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Gordon-Conwell Writing Center

Developing Body Paragraphs

So what?

Paragraphs are the building blocks of most written texts. Paragraphs serve the purpose of communicating important and compelling ideas in a fluid and detailed way. However, often written texts include underdeveloped, incohesive paragraphs. A writer could be sharing a critical, profound idea, but without well-developed paragraphs, readers will be left confused or wanting more. Fortunately, there is a basic structure that can be used as a template for all paragraphs, specifically those used in the body section of a text. 

Summarized Explanation

  • Develop paragraphs using the sandwich template (topic sentence, supporting sentences, concluding sentences).


Detailed Explanation

Topic Sentence Supporting Sentences Concluding Sentence
A paragraph should begin with a topic sentence, which introduces the main idea of the paragraph. A topic sentence briefly states what the paragraph will be about. When writing an essay or paper, the topic sentence should connect directly to the thesis statement. A writer should ask: "How will this paragraph reiterate my thesis?" and “What is the purpose of this paragraph?" The sentences that follow the topic sentence are called supporting sentences. Supporting sentences, as the name suggests, support the main idea of the paragraph by giving extra information, details, examples, evidence, research, etc. (Note that personal anecdotes should be avoided in academic writing.) A writer should ask: “How can I prove my topic sentence?” Just as a sandwich is tastier with more ingredients, a paragraph is stronger with more supporting details.  The last sentence in a paragraph is the concluding sentence. A concluding sentence restates the topic sentence and summarizes the supporting information presented in the paragraph. It wraps up the paragraph and signals that the idea is finished.

Note that the sandwich template resembles the well-known preacher’s maxim:

  • Tell them what you are going to tell them. (Topic sentence)
  • Tell them. (Supporting sentences)
  • Tell them what you told them. (Concluding sentence)


Hypothetical Writing Prompt: Explain why it is important to follow the sandwich template for developing paragraphs.

Color-coding key:

  • Topic sentence
  • Supporting Sentences
  • Concluding Sentence

          To begin, it is important to follow the sandwich template because it reminds writers that a topic sentence is crucial for all paragraphs. For one, topic sentences reiterate a writer’s thesis statement within a multi-paragraph text. Furthermore, they focus ideas within paragraphs and create cohesion among ideas in different paragraphs. Lastly, topic sentences assist readers in understanding the flow of ideas within a longer text. Thus, it is helpful to follow the sandwich model for paragraph development because it emphasizes topic sentences as a way to highlight, unite, and organize one’s ideas in writing.     

          Secondly, it is good to follow the sandwich template because it shows that supporting sentences are essential for all paragraphs. This is because supporting sentences provide the meat of a body paragraph. For example, they offer relevant information, details, and research to support the main idea of a paragraph and justify its key claim. Therefore, it is easy to see why the sandwich model for paragraph development calls for supporting sentences since they provide substance and proof for a writer’s ideas.

          Lastly, the sandwich template is essential because it encourages readers to use strong concluding sentences for all paragraphs. Essentially, concluding sentences provide an opportunity for writers to reiterate key information. They also create cohesion among ideas within a paragraph. Moreover, concluding sentences bring closure to a paragraph. All in all, it is great that the sandwich model for paragraph development includes concluding sentences because they emphasize, unify, and wrap up a writer’s ideas.