Unit 3 - Body Paragraph

3.1 Objectives
3.2 Discussion
3.3 Summary
3.4 Lab
3.5 Exercises

3.1 Objectives

To learn the parts of a Body Paragraph.

To learn the qualities of an effective Topic Sentence.

To learn the qualities of an effective Body Paragraph.

3.2 Discussion


THE BODY PARAGRAPH is so named because it eventually becomes the body of your argument. A body paragraph may stand alone, or it may become one of many paragraphs in a longer essay. Its component parts are the TOPIC SENTENCE, EVIDENCE, and ANALYSIS; it may also contain a RESTATED TOPIC SENTENCE at its conclusion. So there are three (or four) parts to the Body Paragraph.


Usually you write the TOPIC SENTENCE as the first sentence in the paragraph in order to immediately tell your reader what you are going to argue. The Topic Sentence is an OPINION & should be well focused--or RESTRICTED, and UNIFIED, and PRECISE (RUP). A Topic Sentence in argumentative writing is not a fact--it is an opinion.

RESTRICTION means that you have settled on a well-focused, manageable aspect of an argument that can be supported with specific evidence, either from personal experience or outside sources. You cannot successfully argue in one body paragraph that a Toyota is better than a Mazda; you will have better luck if you limit your argument in that paragraph to a restricted aspect such as handling, or economy, or appearance, or performance. A well-restricted topic will be supported by specific evidence. The two major keys to effective argumentation are RESTRICTION and EVIDENCE, and the narrowness of the topic will result in better specificity of evidence. Think small!

UNIFIED means that there is only one idea in your topic sentence. Similarly all of the evidence in that paragraph should be about, or support, the topic sentence. The assertions that you have a good attitude and will work very hard at De Anza do NOT support a topic sentence about your previous education; they are UNITY errors, since the Topic Sentence commits you to arguing about your previous education, not your present resolve. Look for the dreaded word "and" in a TS, or a complex sentence; either condition may result in a lack of unity.

PRECISE means that your topic sentence precisely states what it is you are going to argue in that paragraph. Precision may be a function of restriction; it is always a function of clear thought. "I have strong feelings about smoking" is imprecise and a statement of fact; "Smoking is harmful to your physical health" is more precise (and is an opinion).

The EVIDENCE that supports the TOPIC SENTENCE is the key to an effective paragraph. EVIDENCE typically consists of FACTS, STATISTICS, or EXAMPLES, and not opinions. The more concrete and specific the evidence, the more interesting and convincing the argument. Do not say you read books, or even novels in high school; say you read Herman Melville's MOBY DICK and F. Scott Fitzgerald's THE GREAT GATSBY in Mrs. Zacunga's 12th Grade Literature class at Overfelt H.S.

ANALYSIS, or logic, is YOUR OWN explanation of HOW the EVIDENCE supports the TS. In the Toulmin Argumentative model, Stanford professor Stephen Toulmin calls analysis a "Warrant." The criticality of analysis may be seen in the example of a famous football player's trial. From the same evidence: the blood samples, the dark knit cap, the dog's barking, the Bruno Magli shoeprints, the thump on the wall that Kato Kaelin heard, and the gloves, etc., the defense argued "innocent," and the prosecution argued "guilty." Diametrically opposed topic sentences from the same concrete, specific evidence[intentional frag].


The four QUALITIES of a good body paragraph are UNITY, ORDER,COMPLETENESS, and COHERENCE. The mnemonic is U,O,C,C. Unlike RUP, the noise made by a frog, nothing makes this noise. But put this information in your brain housing group--commit it to memory. The reason I ask you to memorize these terms is that you will make extensive use of them in editing your classmate's papers, and you need, therefore, a common vocabulary.

3.2.4 UNITY

We started our discussion of UNITY in talking about that as a characteristic of the TOPIC SENTENCE (only containing one idea), and of the relationship between the EVIDENCE and the TS. There should be one and only one controlling idea in a paragraph. Discard evidence that is not central to, or directly supportive of the claim made by the topic sentence. A caution, however: do not discard concrete details that will make your paragraph more concrete, more interesting.

3.2.5 ORDER

The order of the evidence is crucial to an effective, coherent paragraph. Common orders in argumentative writing include STRONG-TO-STRONGEST (Why not 'weakest to strongest´┐Ż?), CHRONOLOGICAL, and SPATIAL.

STRONG-TO-STRONGEST is generally what YOU will make the most use of in this course.

CHRONOLOGICAL order might be appropriate if your evidence occured over a long period of time and you wanted to help your reader keep the evidence in a logical sequence.

You would use SPATIAL if you were arguing that a physical structure, such as a classroom ("This classroom sucks!"), were not up to standards, and a Spatial coverage would assist in your reader's understanding.

COMPARISON/CONTRAST is another type of order that we will cover later in the course.


COMPLETENESS is a subjective, but critical judgement. A complete paragraph is well-devloped and contains enough evidence to support the argument in the Topic Sentence. The answer to the question of whether a paragraph is complete, is adequately developed, is whether you have "ENUF" evidence and "enuf" analysis to prove the point in the topic sentence.You must have at least two items of evidence in a paragraph and 3-4 is more common.


COHERENCE is a quality that means a paragraph flows smoothly and logically. "Order" and "coherence" are closely related. A well-ordered paragraph is probably a coherent paragraph. The use of pronouns is very important in creating coherence, and the lists of Transitional Words such as "first," "moreover," " of even greater importance," and "in conclusion," should be used frequently to guide the reader through your paragraph. (See Unit 5.2.5, below for a list of transition words.)

3.3 Summary

The four COMPONENTS of a Body Paragraph are the TOPIC SENTENCE, EVIDENCE, ANALYSIS and, optionally, THE RESTATED TOPIC SENTENCE.(Mnemonic is "TEAR.")

A good Topic Sentence is RESTRICTED, UNIFIED, and PRECISE. (Mnemonic is "RUP," the noise a frog makes.)

The QUALITIES of an effective Body Paragraph are UNITY, ORDER, COMPLETENESS, and COHERENCE (Mnemonic is "UOCC.")

Now YOU go write an effective, scintillating paragraph!

3.4 Lab


As soon as you have been organized into groups, one person should read the question below aloud to all members of the group. Another person should serve as recorder, and take notes of the deliberations. Either the recorder or a third person should be the spokesperson for the group. WRITE SOME POINTS ON THE BLACKBOARD, OR, IF YOU HAVE TIME , MAKE A HANDOUT of the important points. Also, it is OK, within your group, to disagree. If you do not have a consensus in your group, any member of the group may state a minority opinion.

A. Explain the nature of ARGUMENTATION. While you do not have an assignment per se on this subject, college writing should be concerned with topics that are CONTROVERSIAL, WORTHWHILE, and RESTRICTED. Discuss what you believe each of these terms means, and be prepared to share--you may wish to outline on the board--some topics that you think are appropriate for a college course in argumentative writing. (Hint: also see G. below)

B. Explain TOPIC SENTENCES. The discussion above states that a Topic Sentence usually is the first sentence in a body paragraph. Some texts shows them at either end of a paragraph, and one text even suggests they can go in the middle. Who is correct and why? Or is this a trick question? Write on the board (or handout) some examples of good topic sentences, keeping in mind the qualities of Restriction, Unity, and Precision.

C. Explain UNITY. One idea in a paragraph and every piece of evidence in that paragraph should support the topic sentence. Either from something you have already written --like your diagnostic paragraphs--or from your imagination, think of some Unity violations from the writing sample exercise. Is resolve for the future an appropriate piece of evidence to use in a paragraph that argues whether your previous education has prepared you to be successful in English class (Exercise 3.5.1, below)? Why is it not a unity error (or is it?) in that same paragraph to provide specific details about the appearance of a particularly favored or loathed high school English teacher?

D. Explain COMPLETENESS. Some texts call this "development," i.e. your paragraph needs to be well developed. The explanation of Completeness (3.2.6, above) says that in a body paragraph you have to have "ENUF" evidence to prove the assertion in yout topic sentence. In your own words, explain how much evidence you need to prove the point about your "previous education." Why do you think you must always have at least two items of evidence in a paragraph? What if you had only used one example in your paragraph? What if your topic sentence was "My previous education has prepared me to be successful in English class," and all of your evidence came from Mrs. Zacunga's 12th Grade American Literature Class?

E. Explain ORDER. List and explain three ways to order evidence in an argumentative paragraph, and argue when each might be appropriate. What happens in an argument if you show your best evidence first? Cite three items of evidence from a paragraph with the Topic Sentence just cited in D. (immediately above), and explain why you chose the order that you did. Why did a SuperStudent a few years ago suggest that weakest-to-strongest should be renamed strong-to-strongest? How many items of evidence should you have brainstormed to come up with the three you then ordered?

F. Explain COHERENCE. Using the lists and examples of transition words found on the Internet or in another text, explain how to use the words and why they are so important. Also explain the concepts of TRANSITION and PARALLELISM How do pronoun references assist coherence--(pls provide at examples to illustrate your answers--feel free to consult outside sources or other texts)?

G. SHARPSHOOTER GROUP. You have free reign over any of the preceding questions. You may add to, disagree with, or supplement each group's report. Organize as you see fit. With respect to A, above, why do you think Abortion, Gun Control, and Capital Punishment are NOT good writing topics?

3.5 Exercises

EXERCISE 3.5.1. "The Previous Education" Body Paragraph

(Note:This assignment is often used as a diagnostic paragraph)

In an essay entitled "Shame," Dick Gregory argues that he learned to be ashamed in school when he was victimized by a teacher. He also recounts the taste of library paste, something you may or may not recall from your own personal experience. In "The First Major Turning Point," a part of his autobiography, Malcolm X tells us that he similarly put down by a teacher who told him he could not be an attorney because he was an African-American. In great detail, he goes on to tell us how he learned to read in jail, reading the dictionary, a word at a time. He particularly remembered the word "aardvark."

Write ONE double-spaced Body Paragraph of at least 150 words (no upper limit) that argues one of the following topic sentences:

My previous education has prepared me to be successful in English _____.
My previous education has not prepared me to be successful in English _____.

Note: This effectiveness of this paragraph will rely on the quality and quantity of specific evidence(such as the library paste or the word "aardvark") that you put in it. Be concrete. Include name of your school and/or courses, names of teachers, titles of books and author's names, if appropriate to your response.

EXERCISE 3.5.2 The "Family Background" Body Paragraph.

Write ONE double-spaced Body Paragraph which argues one of the following Topic Sentences:

My family background has prepared me to be successful in English ______.


My family background has not prepared me to be successful in English ____.

Again, your evidence will come from your personal experience. Erik Eriksen, the great 20th Century Psychologist, argues that your


In other words your own identity is the sum of environmental factors (such as in which culture your family lived, how they felt about homework, etc.) and factors of heredity (i.e. were your parents smart, tall, or ?). You may wish to RESTRICT your response to either culture or heredity. You may wish to RESTRICT to only covering one parent. Your choice.

Last Updated: 9/2/09