Chapter 5: Maintaining Focus and Purpose: The Body Paragraphs

It’s More Than Cut and Paste: The Parts of a Paragraph

Now that we have provided you with some examples of the sorts of paragraphs you can expect to find in an analytical essay, it is a good time to pause and reflect on the components of a successful body paragraph. You crafted an outline that evolved from the focus and claim of your thesis and in that outline you decided what you wanted each paragraph to do. As you can see, there is more to constructing a paragraph than restating your thesis and citing from the text. While your purpose will always guide the shape of your essay and your actual writing may alter the planned outline slightly, it is important to remember that there is a structure here. Each paragraph should contain a structured argument that positions it as a supported, supportive, and connected piece of your overall argument

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While each paragraph will look a little different and deal with a new aspect of the text, there are some elements that a paragraph must contain if it is to be a contributing part of a cohesive argument.


Claim + Evidence + Warrant

When it comes to body paragraphs, especially body paragraphs in essays for introductory college and university courses, we recommend using an abridged version of the Toulmin Method. Stephen Toulmin was an English philosopher who created a model for the persuasive argument. For the purposes of this text, which is designed to introduce scholars just beginning their postsecondary careers to the act of successful analytical writing, we will consider a version of the Toulmin model that consists of Claim, Evidence, and Warrant. Each paragraph must contain an interpretive claim derived from the original claim expressed in your thesis statement. A claim is a statement you want your reader to accept or at least consider. To facilitate this acceptance you must provide textual support or evidence. This evidence will serve as a ground or basis for your claim. In a close reading such as the ones we have been conducting thus far, the evidence is something that is undeniably in the text you are analyzing. The warrant is an explanation of how the evidence supports the claim. The warrant may be a simplistic demonstration or it may be a larger argument, but it always proves the validity and worth of the claim as a way of reading the evidence. The warrant is a combination and interaction of the claim and the evidence that produces your interpretation of the text. Evidence—whether it is in the form of a cited passage or a paraphrase—must be irrefutably from the text you are analyzing. A warrant, however, is more controversial—it is something that is not undeniably in the text, but is rather a statement and a demonstration of what you think a text is doing. It is a directive for how you want your readers to consider the original text.