Body Paragraph

Definition of Body Paragraph

A body paragraph in an essay is a paragraph that comes between the introduction and the conclusion. In a five-paragraph essay, there are three body paragraphs, while in longer essays there could be five or even ten. In major research papers, there are hundreds of body paragraphs.

Components of a Body Paragraph

A body paragraph has three major components: (1) topic sentence, (2) explanation, (3) supporting details. Without any of them, the body paragraph seems to be missing something, and will not add anything to the theme and central idea of the essay.

  1. Topic Sentence
    The topic sentence is the first sentence of a paragraph, and states the main idea to be discussed in the paragraph. In a body paragraph, the topic sentence is always about the evidence given in the thesis statement of the essay. It could be a claim, an assertion, or a fact needing explanation. It is generally a statement or a declarative sentence.
  2. Explanation / Example
    The topic sentence is followed by an explanation and/or an example. Whatever it is, it generally starts with “in other words” or “it means;” or “for example,” “for instance,” etc. This is called “metacommentary,” or telling of the same thing in different words to explain it further, so that readers can understand.
  3. Supporting Details
    Supporting details include concrete examples, rather than explanation or metacommentary. In common essays, or five-paragraph essays, this is just a one-sentence example from everyday life. However, in the case of research essays, these are usually quotes and statistics from research studies.

Different Between an Introduction and a Body Paragraph

Although both are called paragraphs, both are very different from each other not only in terms of functions but also in terms of components. An introduction occurs in the beginning and has three major components; a hook, background information, and a thesis statement. However, a body paragraph is comprised of a topic sentence making a claim, an explanation or example of the claim, and supporting details.

Examples of Body Paragraph in Literature

Example #1:  Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (by Bertrand Russell)

“Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair. I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness – that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what – at last – I have found.”

This is a paragraph from the prologue of the autobiography of Bertrand Russell. Check its first topic sentence, which explains something that is further elaborated in the following sentences.

Example #2: Politics and the English Language (by George Orwell)

“The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find — this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify — that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.”

This paragraph has a very short topic sentence. However, its explanation and further supporting details are very long.

Function of Body Paragraph

The elements of a body paragraph help to elaborate a concept, organize ideas into a single whole, and help bridge a gap in thoughts. The major task of a body paragraph is the organization of thoughts in a unified way. It also helps an author to give examples to support his claim, given in the topic sentence of that body paragraph. A good paragraph helps readers understand the main idea with examples.