Developing Your Body Paragraphs

Supporting an Idea

In general, each paragraph should address one idea. If you find yourself beginning a new idea, begin a new paragraph.[1]


Developing a body paragraph2:


1.)  Topic sentence: a one sentence answer that summarizes the main idea of the paragraph.


2.)  Evidence that supports your topic sentence. Much, if not all of this evidence, may need to be explained clearly to your readers.


3.)  Finally, a sentence that explains to readers why the information you’ve provided in the paragraph is important. You may also use this sentence to connect the information in the paragraph to your project, your larger research question or your new offering. However, in some cases this sentence may not be necessary. 

Sample Organization Statement/Thesis: Academic writing refers to __________________that uses a formal tone, _______________________, and _______________________.


Had tone been one of our rhetorical elements, the following paragraph might have appeared in Part 2 of my Academic Writing Essay. Please highlight the topic sentence, the evidence, the explanation of the evidence, and the connecting sentence in different colors:


Unlike the authors of other genres, such as the personal essay, the authors of academic writing use a formal tone to convey their ideas. For example, in Tarroja and Fernando’s academic article, the long, straightforward title, “Providing psychological services for children of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs): A challenge for school psychologists in the Philippines,” indicates a formal tone. Phrases such as “psychological services” and “overseas Filipino workers” point to the fact that the authors are approaching their topic from a professional point of view. Moreover, these phrases show knowledge of the field the authors are studying. The phrase “overseas Filipino workers” in particular demonstrates that Fernando and Tarroja know how other scholars commonly refer to Filipinos who travel abroad to work, and we can assume that they think other researchers will recognize the phrase they use to identify them as well as the acronym OFW. Finally, the title includes a colon, a mark of punctuation that often signals that a formal document, such as an academic paper, a dissertation, or an academic book, is to follow. In contrast, the title of Susan Straight’s personal essay, “Travels with My EX,” signals a more relaxed and informal tone. The word “EX,” for example, shows that Straight will speak casually about the fact that she and her husband are divorced, and we see later in the text that their current relationship, though complicated, is in fact comfortable. Had Straight been writing in a formal tone, she may have used the term “ex-husband” or “ex-spouse.” Furthermore, Straight’s use of the possessive pronoun “My” foreshadows an essay with a focus on the author herself, which is another clue that the tone is informal; formal work almost never includes a reference to the author’s personal experience in the title. Therefore, one can see by comparing and contrasting these two titles, that the tone of a personal essay is often informal and the tone of an academic text is formal.

[1] Adapted from

2 Adapted from