what is the last paragraph of an essay called

So much is at stake in writing a conclusion. This is, after all, your last chance to persuade your readers to your point of view, to impress yourself upon them as a writer and thinker. And the impression you create in your conclusion will shape the impression that stays with your readers after they've finished the essay.

The end of an essay should therefore convey a sense of completeness and closure as well as a sense of the lingering possibilities of the topic, its larger meaning, its implications: the final paragraph should close the discussion without closing it off.

To establish a sense of closure, you might do one or more of the following:

  • Conclude by linking the last paragraph to the first, perhaps by reiterating a word or phrase you used at the beginning.
  • Conclude with a sentence composed mainly of one-syllable words. Simple language can help create an effect of understated drama.
  • Conclude with a sentence that's compound or parallel in structure; such sentences can establish a sense of balance or order that may feel just right at the end of a complex discussion.

To close the discussion without closing it off, you might do one or more of the following:

  • Conclude with a quotation from or reference to a primary or secondary source, one that amplifies your main point or puts it in a different perspective. A quotation from, say, the novel or poem you're writing about can add texture and specificity to your discussion; a critic or scholar can help confirm or complicate your final point. For example, you might conclude an essay on the idea of home in James Joyce's short story collection,  Dubliners , with information about Joyce's own complex feelings towards Dublin, his home. Or you might end with a biographer's statement about Joyce's attitude toward Dublin, which could illuminate his characters' responses to the city. Just be cautious, especially about using secondary material: make sure that you get the last word.
  • Conclude by setting your discussion into a different, perhaps larger, context. For example, you might end an essay on nineteenth-century muckraking journalism by linking it to a current news magazine program like  60 Minutes .
  • Conclude by redefining one of the key terms of your argument. For example, an essay on Marx's treatment of the conflict between wage labor and capital might begin with Marx's claim that the "capitalist economy is . . . a gigantic enterprise of dehumanization "; the essay might end by suggesting that Marxist analysis is itself dehumanizing because it construes everything in economic -- rather than moral or ethical-- terms.
  • Conclude by considering the implications of your argument (or analysis or discussion). What does your argument imply, or involve, or suggest? For example, an essay on the novel  Ambiguous Adventure , by the Senegalese writer Cheikh Hamidou Kane, might open with the idea that the protagonist's development suggests Kane's belief in the need to integrate Western materialism and Sufi spirituality in modern Senegal. The conclusion might make the new but related point that the novel on the whole suggests that such an integration is (or isn't) possible.

Finally, some advice on how not to end an essay:

  • Don't simply summarize your essay. A brief summary of your argument may be useful, especially if your essay is long--more than ten pages or so. But shorter essays tend not to require a restatement of your main ideas.
  • Avoid phrases like "in conclusion," "to conclude," "in summary," and "to sum up." These phrases can be useful--even welcome--in oral presentations. But readers can see, by the tell-tale compression of the pages, when an essay is about to end. You'll irritate your audience if you belabor the obvious.
  • Resist the urge to apologize. If you've immersed yourself in your subject, you now know a good deal more about it than you can possibly include in a five- or ten- or 20-page essay. As a result, by the time you've finished writing, you may be having some doubts about what you've produced. (And if you haven't immersed yourself in your subject, you may be feeling even more doubtful about your essay as you approach the conclusion.) Repress those doubts. Don't undercut your authority by saying things like, "this is just one approach to the subject; there may be other, better approaches. . ."

Copyright 1998, Pat Bellanca, for the Writing Center at Harvard University

Have a language expert improve your writing

Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.

  • Knowledge Base
  • How to structure an essay: Templates and tips

How to Structure an Essay | Tips & Templates

Published on September 18, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

The basic structure of an essay always consists of an introduction , a body , and a conclusion . But for many students, the most difficult part of structuring an essay is deciding how to organize information within the body.

Instantly correct all language mistakes in your text

Upload your document to correct all your mistakes in minutes


Table of contents

The basics of essay structure, chronological structure, compare-and-contrast structure, problems-methods-solutions structure, signposting to clarify your structure, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about essay structure.

There are two main things to keep in mind when working on your essay structure: making sure to include the right information in each part, and deciding how you’ll organize the information within the body.

Parts of an essay

The three parts that make up all essays are described in the table below.

Order of information

You’ll also have to consider how to present information within the body. There are a few general principles that can guide you here.

The first is that your argument should move from the simplest claim to the most complex . The body of a good argumentative essay often begins with simple and widely accepted claims, and then moves towards more complex and contentious ones.

For example, you might begin by describing a generally accepted philosophical concept, and then apply it to a new topic. The grounding in the general concept will allow the reader to understand your unique application of it.

The second principle is that background information should appear towards the beginning of your essay . General background is presented in the introduction. If you have additional background to present, this information will usually come at the start of the body.

The third principle is that everything in your essay should be relevant to the thesis . Ask yourself whether each piece of information advances your argument or provides necessary background. And make sure that the text clearly expresses each piece of information’s relevance.

The sections below present several organizational templates for essays: the chronological approach, the compare-and-contrast approach, and the problems-methods-solutions approach.

Receive feedback on language, structure, and formatting

Professional editors proofread and edit your paper by focusing on:

  • Academic style
  • Vague sentences
  • Style consistency

See an example

what is the last paragraph of an essay called

The chronological approach (sometimes called the cause-and-effect approach) is probably the simplest way to structure an essay. It just means discussing events in the order in which they occurred, discussing how they are related (i.e. the cause and effect involved) as you go.

A chronological approach can be useful when your essay is about a series of events. Don’t rule out other approaches, though—even when the chronological approach is the obvious one, you might be able to bring out more with a different structure.

Explore the tabs below to see a general template and a specific example outline from an essay on the invention of the printing press.

  • Thesis statement
  • Discussion of event/period
  • Consequences
  • Importance of topic
  • Strong closing statement
  • Claim that the printing press marks the end of the Middle Ages
  • Background on the low levels of literacy before the printing press
  • Thesis statement: The invention of the printing press increased circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation
  • High levels of illiteracy in medieval Europe
  • Literacy and thus knowledge and education were mainly the domain of religious and political elites
  • Consequence: this discouraged political and religious change
  • Invention of the printing press in 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg
  • Implications of the new technology for book production
  • Consequence: Rapid spread of the technology and the printing of the Gutenberg Bible
  • Trend for translating the Bible into vernacular languages during the years following the printing press’s invention
  • Luther’s own translation of the Bible during the Reformation
  • Consequence: The large-scale effects the Reformation would have on religion and politics
  • Summarize the history described
  • Stress the significance of the printing press to the events of this period

Essays with two or more main subjects are often structured around comparing and contrasting . For example, a literary analysis essay might compare two different texts, and an argumentative essay might compare the strengths of different arguments.

There are two main ways of structuring a compare-and-contrast essay: the alternating method, and the block method.


In the alternating method, each paragraph compares your subjects in terms of a specific point of comparison. These points of comparison are therefore what defines each paragraph.

The tabs below show a general template for this structure, and a specific example for an essay comparing and contrasting distance learning with traditional classroom learning.

  • Synthesis of arguments
  • Topical relevance of distance learning in lockdown
  • Increasing prevalence of distance learning over the last decade
  • Thesis statement: While distance learning has certain advantages, it introduces multiple new accessibility issues that must be addressed for it to be as effective as classroom learning
  • Classroom learning: Ease of identifying difficulties and privately discussing them
  • Distance learning: Difficulty of noticing and unobtrusively helping
  • Classroom learning: Difficulties accessing the classroom (disability, distance travelled from home)
  • Distance learning: Difficulties with online work (lack of tech literacy, unreliable connection, distractions)
  • Classroom learning: Tends to encourage personal engagement among students and with teacher, more relaxed social environment
  • Distance learning: Greater ability to reach out to teacher privately
  • Sum up, emphasize that distance learning introduces more difficulties than it solves
  • Stress the importance of addressing issues with distance learning as it becomes increasingly common
  • Distance learning may prove to be the future, but it still has a long way to go

In the block method, each subject is covered all in one go, potentially across multiple paragraphs. For example, you might write two paragraphs about your first subject and then two about your second subject, making comparisons back to the first.

The tabs again show a general template, followed by another essay on distance learning, this time with the body structured in blocks.

  • Point 1 (compare)
  • Point 2 (compare)
  • Point 3 (compare)
  • Point 4 (compare)
  • Advantages: Flexibility, accessibility
  • Disadvantages: Discomfort, challenges for those with poor internet or tech literacy
  • Advantages: Potential for teacher to discuss issues with a student in a separate private call
  • Disadvantages: Difficulty of identifying struggling students and aiding them unobtrusively, lack of personal interaction among students
  • Advantages: More accessible to those with low tech literacy, equality of all sharing one learning environment
  • Disadvantages: Students must live close enough to attend, commutes may vary, classrooms not always accessible for disabled students
  • Advantages: Ease of picking up on signs a student is struggling, more personal interaction among students
  • Disadvantages: May be harder for students to approach teacher privately in person to raise issues

An essay that concerns a specific problem (practical or theoretical) may be structured according to the problems-methods-solutions approach.

This is just what it sounds like: You define the problem, characterize a method or theory that may solve it, and finally analyze the problem, using this method or theory to arrive at a solution. If the problem is theoretical, the solution might be the analysis you present in the essay itself; otherwise, you might just present a proposed solution.

The tabs below show a template for this structure and an example outline for an essay about the problem of fake news.

  • Introduce the problem
  • Provide background
  • Describe your approach to solving it
  • Define the problem precisely
  • Describe why it’s important
  • Indicate previous approaches to the problem
  • Present your new approach, and why it’s better
  • Apply the new method or theory to the problem
  • Indicate the solution you arrive at by doing so
  • Assess (potential or actual) effectiveness of solution
  • Describe the implications
  • Problem: The growth of “fake news” online
  • Prevalence of polarized/conspiracy-focused news sources online
  • Thesis statement: Rather than attempting to stamp out online fake news through social media moderation, an effective approach to combating it must work with educational institutions to improve media literacy
  • Definition: Deliberate disinformation designed to spread virally online
  • Popularization of the term, growth of the phenomenon
  • Previous approaches: Labeling and moderation on social media platforms
  • Critique: This approach feeds conspiracies; the real solution is to improve media literacy so users can better identify fake news
  • Greater emphasis should be placed on media literacy education in schools
  • This allows people to assess news sources independently, rather than just being told which ones to trust
  • This is a long-term solution but could be highly effective
  • It would require significant organization and investment, but would equip people to judge news sources more effectively
  • Rather than trying to contain the spread of fake news, we must teach the next generation not to fall for it

Here's why students love Scribbr's proofreading services

Discover proofreading & editing

Signposting means guiding the reader through your essay with language that describes or hints at the structure of what follows.  It can help you clarify your structure for yourself as well as helping your reader follow your ideas.

The essay overview

In longer essays whose body is split into multiple named sections, the introduction often ends with an overview of the rest of the essay. This gives a brief description of the main idea or argument of each section.

The overview allows the reader to immediately understand what will be covered in the essay and in what order. Though it describes what  comes later in the text, it is generally written in the present tense . The following example is from a literary analysis essay on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .


Transition words and phrases are used throughout all good essays to link together different ideas. They help guide the reader through your text, and an essay that uses them effectively will be much easier to follow.

Various different relationships can be expressed by transition words, as shown in this example.

Because Hitler failed to respond to the British ultimatum, France and the UK declared war on Germany. Although it was an outcome the Allies had hoped to avoid, they were prepared to back up their ultimatum in order to combat the existential threat posed by the Third Reich.

Transition sentences may be included to transition between different paragraphs or sections of an essay. A good transition sentence moves the reader on to the next topic while indicating how it relates to the previous one.

… Distance learning, then, seems to improve accessibility in some ways while representing a step backwards in others.

However , considering the issue of personal interaction among students presents a different picture.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

  • Ad hominem fallacy
  • Post hoc fallacy
  • Appeal to authority fallacy
  • False cause fallacy
  • Sunk cost fallacy

College essays

  • Choosing Essay Topic
  • Write a College Essay
  • Write a Diversity Essay
  • College Essay Format & Structure
  • Comparing and Contrasting in an Essay

 (AI) Tools

  • Grammar Checker
  • Paraphrasing Tool
  • Text Summarizer
  • AI Detector
  • Plagiarism Checker
  • Citation Generator

The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

An essay isn’t just a loose collection of facts and ideas. Instead, it should be centered on an overarching argument (summarized in your thesis statement ) that every part of the essay relates to.

The way you structure your essay is crucial to presenting your argument coherently. A well-structured essay helps your reader follow the logic of your ideas and understand your overall point.

Comparisons in essays are generally structured in one of two ways:

  • The alternating method, where you compare your subjects side by side according to one specific aspect at a time.
  • The block method, where you cover each subject separately in its entirety.

It’s also possible to combine both methods, for example by writing a full paragraph on each of your topics and then a final paragraph contrasting the two according to a specific metric.

You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay . However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your essay outline . Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Caulfield, J. (2023, July 23). How to Structure an Essay | Tips & Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/essay-structure/

Is this article helpful?

Jack Caulfield

Jack Caulfield

Other students also liked, comparing and contrasting in an essay | tips & examples, how to write the body of an essay | drafting & redrafting, transition sentences | tips & examples for clear writing, "i thought ai proofreading was useless but..".

I've been using Scribbr for years now and I know it's a service that won't disappoint. It does a good job spotting mistakes”

helpful professor logo

11 Rules for Essay Paragraph Structure (with Examples)

How do you structure a paragraph in an essay?

If you’re like the majority of my students, you might be getting your basic essay paragraph structure wrong and getting lower grades than you could!

In this article, I outline the 11 key steps to writing a perfect paragraph. But, this isn’t your normal ‘how to write an essay’ article. Rather, I’ll try to give you some insight into exactly what teachers look out for when they’re grading essays and figuring out what grade to give them.

You can navigate each issue below, or scroll down to read them all:

1. Paragraphs must be at least four sentences long 2. But, at most seven sentences long 3. Your paragraph must be Left-Aligned 4. You need a topic sentence 5 . Next, you need an explanation sentence 6. You need to include an example 7. You need to include citations 8. All paragraphs need to be relevant to the marking criteria 9. Only include one key idea per paragraph 10. Keep sentences short 11. Keep quotes short

Paragraph structure is one of the most important elements of getting essay writing right .

As I cover in my Ultimate Guide to Writing an Essay Plan , paragraphs are the heart and soul of your essay.

However, I find most of my students have either:

  • forgotten how to write paragraphs properly,
  • gotten lazy, or
  • never learned it in the first place!

Paragraphs in essay writing are different from paragraphs in other written genres .

In fact, the paragraphs that you are reading now would not help your grades in an essay.

That’s because I’m writing in journalistic style, where paragraph conventions are vastly different.

For those of you coming from journalism or creative writing, you might find you need to re-learn paragraph writing if you want to write well-structured essay paragraphs to get top grades.

Below are eleven reasons your paragraphs are losing marks, and what to do about it!

11 tips for perfect paragraphs

Essay Paragraph Structure Rules

1. your paragraphs must be at least 4 sentences long.

In journalism and blog writing, a one-sentence paragraph is great. It’s short, to-the-point, and helps guide your reader. For essay paragraph structure, one-sentence paragraphs suck.

A one-sentence essay paragraph sends an instant signal to your teacher that you don’t have much to say on an issue.

A short paragraph signifies that you know something – but not much about it. A one-sentence paragraph lacks detail, depth and insight.

Many students come to me and ask, “what does ‘add depth’ mean?” It’s one of the most common pieces of feedback you’ll see written on the margins of your essay.

Personally, I think ‘add depth’ is bad feedback because it’s a short and vague comment. But, here’s what it means: You’ve not explained your point enough!

If you’re writing one-, two- or three-sentence essay paragraphs, you’re costing yourself marks.

Always aim for at least four sentences per paragraph in your essays.

This doesn’t mean that you should add ‘fluff’ or ‘padding’ sentences.

Make sure you don’t:

a) repeat what you said in different words, or b) write something just because you need another sentence in there.

But, you need to do some research and find something insightful to add to that two-sentence paragraph if you want to ace your essay.

Check out Points 5 and 6 for some advice on what to add to that short paragraph to add ‘depth’ to your paragraph and start moving to the top of the class.

  • How to Make an Essay Longer
  • How to Make an Essay Shorter

2. Your Paragraphs must not be more than 7 Sentences Long

Okay, so I just told you to aim for at least four sentences per paragraph. So, what’s the longest your paragraph should be?

Seven sentences. That’s a maximum.

So, here’s the rule:

Between four and seven sentences is the sweet spot that you need to aim for in every single paragraph.

Here’s why your paragraphs shouldn’t be longer than seven sentences:

1. It shows you can organize your thoughts. You need to show your teacher that you’ve broken up your key ideas into manageable segments of text (see point 10)

2. It makes your work easier to read.   You need your writing to be easily readable to make it easy for your teacher to give you good grades. Make your essay easy to read and you’ll get higher marks every time.

One of the most important ways you can make your work easier to read is by writing paragraphs that are less than six sentences long.

3. It prevents teacher frustration. Teachers are just like you. When they see a big block of text their eyes glaze over. They get frustrated, lost, their mind wanders … and you lose marks.

To prevent teacher frustration, you need to ensure there’s plenty of white space in your essay. It’s about showing them that the piece is clearly structured into one key idea per ‘chunk’ of text.

Often, you might find that your writing contains tautologies and other turns of phrase that can be shortened for clarity.

3. Your Paragraph must be Left-Aligned

Turn off ‘Justified’ text and: Never. Turn. It. On. Again.

Justified text is where the words are stretched out to make the paragraph look like a square. It turns the writing into a block. Don’t do it. You will lose marks, I promise you! Win the psychological game with your teacher: left-align your text.

A good essay paragraph is never ‘justified’.

I’m going to repeat this, because it’s important: to prevent your essay from looking like a big block of muddy, hard-to-read text align your text to the left margin only.

You want white space on your page – and lots of it. White space helps your reader scan through your work. It also prevents it from looking like big blocks of text.

You want your reader reading vertically as much as possible: scanning, browsing, and quickly looking through for evidence you’ve engaged with the big ideas.

The justified text doesn’t help you do that. Justified text makes your writing look like a big, lumpy block of text that your reader doesn’t want to read.

What’s wrong with Center-Aligned Text?

While I’m at it, never, ever, center-align your text either. Center-aligned text is impossible to skim-read. Your teacher wants to be able to quickly scan down the left margin to get the headline information in your paragraph.

Not many people center-align text, but it’s worth repeating: never, ever center-align your essays.

an infographic showing that left-aligned paragraphs are easy to read. The infographic recommends using Control plus L on a PC keyboard or Command plus L on a Mac to left align a paragraph

Don’t annoy your reader. Left align your text.

4. Your paragraphs must have a Topic Sentence

The first sentence of an essay paragraph is called the topic sentence. This is one of the most important sentences in the correct essay paragraph structure style.

The topic sentence should convey exactly what key idea you’re going to cover in your paragraph.

Too often, students don’t let their reader know what the key idea of the paragraph is until several sentences in.

You must show what the paragraph is about in the first sentence.

You never, ever want to keep your reader in suspense. Essays are not like creative writing. Tell them straight away what the paragraph is about. In fact, if you can, do it in the first half of the first sentence .

I’ll remind you again: make it easy to grade your work. Your teacher is reading through your work trying to determine what grade to give you. They’re probably going to mark 20 assignments in one sitting. They have no interest in storytelling or creativity. They just want to know how much you know! State what the paragraph is about immediately and move on.

Suggested: Best Words to Start a Paragraph

Ideal Essay Paragraph Structure Example: Writing a Topic Sentence If your paragraph is about how climate change is endangering polar bears, say it immediately : “Climate change is endangering polar bears.” should be your first sentence in your paragraph. Take a look at first sentence of each of the four paragraphs above this one. You can see from the first sentence of each paragraph that the paragraphs discuss:

When editing your work, read each paragraph and try to distil what the one key idea is in your paragraph. Ensure that this key idea is mentioned in the first sentence .

(Note: if there’s more than one key idea in the paragraph, you may have a problem. See Point 9 below .)

The topic sentence is the most important sentence for getting your essay paragraph structure right. So, get your topic sentences right and you’re on the right track to a good essay paragraph.

5. You need an Explanation Sentence

All topic sentences need a follow-up explanation. The very first point on this page was that too often students write paragraphs that are too short. To add what is called ‘depth’ to a paragraph, you can come up with two types of follow-up sentences: explanations and examples.

Let’s take explanation sentences first.

Explanation sentences give additional detail. They often provide one of the following services:

Let’s go back to our example of a paragraph on Climate change endangering polar bears. If your topic sentence is “Climate change is endangering polar bears.”, then your follow-up explanation sentence is likely to explain how, why, where, or when. You could say:

Ideal Essay Paragraph Structure Example: Writing Explanation Sentences 1. How: “The warming atmosphere is melting the polar ice caps.” 2. Why: “The polar bears’ habitats are shrinking every single year.” 3. Where: “This is happening in the Antarctic ice caps near Greenland.” 4. When: “Scientists first noticed the ice caps were shrinking in 1978.”

You don’t have to provide all four of these options each time.

But, if you’re struggling to think of what to add to your paragraph to add depth, consider one of these four options for a good quality explanation sentence.


6. Your need to Include an Example

Examples matter! They add detail. They also help to show that you genuinely understand the issue. They show that you don’t just understand a concept in the abstract; you also understand how things work in real life.

Example sentences have the added benefit of personalising an issue. For example, after saying “Polar bears’ habitats are shrinking”, you could note specific habitats, facts and figures, or even a specific story about a bear who was impacted.

Ideal Essay Paragraph Structure Example: Writing an ‘Example’ Sentence “For example, 770,000 square miles of Arctic Sea Ice has melted in the past four decades, leading Polar Bear populations to dwindle ( National Geographic, 2018 )

In fact, one of the most effective politicians of our times – Barrack Obama – was an expert at this technique. He would often provide examples of people who got sick because they didn’t have healthcare to sell Obamacare.

What effect did this have? It showed the real-world impact of his ideas. It humanised him, and got him elected president – twice!

Be like Obama. Provide examples. Often.

7. All Paragraphs need Citations

Provide a reference to an academic source in every single body paragraph in the essay. The only two paragraphs where you don’t need a reference is the introduction and conclusion .

Let me repeat: Paragraphs need at least one reference to a quality scholarly source .

Let me go even further:

Students who get the best marks provide two references to two different academic sources in every paragraph.

Two references in a paragraph show you’ve read widely, cross-checked your sources, and given the paragraph real thought.

It’s really important that these references link to academic sources, not random websites, blogs or YouTube videos. Check out our Seven Best types of Sources to Cite in Essays post to get advice on what sources to cite. Number 6 w ill surprise you!

Ideal Essay Paragraph Structure Example: In-Text Referencing in Paragraphs Usually, in-text referencing takes the format: (Author, YEAR), but check your school’s referencing formatting requirements carefully. The ‘Author’ section is the author’s last name only. Not their initials. Not their first name. Just their last name . My name is Chris Drew. First name Chris, last name Drew. If you were going to reference an academic article I wrote in 2019, you would reference it like this: (Drew, 2019).

Where do you place those two references?

Place the first reference at the end of the first half of the paragraph. Place the second reference at the end of the second half of the paragraph.

This spreads the references out and makes it look like all the points throughout the paragraph are backed up by your sources. The goal is to make it look like you’ve reference regularly when your teacher scans through your work.

Remember, teachers can look out for signposts that indicate you’ve followed academic conventions and mentioned the right key ideas.

Spreading your referencing through the paragraph helps to make it look like you’ve followed the academic convention of referencing sources regularly.

Here are some examples of how to reference twice in a paragraph:

  • If your paragraph was six sentences long, you would place your first reference at the end of the third sentence and your second reference at the end of the sixth sentence.
  • If your paragraph was five sentences long, I would recommend placing one at the end of the second sentence and one at the end of the fifth sentence.

You’ve just read one of the key secrets to winning top marks.

8. Every Paragraph must be relevant to the Marking Criteria

Every paragraph must win you marks. When you’re editing your work, check through the piece to see if every paragraph is relevant to the marking criteria.

For the British: In the British university system (I’m including Australia and New Zealand here – I’ve taught at universities in all three countries), you’ll usually have a ‘marking criteria’. It’s usually a list of between two and six key learning outcomes your teacher needs to use to come up with your score. Sometimes it’s called a:

  • Marking criteria
  • Marking rubric
  • (Key) learning outcome
  • Indicative content

Check your assignment guidance to see if this is present. If so, use this list of learning outcomes to guide what you write. If your paragraphs are irrelevant to these key points, delete the paragraph .

Paragraphs that don’t link to the marking criteria are pointless. They won’t win you marks.

For the Americans: If you don’t have a marking criteria / rubric / outcomes list, you’ll need to stick closely to the essay question or topic. This goes out to those of you in the North American system. North America (including USA and Canada here) is often less structured and the professor might just give you a topic to base your essay on.

If all you’ve got is the essay question / topic, go through each paragraph and make sure each paragraph is relevant to the topic.

For example, if your essay question / topic is on “The Effects of Climate Change on Polar Bears”,

  • Don’t talk about anything that doesn’t have some connection to climate change and polar bears;
  • Don’t talk about the environmental impact of oil spills in the Gulf of Carpentaria;
  • Don’t talk about black bear habitats in British Columbia.
  • Do talk about the effects of climate change on polar bears (and relevant related topics) in every single paragraph .

You may think ‘stay relevant’ is obvious advice, but at least 20% of all essays I mark go off on tangents and waste words.

Stay on topic in Every. Single. Paragraph. If you want to learn more about how to stay on topic, check out our essay planning guide .

9. Only have one Key Idea per Paragraph

One key idea for each paragraph. One key idea for each paragraph. One key idea for each paragraph.

Don’t forget!

Too often, a student starts a paragraph talking about one thing and ends it talking about something totally different. Don’t be that student.

To ensure you’re focussing on one key idea in your paragraph, make sure you know what that key idea is. It should be mentioned in your topic sentence (see Point 3 ). Every other sentence in the paragraph adds depth to that one key idea.

If you’ve got sentences in your paragraph that are not relevant to the key idea in the paragraph, they don’t fit. They belong in another paragraph.

Go through all your paragraphs when editing your work and check to see if you’ve veered away from your paragraph’s key idea. If so, you might have two or even three key ideas in the one paragraph.

You’re going to have to get those additional key ideas, rip them out, and give them paragraphs of their own.

If you have more than one key idea in a paragraph you will lose marks. I promise you that.

The paragraphs will be too hard to read, your reader will get bogged down reading rather than scanning, and you’ll have lost grades.

10. Keep Sentences Short

If a sentence is too long it gets confusing. When the sentence is confusing, your reader will stop reading your work. They will stop reading the paragraph and move to the next one. They’ll have given up on your paragraph.

Short, snappy sentences are best.

Shorter sentences are easier to read and they make more sense. Too often, students think they have to use big, long, academic words to get the best marks. Wrong. Aim for clarity in every sentence in the paragraph. Your teacher will thank you for it.

The students who get the best marks write clear, short sentences.

When editing your draft, go through your essay and see if you can shorten your longest five sentences.

(To learn more about how to write the best quality sentences, see our page on Seven ways to Write Amazing Sentences .)

11. Keep Quotes Short

Eighty percent of university teachers hate quotes. That’s not an official figure. It’s my guestimate based on my many interactions in faculty lounges. Twenty percent don’t mind them, but chances are your teacher is one of the eight out of ten who hate quotes.

Teachers tend to be turned off by quotes because it makes it look like you don’t know how to say something on your own words.

Now that I’ve warned you, here’s how to use quotes properly:

Ideal Essay Paragraph Structure Example: How To Use Quotes in University-Level Essay Paragraphs 1. Your quote should be less than one sentence long. 2. Your quote should be less than one sentence long. 3. You should never start a sentence with a quote. 4. You should never end a paragraph with a quote. 5 . You should never use more than five quotes per essay. 6. Your quote should never be longer than one line in a paragraph.

The minute your teacher sees that your quote takes up a large chunk of your paragraph, you’ll have lost marks.

Your teacher will circle the quote, write a snarky comment in the margin, and not even bother to give you points for the key idea in the paragraph.

Avoid quotes, but if you really want to use them, follow those five rules above.

I’ve also provided additional pages outlining Seven tips on how to use Quotes if you want to delve deeper into how, when and where to use quotes in essays. Be warned: quoting in essays is harder than you thought.

The basic essay paragraph structure formula includes: 4-6 sentence paragraphs; a clear topic sentence; useful explanations and examples; a focus on one key idea only; and references to two different academic sources.

Follow the advice above and you’ll be well on your way to getting top marks at university.

Writing essay paragraphs that are well structured takes time and practice. Don’t be too hard on yourself and keep on trying!

Below is a summary of our 11 key mistakes for structuring essay paragraphs and tips on how to avoid them.

I’ve also provided an easy-to-share infographic below that you can share on your favorite social networking site. Please share it if this article has helped you out!

11 Biggest Essay Paragraph Structure Mistakes you’re probably Making

1.  Your paragraphs are too short 2.  Your paragraphs are too long 3.  Your paragraph alignment is ‘Justified’ 4.  Your paragraphs are missing a topic sentence 5 .  Your paragraphs are missing an explanation sentence 6.  Your paragraphs are missing an example 7.  Your paragraphs are missing references 8.  Your paragraphs are not relevant to the marking criteria 9.  You’re trying to fit too many ideas into the one paragraph 10.  Your sentences are too long 11.  Your quotes are too long


Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 5 Top Tips for Succeeding at University
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 50 Durable Goods Examples
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 100 Consumer Goods Examples
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 30 Globalization Pros and Cons

4 thoughts on “11 Rules for Essay Paragraph Structure (with Examples)”

' src=

Hello there. I noticed that throughout this article on Essay Writing, you keep on saying that the teacher won’t have time to go through the entire essay. Don’t you think this is a bit discouraging that with all the hard work and time put into your writing, to know that the teacher will not read through the entire paper?

' src=

Hi Clarence,

Thanks so much for your comment! I love to hear from readers on their thoughts.

Yes, I agree that it’s incredibly disheartening.

But, I also think students would appreciate hearing the truth.

Behind closed doors many / most university teachers are very open about the fact they ‘only have time to skim-read papers’. They regularly bring this up during heated faculty meetings about contract negotiations! I.e. in one university I worked at, we were allocated 45 minutes per 10,000 words – that’s just over 4 minutes per 1,000 word essay, and that’d include writing the feedback, too!

If students know the truth, they can better write their essays in a way that will get across the key points even from a ‘skim-read’.

I hope to write candidly on this website – i.e. some of this info will never be written on university blogs because universities want to hide these unfortunate truths from students.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Regards, Chris

' src=

This is wonderful and helpful, all I say is thank you very much. Because I learned a lot from this site, own by chris thank you Sir.

' src=

Thank you. This helped a lot.

Leave a Comment Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • U.S. Locations
  • UMGC Europe
  • Learn Online
  • Find Answers
  • 855-655-8682
  • Current Students

Essay Conclusions

Explore more of umgc.

  • Writing Resources

Contact The Effective Writing Center

E-mail:  writingcenter@umgc.edu

Learn about the elements of a successful essay conclusion.

The conclusion is a very important part of your essay. Although it is sometimes treated as a roundup of all of the bits that didn’t fit into the paper earlier, it deserves better treatment than that! It's the last thing the reader will see, so it tends to stick in the reader's memory. It's also a great place to remind the reader exactly why your topic is important. A conclusion is more than just "the last paragraph"—it's a working part of the paper. This is the place to push your reader to think about the consequences of your topic for the wider world or for the reader's own life!

A good conclusion should do a few things:

Restate your thesis

Synthesize or summarize your major points

Make the context of your argument clear

Restating Your Thesis

You've already spent time and energy crafting a solid thesis statement for your introduction, and if you've done your job right, your whole paper focuses on that thesis statement. That's why it's so important to address the thesis in your conclusion! Many writers choose to begin the conclusion by restating the thesis, but you can put your thesis into the conclusion anywhere—the first sentence of the paragraph, the last sentence, or in between. Here are a few tips for rephrasing your thesis:

Remind the reader that you've proven this thesis over the course of your paper. For example, if you're arguing that your readers should get their pets from animal shelters rather than pet stores, you might say, "If you were considering that puppy in the pet-shop window, remember that your purchase will support 'puppy mills' instead of rescuing a needy dog, and consider selecting your new friend at your local animal shelter." This example gives the reader not only the thesis of the paper, but a reminder of the most powerful point in the argument!

Revise the thesis statement so that it reflects the relationship you've developed with the reader during the paper. For example, if you've written a paper that targets parents of young children, you can find a way to phrase your thesis to capitalize on that—maybe by beginning your thesis statement with, "As a parent of a young child…"

Don’t repeat your thesis word for word—make sure that your new statement is an independent, fresh sentence!

Summary or Synthesis

This section of the conclusion might come before the thesis statement or after it. Your conclusion should remind the reader of what your paper actually says! The best conclusion will include a synthesis, not just a summary—instead of a mere list of your major points, the best conclusion will draw those points together and relate them to one another so that your reader can apply the information given in the essay. Here are a couple of ways to do that:

Give a list of the major arguments for your thesis (usually, these are the topic sentences of the parts of your essay).

Explain how these parts are connected. For example, in the animal-shelter essay, you might point out that adopting a shelter dog helps more animals because your adoption fee supports the shelter, which makes your choice more socially responsible.

One of the most important functions of the conclusion is to provide context for your argument. Your reader may finish your essay without a problem and understand your argument without understanding why that argument is important. Your introduction might point out the reason your topic matters, but your conclusion should also tackle this questions. Here are some strategies for making your reader see why the topic is important:

Tell the reader what you want him or her to do. Is your essay a call to action? If so, remind the reader of what he/she should do. If not, remember that asking the reader to think a certain way is an action in itself. (In the above examples, the essay asks the reader to adopt a shelter dog—a specific action.)

Explain why this topic is timely or important. For example, the animal-shelter essay might end with a statistic about the number of pets in shelters waiting for adoption.

Remind the readers of why the topic matters to them personally. For example, it doesn’t matter much if you believe in the mission of animal shelters, if you're not planning to get a dog; however, once you're looking for a dog, it is much more important. The conclusion of this essay might say, "Since you’re in the market for a dog, you have a major decision to make: where to get one." This will remind the reader that the argument is personally important!

Conclusion paragraphs

No cost tutoring services

Online degrees at UMGC

Our helpful admissions advisors can help you choose an academic program to fit your career goals, estimate your transfer credits, and develop a plan for your education costs that fits your budget. If you’re a current UMGC student, please visit the Help Center .

Personal Information

Contact information, additional information.

By submitting this form, you acknowledge that you intend to sign this form electronically and that your electronic signature is the equivalent of a handwritten signature, with all the same legal and binding effect. You are giving your express written consent without obligation for UMGC to contact you regarding our educational programs and services using e-mail, phone, or text, including automated technology for calls and/or texts to the mobile number(s) provided. For more details, including how to opt out, read our privacy policy or contact an admissions advisor .

Please wait, your form is being submitted.

By using our website you agree to our use of cookies. Learn more about how we use cookies by reading our  Privacy Policy .

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What this handout is about

This handout will help you understand how paragraphs are formed, how to develop stronger paragraphs, and how to completely and clearly express your ideas.

What is a paragraph?

Paragraphs are the building blocks of papers. Many students define paragraphs in terms of length: a paragraph is a group of at least five sentences, a paragraph is half a page long, etc. In reality, though, the unity and coherence of ideas among sentences is what constitutes a paragraph. A paragraph is defined as “a group of sentences or a single sentence that forms a unit” (Lunsford and Connors 116). Length and appearance do not determine whether a section in a paper is a paragraph. For instance, in some styles of writing, particularly journalistic styles, a paragraph can be just one sentence long. Ultimately, a paragraph is a sentence or group of sentences that support one main idea. In this handout, we will refer to this as the “controlling idea,” because it controls what happens in the rest of the paragraph.

How do I decide what to put in a paragraph?

Before you can begin to determine what the composition of a particular paragraph will be, you must first decide on an argument and a working thesis statement for your paper. What is the most important idea that you are trying to convey to your reader? The information in each paragraph must be related to that idea. In other words, your paragraphs should remind your reader that there is a recurrent relationship between your thesis and the information in each paragraph. A working thesis functions like a seed from which your paper, and your ideas, will grow. The whole process is an organic one—a natural progression from a seed to a full-blown paper where there are direct, familial relationships between all of the ideas in the paper.

The decision about what to put into your paragraphs begins with the germination of a seed of ideas; this “germination process” is better known as brainstorming . There are many techniques for brainstorming; whichever one you choose, this stage of paragraph development cannot be skipped. Building paragraphs can be like building a skyscraper: there must be a well-planned foundation that supports what you are building. Any cracks, inconsistencies, or other corruptions of the foundation can cause your whole paper to crumble.

So, let’s suppose that you have done some brainstorming to develop your thesis. What else should you keep in mind as you begin to create paragraphs? Every paragraph in a paper should be :

  • Unified : All of the sentences in a single paragraph should be related to a single controlling idea (often expressed in the topic sentence of the paragraph).
  • Clearly related to the thesis : The sentences should all refer to the central idea, or thesis, of the paper (Rosen and Behrens 119).
  • Coherent : The sentences should be arranged in a logical manner and should follow a definite plan for development (Rosen and Behrens 119).
  • Well-developed : Every idea discussed in the paragraph should be adequately explained and supported through evidence and details that work together to explain the paragraph’s controlling idea (Rosen and Behrens 119).

How do I organize a paragraph?

There are many different ways to organize a paragraph. The organization you choose will depend on the controlling idea of the paragraph. Below are a few possibilities for organization, with links to brief examples:

  • Narration : Tell a story. Go chronologically, from start to finish. ( See an example. )
  • Description : Provide specific details about what something looks, smells, tastes, sounds, or feels like. Organize spatially, in order of appearance, or by topic. ( See an example. )
  • Process : Explain how something works, step by step. Perhaps follow a sequence—first, second, third. ( See an example. )
  • Classification : Separate into groups or explain the various parts of a topic. ( See an example. )
  • Illustration : Give examples and explain how those examples support your point. (See an example in the 5-step process below.)

Illustration paragraph: a 5-step example

From the list above, let’s choose “illustration” as our rhetorical purpose. We’ll walk through a 5-step process for building a paragraph that illustrates a point in an argument. For each step there is an explanation and example. Our example paragraph will be about human misconceptions of piranhas.

Step 1. Decide on a controlling idea and create a topic sentence

Paragraph development begins with the formulation of the controlling idea. This idea directs the paragraph’s development. Often, the controlling idea of a paragraph will appear in the form of a topic sentence. In some cases, you may need more than one sentence to express a paragraph’s controlling idea.

Controlling idea and topic sentence — Despite the fact that piranhas are relatively harmless, many people continue to believe the pervasive myth that piranhas are dangerous to humans.

Step 2. Elaborate on the controlling idea

Paragraph development continues with an elaboration on the controlling idea, perhaps with an explanation, implication, or statement about significance. Our example offers a possible explanation for the pervasiveness of the myth.

Elaboration — This impression of piranhas is exacerbated by their mischaracterization in popular media.

Step 3. Give an example (or multiple examples)

Paragraph development progresses with an example (or more) that illustrates the claims made in the previous sentences.

Example — For example, the promotional poster for the 1978 horror film Piranha features an oversized piranha poised to bite the leg of an unsuspecting woman.

Step 4. Explain the example(s)

The next movement in paragraph development is an explanation of each example and its relevance to the topic sentence. The explanation should demonstrate the value of the example as evidence to support the major claim, or focus, in your paragraph.

Continue the pattern of giving examples and explaining them until all points/examples that the writer deems necessary have been made and explained. NONE of your examples should be left unexplained. You might be able to explain the relationship between the example and the topic sentence in the same sentence which introduced the example. More often, however, you will need to explain that relationship in a separate sentence.

Explanation for example — Such a terrifying representation easily captures the imagination and promotes unnecessary fear.

Notice that the example and explanation steps of this 5-step process (steps 3 and 4) can be repeated as needed. The idea is that you continue to use this pattern until you have completely developed the main idea of the paragraph.

Step 5. Complete the paragraph’s idea or transition into the next paragraph

The final movement in paragraph development involves tying up the loose ends of the paragraph. At this point, you can remind your reader about the relevance of the information to the larger paper, or you can make a concluding point for this example. You might, however, simply transition to the next paragraph.

Sentences for completing a paragraph — While the trope of the man-eating piranhas lends excitement to the adventure stories, it bears little resemblance to the real-life piranha. By paying more attention to fact than fiction, humans may finally be able to let go of this inaccurate belief.

Finished paragraph

Despite the fact that piranhas are relatively harmless, many people continue to believe the pervasive myth that piranhas are dangerous to humans. This impression of piranhas is exacerbated by their mischaracterization in popular media. For example, the promotional poster for the 1978 horror film Piranha features an oversized piranha poised to bite the leg of an unsuspecting woman. Such a terrifying representation easily captures the imagination and promotes unnecessary fear. While the trope of the man-eating piranhas lends excitement to the adventure stories, it bears little resemblance to the real-life piranha. By paying more attention to fact than fiction, humans may finally be able to let go of this inaccurate belief.

Troubleshooting paragraphs

Problem: the paragraph has no topic sentence.

Imagine each paragraph as a sandwich. The real content of the sandwich—the meat or other filling—is in the middle. It includes all the evidence you need to make the point. But it gets kind of messy to eat a sandwich without any bread. Your readers don’t know what to do with all the evidence you’ve given them. So, the top slice of bread (the first sentence of the paragraph) explains the topic (or controlling idea) of the paragraph. And, the bottom slice (the last sentence of the paragraph) tells the reader how the paragraph relates to the broader argument. In the original and revised paragraphs below, notice how a topic sentence expressing the controlling idea tells the reader the point of all the evidence.

Original paragraph

Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and aquatic plants. When confronted with humans, piranhas’ first instinct is to flee, not attack. Their fear of humans makes sense. Far more piranhas are eaten by people than people are eaten by piranhas. If the fish are well-fed, they won’t bite humans.

Revised paragraph

Although most people consider piranhas to be quite dangerous, they are, for the most part, entirely harmless. Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and aquatic plants. When confronted with humans, piranhas’ first instinct is to flee, not attack. Their fear of humans makes sense. Far more piranhas are eaten by people than people are eaten by piranhas. If the fish are well-fed, they won’t bite humans.

Once you have mastered the use of topic sentences, you may decide that the topic sentence for a particular paragraph really shouldn’t be the first sentence of the paragraph. This is fine—the topic sentence can actually go at the beginning, middle, or end of a paragraph; what’s important is that it is in there somewhere so that readers know what the main idea of the paragraph is and how it relates back to the thesis of your paper. Suppose that we wanted to start the piranha paragraph with a transition sentence—something that reminds the reader of what happened in the previous paragraph—rather than with the topic sentence. Let’s suppose that the previous paragraph was about all kinds of animals that people are afraid of, like sharks, snakes, and spiders. Our paragraph might look like this (the topic sentence is bold):

Like sharks, snakes, and spiders, piranhas are widely feared. Although most people consider piranhas to be quite dangerous, they are, for the most part, entirely harmless . Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and aquatic plants. When confronted with humans, piranhas’ first instinct is to flee, not attack. Their fear of humans makes sense. Far more piranhas are eaten by people than people are eaten by piranhas. If the fish are well-fed, they won’t bite humans.

Problem: the paragraph has more than one controlling idea

If a paragraph has more than one main idea, consider eliminating sentences that relate to the second idea, or split the paragraph into two or more paragraphs, each with only one main idea. Watch our short video on reverse outlining to learn a quick way to test whether your paragraphs are unified. In the following paragraph, the final two sentences branch off into a different topic; so, the revised paragraph eliminates them and concludes with a sentence that reminds the reader of the paragraph’s main idea.

Although most people consider piranhas to be quite dangerous, they are, for the most part, entirely harmless. Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and aquatic plants. When confronted with humans, piranhas’ first instinct is to flee, not attack. Their fear of humans makes sense. Far more piranhas are eaten by people than people are eaten by piranhas. A number of South American groups eat piranhas. They fry or grill the fish and then serve them with coconut milk or tucupi, a sauce made from fermented manioc juices.

Problem: transitions are needed within the paragraph

You are probably familiar with the idea that transitions may be needed between paragraphs or sections in a paper (see our handout on transitions ). Sometimes they are also helpful within the body of a single paragraph. Within a paragraph, transitions are often single words or short phrases that help to establish relationships between ideas and to create a logical progression of those ideas in a paragraph. This is especially likely to be true within paragraphs that discuss multiple examples. Let’s take a look at a version of our piranha paragraph that uses transitions to orient the reader:

Although most people consider piranhas to be quite dangerous, they are, except in two main situations, entirely harmless. Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and aquatic plants. When confronted with humans, piranhas’ instinct is to flee, not attack. But there are two situations in which a piranha bite is likely. The first is when a frightened piranha is lifted out of the water—for example, if it has been caught in a fishing net. The second is when the water level in pools where piranhas are living falls too low. A large number of fish may be trapped in a single pool, and if they are hungry, they may attack anything that enters the water.

In this example, you can see how the phrases “the first” and “the second” help the reader follow the organization of the ideas in the paragraph.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Lunsford, Andrea. 2008. The St. Martin’s Handbook: Annotated Instructor’s Edition , 6th ed. New York: St. Martin’s.

Rosen, Leonard J., and Laurence Behrens. 2003. The Allyn & Bacon Handbook , 5th ed. New York: Longman.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Make a Gift

  • Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Search

what is the last paragraph of an essay called

Indiana University Bloomington Indiana University Bloomington IU Bloomington

Open Search

  • Mission, Vision, and Inclusive Language Statement
  • Locations & Hours
  • Undergraduate Employment
  • Graduate Employment
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Newsletter Archive
  • Support WTS
  • Schedule an Appointment
  • Online Tutoring
  • Before your Appointment
  • WTS Policies
  • Group Tutoring
  • Students Referred by Instructors
  • Paid External Editing Services
  • Writing Guides
  • Scholarly Write-in
  • Dissertation Writing Groups
  • Journal Article Writing Groups
  • Early Career Graduate Student Writing Workshop
  • Workshops for Graduate Students
  • Teaching Resources
  • Syllabus Information
  • Course-specific Tutoring
  • Nominate a Peer Tutor
  • Tutoring Feedback
  • Schedule Appointment
  • Campus Writing Program

Writing Tutorial Services

Paragraphs & topic sentences.

A paragraph is a series of sentences that are organized and coherent, and are all related to a single topic. Almost every piece of writing you do that is longer than a few sentences should be organized into paragraphs. This is because paragraphs show a reader where the subdivisions of an essay begin and end, and thus help the reader see the organization of the essay and grasp its main points.

Paragraphs can contain many different kinds of information. A paragraph could contain a series of brief examples or a single long illustration of a general point. It might describe a place, character, or process; narrate a series of events; compare or contrast two or more things; classify items into categories; or describe causes and effects. Regardless of the kind of information they contain, all paragraphs share certain characteristics. One of the most important of these is a topic sentence.


A well-organized paragraph supports or develops a single controlling idea, which is expressed in a sentence called the topic sentence. A topic sentence has several important functions: it substantiates or supports an essay’s thesis statement; it unifies the content of a paragraph and directs the order of the sentences; and it advises the reader of the subject to be discussed and how the paragraph will discuss it. Readers generally look to the first few sentences in a paragraph to determine the subject and perspective of the paragraph. That’s why it’s often best to put the topic sentence at the very beginning of the paragraph. In some cases, however, it’s more effective to place another sentence before the topic sentence—for example, a sentence linking the current paragraph to the previous one, or one providing background information.

Although most paragraphs should have a topic sentence, there are a few situations when a paragraph might not need a topic sentence. For example, you might be able to omit a topic sentence in a paragraph that narrates a series of events, if a paragraph continues developing an idea that you introduced (with a topic sentence) in the previous paragraph, or if all the sentences and details in a paragraph clearly refer—perhaps indirectly—to a main point. The vast majority of your paragraphs, however, should have a topic sentence.


Most paragraphs in an essay have a three-part structure—introduction, body, and conclusion. You can see this structure in paragraphs whether they are narrating, describing, comparing, contrasting, or analyzing information. Each part of the paragraph plays an important role in communicating your meaning to your reader.

Introduction : the first section of a paragraph; should include the topic sentence and any other sentences at the beginning of the paragraph that give background information or provide a transition.

Body : follows the introduction; discusses the controlling idea, using facts, arguments, analysis, examples, and other information.

Conclusion : the final section; summarizes the connections between the information discussed in the body of the paragraph and the paragraph’s controlling idea.

The following paragraph illustrates this pattern of organization. In this paragraph the topic sentence and concluding sentence (CAPITALIZED) both help the reader keep the paragraph’s main point in mind.

SCIENTISTS HAVE LEARNED TO SUPPLEMENT THE SENSE OF SIGHT IN NUMEROUS WAYS. In front of the tiny pupil of the eye they put , on Mount Palomar, a great monocle 200 inches in diameter, and with it see 2000 times farther into the depths of space. Or they look through a small pair of lenses arranged as a microscope into a drop of water or blood, and magnify by as much as 2000 diameters the living creatures there, many of which are among man’s most dangerous enemies. Or , if we want to see distant happenings on earth, they use some of the previously wasted electromagnetic waves to carry television images which they re-create as light by whipping tiny crystals on a screen with electrons in a vacuum. Or they can bring happenings of long ago and far away as colored motion pictures, by arranging silver atoms and color-absorbing molecules to force light waves into the patterns of original reality. Or if we want to see into the center of a steel casting or the chest of an injured child, they send the information on a beam of penetrating short-wave X rays, and then convert it back into images we can see on a screen or photograph. THUS ALMOST EVERY TYPE OF ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION YET DISCOVERED HAS BEEN USED TO EXTEND OUR SENSE OF SIGHT IN SOME WAY. George Harrison, “Faith and the Scientist”

In a coherent paragraph, each sentence relates clearly to the topic sentence or controlling idea, but there is more to coherence than this. If a paragraph is coherent, each sentence flows smoothly into the next without obvious shifts or jumps. A coherent paragraph also highlights the ties between old information and new information to make the structure of ideas or arguments clear to the reader.

Along with the smooth flow of sentences, a paragraph’s coherence may also be related to its length. If you have written a very long paragraph, one that fills a double-spaced typed page, for example, you should check it carefully to see if it should start a new paragraph where the original paragraph wanders from its controlling idea. On the other hand, if a paragraph is very short (only one or two sentences, perhaps), you may need to develop its controlling idea more thoroughly, or combine it with another paragraph.

A number of other techniques that you can use to establish coherence in paragraphs are described below.

Repeat key words or phrases. Particularly in paragraphs in which you define or identify an important idea or theory, be consistent in how you refer to it. This consistency and repetition will bind the paragraph together and help your reader understand your definition or description.

Create parallel structures. Parallel structures are created by constructing two or more phrases or sentences that have the same grammatical structure and use the same parts of speech. By creating parallel structures you make your sentences clearer and easier to read. In addition, repeating a pattern in a series of consecutive sentences helps your reader see the connections between ideas. In the paragraph above about scientists and the sense of sight, several sentences in the body of the paragraph have been constructed in a parallel way. The parallel structures (which have been emphasized ) help the reader see that the paragraph is organized as a set of examples of a general statement.

Be consistent in point of view, verb tense, and number. Consistency in point of view, verb tense, and number is a subtle but important aspect of coherence. If you shift from the more personal "you" to the impersonal “one,” from past to present tense, or from “a man” to “they,” for example, you make your paragraph less coherent. Such inconsistencies can also confuse your reader and make your argument more difficult to follow.

Use transition words or phrases between sentences and between paragraphs. Transitional expressions emphasize the relationships between ideas, so they help readers follow your train of thought or see connections that they might otherwise miss or misunderstand. The following paragraph shows how carefully chosen transitions (CAPITALIZED) lead the reader smoothly from the introduction to the conclusion of the paragraph.

I don’t wish to deny that the flattened, minuscule head of the large-bodied "stegosaurus" houses little brain from our subjective, top-heavy perspective, BUT I do wish to assert that we should not expect more of the beast. FIRST OF ALL, large animals have relatively smaller brains than related, small animals. The correlation of brain size with body size among kindred animals (all reptiles, all mammals, FOR EXAMPLE) is remarkably regular. AS we move from small to large animals, from mice to elephants or small lizards to Komodo dragons, brain size increases, BUT not so fast as body size. IN OTHER WORDS, bodies grow faster than brains, AND large animals have low ratios of brain weight to body weight. IN FACT, brains grow only about two-thirds as fast as bodies. SINCE we have no reason to believe that large animals are consistently stupider than their smaller relatives, we must conclude that large animals require relatively less brain to do as well as smaller animals. IF we do not recognize this relationship, we are likely to underestimate the mental power of very large animals, dinosaurs in particular. Stephen Jay Gould, “Were Dinosaurs Dumb?”


(modified from Diana Hacker, A Writer’s Reference )

Produced by Writing Tutorial Services, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

Writing Tutorial Services social media channels

  • PRO Courses Guides New Tech Help Pro Expert Videos About wikiHow Pro Upgrade Sign In
  • EDIT Edit this Article
  • EXPLORE Tech Help Pro About Us Random Article Quizzes Request a New Article Community Dashboard This Or That Game Popular Categories Arts and Entertainment Artwork Books Movies Computers and Electronics Computers Phone Skills Technology Hacks Health Men's Health Mental Health Women's Health Relationships Dating Love Relationship Issues Hobbies and Crafts Crafts Drawing Games Education & Communication Communication Skills Personal Development Studying Personal Care and Style Fashion Hair Care Personal Hygiene Youth Personal Care School Stuff Dating All Categories Arts and Entertainment Finance and Business Home and Garden Relationship Quizzes Cars & Other Vehicles Food and Entertaining Personal Care and Style Sports and Fitness Computers and Electronics Health Pets and Animals Travel Education & Communication Hobbies and Crafts Philosophy and Religion Work World Family Life Holidays and Traditions Relationships Youth
  • Browse Articles
  • Learn Something New
  • Quizzes Hot
  • This Or That Game New
  • Train Your Brain
  • Explore More
  • Support wikiHow
  • About wikiHow
  • Log in / Sign up
  • Education and Communications
  • College University and Postgraduate
  • Academic Writing

How to Write the Last Sentence in a Paper

Last Updated: December 16, 2022 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Danielle Blinka, MA, MPA . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 607,590 times.

The last sentence of your paper may feel like the hardest one to write, but it doesn’t have to be. You can write a great conclusion that makes your reader think by choosing an appropriate and thought-provoking way to end your paper. Then, revise your sentence to make sure it fits with the rest of your paper. Additionally, make your sentence effective by being consistent and avoiding common mistakes.

Writing Help

what is the last paragraph of an essay called

Creating Endings for Different Kinds of Papers

Step 1 Use a call to action if you want your reader to do or think something.

  • This type of ending can work well for a variety of subjects, but it works best for persuasive writing.
  • As an example, “By recycling, you can keep more trash out of landfills.”

Step 2 End with a warning if your topic addresses a concern.

  • You can use this ending for a research or policy paper.
  • You might write, “Without an increase in funding, the local animal shelter will shutter its doors next year, leaving hundreds of pets homeless.”

Step 3 Hint at future avenues if your paper explores or analyzes a topic of research.

  • You’re more likely to use this type of ending for subjects like the sciences and social sciences.
  • For instance, “Although it’s clear rubber mats are the best ground cover for the playground, park officials must now determine the safest equipment for the city’s children.”

Step 4 Evoke an image to encourage an emotional response in your reader.

  • Use this type of ending if you’re writing a persuasive or expository piece or doing literary analysis.
  • You might write, “With the upgrades to Cedar Park, families will enjoy a picturesque nature experience without traveling far from home.”

Step 5 Make predictions on what could happen if you’ve presented a course of action.

  • This type of ending works best for research or policy papers.
  • For example, “If everyone donates a bag of dog food once a year, every shelter dog would have two meals a day.”

Step 6 Compare your ideas to a universal concept to help readers relate.

  • You can use this type of ending for any subject, but it's especially effective for policy or literature papers.
  • As an example, “Everyone knows how painful it is to lose a pet, but a mobile vet center could prevent families in low-income neighborhoods from facing that loss.”

Step 7 End with a compelling quote to provide a sense of closure.

  • If you’re doing a writing assignment for a high school or college class, find out if your teacher or professor will allow you to end your piece with a quotation.
  • Keep in mind that ending with a quote can leave the reader with the impression that you are leaning on someone else’s ideas instead of trying to express your own.
  • A quote works best when you’re writing about literature, but may also fit with topics from the social sciences.
  • You might write, “As Mark Twain wrote, ‘The secret of getting ahead is getting started.’”

Step 8 Reference your introduction or title to bring your paper full circle.

  • Let’s say the title of your essay about a ballerina who developed arthritis is “Beautiful Curse.” You might end your paper with, “Although audiences have enjoyed watching her perform for years, Nataliya Scriver’s years of joint pain make her call her talent a ‘beautiful curse.’”
  • As another example, you might have begun your essay with a story about the first time Nataliya danced a lead role. You might end your paper by writing, “While her first steps as the White Swan filled her with joy, now Nataliya’s steps bring only pain.”

Revising Your Sentence

Step 1 Read your entire paper through to the final sentence.

  • As you read over your paper, make note of typos, errors, or areas you want to revise later.

Step 2 Cut out redundant words and phrases.

  • Put your ideas together, but don’t just summarize what you said. This helps you avoid repeating yourself.

Step 3 Decide if your final sentence fits your paper and fulfills your goals.

  • You can always improve your sentence during your revisions.

Step 4 Ask a friend or relative to read your paper and give feedback.

  • Invite your reader to make notes on your paper and suggest necessary revisions.

Step 5 Use your notes and feedback to make your final revisions.

  • If you revise your sentence, be sure you read through the entire paper again. It’s also a good idea to have your friend or relative re-read your paper to see if your new sentence works better.

Crafting an Effective Final Sentence

Step 1 Choose simple, one-syllable words for a greater impact.

  • You might write, "With more funds, the park can give each child a chance to learn and grow." Each of these words contains just one syllable, but it conveys an important final note about the importance of the author's ideas about funding the park.
  • Don’t spend too much time and effort trying to find a one-syllable synonym for every word in the sentence. This isn’t a hard and fast rule—the idea is just to write a concise, punchy sentence.

Step 2 Use a compound or parallel sentence to create a balanced ending.

  • FANBOYS is an acronym for the conjunctions "for," "and," "nor," "but," "or," "yet," and "so."
  • If you're using a compound sentence, you might write, "The dog food donation program can collect as many as 2,000 bags of food per year, and each shelter will have enough food for every dog."
  • If you're using a parallel structure, write, "The dog food donation program can collect food, feed dogs, and save lives."

Step 3 Avoid using opening phrases like

  • These phrases are more appropriate for an oral presentation.

Step 4 Use the same tone as you did throughout the rest of your paper.

  • For instance, you might think an emotional, dramatic ending will linger with your reader longer. However, that’s not an effective strategy if the body of your paper is logical or analytical.

Step 5 Refer only to information you included in your paper.

  • If you realize you left something important out of your paper, don’t simply try to tack it on at the end. Go back and insert it into the body of your paper.

Step 6 Keep your evidence in the body of your paper.

  • You can still use a quote at the last line of your conclusion, but it shouldn’t be one that serves as a piece of evidence for your article.
  • For example, an evidence quote might read, “According to Luz Lopez, Cedar Park employees can’t handle the park’s upkeep on the current budget.” This might support the idea that more funding is needed, but the evidence requires your analysis. However, you might end your paper with a quote like, “As Elmer Sims wrote, “Without parks, where will children go to grow?”

Step 7 Avoid apologizing for what you’ve written.

  • For instance, don’t write, “I’m sorry I didn’t have room to discuss other alternatives,” or “I don’t know as much about this topic as other people, so these are just my thoughts.”

Community Q&A

Community Answer

You Might Also Like

Write an Essay

  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/common_writing_assignments/argument_papers/conclusions.html
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/conclusions/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/ending-essay-conclusions
  • ↑ http://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/ending-essay-conclusions
  • ↑ https://www.lib.sfu.ca/about/branches-depts/slc/writing/organization/conclusions
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/conciseness/eliminating_words.html
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/editing-and-proofreading/
  • ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/conclusions/
  • ↑ https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/writingprocess/conclusions

About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

  • Send fan mail to authors

Reader Success Stories

Angie Tran

Oct 20, 2019

Did this article help you?

Alexia Dond

Alexia Dond

Dec 7, 2016

Grace Sena

Jan 27, 2022

Am I a Narcissist or an Empath Quiz

Featured Articles

21 Ways to Feel More Comfortable in Your Own Skin

Trending Articles

How to Set Boundaries with Texting

Watch Articles

Fold Boxer Briefs

  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Policy
  • Do Not Sell or Share My Info
  • Not Selling Info

Get all the best how-tos!

Sign up for wikiHow's weekly email newsletter

Pasco-Hernando State College

  • Parts of a Paragraph; Multi-Paragraph Documents
  • The Writing Process
  • Definition of a Paragraph
  • Rhetorical Modes; Review of Paragraphs
  • Unity and Coherence in Essays
  • Proving the Thesis/Critical Thinking
  • Appropriate Language

Parts of a Paragraph

Topic sentence – purpose of a paragraph.

Unless you are writing specialized report such as a scientific research paper or a feasibility study that may otherwise show the purpose of a paragraph such as a heading , a well written paragraph must have a topic sentence which states what the paragraph is about.

Whether you are writing a paragraph for a specific assignment, an academic essay, a research paper, or a simple letter, each paragraph

The topic sentence should be the first sentence of the paragraph so that the reader knows what the paragraph is about.  The topic sentence in a body paragraph of an essay must be support for the thesis: a reason why the thesis is true or accurate.

The rest of the sentences in the paragraph of an essay support, elaborate, and/or further explain the topic sentence.

Here is an example of a paragraph:

The first sentence is the topic sentence. See how the rest of the sentences support, elaborate, and/or or further explain it.

Almost every aspect of modern life has been improved through convenience provided by technology.    From the alarm clock in the morning to the entertainment center at night, everyday life is improved.  The automatic coffee maker has the coffee ready at a certain time. Cars or public transportation bring people to work where computers operate at the push of a button.  At home, there’s the convenience of washing machines and dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners, and power lawn mowers.  Modern technology has made life better with many conveniences.

Everything in this paragraph is about how modern life has been improved through convenience provided by technology.

Unity and Coherence

A paragraph must have unity.

All of the sentences of a particular paragraph must focus on one point to achieve one goal: to support the topic sentence.

A paragraph must have coherence.

The sentences must flow smoothly and logically from one to the next as they support the topic sentence.

The last sentence of the paragraph should restate the topic sentence to help achieve unity and coherence.

Here is an example with information that  does not  support the topic sentence;

Almost every aspect of modern life has been improved through convenience provided by modern technology.  From the alarm clock in the morning to the entertainment center at night, everyday life is improved. The automatic coffee maker has the coffee ready at a certain time. People are more concerned about health issues and good air quality, so they have started walking or riding a bike to work even though they have the option of using a car or public transportation.   There’s the convenience of washing machines and dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners, and power lawn mowers.  Modern technology has made life better with many conveniences.

See how just one non-supporting sentence takes away from the effectiveness of the paragraph in showing how modern conveniences make life better since the unity and coherence are affected.  There is no longer unity among all the sentences.  The thought pattern is disjointed and the paragraph loses its coherence.

Here’s another example of a paragraph:

Not only has modern technology improved life through convenience, it has improved life through efficiency.  The time saved with machines doing most of the work leaves more time for people to develop their personal goals or to just relax.  Years ago, when doing laundry could take all day, there wasn’t time left over to read or go to school or even just to take a leisurely walk.  Nowadays, people have more time and energy than ever to simply enjoy their lives thanks to the efficiency of modern technology.

Note: See how all the sentences work together to support the point that technology has improved lives through efficiency.

Transitions – Words that Connect

Transitions  are words, groups of words, or sentences that connect one sentence to another or one paragraph to another.

They promote a logical flow from one idea to the next.

While they are not needed in every sentence, they are missed when they are omitted since the flow of thoughts becomes disjointed or even confusing.

There are different types of transitions such as the following:

  • Time – before, after, during, in the meantime, nowadays
  • Space – over, around, under
  • Examples – for instance, one example is
  • Comparison –  on the other hand, the opposing view
  • Consequence – as a result, subsequently

These are just a few examples.  The idea is to paint a clear, logical connection between sentences and between paragraphs.

Here’s how transitions help make a paragraph unified and coherent:

Not only  has modern technology improved life through convenience, it has improved life through efficiency.  The time saved with machines doing most of the work leaves more time for people to develop their personal goals or to just relax.   Years ago,  when doing laundry could take all day, there wasn’t time left over to read or go to school or even just to take a leisurely walk.   Nowadays , people have more time and energy than ever to simply enjoy their lives thanks to the efficiency of modern technology.

Each part of a paragraph must support the topic sentence.  In addition, the sentences must flow logically from one to the other.

See how the following paragraph has ideas that don’t seem to belong:

Growing flowers is fun.  The sun rises in the morning and warms the soil.  Flowers come in all different sizes, shapes, and colors.  Sometimes, there is not enough rain.  Flowers also bloom during different times of the year.  Flowers need nutrients to grow strong and beautiful.  There are some children who like to pick the flowers. There are different growing seasons in different parts of the country.  Flowers that will grow high should be planted behind those that will not grow as high.  Some people let their dog’s leash extend allowing the dog to go into the flower beds which is not very nice. Designing a flower bed has to consider the different times the flowers will bloom.  A substitute for rainfall should be planned.  It is fun to grow flowers.

Here is a revised version with unity and coherence.  See how each sentence is clearly part of the whole which is to show how it is fun to grow flowers.

Growing flowers is fun.   Planning the garden is the first step, and it is part of the fun.  Flowers must be selected for their size, color, and time of bloom.  Selections should be made so that there is at least one type of flower blooming throughout the season and that taller flowers are behind shorter ones.  Meeting the challenges to assure growth such as with an irrigation system or hand watering and fertilizing when needed is also part of the fun.   It’s wonderful to check the garden every day to see the little green sprouts starting to appear.  It gives a great sense of accomplishment and joy to see the flowers in bloom.  It is fun to grow flowers.

An example of a paragraph from a business letter  which does  have unity and coherence:

There are several reasons to select my company to do this job.  We are a family owned and operated business and have been in business in this county for thirty-five years.  In addition to thousands of satisfied customers, we have proudly sponsored many community events and organizations.  All of our employees live in this county, and most have stayed with us for years.  We have successfully kept our overhead low and pass those savings onto our customers.  By far, we are the best company to complete this project.

Note: See how all the sentences work together to support the point that we are the best company to hire.

Here’s a version of the paragraph which  does not  have unity and coherence:

I am happy that the warm weather is finally here! It’s been a cold winter. There are several reasons to select my company to do this job.  By far, we are the best company to complete this project.  I have a large family, and in addition to having Sunday dinners, we work together in the company which has many satisfied customers.  Some of my employees take the bus to work, so I am concerned about our public transportation system.  We have proudly served our community, and we use cost saving methods to keep prices low.

An example of a paragraph in an inter-office memo

Beginning January 1, we will have a revised policy concerning new customers.  The updated intake form includes additional information, so please be sure to read through and complete each section.  Pay particular addition to the additional questions at the bottom as they are now required by the insurance company.  We would like to have e-mail addresses as well.  You can assure customers that we will not be sending them solicitations nor giving the list to any other business.  Be sure to fill in the information neatly and accurately. It is preferred that the information be entered directly into the computer although we realize there are times when that is not practical and a hard-copy form will have to be completed by hand.  Review the instructions on the back page of the form for more details on the revised policy for new customers.

Note:  See how all the sentences work together to support the point shown in the topic sentence that modern technology has expanded accessibility.

Closing/Transitional Statements

The last sentence of a paragraph should remind the reader of the point of the paragraph and transition into the next paragraph if there is one.  See how the last sentence, for example, in the above paragraph reminds the reader of what the paragraph is about: Review the instructions on the back page of the form for more details on the revised policy for new customers.

Multi-Paragraph Documents

Most paragraphs we see are part of a multi-paragraph document: newspaper and magazine articles, books, business letters and inter-office memorandum, “how-to” documents, and other informational documents.  Usually, there is an organization of the paragraphs in a specific way.  The opening paragraph generally gives some idea of what the document is about.  The middle paragraphs give more details about the specific point.  The last paragraph ends the writing, generally by summing up and repeating the point.

There are some context-specific documents that have moe clearly defined paragraphs which are something included as sections of the writing.  For example, a feasibility report might have paragraphs as follows: abstract and/or summary, introduction, discussion, conclusion, recommendations.

Paragraphs in Business Letters and Inter-Office Memorandum

Business letters and inter-office memoradums basically have the same organization of the content:  an introduction paragraph, paragraphs that prove or further explain, and a concluding paragraph which sums up and repeats the point.  A business letter, however, is generally written on company stationery and has the date and address block in the upper left, a Re: line, a salutation such as Dear Mr. Haller (although some are no longer using a formal salutation), and a complimentary closing such as Sincerely.    An inter-office memorandum is generally written on plain paper, sometimes with the company logo as part of the template, lines with To:, From:, Date:, and Re: in the upper left, and no complimentary closing.

Paragraphs in Informational Documents and Academic Essays

Informational documents.

This refers to groups of writings that are designed to give information about a topic or position on a topic.  While they all include a specific thesis (point), have an introduction and concluding paragraph, and have paragraphs that proof or explain the point, there can be wide variety on where the thesis is expressed and the ancillary information presented that is supplemental to the thesis.  These are sometimes called essays.  However,  academic  essays do have a very specific organizational pattern.

Academic Essays

The introduction paragraph and the concluding paragraph of an essay are different from a general paragraph.  An introduction contains general background information on a topic and leads into a thesis statement.  The sentences with background information are not really in support of the thesis, but they are relevant and do logically flow into the thesis.  In other words, there must be unity and coherence in an introduction paragraph as well.

While the body paragraph of an academic is the same as a general paragraph in that they have a topic sentence and sentences that support it, the topic sentence must be a reason why the thesis of the essay.  Body paragraphs should be clearly support for the thesis and not contain any extraneous information.

A concluding paragraph sums up the proof and restates the thesis. Some instructors ask for a statement drawing an implication of the information presented instead of or in addition to a restatement of the thesis.  In either case, while a concluding paragraph as with the introduction paragraph does not start with a topic sentence and have the rest of the sentences support the topic sentence, the concluding paragraph is similar in that the summary of the proof ties directly into the thesis or statement of general implication.  There are not extraneous, off-topic sentences.

  • Printer-friendly version

Printer Friendly, PDF & Email

Grammar Quiz

What is the last paragraph of an essay called? A. Introduction B. Thesis Statement C. Purple Elephant D. Conclusion

Select your answer:          

Next Quiz >

Other quiz:

*Identify the infinitive in each sentence. The clowns for the party were beginning to arrive. A. The clowns B. to arrive C. the party D. were beginning

I’m very tired. I ______have a rest.

B. am going to

D. is going to

How to use : Read the question carefully, then select one of the answers button.

GrammarQuiz.Net - Improve your knowledge of English grammar, the best way to kill your free time.


Choose Your Test

Sat / act prep online guides and tips, how to write an introduction paragraph in 3 steps.

author image

General Education


It’s the roadmap to your essay, it’s the forecast for your argument, it’s...your introduction paragraph, and writing one can feel pretty intimidating. The introduction paragraph is a part of just about every kind of academic writing , from persuasive essays to research papers. But that doesn’t mean writing one is easy!

If trying to write an intro paragraph makes you feel like a Muggle trying to do magic, trust us: you aren’t alone. But there are some tips and tricks that can make the process easier—and that’s where we come in.

In this article, we’re going to explain how to write a captivating intro paragraph by covering the following info:  

  • A discussion of what an introduction paragraph is and its purpose in an essay
  • An overview of the most effective introduction paragraph format, with explanations of the three main parts of an intro paragraph
  • An analysis of real intro paragraph examples, with a discussion of what works and what doesn’t
  • A list of four top tips on how to write an introduction paragraph

Are you ready? Let’s begin!


What Is an Introduction Paragraph? 

An introduction paragraph is the first paragraph of an essay , paper, or other type of academic writing. Argumentative essays , book reports, research papers, and even personal  essays are common types of writing that require an introduction paragraph. Whether you’re writing a research paper for a science course or an argumentative essay for English class , you’re going to have to write an intro paragraph. 

So what’s the purpose of an intro paragraph? As a reader’s first impression of your essay, the intro paragraph should introduce the topic of your paper. 

Your introduction will also state any claims, questions, or issues that your paper will focus on. This is commonly known as your paper’s thesis . This condenses the overall point of your paper into one or two short sentences that your reader can come back and reference later.

But intro paragraphs need to do a bit more than just introduce your topic. An intro paragraph is also supposed to grab your reader’s attention. The intro paragraph is your chance to provide just enough info and intrigue to make your reader say, “Hey, this topic sounds interesting. I think I’ll keep reading this essay!” That can help your essay stand out from the crowd.

In most cases, an intro paragraph will be relatively short. A good intro will be clear, brief, purposeful, and focused. While there are some exceptions to this rule, it’s common for intro paragraphs to consist of three to five sentences . 

Effectively introducing your essay’s topic, purpose, and getting your reader invested in your essay sounds like a lot to ask from one little paragraph, huh? In the next section, we’ll demystify the intro paragraph format by breaking it down into its core parts . When you learn how to approach each part of an intro, writing one won’t seem so scary!


Once you figure out the three parts of an intro paragraph, writing one will be a piece of cake!

The 3 Main Parts of an Intro Paragraph

In general, an intro paragraph is going to have three main parts: a hook, context, and a thesis statement . Each of these pieces of the intro plays a key role in acquainting the reader with the topic and purpose of your essay. 

Below, we’ll explain how to start an introduction paragraph by writing an effective hook, providing context, and crafting a thesis statement. When you put these elements together, you’ll have an intro paragraph that does a great job of making a great first impression on your audience!

Intro Paragraph Part 1: The Hook

When it comes to how to start an introduction paragraph, o ne of the most common approaches is to start with something called a hook. 

What does hook mean here, though? Think of it this way: it’s like when you start a new Netflix series: you look up a few hours (and a few episodes) later and you say, “Whoa. I guess I must be hooked on this show!” 

That’s how the hook is supposed to work in an intro paragrap h: it should get your reader interested enough that they don’t want to press the proverbial “pause” button while they’re reading it . In other words, a hook is designed to grab your reader’s attention and keep them reading your essay! 

This means that the hook comes first in the intro paragraph format—it’ll be the opening sentence of your intro. 

It’s important to realize  that there are many different ways to write a good hook. But generally speaking, hooks must include these two things: what your topic is, and the angle you’re taking on that topic in your essay. 

One approach to writing a hook that works is starting with a general, but interesting, statement on your topic. In this type of hook, you’re trying to provide a broad introduction to your topic and your angle on the topic in an engaging way . 

For example, if you’re writing an essay about the role of the government in the American healthcare system, your hook might look something like this: 

There's a growing movement to require that the federal government provide affordable, effective healthcare for all Americans. 

This hook introduces the essay topic in a broad way (government and healthcare) by presenting a general statement on the topic. But the assumption presented in the hook can also be seen as controversial, which gets readers interested in learning more about what the writer—and the essay—has to say.

In other words, the statement above fulfills the goals of a good hook: it’s intriguing and provides a general introduction to the essay topic.

Intro Paragraph Part 2: Context

Once you’ve provided an attention-grabbing hook, you’ll want to give more context about your essay topic. Context refers to additional details that reveal the specific focus of your paper. So, whereas the hook provides a general introduction to your topic, context starts helping readers understand what exactly you’re going to be writing about

You can include anywhere from one to several sentences of context in your intro, depending on your teacher’s expectations, the length of your paper, and complexity of your topic. In these context-providing sentences, you want to begin narrowing the focus of your intro. You can do this by describing a specific issue or question about your topic that you’ll address in your essay. It also helps readers start to understand why the topic you’re writing about matters and why they should read about it. 

So, what counts as context for an intro paragraph? Context can be any important details or descriptions that provide background on existing perspectives, common cultural attitudes, or a specific situation or controversy relating to your essay topic. The context you include should acquaint your reader with the issues, questions, or events that motivated you to write an essay on your topic...and that your reader should know in order to understand your thesis. 

For instance, if you’re writing an essay analyzing the consequences of sexism in Hollywood, the context you include after your hook might make reference to the #metoo and #timesup movements that have generated public support for victims of sexual harassment. 

The key takeaway here is that context establishes why you’re addressing your topic and what makes it important. It also sets you up for success on the final piece of an intro paragraph: the thesis statement.

Elle Woods' statement offers a specific point of view on the topic of murder...which means it could serve as a pretty decent thesis statement!

Intro Paragraph Part 3: The Thesis

The final key part of how to write an intro paragraph is the thesis statement. The thesis statement is the backbone of your introduction: it conveys your argument or point of view on your topic in a clear, concise, and compelling way . The thesis is usually the last sentence of your intro paragraph. 

Whether it’s making a claim, outlining key points, or stating a hypothesis, your thesis statement will tell your reader exactly what idea(s) are going to be addressed in your essay. A good thesis statement will be clear, straightforward, and highlight the overall point you’re trying to make.

Some instructors also ask students to include an essay map as part of their thesis. An essay map is a section that outlines the major topics a paper will address. So for instance, say you’re writing a paper that argues for the importance of public transport in rural communities. Your thesis and essay map might look like this: 

Having public transport in rural communities helps people improve their economic situation by giving them reliable transportation to their job, reducing the amount of money they spend on gas, and providing new and unionized work .

The underlined section is the essay map because it touches on the three big things the writer will talk about later. It literally maps out the rest of the essay!

So let’s review: Your thesis takes the idea you’ve introduced in your hook and context and wraps it up. Think of it like a television episode: the hook sets the scene by presenting a general statement and/or interesting idea that sucks you in. The context advances the plot by describing the topic in more detail and helping readers understand why the topic is important. And finally, the thesis statement provides the climax by telling the reader what you have to say about the topic. 

The thesis statement is the most important part of the intro. Without it, your reader won’t know what the purpose of your essay is! And for a piece of writing to be effective, it needs to have a clear purpose. Your thesis statement conveys that purpose , so it’s important to put careful thought into writing a clear and compelling thesis statement. 


How To Write an Introduction Paragraph: Example and Analysis

Now that we’ve provided an intro paragraph outline and have explained the three key parts of an intro paragraph, let’s take a look at an intro paragraph in action.

To show you how an intro paragraph works, we’ve included a sample introduction paragraph below, followed by an analysis of its strengths and weaknesses.

Example of Introduction Paragraph

While college students in the U.S. are struggling with how to pay for college, there is another surprising demographic that’s affected by the pressure to pay for college: families and parents. In the face of tuition price tags that total more than $100,000 (as a low estimate), families must make difficult decisions about how to save for their children’s college education. Charting a feasible path to saving for college is further complicated by the FAFSA’s estimates for an “Expected Family Contribution”—an amount of money that is rarely feasible for most American families. Due to these challenging financial circumstances and cultural pressure to give one’s children the best possible chance of success in adulthood, many families are going into serious debt to pay for their children’s college education. The U.S. government should move toward bearing more of the financial burden of college education. 

Example of Introduction Paragraph: Analysis

Before we dive into analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of this example intro paragraph, let’s establish the essay topic. The sample intro indicates that t he essay topic will focus on one specific issue: who should cover the cost of college education in the U.S., and why. Both the hook and the context help us identify the topic, while the thesis in the last sentence tells us why this topic matters to the writer—they think the U.S. Government needs to help finance college education. This is also the writer’s argument, which they’ll cover in the body of their essay. 

Now that we’ve identified the essay topic presented in the sample intro, let’s dig into some analysis. To pin down its strengths and weaknesses, we’re going to use the following three questions to guide our example of introduction paragraph analysis: 

  • Does this intro provide an attention-grabbing opening sentence that conveys the essay topic? 
  • Does this intro provide relevant, engaging context about the essay topic? 
  • Does this intro provide a thesis statement that establishes the writer’s point of view on the topic and what specific aspects of the issue the essay will address? 

Now, let’s use the questions above to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this sample intro paragraph. 

Does the Intro Have a Good Hook? 

First, the intro starts out with an attention-grabbing hook . The writer starts by presenting  an assumption (that the U.S. federal government bears most of the financial burden of college education), which makes the topic relatable to a wide audience of readers. Also note that the hook relates to the general topic of the essay, which is the high cost of college education. 

The hook then takes a surprising turn by presenting a counterclaim : that American families, rather than students, feel the true burden of paying for college. Some readers will have a strong emotional reaction to this provocative counterclaim, which will make them want to keep reading! As such, this intro provides an effective opening sentence that conveys the essay topic. 

Does the Intro Give Context?

T he second, third, and fourth sentences of the intro provide contextual details that reveal the specific focus of the writer’s paper . Remember: the context helps readers start to zoom in on what the paper will focus on, and what aspect of the general topic (college costs) will be discussed later on. 

The context in this intro reveals the intent and direction of the paper by explaining why the issue of families financing college is important. In other words, the context helps readers understand why this issue matters , and what aspects of this issue will be addressed in the paper.  

To provide effective context, the writer refers to issues (the exorbitant cost of college and high levels of family debt) that have received a lot of recent scholarly and media attention. These sentences of context also elaborate on the interesting perspective included in the hook: that American families are most affected by college costs.

Does the Intro Have a Thesis? 

Finally, this intro provides a thesis statement that conveys the writer’s point of view on the issue of financing college education. This writer believes that the U.S. government should do more to pay for students’ college educations. 

However, the thesis statement doesn’t give us any details about why the writer has made this claim or why this will help American families . There isn’t an essay map that helps readers understand what points the writer will make in the essay.

To revise this thesis statement so that it establishes the specific aspects of the topic that the essay will address, the writer could add the following to the beginning of the thesis statement:

The U.S. government should take on more of the financial burden of college education because other countries have shown this can improve education rates while reducing levels of familial poverty.

Check out the new section in bold. Not only does it clarify that the writer is talking about the pressure put on families, it touches on the big topics the writer will address in the paper: improving education rates and reduction of poverty. So not only do we have a clearer argumentative statement in this thesis, we also have an essay map!  

So, let’s recap our analysis. This sample intro paragraph does an effective job of providing an engaging hook and relatable, interesting context, but the thesis statement needs some work ! As you write your own intro paragraphs, you might consider using the questions above to evaluate and revise your work. Doing this will help ensure you’ve covered all of your bases and written an intro that your readers will find interesting!


4 Tips for How To Write an Introduction Paragraph

Now that we’ve gone over an example of introduction paragraph analysis, let’s talk about how to write an introduction paragraph of your own. Keep reading for four tips for writing a successful intro paragraph for any essay. 

Tip 1: Analyze Your Essay Prompt

If you’re having trouble with how to start an introduction paragraph, analyze your essay prompt! Most teachers give you some kind of assignment sheet, formal instructions, or prompt to set the expectations for an essay they’ve assigned, right? Those instructions can help guide you as you write your intro paragraph!

Because they’ll be reading and responding to your essay, you want to make sure you meet your teacher’s expectations for an intro paragraph . For instance, if they’ve provided specific instructions about how long the intro should be or where the thesis statement should be located, be sure to follow them!

The type of paper you’re writing can give you clues as to how to approach your intro as well. If you’re writing a research paper, your professor might expect you to provide a research question or state a hypothesis in your intro. If you’re writing an argumentative essay, you’ll need to make sure your intro overviews the context surrounding your argument and your thesis statement includes a clear, defensible claim. 

Using the parameters set out by your instructor and assignment sheet can put some easy-to-follow boundaries in place for things like your intro’s length, structure, and content. Following these guidelines can free you up to focus on other aspects of your intro... like coming up with an exciting hook and conveying your point of view on your topic!

Tip 2: Narrow Your Topic

You can’t write an intro paragraph without first identifying your topic. To make your intro as effective as possible, you need to define the parameters of your topic clearly—and you need to be specific. 

For example, let’s say you want to write about college football. “NCAA football” is too broad of a topic for a paper. There is a lot to talk about in terms of college football! It would be tough to write an intro paragraph that’s focused, purposeful, and engaging on this topic. In fact, if you did try to address this whole topic, you’d probably end up writing a book!

Instead, you should narrow broad topics to  identify a specific question, claim, or issue pertaining to some aspect of NCAA football for your intro to be effective. So, for instance, you could frame your topic as, “How can college professors better support NCAA football players in academics?” This focused topic pertaining to NCAA football would give you a more manageable angle to discuss in your paper.

So before you think about writing your intro, ask yourself: Is my essay topic specific, focused, and logical? Does it convey an issue or question that I can explore over the course of several pages? Once you’ve established a good topic, you’ll have the foundation you need to write an effective intro paragraph . 


Once you've figured out your topic, it's time to hit the books!

Tip 3: Do Your Research

This tip is tightly intertwined with the one above, and it’s crucial to writing a good intro: do your research! And, guess what? This tip applies to all papers—even ones that aren’t technically research papers. 

Here’s why you need to do some research: getting the lay of the land on what others have said about your topic—whether that’s scholars and researchers or the mass media— will help you narrow your topic, write an engaging hook, and provide relatable context. 

You don't want to sit down to write your intro without a solid understanding of the different perspectives on your topic. Whether those are the perspectives of experts or the general public, these points of view will help you write your intro in a way that is intriguing and compelling for your audience of readers. 

Tip 4: Write Multiple Drafts

Some say to write your intro first; others say write it last. The truth is, there isn’t a right or wrong time to write your intro—but you do need to have enough time to write multiple drafts . 

Oftentimes, your professor will ask you to write multiple drafts of your paper, which gives you a built-in way to make sure you revise your intro. Another approach you could take is to write out a rough draft of your intro before you begin writing your essay, then revise it multiple times as you draft out your paper. 

Here’s why this approach can work: as you write your paper, you’ll probably come up with new insights on your topic that you didn’t have right from the start. You can use these “light bulb” moments to reevaluate your intro and make revisions that keep it in line with your developing essay draft. 

Once you’ve written your entire essay, consider going back and revising your intro again . You can ask yourself these questions as you evaluate your intro: 

  • Is my hook still relevant to the way I’ve approached the topic in my essay?
  • Do I provide enough appropriate context to introduce my essay? 
  • Now that my essay is written, does my thesis statement still accurately reflect the point of view that I present in my essay?

Using these questions as a guide and putting your intro through multiple revisions will help ensure that you’ve written the best intro for the final draft of your essay. Also, revising your writing is always a good thing to do—and this applies to your intro, too!


What's Next?

Your college essays also need great intro paragraphs. Here’s a guide that focuses on how to write the perfect intro for your admissions essays. 

Of course, the intro is just one part of your college essay . This article will teach you how to write a college essay that makes admissions counselors sit up and take notice.

Are you trying to write an analytical essay? Our step-by-step guide can help you knock it out of the park.

author image

Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.

Student and Parent Forum

Our new student and parent forum, at ExpertHub.PrepScholar.com , allow you to interact with your peers and the PrepScholar staff. See how other students and parents are navigating high school, college, and the college admissions process. Ask questions; get answers.

Join the Conversation

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!

Improve With Our Famous Guides

  • For All Students

The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 160+ SAT Points

How to Get a Perfect 1600, by a Perfect Scorer

Series: How to Get 800 on Each SAT Section:

Score 800 on SAT Math

Score 800 on SAT Reading

Score 800 on SAT Writing

Series: How to Get to 600 on Each SAT Section:

Score 600 on SAT Math

Score 600 on SAT Reading

Score 600 on SAT Writing

Free Complete Official SAT Practice Tests

What SAT Target Score Should You Be Aiming For?

15 Strategies to Improve Your SAT Essay

The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 4+ ACT Points

How to Get a Perfect 36 ACT, by a Perfect Scorer

Series: How to Get 36 on Each ACT Section:

36 on ACT English

36 on ACT Math

36 on ACT Reading

36 on ACT Science

Series: How to Get to 24 on Each ACT Section:

24 on ACT English

24 on ACT Math

24 on ACT Reading

24 on ACT Science

What ACT target score should you be aiming for?

ACT Vocabulary You Must Know

ACT Writing: 15 Tips to Raise Your Essay Score

How to Get Into Harvard and the Ivy League

How to Get a Perfect 4.0 GPA

How to Write an Amazing College Essay

What Exactly Are Colleges Looking For?

Is the ACT easier than the SAT? A Comprehensive Guide

Should you retake your SAT or ACT?

When should you take the SAT or ACT?

Stay Informed

what is the last paragraph of an essay called

Get the latest articles and test prep tips!

Looking for Graduate School Test Prep?

Check out our top-rated graduate blogs here:

GRE Online Prep Blog

GMAT Online Prep Blog

TOEFL Online Prep Blog

Holly R. "I am absolutely overjoyed and cannot thank you enough for helping me!”


Have an account?


Parts of an Essay Quizizz

User image

20 questions

Player avatar

Introducing new   Paper mode

No student devices needed.   Know more

How many paragraphs should you have in your essay?

What is the name of the first paragraph of an essay?

introduction paragraph

body paragraph

conclusion paragraph

opening paragraph

What are the middle paragraphs of an essay called?

introduction paragraphs

body paragraphs

conclusion paragraphs

supporting paragraphs

What is the last paragraph of an essay called?

closing paragraph

Which part of an INTRODUCTION paragraph catches the reader's attention?

topic sentence

thesis statement

closing sentence

Which part of an INTRODUCTION paragraph outlines the three main ideas of your essay?

What should be present at the END of EVERY paragraph AFTER the introduction?

a transition word or phrase

a topic sentence

a closing sentence

a quotation

What should be present at the BEGINNING of every paragraph after the introduction?

supporting details

True or False:

The main ideas of your body paragraphs should match up to the main ideas in your thesis statement.

What makes up the largest part of a body paragraph?

transition word or phrase

Which of the following is an appropriate transition for your FIRST body paragraph?



To start with,

Another reason

Which of the following is an appropriate transition for your SECOND body paragraph?

First of all,

In conclusion,

Which of the following is an appropriate transition for your THIRD body paragraph?

To start things off,

Which of the following is NOT a good supporting detail for a paragraph about sports?

My favorite sport is baseball.

I go to pitching lessons two days a week.

I also enjoy football.

I try to dress fashionably every day.

Which of the following would NOT be a good supporting detail for a paragraph about family?

My favorite flavor of ice cream is strawberry.

I have three siblings.

My family goes to the beach every summer.

My dog is more of a brother than a pet!

Which of the following would NOT be an appropriate supporting detail for a paragraph about exercise?

I run a mile every morning before school.

I workout in the weightroom three times a week.

I try to eat healthy foods as often as I can.

I sometimes go to spin class at the gym.

Which of the following would be a good supporting detail for a paragraph about travel?

I have been to Disney World three times.

My family went to New York City last Christmas.

We are planning a trip to Hawaii over spring break.

All of the above.

What is missing from the following body paragraph?

Secondly, I am special because of my unique musical abilities. I have been playing the piano since I was four years old. I have become quite good at reading sheet music. I also take voice lessons at UGA. I had the lead solo at my spring recital. Finally, I like to write songs. It's always fun to play them for my parents.

a transition word/phrase

My love for reading makes me unlike most other middle school boys. My all time favorite books are the Harry Potter series. I have read the entire series four times, and I can quote lines from each book. I also love dystopian novels like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner . It's fun to read about futuristic people and places. Another one of my favorite books is Wonder . It really opened my eyes to the importance of being kind. Most of my friends don't share my love of reading, so this definitely makes me unique.

a closing sentence.=

What is missing from the following introduction paragraph?

"You are special!" is a phrase I've heard since I was a small child. Though some people may not have grown up hearing this type of encouragement, it is still true for every human on the planet. We are all special and unique in many ways. I absolutely love sports. I also have a heart for people with special needs. And I love my family more than words can express. All of these factors come together to make me the one-of-a-kind person that I am.

a correct thesis statement

Explore all questions with a free account

Google Logo

Continue with email

Continue with phone

Justices Examine Use of a Law to Charge Jan. 6 Rioters

The questioning explored the gravity of the assault and whether prosecutors had stretched the law to reach members of the mob responsible for the attack.

  • Share full article

Reporters and camera crews in front of the Supreme Court.

Abbie VanSickle

The implications for the court’s decision in today’s Jan. 6 case could eliminate some of the federal charges that former President Donald J. Trump is facing for his role in the plot to subvert the 2020 election. It could also jeopardize hundreds of Jan. 6 prosecutions.

Adam Liptak

Adam Liptak

Reporting from Washington

Trump allies are using this case to try to reframe the Jan. 6 attack.

Lawmakers allied with former President Trump are using a case before the Supreme Court as part of their effort to reframe the events of Jan. 6, 2021, as a political protest, not a violent assault on the Capitol in which violence disrupted Congress and lawmakers fled.

The case before the Supreme Court, focused on the text of a statute used to charge some participants, also has the potential to determine the very meaning of Jan. 6. Briefs from Mr. Trump’s supporters echo the former president’s embrace of the rioters during his campaign events.

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio and other Republican lawmakers said in one brief that “the Department of Justice and D.C. juries have readily attributed immorality to the genuine belief of many Jan. 6 defendants that there was fraud during the 2020 presidential election.”

Protests are part of the fabric of politics, they wrote, adding that the prosecutors’ interpretation of the statute would have applied to a peaceful rally led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Advocacy groups throughout history have organized trips to Washington timed to congressional or executive consideration of favored items,” the lawmakers wrote in the brief before going on to quote from a magazine article. “Most famously, the 1963 civil rights ‘March on Washington’ ‘was designed to force President Kennedy to support the Civil Rights Act’ then pending in Congress.”

The brief also discussed other protests, including the disruption of the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, and praised the Trump administration’s restraint.

“Those actions by protesters were highly improper and certainly were criminal,” the brief said of the Kavanaugh protest. “But President Trump’s Department of Justice did not adopt the strained view that those protesters should be charged” under the statute at issue in the new case.

The Biden administration, in its main brief , devoted a paragraph to the critique, drawing several distinctions. The law, the brief said, “covers acts that hinder a proceeding — not acts, like lobbying or peaceful protest, that are not readily characterized as rising to the level of obstruction or that independently enjoy protection under the First Amendment.”

The brief added that the law applied only to conduct directed at a specific proceeding and required proof that the defendant had acted corruptly.

Critics of Mr. Trump — including J. Michael Luttig, a conservative former appeals court judge, and John Danforth, a Republican former senator from Missouri — countered that the comparisons pressed by Mr. Cotton and Mr. Jordan were profoundly misplaced.

“There is simply no historical comparison between the consequences of criminal acts in opposition to the election of a new president — as illustrated by both our Civil War and the Jan. 6, 2021, invasion — and the ‘what about’ examples discussed in the Cotton-Jordan brief,” they wrote in a brief. “Indeed, no one was physically hurt” as part of “any of those examples.”

“And none of those examples,” they added, “threatened something remotely as fundamental to our constitutional system as the peaceful transfer of executive power.”

Richard D. Bernstein, a lawyer for Mr. Luttig and other former officials who signed the supporting brief, said that allowing cases under the obstruction law to proceed was crucial.

“These obstruction prosecutions deter possible future invasions of Congress aimed at preventing the peaceful transfer of power,” he said.


Alan Feuer

Another issue to watch is whether the court bites on the notion that there must some proof of evidence or document tampering to trigger the statute. If the justices accept that argument, it could mean that the law doesn’t really apply to boots-on-the-ground Jan. 6 rioters. But even if the court narrows the law in that way, it could still apply to Donald Trump’s Jan. 6-related criminal case.

Overall, the court seemed most accepting of arguments that pointed out the potential harms in interpreting the obstruction law at issue too broadly. The conservatives in particular seemed concerned that if the statute applied to Jan. 6 then it could be weaponized against a range of other political protests.

Arguments have concluded in the Jan. 6 case before the Supreme Court. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrapped up her presentation to the justices, and Jeffrey Green, the lawyer for the Jan. 6 defendant, presented his rebuttal. The arguments were largely technical, focused on the interpretation of a statute that has mainly been construed to focus on the destruction of business records. The court’s decision in the case is expected to come by the end of the term in late June.

The court’s decision in today’s Jan. 6 case could eliminate some of the federal charges that former President Donald J. Trump is facing for his role in the plot to subvert the 2020 election. It could also jeopardize hundreds of Jan. 6 prosecutions.

Jeff Green seized on the concern by the conservative justices that an expansive view of the obstruction law could be a “weapon” against other political protest. “People are going to worry about the kinds of activity they engage in, even if it’s peaceful,” he says.

Justice Barrett asks Prelogar if the obstruction law would be triggered if someone merely stood outside the Capitol and urged the crowd on. Prelogar says if there was evidence that the person was, say, a ringleader of the crowd who made plans to help others to enter the building and stop the counting of electoral vote then, yes, they could be charged with obstruction. That pattern of facts tracks fairly closely to the case of Stewart Rhodes , the former leader of the Oath Keepers militia, who remained outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 but was charged with the obstruction count, among other crimes.

Prelogar says that even though the central figure in this case, Joseph Fischer, was charged with other crimes, including assaulting police officers, the obstruction count he faces was still valid. She says that the evidence in Fischer’s case shows he went to Capitol specifically to disrupt the election certification proceeding and so the obstruction count fits.

Charlie Savage

Charlie Savage

Chief Justice Roberts asks Prelogar what constitutes formal acceptance of an Office of Legal Counsel memo as an official Justice Department position — rather than just being advice offered to the attorney general —and Prelogar says with a half laugh “I should probably know the answer to that one as a matter of D.O.J. policy.” Roberts says he should, too.

As someone who frequently sues the government seeking disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act, I can attest that the Justice Department often takes the position that Office of Legal Counsel opinions usually do not rise to the level of being a formally adopted policy. That means, in the government’s view, they are exempt from disclosure even though they are considered binding legal interpretations for the rest of the government.

Justice Barrett asks whether a defendant has to commit physical violence to fall under this statute. Prelogar says no. The fact that several Jan. 6 defendants who committed no violence but were still charged with this obstruction law has long been a complaint from rightwing critics of the Justice Department investigation of the Capitol attack.

If you’re just joining us now, the justices are hearing from Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, who is arguing that a statute written to prohibit the destruction of business records should apply to Jan. 6 rioters. Several of the conservative justices, including Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch, have raised hypotheticals that appear to be pulled from recent headlines to ask whether other demonstrations, including a pro-Palestinian protest that blocks the Golden Gate Bridge, might trigger charges under the law.

Prelogar answers the question in part by noting that only 350 of the 1,350 or so people indicted in connection with Jan. 6 were charged with the obstruction count. Her point is that there are ways to use the statute narrowly. There has to be actual evidence that people not only committed obstruction but did so “corruptly,” as the law requires.

The implication of her argument is that the government has shown it has used the charge judiciously in Jan. 6 cases, so the interpretation she advocates won’t lead to a wholesale criminalization of political protest.

This line of argument about what kinds of political protest fall under this statute gets right to the heart of what, if anything, made Jan. 6 an unique moment in history. Some of the conservative justices are trying to tease out why Jan. 6 is covered by the statute and not, say, a pro-Palestinian protest on the Golden Gate Bridge or a protest at the court itself.

Prelogar is trying to fend off the notion that any political protest that disrupted an official proceeding could be criminalized by this law and punished by a maximum of 20 years in prison. She says that “a peaceful protest,” even one that was “quite disruptive” might not qualify for prosecution under this statute.

Video player loading

What does it mean to act ‘corruptly’?

The law that is the subject of Tuesday’s argument requires prosecutors to prove the defendant acted “corruptly.” But the meaning of that word is disputed.

Indeed, even the judges in the majority in a 2-to-1 appeals court ruling against Joseph W. Fischer, who is accused of violating the law by joining the mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, could not agree on just what the word meant.

In the lead opinion, Judge Florence Y. Pan wrote that Mr. Fischer’s conduct satisfied any plausible definition and that she would not choose among them. “I leave the exact contours of ‘corrupt’ intent for another day,” Judge Pan wrote.

But Judge Justin R. Walker said he was willing to concur in her opinion only on the condition that prosecutors be required to prove that Mr. Fischer had acted corruptly in the sense of having “an intent to procure an unlawful benefit either for himself or for some other person.”

Moreover, Judge Walker wrote, prosecutors must prove that “the defendant not only knew he was obtaining an ‘unlawful benefit’ but that his ‘objective’ or ‘purpose’ was to obtain that unlawful benefit.”

The definition was crucial, Judge Walker wrote, limiting what would otherwise be the law’s “breathtaking scope.”

“If I did not read ‘corruptly’ narrowly,” he wrote, “I would join the dissenting opinion.”

In dissent, Judge Gregory G. Katsas wrote that he would define “corruptly” even more narrowly, requiring an intent to procure “an unlawful financial, professional or exculpatory advantage.”

“In contrast, this case involves the much more diffuse, intangible benefit of having a preferred candidate remain president,” Judge Katsas wrote. “If that is good enough, then anyone acting to achieve a specific purpose would satisfy this requirement, for the purpose of the action would qualify as the benefit.”

Judge Walker said he was doubtful of that reading, but he added that Mr. Fischer’s conduct might qualify under even that strict standard.

“This case may involve a professional benefit,” he wrote. “The defendants’ conduct may have been an attempt to help Donald Trump unlawfully secure a professional advantage — the presidency.”

Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar presented the government’s argument that the statute should apply to the Jan. 6 defendants as “a straightforward question of statutory interpretation.” She says that, in plain English, the crime that day involved people attempting to obstruct the work of Congress.

Justice Clarence Thomas asks Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar if the government has applied this statute to other “violent protests” in the past.

Video player loading

Prelogar says no, but for the simple reason that an attack like the one that took place at the Capitol on Jan. 6 had never happened before.

If you're just joining us, the justices have been hearing argument from Jeffrey T. Green, a lawyer who represents Jan. 6 defendant, Joseph W. Fischer, a former Pennsylvania police officer. The argument thus far has been, as expected, technical and focused on interpretation of a decades-old statute focused on the destruction of business records.

Green just tried to argue that the left-wing attacks on the federal courthouse in Portland were analogous to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. That argument was shut down by multiple federal judges in Washington who have been hearing Jan. 6 cases.

The argument here about whether interpreting the statute in a particular way would mean some of language is superfluous underscores a larger problem with the federal obstruction of justice statutes. Criminal law professors and practitioners agree that the statutes are a confusingly drafted, overlapping mess.

Video player loading

A key precedent ruled that a fish is not a tangible object.

In 2015, the Supreme Court limited the sweep of the statute at issue in Tuesday’s argument, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.

The case involved fish. More precisely, undersized red grouper.

One of the sponsors of the law, Michael Oxley, filed a brief in that case explaining its history and purpose, saying it sought to close gaps that made it hard to prosecute accountants in the wake of the collapse of Enron, a giant energy company.

The law meant to address “specific loopholes” that Arthur Andersen, Enron’s accountants, “had exploited when they shredded business documents and destroyed hard drives in anticipation of federal law-enforcement action,” wrote Mr. Oxley, a former Ohio representative, who died in 2016 .

The law, Mr. Oxley wrote, was tightly focused on such conduct and should not be read too broadly. Though he did not address the provision at issue in the new case, it is a good bet that he would have been skeptical of prosecutors’ reliance on it in a case about an attack on the Capitol. (Paul S. Sarbanes, a former senator from Maryland and the law’s other principal sponsor, died in 2020 .)

The question for the justices in the old case, Yates v. United States , was broadly similar to the one the justices are considering on Tuesday: How far can a law meant to address white-collar business fraud be stretched to encompass other sorts of wrongful conduct?

The case arose from a 2007 search of the Miss Katie, a fishing vessel whose captain was John L. Yates. A field officer boarded the ship at sea and noticed fish that seemed less than 20 inches long, which was under the minimum legal size of red grouper at the time.

The officer measured the fish and placed the 72 he deemed too small in a crate. He issued a citation and instructed Mr. Yates to take the crate to port for seizure. But Mr. Yates had the fish thrown overboard and replaced with larger ones. A second inspection in port aroused suspicions, and a crew member eventually told law enforcement officials what had happened.

Mr. Yates was convicted of violating a part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that made it a crime to conceal or destroy “any record, document or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct or influence” a federal investigation. He was sentenced to 30 days’ imprisonment.

On appeal, Mr. Yates argued that the term “tangible object,” read in context, did not apply to fish. Mr. Oxley’s supporting brief agreed, saying Congress had meant to address the shredding of records and similar conduct.

“Against this unanimous evidence of congressional intent, the government’s reading of” the provision “to reach destruction of any and all things, including piscine creatures, falls flat,” Mr. Oxley wrote.

By a 5-to-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the law did not reach fish.

“A fish is no doubt an object that is tangible,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for four of the justices in the majority. But she added that it would cut the law “loose from its financial-fraud mooring to hold that it encompasses any and all objects, whatever their size or significance, destroyed with obstructive intent.”

In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the plain words of the law mattered more than its purpose. “A fish is, of course, a discrete thing that possesses physical form,” Justice Kagan wrote, citing as authority the Dr. Seuss classic “One Fish, Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.”

Defense lawyers have long argued that there was no document tampering aspect at all in the storming of the Capitol and one federal judge in Washington agreed with them, which is essentially why we’re here in the Supreme Court today. But it is possible to argue, as the special counsel Jack Smith has done in Trump’s case, that there was document tampering on Jan. 6. That’s because the certification proceeding involved so-called fake slates of electors wrongly claiming that Trump won the election in several states won by President Biden.

The dense semantics being argued here are circling an important question: whether this statute — designed to curb things like destroying documents — requires specific proof that records were actually tampered with. And further: whether document tampering has anything to do with pro-Trump rioters breaking into the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

A key question in the case: the meaning of ‘otherwise’

The provision at issue in the case, from the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, has two parts. The question for the justices is how they interact. And that depends on the word that links them: “otherwise.”

The first part of the provision focuses on evidence, saying that anyone who corruptly “alters, destroys, mutilates or conceals a record, document or other object” to affect an official proceeding is guilty of a felony.

So far, so good. It is uncontroversial to reinforce that destroying documents to impede an investigation has been a core purpose of the law, which was prompted by the shredding of documents in an accounting scandal.

The second part of the provision makes it a crime “otherwise” to corruptly obstruct, influence or impede any official proceeding. Prosecutors say the defendant in the case, Joseph W. Fischer, did that by joining the mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The heart of the case is how the first part of the provision pivots to the second part.

The ordinary meaning of “otherwise,” prosecutors say, is “in a different manner.” That means, they say, that the obstruction of official proceedings need not involve the destruction of evidence. The second part, they say, is a broad catchall for any kind of corrupt interference with an official proceeding.

Lawyers for Mr. Fischer, the defendant in Tuesday’s case, counter that the first part must inform and limit the second one — meaning that the obstruction of official proceedings must be linked to the destruction of evidence. They would read “otherwise” as “similarly.”

The alternative, they say, would be to create a crime of breathtaking scope that would allow prosecutors to charge political protesters and others with felonies carrying 20-year prison sentences.

In 2008, in Begay v. United States , the court considered a law with a broadly similar structure, the Armed Career Criminal Act , which requires mandatory sentences for people convicted of possessing firearms if they have earlier been found guilty of three violent felonies. In one clause, it listed specific crimes that qualified as violent felonies — including burglary, arson and extortion.

Then, as in the new case, there followed an “otherwise” clause, this one adding any crime that “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.”

The Supreme Court ruled that the examples informed and limited the sweep of the “otherwise” clause. If Congress had “meant the statute to be all-encompassing, it is hard to see why it would have needed to include the examples at all,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote for the majority.

A drunken driving offense, the court ruled, did not qualify as one of the covered crimes even though the plain words of the clause would seem to encompass it.

Mr. Fisher’s lawyers say that the “otherwise” clause in the obstruction statute must also be anchored in the preceding clause.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit disagreed, with Judge Florence Y. Pan writing that the two uses of “otherwise” were different. The gun law, she wrote, “includes a list of examples followed by ‘otherwise’ in a single, unbroken sentence.”

By contrast, she wrote, the “otherwise” in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act “sits within a separately numbered subparagraph, after a semicolon and line break, all of which put distance between it and the lists of verbs and objects” in the previous part.

In dissent, Judge Gregory G. Katsas wrote that “the relationship created by the word otherwise does not depend on punctuation or line breaks.”

Rather, he wrote, “it flows from the connotation of similarity,” among other factors. That meant, he concluded, that the second part of the provision applies “only to acts that affect the integrity or availability of evidence.”

What does the law at issue in the case actually say?

At its core, the case is about the meaning of a provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. It was enacted following the collapse of Enron, a giant energy company, after the exposure of widespread accounting fraud and the destruction of documents by the company’s outside auditor.

There is an uneasy fit between the immediate purpose of the law and its recent use in more than 300 prosecutions arising from the violent riot that forced a halt to the constitutionally required congressional count of presidential electors’ ballots.

At least part of what it meant to accomplish was to address a gap in the federal criminal code at the time: It was a crime to persuade others to destroy records relevant to an investigation or official proceeding but not to do so oneself.

The law meant to close that gap. It did, in a two-part provision, Section 1512(c) of the federal criminal code:

(c) Whoever corruptly — (1) alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document, or other object , or attempts to do so, with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding or (2) otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding , or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

The first part focuses on evidence, making it a felony to tamper with it to affect an official proceeding. The second part makes it a crime “otherwise” to corruptly obstruct, influence or impede any official proceeding.

The heart of this case is the pivot from the first part to the second part. The ordinary meaning of “otherwise,” prosecutors say, is “in a different manner.” That means, they say, that the obstruction of official proceedings need not involve the destruction of evidence — in their view, making the second part a broad catchall for any kind of corrupt interference with an official proceeding.

The lawyers for Joseph W. Fischer, who was accused of breaching the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and of assaulting police officers, counter that the first part must inform and limit the second one — meaning that the obstruction of official proceedings must be linked to the destruction of evidence. They would read “otherwise” as “similarly.”

The alternative, they say, would be to create a felony of breathtaking scope that would allow prosecutors to charge political protesters with felonies carrying 20-year prison sentences.

The court’s decision could have a direct impact on Donald Trump.

While the Supreme Court’s hearing is intended to determine the scope and validity of an obstruction law used against hundreds of rioters who broke into the Capitol on Jan. 6, any decision could also have an impact on a separate criminal case: one in which former President Donald J. Trump has been accused of plotting to overturn the 2020 election.

Two of the four criminal counts Mr. Trump is facing in that case are based on the obstruction law. In an indictment filed in Washington last summer, he was charged with conspiring to obstruct the certification of the election on Jan. 6 during a joint session of Congress at the Capitol as well as with actually obstructing it.

If the justices determine that prosecutors improperly used the obstruction law against members of the pro-Trump mob who disrupted the session, Mr. Trump’s lawyers will surely seek to have the charges against him dismissed as well. In fact, they already tried that in October. They argued unsuccessfully to the trial judge in the case that Mr. Trump’s indictment unfairly used the statute, which was initially “directed at the destruction of records in accounting fraud,” by applying it “to disputing the outcome of a presidential election.”

“This stretches the statutory language beyond any plausible mooring to its text,” the lawyers wrote.

Jack Smith, the special counsel handling Mr. Trump’s case, has told the Supreme Court that the two obstruction counts against the former president would be still valid even if the justices narrowed the law to cover only crimes that involved tampering with documents or records.

Mr. Trump triggered that provision of the law, Mr. Smith has said, by plotting to create fake slates of electors that claimed he won in several keys swing states that he actually lost to President Biden. Mr. Smith has accused Mr. Trump of trying to use those fake slates to throw the certification proceeding into chaos and by urging his vice president, Mike Pence, to capitalize on the confusion by single-handedly declaring him the winner of the race.

Even if the obstruction count were ultimately removed from Trump’s indictment, it would probably not be a fatal blow.

The indictment contains two other conspiracy counts that overlap almost entirely with the accusations in the obstruction counts. One of the conspiracy charges accuses Mr. Trump of committing fraud by using deceit to subvert the normal course of the election. The other charges him with plotting to deprive millions of Americans of the right to have votes properly counted.

Prosecutions tied to the Capitol attack have ensnared more than 1,380 people.

The investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack is already the largest criminal inquiry in Justice Department history, federal prosecutors have said. And even after more than three years, it has shown little sign of slowing down.

Every week, a few more rioters are arrested and charges against them are unsealed in Federal District Court in Washington. Prosecutors have suggested that a total of 2,000 or 2,500 people could ultimately face indictment for their roles in the attack.

More than 1,380 people had been charged in connection with the attack as of early this month, according to the Justice Department. Among the most common charges brought against them are two misdemeanors: illegal parading inside the Capitol and entering and remaining in a restricted federal area, a type of trespassing.

About 350 rioters have been accused of violating the obstruction statute that the Supreme Court is considering at its hearing, and nearly 500 people have been charged with assaulting police officers. Many rioters have been charged with multiple crimes, the most serious of which so far has been seditious conspiracy.

Almost 800 defendants have already pleaded guilty; about 250 of them have done so to felony charges. Prosecutors have won the vast majority of the cases that have gone to trial: More than 150 defendants have been convicted at trial and only two have been fully acquitted.

More than 850 people have been sentenced so far, and about 520 have received at least some time in prison. The stiffest penalties have been handed down to the former leaders of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, far-right extremist groups that played central roles in the Capitol attack.

Enrique Tarrio, the former Proud Boys leader, was sentenced to 22 years in prison , and Stewart Rhodes, who once led the Oath Keepers, was given an 18-year term .

The prosecution of a police officer, Joseph Fischer, led to this hearing.

The man whose case led to the Supreme Court hearing on a controversial federal obstruction law is a former police officer from rural Pennsylvania indicted on charges of storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and crashing into a line of his fellow officers defending the building.

Joseph W. Fischer was working for the police department in North Cornwall Township, Pa., when prosecutors say he pushed his way into the Capitol while holding up his cellphone to take videos of the surge. Once inside, he and another rioter “galloped forward,” prosecutors say, making contact with a line of officers who were fighting off the crowd.

Mr. Fischer fell to the ground and, as some nearby officers helped him to his feet, he tried to engage with them, prosecutors say.

“I’m a cop too,” he said, “sometimes the country is worth more than your job.”

According to court papers, Mr. Fischer was concerned about his own job before making the trip to Washington. Investigators unearthed text messages he wrote to the chief of his department, saying that things could get “violent” on Jan. 6 and that the crowd should “storm the capital and drag all the democrates.”

He also warned the chief that he might need him to post his bail, the papers said.

Township officials suspended Mr. Fischer without pay on the day of his arrest in February 2021 and later fired him. But he has pushed back against the government’s description of behavior on Jan. 6.

His lawyers say that he and a companion were prepared to leave Washington that day after listening President Trump’s speech near the White House and turned around to head toward the Capitol only after hearing about the mounting protest there. The lawyers also claim that Mr. Fischer arrived at the Capitol grounds well after Congress had recessed the proceeding to certify the results of the 2020 election because of the attack.

“As Mr. Fischer walked toward the east side of the building, no barricades or fences impeded him,” the lawyers wrote in their brief to the Supreme Court.

Mr. Fischer has disputed the assertion by prosecutors that he charged the police line inside the Capitol, telling the court instead that he was pushed into the officers by “the weight of the crowd.”

He also characterized his interactions with the officers differently than prosecutors did, claiming that he merely talked with one of the officers and patted him on the shoulder.

An accounting scandal spurred the law used to prosecute Jan. 6 defendants.

The provision at issue in the case is part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a 2002 law enacted after the collapse of Enron, a giant energy company, after the exposure of widespread accounting fraud and the destruction of documents by its outside auditor, Arthur Andersen.

The Supreme Court has said that the purpose of the law was “to safeguard investors in public companies and restore trust in the financial markets following the collapse of Enron.”

At least part of what the law meant to accomplish was to address a gap in the federal criminal code: it was a crime to persuade others to destroy records relevant to an investigation or official proceeding but not to do so oneself. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act was meant to close that gap.

Lawyers for Joseph W. Fischer, charged under the law with obstructing an official proceeding by joining the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, said his case had an Alice-in-Wonderland quality.

“The Through the Looking Glass moment here,” they wrote in a Supreme Court brief , “would be for those who wrote the Sarbanes-Oxley Act upon learning that they had created a new and breathtaking obstruction offense by endeavoring to close the narrow Enron-Arthur Anderson loophole.”

Indeed, in a different case on the scope of the statute, one of the sponsors of the law, Michael Oxley, filed a supporting brief saying prosecutors had interpreted it too broadly. The law meant to address “specific loopholes” that Arthur Andersen “had exploited when they shredded business documents and destroyed hard drives in anticipation of federal law-enforcement action,” wrote Mr. Oxley, a former Ohio representative who died in 2016 .

In that case, concerning a separate provision of the law, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the law’s origins informed its meaning and spared the defendant.

“The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, all agree, was prompted by the exposure of Enron’s massive accounting fraud and revelations that the company’s outside auditor, Arthur Andersen, had systematically destroyed potentially incriminating documents,” she wrote for four of the justices in the majority. She added that the government had acknowledged that the provision “was intended to prohibit, in particular, corporate document-shredding to hide evidence of financial wrongdoing.”

An earlier version of this article misstated the year of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. It was 2021, not 2001.

How we handle corrections

Supreme Court Appears Skeptical of Using Obstruction Law to Charge Jan. 6 Rioters

The Supreme Court seemed wary on Tuesday of letting prosecutors use a federal obstruction law to charge hundreds of rioters involved in the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021.

A decision rejecting the government’s interpretation of the law could not only disrupt those prosecutions but also eliminate half of the charges against former President Donald J. Trump in the federal case accusing him of plotting to subvert the 2020 election.

Mr. Trump’s case did not come up at the argument, which was largely focused on trying to make sense of a statute, enacted to address white-collar crime, that all concerned agreed was not a model of clarity. But the justices’ questions also considered the gravity of the assault and whether prosecutors have been stretching the law to reach members of the mob responsible for the attack, which interrupted certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s electoral victory.

Justice Clarence Thomas, who returned to the bench after an unexplained absence on Monday, asked whether the government was engaging in a kind of selective prosecution. “There have been many violent protests that have interfered with proceedings,” he said. “Has the government applied this provision to other protests?”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor took a different view of what happened on Jan. 6. “We’ve never had a situation before where there’s been a situation like this with people attempting to stop a proceeding violently,” she said.

The question for the justices was whether one of the laws used to prosecute some of the members of the mob that stormed the Capitol fits their conduct. The law, a provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, contains a broad catchall provision that makes it a crime to corruptly obstruct, influence or impede any official proceeding.

But the provision is linked to a previous one aimed at altering evidence. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the catchall provision must be read in context. Since the Jan. 6 defendants were not accused of altering evidence, he said, the catchall provision did not apply.

Other members of the court’s conservative majority said that reading the catchall provision in isolation would allow prosecutions of all sorts of protesters.

Two members of the court’s liberal wing responded that the catchall provision was broad by design and not tethered to the previous clause. Congress had meant, they said, to give prosecutors tools to address situations that the lawmakers could not anticipate.

The effect of a ruling rejecting the use of the provision to prosecute Jan. 6 defendants is not completely clear. Most such defendants have not been charged under the provision, which prosecutors have reserved for the most serious cases, and those who have been charged under it face other counts as well.

The defendant in Tuesday’s case, Joseph W. Fischer, for instance, faces six other charges.

Nor is it clear that a ruling in Mr. Fischer’s favor would erase any charges against Mr. Trump under the law. Jack Smith, the special counsel overseeing the federal election interference case against the former president, has said Mr. Trump’s conduct could be considered a crime under even a narrow reading of the 2002 law.

Whatever the larger consequences of the court’s ruling, expected by late June, several justices on Tuesday seemed troubled by the government’s interpretation of the law, saying it would allow many other kinds of prosecutions.

“Would a sit-in that disrupts a trial or access to a federal courthouse qualify?” Justice Neil M. Gorsuch asked. “Would a heckler in today’s audience qualify, or at the State of the Union address? Would pulling a fire alarm before a vote qualify for 20 years in federal prison?”

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. allowed that “what happened on Jan. 6 was very, very serious.” But he added that the prosecutors’ theory could reach, say, protests in the Supreme Court’s courtroom, which have occurred from time to time.

Elizabeth B. Prelogar, the U.S. solicitor general, began her argument by recalling the events of Jan. 6, saying that what some of the participants did that day amounted to obstruction covered by the law.

“On Jan. 6, 2021, a violent mob stormed the United States Capitol and disrupted the peaceful transition of power,” she said. “Many crimes occurred that day, but in plain English, the fundamental wrong committed by many of the rioters, including petitioner, was a deliberate attempt to stop the joint session of Congress from certifying the results of the election. That is, they obstructed Congress’s work in that official proceeding.”

Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked how to distinguish the attack on the Capitol from other actions that have disrupted official proceedings. “Tell me why I shouldn’t be concerned about the breadth of the government’s reading?” she asked.

The law at issue in the case was enacted in the wake of the collapse of the energy giant Enron.

Mr. Fischer, a former police officer, was charged with violating it and with six other crimes. Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh asked why the other charges were insufficient.

“Why aren’t those six counts good enough just from the Justice Department’s perspective given that they don’t have any of the hurdles?” he asked.

Ms. Prelogar responded that the other counts did not fully reflect Mr. Fischer’s culpability.

The law was prompted by accounting fraud and the destruction of documents, but the provision is written in broad terms.

At least part of what the law meant to accomplish was to address a gap in the federal criminal code: It was a crime to persuade others to destroy records relevant to an investigation or official proceeding but not to do so oneself. The law sought to close that gap.

It did that in a two-part provision. The first part makes it a crime to corruptly alter, destroy or conceal evidence to frustrate official proceedings. The second part, at issue in Mr. Fischer’s case, makes it a crime “otherwise” to corruptly obstruct, influence or impede any official proceeding.

The heart of the case is at the pivot from the first part to the second. The ordinary meaning of “otherwise,” prosecutors say, is “in a different manner.” That means, they say, that the obstruction of official proceedings need not involve the destruction of evidence. The second part, they say, is broad catchall applying to all sorts of conduct.

Justice Elena Kagan said the catchall provision was a purposefully broad reaction to the Enron debacle.

“What Enron convinced them of was that there were gaps in these statutes,” she said of the lawmakers who enacted it.

She added: “But they didn’t know exactly what those gaps were. So they said, let’s have a backstop provision. And this is their backstop provision.”

Justice Sotomayor agreed. “They wanted to cover every base, and they didn’t do it in a logical way, but they managed to cover every base,” she said.

Jeffrey T. Green, a lawyer for Mr. Fischer, said the court should not interpret the 2002 law to create a crime of breathtaking scope that would allow prosecutors to charge political protesters and others with felonies carrying 20-year prison sentences.

He said that the first part of the provision must inform and limit the second one — to obstruction linked to the destruction of evidence. They would read “otherwise,” in other words, as “similarly.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., citing a unanimous opinion he wrote last week, appeared to agree. “The general phrase,” he said, “is controlled and defined by reference to the terms that precede it,” he said. “The ‘otherwise’ phrase is more general, and the terms that precede it are ‘alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record or document.’”

The case is one of several on the court’s docket this term affecting or involving Mr. Trump. In a separate case to be argued next week, the justices will consider Mr. Trump’s claim that he is totally immune from prosecution.

Mr. Fischer is accused of entering the Capitol around 3:24 p.m. on Jan. 6, with the counting of electoral ballots having been suspended after the initial assault.

He had told a superior in a text message, prosecutors said, that “it might get violent.” In another, he wrote that “they should storm the capital and drag all the democrates into the street and have a mob trial.”

Prosecutors say that videos showed Mr. Fischer yelling “Charge!” before pushing through the crowd, using a vulgar term to berate police officers and crashing into a line of them.

Mr. Fischer’s lawyers dispute some of this. But the question for the justices is legal, not factual: Does the 2002 law cover what Mr. Fischer is accused of?

As the end of the argument neared, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, a liberal, indicated that she had reservations about the government’s position, saying that the court should not lose sight of “the backdrop of a real-world context.”

“It was in the wake of Enron,” she said. “There was document destruction, and, you know, there was nothing as far as I can tell in the enactment history as it was recorded that suggests that Congress was thinking about obstruction more generally.”


  1. 😎 Last paragraph of an essay. Sample Last Sentences of Essays. 2019-02-02

    what is the last paragraph of an essay called

  2. The five paragraph essay

    what is the last paragraph of an essay called

  3. Essay Planning

    what is the last paragraph of an essay called

  4. How to write a good conclusion for argumentative essay

    what is the last paragraph of an essay called

  5. Body

    what is the last paragraph of an essay called

  6. Introduction

    what is the last paragraph of an essay called



  2. Ch 4 Last paragraph Class 9th

  3. Discuss last paragraph !!

  4. read the last paragraph

  5. A Short and Sweet Summary of The Last Word

  6. Analytical Paragraph || Last Revision 😻😻


  1. The Five-Paragraph Essay

    Learn how to write a classic five-paragraph essay with introduction, body, and conclusion. The last paragraph of the essay is the conclusion, which summarizes the main points and gives a final statement.

  2. Ending the Essay: Conclusions

    Finally, some advice on how not to end an essay: Don't simply summarize your essay. A brief summary of your argument may be useful, especially if your essay is long--more than ten pages or so. But shorter essays tend not to require a restatement of your main ideas. Avoid phrases like "in conclusion," "to conclude," "in summary," and "to sum up ...

  3. Essay Structure: The 3 Main Parts of an Essay

    Basic essay structure: the 3 main parts of an essay. Almost every single essay that's ever been written follows the same basic structure: Introduction. Body paragraphs. Conclusion. This structure has stood the test of time for one simple reason: It works. It clearly presents the writer's position, supports that position with relevant ...

  4. 5 Main Parts of an Essay: An Easy Guide to a Solid Structure

    Learn the basic parts of an essay: introduction, body, and conclusion. Find out how to write each part with examples and tips.

  5. Paragraphs

    A paragraph is a series of sentences on a specific point or topic. A well written paragraph must have a topic sentence which states the main idea: what the paragraph is about. While some say the topic sentence can be anywhere in the paragraph, it is best to put it as the first sentence in a paragraph. The rest of the sentences in the paragraph ...

  6. PDF What is a Conclusion? Structure of a Conclusion

    A conclusion is the last paragraph of your essay and presents your final thoughts on the topic at hand without introducing new information. The conclusion accomplishes two important goals: it reminds the audience of what they read before and creates both a lasting impact on the reader and a sense of resolution.

  7. Paragraph Structure: How to Write Strong Paragraphs

    Like other forms of writing, paragraphs follow a standard three-part structure with a beginning, middle, and end. These parts are the topic sentence, development and support, and conclusion. Topic sentences, also known as "paragraph leaders," introduce the main idea that the paragraph is about.

  8. How to Write a Five-Paragraph Essay, With Examples

    The five-paragraph essay format is a guide that helps writers structure an essay. It consists of one introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs for support, and one concluding paragraph. Because of this structure, it has been nicknamed the "hamburger essay," the "one-three-one essay," and the "three-tier essay.".

  9. How to Structure an Essay

    Learn how to structure an essay with an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Find out how to organize information within the body using different approaches and signposts.

  10. 11 Rules for Essay Paragraph Structure (with Examples)

    The first sentence of an essay paragraph is called the topic sentence. This is one of the most important sentences in the correct essay paragraph structure style. ... Just their last name. My name is Chris Drew. First name Chris, last name Drew. If you were going to reference an academic article I wrote in 2019, you would reference it like this ...

  11. Essay Conclusions

    The conclusion is a very important part of your essay. Although it is sometimes treated as a roundup of all of the bits that didn't fit into the paper earlier, it deserves better treatment than that! It's the last thing the reader will see, so it tends to stick in the reader's memory. It's also a great place to remind the reader exactly why ...

  12. Paragraphs

    Paragraphs are the building blocks of papers. Many students define paragraphs in terms of length: a paragraph is a group of at least five sentences, a paragraph is half a page long, etc. In reality, though, the unity and coherence of ideas among sentences is what constitutes a paragraph. A paragraph is defined as "a group of sentences or a ...

  13. Paragraphs & Topic Sentences

    A well-organized paragraph supports or develops a single controlling idea, which is expressed in a sentence called the topic sentence. A topic sentence has several important functions: it substantiates or supports an essay's thesis statement; it unifies the content of a paragraph and directs the order of the sentences; and it advises the ...

  14. Paragraphs and Essays

    An outline of an academic essay contains the thesis and brief information about the proof paragraphs. The proof paragraphs are the paragraphs between the introduction paragraph and the concluding paragraph. Proof paragraphs contain evidence, also called supporting details, that the thesis is accurate.

  15. 4 Ways to Write the Last Sentence in a Paper

    Invite your reader to make notes on your paper and suggest necessary revisions. 5. Use your notes and feedback to make your final revisions. Tweak or rewrite your final sentence if you think it still needs work. Make your changes based on your notes and the feedback from the friend or relative who read your paper.

  16. Parts of a Paragraph; Multi-Paragraph Documents

    These are sometimes called essays. However, academic essays do have a very specific organizational pattern. Academic Essays. The introduction paragraph and the concluding paragraph of an essay are different from a general paragraph. An introduction contains general background information on a topic and leads into a thesis statement.

  17. What is the last paragraph of an essay called?

    What is the last paragraph of an essay called? A. Introduction B. Thesis Statement C. Purple Elephant D. Conclusion

  18. Argument Essay Structure Flashcards

    The structure of a body paragraph in an argument essay is-. Topic sentence, evidence and explanation given twice, conclusion sentence with sentence starter. Determine what the last sentence is called in a conclusion paragraph in an argument essay. Final strong sentence. Counter-argument is a statement that goes-. against your position.

  19. Parts of an Essay Flashcards

    A piece of writing that describes an incident and includes a personal response to and reflection on the incident. expository essay. An essay that explains, informs, or presents information. Clincher. Closing ideas designed to keep the reader thinking. It is the last sentence of the conclusion paragraph.

  20. What is the last paragraph in an essay called ? A.persuasive

    The last paragraph in an essay is called B. concluding paragraph.. The concluding paragraph is the final section of an essay where the writer wraps up their argument or discussion.It often restates the main points, summarizes the key arguments, and provides closure to the reader. The concluding paragraph aims to leave a lasting impression and reinforce the essay's main message or thesis statement.

  21. How to Write an Introduction Paragraph in 3 Steps

    Intro Paragraph Part 3: The Thesis. The final key part of how to write an intro paragraph is the thesis statement. The thesis statement is the backbone of your introduction: it conveys your argument or point of view on your topic in a clear, concise, and compelling way. The thesis is usually the last sentence of your intro paragraph.

  22. The Last Paragraph of an Essay is Called...

    The last paragraph of a story is often called the end. The conclusion is the writer's final chance to leave a lasting impression on the reader by summarizing the main points of the story and concluding the argument or discussion presented without merely repeating the theme or points but rather presenting an integration of the concepts explored throughout the article.

  23. Parts of an Essay Quizizz

    body paragraph. conclusion paragraph. opening paragraph. 3. Multiple Choice. 30 seconds. 1 pt. What are the middle paragraphs of an essay called? introduction paragraphs.

  24. Justices Examine Use of a Law to Charge Jan. 6 Rioters

    Abbie VanSickle. The court's decision in today's Jan. 6 case could eliminate some of the federal charges that former President Donald J. Trump is facing for his role in the plot to subvert the ...