The first paragraph of the academic essay is the one that is usually the most different from the basic paragraph that we have studied. In Lessons #1 and #2, we saw that a basic paragraph had a topic sentence as its first sentence, followed by supporting sentences with supporting details, and these (sometimes) followed by a concluding sentence.
In the multi-paragraph academic essay, however, the structure is a little different. Like the basic paragraph, the introductory paragraph opens with a very general statement about the topic, and is often followed by some supporting examples, but the paragraph then finishes with a narrow statement about the topic. This narrow statement is called the main thesis. Here is a short example of an introductory paragraph: Throughout human history, the physical universe has often presented dangers to explorers. For example, when primitive humans left their tribal villages to search for food and water, they risked death or injury from dangerous animals. Later, when people sailed the oceans in search of new lands for settlement or trade, many died in terrible storms. Similarly, the ocean of outer space has many dangers, but it also has several unique challenges for explorers. |
Notice how the first sentence, Throughout human history, nature has often presented dangers to explorers,is a very general statment about the topic, which is dangers in exploration. The next two sentences give some supporting examples of this intital sentence. However, the third sentence of the paragraph gives an example that contrasts in some way with the previous two sentences. Then, the final sentence does something new: It introduces a specific example of the general topic. This specific topic is the main thesis of the entire essay; that is, the rest of the essay will focus on this specific topic, which in this case is several unique challenges for explorers.
This main thesis functions like the topic sentence of the basic paragraph, which we have studied in Lessons #1 and #2. It is the most important sentence of the essay.
Notice how the main thesis is worded. It includes the phrase, several unique challlenges.This raises a question in the reader's mind, namely: "What are these challenges?" The reader will find out what some of the challenges are in the body of the essay, which we will study next.
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The body portion of the essay is the largest portion. Typically, it has three paragraphs, but it might have two paragraphs and of course it can have many more than three. Each of these paragraphs usually has a topic sentence and several supporting sentences, just like the basic paragraph we have studied. Here is an example of three body paragraphs (which together continue the essay that we have started studying above): One of the challenges that is unique to space is the fact that space is a vacuum, which is a risk for various reasons. First, in a vacuum there is no atmosphere and therefore no air pressure. Without air pressure, the human body has no oxygen to sustain itself. After too many minutes without oxygen, a person would lose consciousness and eventually die. Also, in a vacuum a person's blood will gradually begin to boil. Finally, without an atmosphere, the rays of the Sun can cause radiation poisoning. Another difficulty that