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The insightfulness of an essay often is directly related to the organization and the support and development of the ideas in the essay. If you have well-developed body paragraphs focused on one specific point each, then it is likely that you are going into depth with the ideas you present and are offering an insightful interpretation.

The thesis should be stated in your introduction as one complete sentence that

As stated above, each body paragraph generally should be at least half of a page long, so, if you find that your body paragraphs are shorter than this, then you might not be developing your ideas in much depth. Often, when a student has trouble reaching the required minimum length for an essay, the problem is the lack of sufficient supporting evidence.


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Topic Sentence 1 + Topic Sentence 2 +  Topic Sentence 3 =  Thesis Statement

"Mechanics" refers to the correctness of a paper: complete sentences, correct punctuation, accurate word choice, etc. All of your papers for the course should be free or almost free from errors. Proofread carefully, and consider any constructive comments you receive during peer critiques that relate to the "mechanics" of your writing.


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The length and number of body paragraphs in an essay is another thing to consider. In general, each body paragraph should be at least half of a page long (for a double-spaced essay), and most expository essays have at least three body paragraph each (for a total of at least five paragraphs, including the introduction and conclusion.)

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If you begin a body paragraph with a fact, though, something that it true by definition, then you have nothing to prove from the beginning of the paragraph, possibly causing you to wander from point to point in the paragraph. The claim at the beginning of a body paragraph is very important: it gives you a point to prove, helping you unify the paragraph and helping you decide when to end one paragraph and begin another.

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Sometimes a student will write a well-organized essay, but the essay does not shed much light on the subject. At the same time, I am often amazed at the insightful interpretations and arguments that students come up with. Every semester, students interpret aspects of texts or present arguments that I had never considered.

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If the purpose of a paragraph is to persuade readers, the topic sentence should present a claim, or something that you can prove with specific evidence. If you begin a body paragraph with a claim, a point to prove, then you know exactly what you will do in the rest of the paragraph: prove the claim. You also know when to end the paragraph: when you think you have convinced readers that your claim is valid and well supported.

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If you are writing an interpretation, you should reread the text or study your subject thoroughly, doing your best to notice something new each time you examine it. As you come up with a possible interpretation to develop in an essay, you should re-examine your subject with that interpretation in mind, marking passages (if your subject is a literary text) and taking plenty of notes on your subject. Studying your subject in this way will make it easier for you to find supporting evidence for your interpretation as you write your essay.