4.2 – Writing Body Paragraphs

Learning Objectives

  • Select primary support related to your thesis.
  • Support your topic sentences.

If your thesis gives the reader a roadmap to your essay, then body paragraphs should closely follow that map. The reader should be able to predict what follows your introductory paragraph by simply reading the thesis statement.

The body paragraphs present the evidence you have gathered to confirm your thesis. Before you begin to support your thesis in the body, you must find information from a variety of sources that support and give credit to what you are trying to prove.

Select Primary Support for Your Thesis

Without primary support, your argument is not likely to be convincing. Primary support can be described as the major points you choose to expand on your thesis. It is the most important information you select to argue for your point of view. Each point you choose will be incorporated into the topic sentence for each body paragraph you write. Your primary supporting points are further supported by supporting details within the paragraphs.



Remember that a worthy argument is backed by examples. In order to construct a valid argument, good writers conduct lots of background research and take careful notes. They also talk to people knowledgeable about a topic in order to understand its implications before writing about it.

Information from research sources will improve your paper, supporting your points with more detail and building your credibility.  As you work on your paper, always remember to note what information comes from sources so you can avoid plagiarism.

Identify the Characteristics of Good Primary Support

In order to fulfill the requirements of good primary support, the information you choose must meet the following standards:

  • Be specific. The main points you make about your thesis and the examples you use to expand on those points need to be specific. Use specific examples to provide the evidence and to build upon your general ideas. These types of examples give your reader something narrow to focus on, and if used properly, they leave little doubt about your claim. General examples, while they convey the necessary information, are not nearly as compelling or useful in writing because they are too obvious and typical.
  • Be relevant to the thesis. Primary support is considered strong when it relates directly to the thesis. Primary support should show, explain, or prove your main argument without delving into irrelevant details. When faced with lots of information that could be used to prove your thesis, you may think you need to include it all in your body paragraphs. But effective writers resist the temptation to lose focus. Choose your examples wisely by making sure they directly connect to your thesis.
  • Be detailed. Remember that your thesis, while specific, should not be very detailed. The body paragraphs are where you develop the discussion that a thorough essay requires. Using detailed support shows readers that you have considered all the facts and chosen only the most precise details to enhance your point of view.
  • Be relevant. As you add in detailed support, choose sources carefully. Aim to find recent sources that are up to date and relevant. Carefully evaluate your sources, following the suggestions in 6.3 – The CRAAP Test And Evaluating Resources

Prewrite to Identify Primary Supporting Points for a Thesis Statement

Recall that when you prewrite you essentially make a list of examples or reasons why you support your stance. Stemming from each point, you further provide details to support those reasons. After prewriting, you are then able to look back at the information and choose the most compelling pieces you will use in your body paragraphs.

Exercise 1

Choose one of the following working thesis statements. On a separate sheet of paper, write for at least five minutes using one of the prewriting techniques you learned in Chapter 3 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?”.

  1. Unleashed dogs on city streets are a dangerous nuisance.
  2. Students cheat for many different reasons.
  3. There are many advantages to taking time to go outdoors.
  4. The most important change that should occur at my college is:

Select the Most Effective Primary Supporting Points for a Thesis Statement

After you have prewritten about your working thesis statement, you may have generated a lot of information, which may be edited out later. Remind yourself of your main argument, and delete any ideas that do not directly relate to it. Omitting unrelated ideas ensures that you will use only the most convincing information in your body paragraphs. Choose at least three of only the most compelling points. These will serve as the topic sentences for your body paragraphs.

Exercise 2

Refer to the previous exercise and select three of your most compelling reasons to support the thesis statement. Remember that the points you choose must be specific and relevant to the thesis. The statements you choose will be your primary support points, and you will later incorporate them into the topic sentences for the body paragraphs.

When you support your thesis, you are revealing evidence. Evidence includes anything that can help support your stance. The following are the kinds of evidence you will encounter as you conduct your research:

  1. Facts. Facts are the best kind of evidence to use because they often cannot be disputed. They can support your stance by providing background information on or a solid foundation for your point of view. However, some facts may still need explanation. For example, the sentence “Ontario is the most populated province in Canada” is a pure fact, but it may require some explanation to make it relevant to your specific argument.  The facts you present in any paper should come from credible research sources, which you evaluate carefully.
  2. Judgments.  Judgments are conclusions drawn from the given facts. Judgments are more credible than opinions because they are founded upon careful reasoning and examination of a topic.  Evaluate your research sources carefully to confirm that they share the judgment of true authorities on the topic.  Follow the advice in 6.3 – The CRAAP Test And Evaluating Resources
  3. Testimony. Testimony consists of direct quotations from either an eyewitness or an expert witness. An eyewitness is someone who has direct experience with a subject; she adds authenticity to an argument based on facts. An expert witness is a person who has extensive experience with a topic. This person studies the facts and provides commentary based on either facts or judgments, or both. An expert witness adds authority and credibility to an argument.
  4. Personal observation. Personal observation is similar to testimony, but personal observation consists of your testimony. It reflects what you know to be true because you have experiences and have formed either opinions or judgments about them. For instance, if you are one of five children and your thesis states that being part of a large family is beneficial to a child’s social development, you could use your own experience to support your thesis.

Types of Supporting Facts

Types of supporting facts (Text version)

Determine whether the supporting points are facts, judgements,  personal observation, or  testimony.

  1. The most populated province in Canada is Ontario.
  2. I don’t think Mr. John will be able to complete the marathon.
  3. Mrs. Marshall saw Mike eating the last piece of cake.
  4. My dad loves to eat his steak well done.

Check your Answers: [1]

Activity Source: Pre-Chapter Review (6)” by Brenna Clark Gray (H5P Adaptation) is based on content from Writing for Success – 1st Canadian Edition by Tara Harkoff & [author removed], licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

Writing at Work

In any job where you devise a plan, you will need to support the steps that you lay out. This is an area in which you would incorporate primary support into your writing. Choosing only the most specific and relevant information to expand upon the steps will ensure that your plan appears well-thought-out and precise.


You can consult a vast pool of resources to gather support for your stance. Citing relevant information from reliable sources ensures that your reader will take you seriously and consider your assertions. Use any of the following sources for your essay: newspapers or news organization websites, magazines, encyclopedias, and scholarly journals, which are periodicals that address topics in a specialized field.

Watch Evaluating sources for credibility on YouTube (4 mins)

Video source: IT Sligo Centre for Online Learning. (2016, April 12). Evaluating sources for credibility [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/v8DfTTmdQ04

Choose Supporting Topic Sentences

Each body paragraph contains a topic sentence that states one aspect of your thesis and then expands upon it. Like the thesis statement, each topic sentence should be specific and supported by concrete details, facts, or explanations.

Each body paragraph should comprise the following elements:

          topic sentence + supporting details (examples, reasons, or arguments)

As you read in Chapter 3 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?”, topic sentences indicate the location and main points of the basic arguments of your essay. These sentences are vital to writing your body paragraphs because they always refer back to and support your thesis statement. Topic sentences are linked to the ideas you have introduced in your thesis, thus reminding readers what your essay is about. A paragraph without a clearly identified topic sentence may be unclear and scattered, just like an essay without a thesis statement.


Unless your teacher instructs otherwise, you should include at least three body paragraphs in your essay. A five-paragraph essay, including the introduction and conclusion, is commonly the standard for exams and essay assignments.

Consider the following the thesis statement:

There’s more to academic success than just studying; activities outside the classroom, such as spending time outdoors, engaging in social activities, and getting enough sleep can all help to improve a student’s overall learning experience.

The following topic sentence is a primary support point for the thesis. The topic sentence states exactly what the controlling idea of the paragraph is. Later, you will see the writer immediately provide support for the sentence.

Time spent outdoors benefits students, as exposure to sunlight, a break from digital devices, and interaction with natural scenery all provide benefits that boost academic performance.

Exercise 3

In “Exercise 2” above, you chose three of your most convincing points to support the thesis statement you selected from the list. Take each point and incorporate it into a topic sentence for each body paragraph.

Supporting point 1:

Topic sentence:

Supporting point 2:

Topic sentence:

Supporting point 3:

Topic sentence:

Draft Supporting Detail Sentences for Each Primary Support Sentence

After deciding which primary support points you will use as your topic sentences, you must add details to clarify and demonstrate each of those points. These supporting details provide examples, facts, or evidence that support the topic sentence.

The writer drafts possible supporting detail sentences for each primary support sentence based on the thesis statement:

Sample supporting detail sentences

Essay Thesis statement:

There is more to academic success than just studying; activities outside the classroom, such as spending time outdoors, engaging in social activities, and getting enough sleep can all help to improve a student’s overall learning experience.

  1. Supporting point 1: Time spent outdoors benefits students, as exposure to sunlight, a break from digital devices, and interaction with natural scenery all provide benefits that boost academic performance.
    Supporting details:

    1. Sunlight elevates vitamin D, melatonin, and serotonin which improve cognitive function (Oglethorpe, 2012).
    2. Taking a rest from digital devices improves the brain (Selhub, 2015).
    3. Natural surroundings can reduce ADHD symptoms and attention fatigue, and walking outdoors among greenery improved school performance (Kuo & Taylor, 2004).
  2. Supporting point 2: Connecting with groups of peers, whether through extra-curricular activities or sports teams, leads to improved academic performance.
    1. Students who participate in extra-curricular activities had consistently higher grades (Abdelhafifdh et al., 2022).
    2.  Students who are active in sports also perform better in school (Burns, et al., 2020).
  3. Supporting point 3:  Being well-rested also helps ensure success in school, as consistent sleep improves memory, performance on tests, and problem-solving abilities.
    1. Studies show that sleep deprivation reduces memory (Okano, et al., 2019).
    2. Consistent sleep quality while subjects were studied results in improved test scores (Okano, et al., 2019).
    3. People do better on challenging tasks after they’ve had sufficient sleep (Alhola & Polo-Kantola, 2007).



Abdelhafifdh, S., Abdelhafifh, S., & Moussa, A. (2022). To what extent extracurricular activities affect the behaviours and school grades of primary schools’ pupils. Open Access Library Journal, 9, 1-14. https://doi.org/10.4236/oalib.1108502

Alhola, P., & Polo-Kantola, P. (2007). Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment3(5), 553–567.

Burns, R. D., Brusseau, T. A., Pfledderer, C. D., & Fu, Y. (2020). Sports participation correlates with academic achievement: Results from a large adolescent sample within the 2017 U.S. National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 127(2), 448–467. https://doi.org/10.1177/0031512519900055

Kuo, F. E., & Taylor, A. F. (2004). A potential natural treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: evidence from a national study. American Journal of Public Health, 94(9), 1580–1586. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.94.9.1580

Oglethorpe, A. (2012). Dim wits. Psychology Today, 45(1), 43.

Okano, K., Kaczmarzyk, J. R., Dave, N., Gabrieli, J. D. E., & Grossman, J. C. (2019). Sleep quality, duration, and consistency are associated with better academic performance in college students. NPJ Science of Learning4(1), 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41539-019-0055-z

Selhub, E. (2015). Nature and the brain. Alive. https://www.alive.com/health/nature-and-the-brain/

The following paragraph contains supporting detail sentences for the primary support sentence (the topic sentence – the very first one in the paragraph), which is underlined.

Sample paragraph with supporting detail sentences

Time spent outdoors benefits students, as exposure to sunlight, a break from digital devices, and interaction with natural scenery all provide benefits that boost academic performance. Many studies shed light on the brain’s response to sunny days. By increasing serotonin, sunlight provides a natural anti-depressant (Oglethorpe, 2012). Oglethorpe (2012) reports that cognitive function is improved as sunlight affects blood flow to the brain and elevates vitamin D and melatonin. Not only will outdoor lighting enhance thinking power, but also unplugging from devices while being outside allows the brain to take a rest from digital overload. Selhub (2015) praises the “rejuvenating act of contemplation” (para. 6) in a natural setting, away from screens, as a necessary way to reduce mental fatigue. Research has shown that students have higher test scores when they can view natural scenery (Selhub, 2015). In addition to improving academic performance, nature provides a sense of tranquility (Kuo & Taylor, 2004). Kuo and Taylor (2004) observed that students had increased focus and an improved sense of well-being after being outside. Although students may feel that a walk in the park is a waste of time, they can enhance their academic success with a walk outdoors among natural scenery and sunlight will improve their mood, restore their concentration, and boost their well-being.


Kuo, F. E., & Taylor, A. F. (2004). A potential natural treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: evidence from a national study. American Journal of Public Health, 94(9), 1580–1586. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.94.9.1580

Oglethorpe, A. (2012). Dim Wits. Psychology Today, 45(1), 43.

Selhub, E. (2015). Nature and the brain. Alive. https://www.alive.com/health/nature-and-the-brain/

Exercise 4

Using the three topic sentences you just composed for the thesis statement in “Exercise 3”, draft at least three supporting details for each point.

Thesis statement:

Primary supporting point 1:

Supporting details:

Primary supporting point 2:

Supporting details:

Primary supporting point 3:

Supporting details:


Print out the first draft of your essay and use a highlighter to mark your topic sentences in the body paragraphs. Make sure they are clearly stated and accurately present your paragraphs, as well as accurately reflect your thesis. If your topic sentence contains information that does not exist in the rest of the paragraph, rewrite it to more accurately match the rest of the paragraph.


Key Takeaways

  • Your body paragraphs should closely follow the path set forth by your thesis statement.
  • Strong body paragraphs contain evidence that supports your thesis.
  • Primary support comprises the most important points you use to support your thesis.
  • Strong primary support is specific, detailed, and relevant to the thesis.
  • Prewriting helps you determine your most compelling primary support.
  • Evidence includes facts, judgments, testimony, and personal observation.
  • Reliable sources may include newspapers, magazines, academic journals, books, encyclopedias, and firsthand testimony.
  • A topic sentence presents one point of your thesis statement while the information in the rest of the paragraph supports that point.
  • A body paragraph comprises a topic sentence plus supporting details.

Attribution & References

Except where otherwise noted, this chapter is adapted from ” 9.2 Writing Body Paragraphs” In Writing for Success by University of Minnesota licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

  1. 1. fact, 2.  judgement, 3. testimony, 4. Personal observation


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Communication Essentials for College Copyright © 2022 by Jen Booth, Emily Cramer & Amanda Quibell, Georgian College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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