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Organization and Paragraphing in an Essay


Each paragraph in an essay has a specific function, and thus a specific content and format. The three basic types of paragraph are Introduction, Body and Conclusion. Understanding what each type of paragraph does and how it is formatted is fundamental to sound essay construction.
For the ENGL101 OUTLINE assignment, you should have at least 4 or more body paragraphs in addition to the introduction and the conclusion. Specific points that you will make in the body paragraph should be noted, and quoted text (primary and secondary) should be inserted.
The example below is designed to give you the basic formatting. A longer essay would simply multiply the number of body paragraphs.
Structurally, a 3 paragraph essay (e.g. a RESPONSE) looks like this:
  1. INTRODUCTION
    1. BACKGROUND
    2. THESIS STATEMENT

  2. MAJOR POINT 1 (BODY )
    1. TOPIC SENTENCE
    2. MINOR POINT 1
      1. SUPPORT
        1. EXAMPLE
        2. Primary Quotation
        3. Response
        4. Secondary Quotation
        5. Response
      2. CONCLUSION OF MINOR POINT 1
    3. MINOR POINT 2
      1. SUPPORT
        1. EXAMPLE
        2. Primary Quotation
        3. Response
        4. Secondary Quotation
        5. Response
      2. CONCLUSION OF MINOR POINT 2
    4. MINOR POINT 3
      1. SUPPORT
        1. EXAMPLE
        2. Primary Quotation
        3. Response
        4. Secondary Quotation
        5. Response
      2. CONCLUSION OF MINOR POINT 3
    5. CONCLUSION OF MAJOR POINT 1

  3. CONCLUSION OF ESSAY
    1. SUMMARY
    2. PROJECTION OR CALL TO ACTION

INTRODUCTION
The introduction of an essay has two parts: the thesis, or controlling (main) idea of the work, and the background statement. The background statement is not the background of the story or essay being discussed; It is a general statement that introduces the idea or theme of the essay-the big picture. It can be a question, a definition, a general statement of fact or belief, or a brief anecdote (very short story). In any case, it is one or two sentences that introduce the general idea, without necessarily mentioning the piece under discussion. It is followed by the thesis, which mentions the title of the work under discussion, the author's name (and in 101 and 103, the literary term that you will use to examine that theme), and an assertion that either states a response to the article (Basic Skills) or makes a thematic point (101 and 103).

EXAMPLES

BASIC SKILLS ENGLISH

DEFINITION
Racism is the negative response to someone based on their skin color. Bob Jones' "Racism Hurts Everyone" tells us we should accept everyone's cultures. I agree, but think there are some exceptions.

QUESTION
What are people willing to do to fit into the group? "Let's All Join the Group" by Mary Martin explains the problems people have trying to fit in. People should not join groups if they have to change who they really are.

GENERAL STATEMENT
Most people don't realize how their actions affect their future. In "I Am a Better Person for Giving Up My Child," Donna Weissman explains that she gave up her child to have a better life. I think she's being selfish. Having a baby made me realize I needed to change my focus in life.

BRIEF ANECDOTE
Burton made the first real snowboard from an idea called the "snurfer." The evolution of snowboarding since then is a fascinating story.

ENGLISH 101

DEFINITION
Plot is that most simple element in stories which is simply what occurs in a story. Character analysis helps shed light on the character and its conflicts. Bobbie Ann Mason conveys her story "Shiloh" through literary elements such as plot and conflict.

QUESTION
What effect does paranoia have on a family's safety? In "Once Upon a Time," Nadine Gordimer examines this dilemma mixing interpretive and escapist elements, making the point that it can lead to tragedy.

GENERAL STATEMENT
Most people read literature for fun and may miss important points made by the author. Understanding symbolism in "A Worn Path," reveals a deeper meaning for Eudora Welty's story, revealing that theme that perseverance can overcome great obstacles.

BRIEF ANECDOTE
Sherman Alexie was born into a Spokane Indian family and left the reservation to go to Washington. Along the way he faced many challenges, such as alcoholism. This shows in the characters he creates in "What You Pawn I Will Redeem." The story is escapist with interpretive elements.

BRIEF PLOT SUMMARY
The story What You Pawn I Will Redeem by Sherman Alexie follows a homeless Native American in his quest to reclaim his family heritage. In this interpretive story, Alexie uses many different methods to convey his message to the audience.

ENGLISH 103 AND LIT COURSES

DEFINITION
Satire is the art of using wry humor to ridicule a belief or situation. In Swift's "A Modest Proposal," he satirically examines the plight of 18th century Irish poor, revealing a class struggle evident when the work is analyzed using Marxist criticism.

QUESTION
How does Feminist criticism differ from Psychoanalytical criticism? An analysis of Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" may reveal some similarities, as well as differences between the two analytical approaches, in a tale of a fall from power.

GENERAL STATEMENT
Societal change is impossible unless someone envisions the possibilities and shares it with others. Various Critical perspectives reveal how John Lennon's "Imagine" is one man's attempt to help a society visualize a much different world.

BRIEF ANECDOTE
Edgar Allen Poe lost his wife very early in their marriage. This loss, coupled with the loss of his parents when he was a child, propelled much of his work. In "The Raven," Poe discusses the effects of devastating loss, as revealed through psychoanalytical criticism.

Be brief. Be concise. Don't give detail of the work. Save that for the body.

CONCLUSION
The conclusion is the end of your essay. Like the intro, it is short and to the point. It consists of a summary of YOUR POINT (not the piece under discussion), and it is followed by a projection or call to action. It takes into account that you have convinced us of your point, or you have done your best to do so. Thus, there will be no need for text or detail. Do not summarize the story or list the individual points of essay you have written.

EXAMPLES

BASIC SKILLS ENGLISH

SUMMARY WITH CALL TO ACTION
I agree with Jones that racism is bad. However, it is also clear that certain cultural practices may not be acceptable to different people. We should allow people to make their own decisions as to what is right and what is wrong.

SUMMARY WITH PROJECTION
I would agree with Jones that racism is bad. However, it is also clear that certain cultural practices may not be acceptable to different people. It is up to us to make that decision.

SUMMARY WITH CALL TO ACTION
As one can see, the snowboard has a rich history. There is no telling what the new inventions will come out next. Be on the lookout for the next new fad; it might be right next door.

SUMMARY WITH PROJECTION
It is clear that the snowboard was a great invention. There is no telling what new inventions for snow will come out next. The next new invention on the slopes may be just around the corner.

ENGLISH 101

SUMMARY WITH A PROJECTION
Shirley Jackson vividly demonstrates the negative effects of superstition and blind adherence to ritual. Perhaps an examination of our own rituals would yield some of the superstitions we hold onto today.

SUMMARY WITH CALL TO ACTION
Shirley Jackson vividly demonstrates the negative effects of superstition and blind adherence to ritual. We should examine our own rituals and analyze some of the superstitions we hold onto today.

SUMMARY WITH A PROJECTION
Clearly for Sherman Alexie’s What You Pawn I Will Redeem, interpretive and escapist aspects both play a role in creating this story. Alexie wrote a story that makes one think ,but also keeps the reader hooked. The steps of examining things like characters and plot help determine how a story in this case What You Pawn I Will Redeem is either interpretive, escapist or both.

SUMMARY WITH CALL TO ACTION
Sherman Alexie's life influenced the characters in What you Pawn I will Redeem in so many ways. Each character is important because it reveals the different conflicts throughout the story. It is evident that the story was made to inform readers more about the Indian culture, and by analyzing the characters, one can understand the importance of this.

ENGLISH 103 AND LIT COURSES

SUMMARY WITH CALL TO ACTION
Biographically and historically speaking, Poe's "Cask of Amontillado" illustrates the sadistic nature of its narrator and of Poe's own desires for revenge on his detractors. Research an author in order to find the true nature of the work.

SUMMARY WITH PROJECTION
Clearly Swift's "Modest Proposal" is critical of the social policies of Ireland in the 18th century. Perhaps through humor we are better able to drop our defenses and see some of the truths of an emotionally charged situation.

SUMMARY WITH CALL TO ACTION
Clearly Swift's "Modest Proposal" is critical of the social policies of Ireland in the 18th century. It was effective in creating an atmosphere that eventually changed the situation. We should turn a more critical eye toward our society to attack foolish policies that cause its decline.

SUMMARY WITH PROJECTION
Marxist criticism clearly defines the social conflict evident in Webber and Rice's "Jesus Christ Superstar." This work used unconventional means to illustrate class struggle.

BODY PARAGRAPHS
Body paragraphs are the essence of your paper. This is where you give me the details and support that demonstrate you understand the material and the use of literary devices. RESPONSES and Message Board Discussion Group (DE only) postings will have at least one body paragraph. Tests will have at least three body paragraphs. Papers will have multiple body paragraphs but the number of them will be determined by the length of the paper. The exception to this is the first English 101 paper which is required to have seven body paragraphs.
The content of the body paragraph is simple. It is its own self-contained argument and therefore it will have a topic sentence that identifies the point of the paragraph, whether it is to explain a character for English 101 or it is too examine a work with a specific critical perspective for a literature course or English 103. Within that paragraph you will apply directly quoted text in about an eight to one ratio, giving me a quotation for every 5 to 10 sentences that you create yourself. Ideally, your entire paper should be about 20% quotation. Do not go less than 18% and do not go any more than 25%. Quotations are embedded within an argument, which mean you do not begin or end a paragraph with quoted text. Likewise, every quotation is introduced with some kind of context and is followed by some kind of context. That being said, I want you to avoid drawing direct attention to quotation by using phrases such as "The following quote..." or something along those lines. Each body paragraph for every paper for every class will utilize primary text. Each body paragraph for every paper for English 103 will utilize also secondary text. Each body paragraph for the final paper for English 101 will also utilize secondary text. These are direct quotations, not paraphrase. You may use paraphrase in addition to quotation, but quotation must be utilized. The paragraph follows a logical progression of argument and finishes with the overall topic sentence's idea being restated.

ENGLISH 101

WITHOUT SECONDARY SOURCES (PAPER 1)
Jackson, the main character, is both round and flat. He is a stereotype of a typical homeless man. Once he gets some money, he will spend it all on other people, buying booze and food. This is also a stereotypical Indian by sharing all his belongings. Jackson has fundamental change because he changed the way he viewed himself. In the beginning of the story he says that no one can see him, he's disappearing, but once he gets his grandmother’s regalia back he mentions, "Pedestrians stopped. Cars stopped. The city stopped. They all watched me dance with my grandmother" (Alexie 28). This makes him a dynamic character. His internal conflict is that he wants to save money but also doesn't want to save money because he wants to spend it on his "cousins." Jackson is complex because he is so motivated to save his money for the regalia but at the same time unmotivated. Every time he gets money, he shares the wealth and never feels bad. Jackson has a man vs. society conflict against white people. He says he has to keep all his secrets from hungry white folks and just doesn't trust them. His man vs. environment external conflict is against the pawn shop. Jackson couldn't find the pawn shop for a short time when he went to go turn in his money. Jackson's man vs. nature conflict is between him and the cold. "I pulled a plastic tarp from a truck bed, wrapped it around me like a faithful lover, and fell asleep in the dirt" (Alexie 23). Lastly, there’s man vs. society conflict when Jackson has a problem with breaking the law. When he was drunk, Jackson feel asleep on the train tracks, which is illegal. Jackson is a predictable character because he is consistently good throughout the whole story. One may say that stealing from Junior is bad, but Indians share everything, so in Jackson’s mind, it was also his. Jackson is both round and flat.

WITH SECONDARY SOURCES (PAPER 1 LEARNING COMMUNITY ONLY)
Rose of Sharon and Junior are round and flat characters. They both fit the stereotype of a typical homeless alcoholic because they spend all their money on alcohol until they pass out. Rose of Sharon is a big boned Yakama Indian. She is a consistent character, never changing between good, bad or moral and immoral, which means she has no complexity. She also has no internal conflict. One external conflict is man vs. man. Rose and the pawnbroker have a conflict against each other because she believes calling the cops will help get back the regalia. On the other hand, the pawnbroker doesn't believe the cops will help and says, "'But I don't think they'd believe a word you said'" (Alexie 11). Rose of Sharon also has a man vs. environment conflict against the way she is living. She is homeless but doesn't like to be and ends up moving back with her sister on the reservation. This is also a fundamental change since she started off homeless, but then decides she doesn’t want to be homeless anymore. This makes her see the world in a different way. This change makes readers conclude that she is dynamic. Rose of Sharon’s behavior was predictable because, “Yakamas have emphasized self-determination and economic development” (Trafzer). This shows how her tribe isn’t normally homeless. Junior, on the other hand, has no fundamental change or any internal conflicts. He is not a complex character because throughout the story his personality and morals are consistent. Junior’s man vs. man conflict is between him and Jackson. Junior is hiding money that he doesn't want to give to Jackson and then Jackson ends up taking it. Another external conflict for Junior is man vs. nature because his life was taken by exposure behind the Hilton Hotel. As one can see, Rose of Sharon and Junior are both round and flat characters.

WITH SECONDARY SOURCES (FINAL PAPER)
The character of John symbolizes the standard male of the time, one that asserts his dominance, in that he “displays the nineteenth-century attitude that women were to behave demurely and remain within the domestic sphere, aspiring only to be competent mothers and charming wives” (Wilson). Although it is clear that John really does love his wife, he unknowingly leads her to insanity. This is dramatic irony, as the reader understands that albeit John’s good intentions, his belief in the “rest cure” (Moss) which was proposed to alleviate his wife’s “slight hysterical tendency” (The Yellow Wallpaper, 173), actually drove her mad. His wife adamantly disagreed with his treatment views him since the beginning, “Personally, I disagree with their ideas…I believe that congenial work, with excitement…would do me good” (The Yellow Wallpaper, 173). It is evident that narrator did not express her thoughts publically, but felt that it was necessary to suppress them from her husband, as she knew he would dismiss them anyway. Therefore it is symbolic, as women were not permitted to speak their minds at the time, and the woman constantly “follows with a reiteration of what John wants her to think” (Korb). John is also consistent in treating his wife like a young child, using such terms as “’bless her little heart’” (The Yellow Wallpaper, 181) and “’blessed little goose’” (The Yellow Wallpaper, 176). This is situational irony, as she is expected to carry out traditional woman’s roles yet is treated as a childlike being that is constantly belittled, a misinterpretation of what we expect and what in actuality, happens. This is evident of a man vs. society conflict, as women in this time period were considered to be weak and were treated like children however also needed to act like “a woman who occupies her proper place in the domestic sphere” (Korb). Through these displays of patriarchal dominance and woman’s suppressed feelings, the reader forms an understanding if the time period in which these characters occupied.

ENGLISH 103 AND LIT COURSES

Sample 1
A Marxist analysis of Aguilera’s work demonstrates her proclivity to empower women as being as strong, capable, and equal to men in all aspects of society. Growing up in an abusive household, feeling stifled creatively by her management and record company, and constantly fighting criticism of her sexualized image, Aguilera’s ultimate goal is to express her self-acceptance and to encourage her audience to do the same. Aware that her audience is primarily female, Aguilera insists that they let suppressive men everywhere “know we’re gonna stand our ground” and to “take a deep breath and say it loud/Never can, never will, can’t hold us down” (“Can’t Hold Us Down”, 18, 20-21). Suggesting that her audience should not “be scared/To fly alone” (“Soar”, 14-15), Aguilera seeks to dissuade young women from feeling compelled to fit into molds considered socially acceptable. For Aguilera, gender roles do exist, but only because they are perpetuated and not because they are valid; there is no “need/To keep pretending” (52, 53) to act, do, or look a certain way. Adolescent girls—Aguilera’s audience—face a wide variety of influence from peers, parents, media, and authoritative figures, all of which seem to promote a specific way of being. Aguilera counters this with a comment that “the world is yours” (18), meaning possibilities for women are endless and attainable. Even if one encounters suppression by another, Aguilera recommends one thank the suppressor, as overcoming an obstacle “makes [one] that much stronger” and “makes [one] work a little bit harder”, ultimately making one “wiser”, “faster,” and “smarter” (Aguilera, Storch, 16-22). Writing and performing for “girls all around the world” who’ve encountered men that believe “all women should be seen, not heard” (“Can’t Hold Us Down”, 13-14), Aguilera passionately proclaims that, rather than keep quiet or conform to societal stereotypes, women should “shout out loud” (17) and express their opinions, wants, desires, and fantasies. Aguilera consistently asserts her independence from men throughout her music, stating that certain components were “directed to any male who puts down a female for stating her mind” and that women should “feel empowered to do and say what they want to” (Vineyard). Remarking that, despite the fact that she “was brought up in a household of chaos,” she was “never going to feel helpless” or “weak around a man” (Sandell). For Aguilera, women are not sex objects, possessions, or items meant to be molded to fit the likes of men; instead, they are highly capable human beings with an equal right to behave and act in any way they see fit, regardless of whether or not men—or society as a whole—agrees with such choices.

Sample 2
A reader response by a paleontologist would consider Jurassic Park a relatively accurate depiction of dinosaurian life. Because dinosaurs existed hundreds of millions of years ago, it is impossible to understand exactly how they looked and behaved, but paleontology has come to general consensus regarding these prehistoric creatures. The dinosaurs featured most predominantly throughout Jurassic Park include Tyrannosaurus rex, Velociraptor, and Dilophosaurus. All three were depicted as relentless predators throughout the film, but only the Velociraptor was portrayed most accurately. At the start of the film, Alan describes Velociraptor as “a pack hunter” who “uses coordinated attack patterns” to slash its prey “across the belly, spilling [its] intestines” (Jurassic Park). Velociraptor did, in fact, move “in packs, running down poorly defended” animals before leaping onto them and, oftentimes, using the “great claw” on its second toe to disembowel their prey (Lambert 61). The Velociraptor used pack hunting throughout the film. Muldoon is killed by a bait-and-switch attack by the raptors in the jungle. Additionally, the climactic final scenes show the four main characters fleeing from a number of Velociraptor in pursuit, ultimately winding up in the Visitor’s Center where the group finds themselves “caught in the middle of two approaching raptors” crouched in their “pre-attack” stances (Jurassic Park). While the film’s Velociraptor appeared larger than they actually were—in the film, they more closely resembled their cousin, Deinonychus (Bennington)—overall, the film accurately portrayed the Velociraptor as being among “the fastest, fiercest, most agile hunters of any age” (Lambert 60). The Tyrannosaurus rex, as well, closely resembled the actual specimen. Paleontologists believe Tyrannosaurus measured approximately 20 feet tall and 39 feet long, their skulls alone measuring four feet (Lambert 89); the film describes Tyrannosaurus as “maybe twenty-five feet high, forty feet long from nose to tail” with a “boxlike” head “five feet long by itself” (Jurassic Park). Behaviorally, however, the Tyrannosaurus in the film may cause skepticism among some paleontologists. A debate exists among scientists regarding the agility of the Tyrannosaurus: some scientists believe the animals were “the most savage hunters that ever lived on land” (Lambert 86), and such a characterization exists throughout the film. In one scene, the Tyrannosaurus “smashes out of the jungle foliage” to chase a Jeep through the park and “runs straight at them, moving at least thirty miles an hour” (Jurassic Park); another scene shows the Tyrannosaurus shaking its head while gripping a Velociraptor in its jaws, “breaking the neck” before dropping it “dead, to the floor at its feet” before moving on to another raptor to “strike, just once, quickly, as fast as the head of a serpent” (Jurassic Park). A conflicting theory of Tyrannosaurus rex, however, assumes the animals “were too big and clumsy” to do anything more than “waddle slowly and eat beasts they found already dead” (Lambert 86). Taking physics into consideration, the speeds required for an animal of that size “to chase a Jeep…would put T. rex at great risk of mortal injury if it fell”, supporting the theory that a Tyrannosaurus’s leg bones weren’t thick or strong enough “to support a full grown animal running faster than 18 mph” (Bennington). Because these animals existed over 100 million years ago, it is impossible to prove either theory, but Jurassic Park correctly displayed the sheer strength and size of what many people consider to be the world’s greatest predator. The portrayal of the Dilophosaurus, on the other hand, would greatly disappoint paleontologists worldwide, with the two greatest inaccuracies being the film’s depiction of the animal’s size and its method of hunting. The Dilophosaurus in the film stood “only about four feet high” (Jurassic Park), yet paleontologists argue the animals would have towered over grown men and were approximately 20 feet long (Lambert 76). Additionally, the Dilophosaurus probably did not have the neck frill around its neck, nor the ability to spit poisonous venom (Bennington). Jurassic Park, however, consistently shows Dilophosaurus as being “a deadly addition” to the park, oftentimes “spitting its venom at its prey” and “causing blindness…and paralysis” (Jurassic Park); such characteristics are “total speculation” (Bennington). While certain anatomical and behavioral inaccuracies regarding the dinosaurs are depicted throughout the film, overall, the idea that these animals were incredible, dangerous, and powerful creatures remains consistent with science.

Sample 2
From a feminist critical perspective, the characters in The Road Virus Heads Northperpetuate society’s standard gender roles, unfairly implying that females are weaker, dumber, and less valuable than men. Kinnell judges Judy Diment by her looks, and the first thing he notices about her is that she is “fat” (King 84), so much so that she “[blots] out most of the immediate landscape” (86). Women are supposed to look a certain way according to society, because “as models and celebrity culture infuse public space, [they] indeed become a form of discourse, so the images of femininity…become ever more reduced and uniform” (Orbach 392). Since she is a woman who is overweight, and therefore not attractive, Kinnell instantly dislikes her and describes her in a way that makes her seem disgusting, and internally at least, he feels no respect for her. Feminists would see this as a reflection of King’s male mindset, one in which women are only valuable if they are attractive because “men are designed to value packaging over content” (Alkon 1). Kinnell later refers to Judy as a “distraction” because she “could probably talk the cock off a brass monkey” (King 91). Kinnell dislikes the fact that Judy talks a lot because women are, according to society, supposed to be quiet and submissive, and some men believe that a woman is “a great deal more attractive when she keeps her mouth shut” (Lees 27). Judy is one of the characters who are murdered by the man from the painting because she breaks a social norm by being overweight, unattractive, and extremely talkative as a female, and feminists would argue that this is King’s way of revealing his own sexist ideas. Kinnell describes his ex-wife Sally as a “space case” and disapproves of her belief in the “supposedly true tales” of spirits and aliens (King 91). Women are typically portrayed as naïve and not as intelligent as men, and “through most of history… women have been expected to be dumb and docile” (Lees 67). The way Kinnell thinks of his ex-wife suggests that he has no respect for her, and he thinks of her as gullible and just plain crazy. Kinnell’s ex-wife follows society’s expectations for women by being suggestible, and feminists would dislike this because it reinforces the notion that women are gullible and not as intelligent as men. In addition, Kinnell’s Aunt Trudy is far more emotionally and physically affected by the painting than Kinnell is, showing her weakness and vulnerability, her lips “trembling” (King 90). It is clear that Kinnell’s aunt is feeling “something more” than he felt when he first saw the painting (90). Trudy is portrayed as weaker because she is a woman. Kinnell, the main male character, is attracted to the disturbing painting, whereas Trudy finds it horrifying and is unable to bear looking at it, a characteristic of a fragile woman. Feminists would disagree with King’s portrayal of Trudy because it suggests that women are weaker and more fragile than men, which perpetuates the “social image of womanhood as weak and of manhood as strong” (Stewart 244). Overall, feminists would dislike King’s portrayal of women in The Road Virus Heads North.

The organization of your paper is fundamental to getting your point across as clearly and logically as possible, while at the same time demonstrating your understanding not only of the material, but also the literary devices. To that end, creating an essay that is easy to follow and creates a logical argument will not only more effectively demonstrate your understanding of material, but will likely increase your grade.


© T. T. Eiland, January 1998-2014
Last modified: January 6, 2014