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Writing the Main Body of Your Essay

You can write an excellent main body of your essay if you follow these five steps:

  1. Analyze the thesis statement to identify three subjects or ideas in it.
  2. Write topic sentences that relate to the subjects or ideas.
  3. Research to locate specific evidence to support each of the topic sentences.
  4. Draft the three main body paragraphs.
  5. Evaluate the structure and content of the essay’s three-paragraph main body. 

How to Write the Main Body of an Essay

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What is the main body of an essay? 

An essay has three distinct parts arranged in this order: an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion. The main body is the heart of the essay in which the writer explains the essay’s  thesis statement and supports it with specific evidence found through research.

How is the main body of an essay structured?

A conventional form in essay writing is the three-point essay:

  • The main body consists of three paragraphs; 
  • Each paragraph addresses some aspect of the thesis statement; 
  • Each of the paragraphs begins with a topic sentence that the paragraph then explains and supports with specific evidence.

To visualize the relationship between the thesis statement and the three topic sentences, think of the thesis as an umbrella that “covers” the topic sentences with all of them fitting under it. Another way to think of the relationship is to frame it as a formula: 

Topic Sentence + Topic Sentence + Topic Sentence = Thesis Statement 

After explaining each topic sentence and supporting it with evidence, the thesis statement will have been explained and supported. 

How to Write the Main Body of an Essay in 5 Steps

1. Analyze the thesis statement to identify three subjects or ideas in it.

An effective thesis will touch on several subjects or ideas, including the essay’s main idea or “claim” that the essay will explain and support. As you analyze the thesis statement, take notes. Here are some examples:

a) A thesis statement for an essay over Of Mice and Men: 

Through their unlikely friendship, George and Lennie illustrate the importance of human relationships in overcoming isolation and loneliness, a major theme in the novel.

Several subjects and ideas are found or implied in the thesis: 

  • George and Lennie and their unlikely friendship
  • The importance of human relationships
  • Overcoming isolation and loneliness as a theme in the novel

b) A thesis statement for an essay over The Great Gatsby:

In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald’s evocative style of writing captures the intensity of Jay Gatsby’s elusive romantic dreams of Daisy Buchanan, suggesting that the obsessive pursuit of impossible dreams can destroy one’s life.

These subjects and ideas are found or implied in the thesis: 

  • Fitzgerald’s evocative style of writing
  • Gatsby’s intense and elusive romantic dreams of Daisy
  • Gatsby’s destructive obsession with his dreams of Dais

2. Write topic sentences that relate to the subjects or ideas.

Using the notes you took in analyzing the thesis statement, write topic sentences that address the subjects and ideas in the thesis. If you have more than three subjects and ideas in your notes, combine them as needed in crafting only three topic sentences. 

Here are some examples of topic sentences that address the subjects and ideas in the thesis for the essay over Of Mice and Men

  • Topic sentence 1: “George and Lennie’s having become friends was unlikely, considering the differences between them.”
  • Topic sentence 2: “Despite their differences, George and Lennie’s relationship is of primary importance in their daily lives.”
  • Topic sentence 3: “Through George and Lennie’s relationship, they overcome isolation and loneliness, which underscores a major theme in the novel.”

These topic sentences address the subjects and ideas in the thesis for the essay over The Great Gatsby

  • Topic sentence 1: “Fitzgerald’s evocative style of writing is most evident in his descriptions of Gatsby’s love for Daisy.”
  • Topic sentence 2: “Despite Gatsby’s determination to fulfill his intense romantic dreams of Daisy, they remain elusive, just beyond his reach.”
  • Topic sentence 3: “Gatsby’s obsession with his impossible romantic dreams of Daisy ultimately destroy his life.”  

3. Research to locate specific evidence to explain and support the topic sentences.

Whether you’re researching within one text or within numerous sources, the specific evidence to look for includes the following: facts, examples, passages to quote, and passages to paraphrase. 

Remember to keep quotations fairly brief; don’t quote long blocks of text. Also, when paraphrasing a passage, meaning that you express in your own words the information in the passage, make certain that you have accurately represented the content of the passage. 

Keep this process in mind as you research:

  • Focus on one topic sentence at a time.
  • When you locate a piece of specific evidence to explain or support each topic sentence, take notes.
  • Continue researching and taking notes until you have sufficient specific evidence to explain and support all three topic sentences in the main body paragraphs. 
  • When you have completed your research, you should have a variety of facts, examples, quotations, and paraphrased passages to use in explaining and supporting your topic sentences.

4. Draft the three main body paragraphs. 

Begin each of the main body paragraphs with the topic sentence for that paragraph. Referring to your research notes, write the paragraph so that it explains and supports the topic sentence.

Write as if you are speaking to readers—which you are—and “making your case” so that they will understand and accept the truth or accuracy of what you have stated in the topic sentence. Convince them with the specific evidence you have gathered through research. 

As you draft the main body paragraphs, follow these guidelines: 

  • Arrange the content of each main body paragraph in a logical way as it moves from one piece of evidence to another. Some writers save their strongest evidence for the end of the paragraph, so that the explanation becomes more convincing as it develops.  
  • After writing the three main body paragraphs, arrange them in the most natural order in the essay’s main body so that one paragraph leads logically to the next. (The order of the topic sentences you create in Step 2 of the writing process may or may not be the best order for the paragraphs in the main body.)  
  • At the end of each paragraph or the beginning of the following paragraph, provide a sentence of transition so that the main body flows smoothly from one paragraph into the next. 

5. Evaluate the structure and content of the essay’s three-paragraph main body.

After drafting the three main body paragraphs and arranging them in the order they will appear in the essay’s main body, evaluate the effectiveness of the main body you have written for your essay. To determine the main body’s effectiveness, examine the structure and content of each of the three paragraphs. Use these questions as a guide in examining each paragraph: 

  • Does the paragraph begin with a topic sentence?
  • Does each sentence in the paragraph help explain or support the topic sentence in some way?
    • How much specific evidence have you included in the paragraph in explaining and supporting the topic sentence? For instance, have you included facts, examples, a short quotation or two, and/or paraphrased passages from the text? 
  • Does each sentence in the paragraph flow smoothly into the next sentence? 

After evaluating each paragraph for effectiveness, consider the main body of your essay as a whole: 

    • Are the three main body paragraphs arranged in the most natural or logical order? What is the reason you arranged them in this particular order instead of another?
  • Does each paragraph transition smoothly into the next paragraph?
  • Does the main body of your essay thoroughly explain and support the essay’s thesis statement? Will readers be convinced of the truth or accuracy of your thesis statement?

Note: In writing an essay developed from internal research (gathering information from within one text) or external research (gathering information from numerous texts), some assignments call for identifying or citing the source or sources of specific evidence included in the essay. Before researching and writing an essay, find out if you will be required to include citations in the essay; if so, clarify which citation style—such as MLA or APA—you should use. 

Examples of Main Body Paragraphs 

Here are two sample main body paragraphs. Each of them explains a topic sentence written in Step 2 of the writing process and supports it with specific evidence from the text. Topic sentences are highlighted and then followed by explanation and specific evidence. 

A main body paragraph for an essay over Of Mice and Men:

Despite their differences, George and Lennie’s relationship is of primary importance in their daily lives. Without homes or family ties, they essentially function as a family of two—traveling, working, and living together as companions while struggling to survive during the Great Depression. Lennie depends on George to think for him and tell him what to do. For instance, before George and Lennie meet the boss at the ranch to convince him to give them jobs, George tells Lennie not to talk, fearful that Lennie’s mental deficiencies will be evident and prevent them from being hired. George sometimes complains to Lennie that he complicates George’s life: “God, you’re a lot of trouble …. I could get along so easy and so nice if I didn’t have you on my tail. I could live so easy ….” However, whenever George’s complaints frighten Lennie, George reassures him that he will stay with Lennie. The mentally and emotionally challenged Lennie could not survive without George, and caring for Lennie and protecting him give George’s life meaning and purpose.

A main body paragraph for an essay over The Great Gatsby:

Fitzgerald’s evocative style of writing is most evident in his descriptions of Gatsby’s love for Daisy. His love for her is described in scenes so rich in imagery that they draw readers into the moment and evoke in them the emotions Gatsby feels. When Gatsby first pursues a reunion with Daisy after a five-year separation, he stands alone one night on the sweeping lawn of his mansion and looks across the bay at the green light that marks the estate where Daisy lives. The “deep summer night” is bright with moonlight, and “the silver pepper of the stars” illuminates the sky. Gatsby “stretched out his arms toward the dark water” and appeared to be “trembling.” Through the imagery in the scene’s description, readers can feel Gatsby’s desperate longing for Daisy. His love for her is also depicted in Fitzgerald’s description of Gatsby’s experience when he kissed Daisy for the first time on an autumn night. While walking with her on a quiet street, leaves were falling, and the sidewalk was “white with moonlight.” Gatsby’s heart “beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own.” After “listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star,” Gatsby kissed her, and “[a]t his lips’ touch she blossomed for him like a flower ….” The  imagery in Fitzgerald’s description draws readers into the romantic moment, allowing them to experience Gatsby’s feelings. 

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