as soon as possible so that I know right from the start what the argument is going to be.

With a 10-15 page paper, I would be less annoyed to have to wait until the second paragraph.  But even so, I would prefer to see it right away.

Again, this is as much a matter of opinion as anything, and that's my opinion.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes.  Following the advice of readerofbooks, there seems to be good reason for your thesis lying at the end of the second paragraph.  The main thing to remember about layout is that it has transitions between ideas and the ideas are coherent.  If ideas follow logically from one another and are not redundant, your paper will be arranged appropriately.  Afterall, there are different ways to write essays and papers.

Check out the how-to topics here at enotes, especially

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You do not have to have a thesis in the first two paragraphs, but I think it is a good idea.  With 15 pages, you have enough space to develop your ideas more fully, so there is less pressure to quickly "come to the point".  You can also reasonably assume that the prof will be spending some time on a paper that long, time enough to consider the overall presentation and argument.  In general though, I like to hear the argument up front, followed by the evidence, then a conclusion to tie it together.

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think there should be a reason for the thesis not to be in the first paragraph. If the reason is good enough and it nicely leads to the thesis, then I would see no problem, especially because the paper is fairly lengthy. However, if there is no good reason for the first paragraph not to have the thesis or if there is little connection with the thesis, then I would have to object. The key is to make sure that the first paragraph is somehow vitally linked to the thesis.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Did your teacher suggest this?  It is a bit unusual.  I would argue that if you did this well, it might work out ok.  However you have to be very skilled, because this would not be the traditional essay format.  Most teachers do not want long introductions.  They want the thesis front and center.

keerazee | Student

Thanks for the responses so far.  Right now my first introductory paragraph is 27 lines long, and goes almost halfway into the second page (MLA format, with a two-line title, on 8.5x11" paper with 1-in. margins all around, Times New Roman font, 12 pt.), so I want to split it into two paragraphs.  There is a good place to do that (I think), after I finish an introduction of the literary work I am analyzing, which means that the second paragraph starts discussing the heart of the essay - how the work relates to texts covered in the course.  The thesis statement would be the last sentence of the second paragraph.

I wouldn't do that on a 5-page essay (even though my first paragraphs always seem to come out very long), but on longer essays, isn't that acceptable?