How to write a five-paragraph essay: practical tips, samples, and ideas

How to write a five-paragraph essay: pick a topic and create an outline

One missed math class in middle school can cause you a world of trouble in Calculus. Fail to master five-paragraph essays in high school, and your college writing tasks will become a nightmare. For all its simplicity, this assignment lays the foundation for academic research and writing skills. If you missed your chance to polish your skills in school, our writing guide will answer all your questions and share advice you’ll use for years to come.

What is a five-paragraph essay?

A five-paragraph essay is a common type of assignment in middle and high school, as well as college. As the name suggests, it follows the basic structure, including one introductory passage, three body paragraphs, and a closing paragraph. You may have heard its other names, like “hamburger essay” or “one-three-one” paper.

It’s among the main types of essay assignments thanks to its straightforward structure that works best for training students and teaching them how to outline papers and order their ideas logically. Consequently, you can come across such essays among in-class and homework tasks, as well as scholarships and contests. At the same time, advanced classes usually require more complex writing assignments, such as case studies, research papers, or capstone projects.

Types of 5 paragraph essay

As we’ve established, a five-paragraph essay is not a genre but a format of an academic assignment. If the word count requirements allow, this structure can be used in most writing styles:

  • An argumentative piece should present a strong opinion on a controversial topic and support it with credible evidence from reliable sources.
  • A persuasive 5 paragraph essay is much like an argumentative paper, but it can rely on empathetic arguments to sway the readers to your side.
  • An expository assignment presents objective information clearly and in detail to give the readers a basic understanding of complex issues.
  • A descriptive piece shares a detailed depiction of an object, concept, location, or person to paint a vivid picture in the minds of the readers.
  • A narrative paper is a short story with relatable characters and an interesting plot depicting either real or fictional events.

The 5 paragraph essay format can also fit other academic assignments, like an admission or scholarship essay, a lab report, etc.


5 paragraph essay structure

As the name suggests, the five paragraph structure splits the paper into five passages, including the introduction and the conclusion. To help you understand what each of these five parts entails, let’s go over the specifics and cover the critical components of each section.


A thesis statement is the core part of the opening passage. So, if you don’t know how to start a five-paragraph essay, lead with a thesis. It may look different, depending on the genre, but it usually encompasses the main idea of the paper in one sentence. While the thesis should always be present within the first paragraph, it doesn’t need to come first. You can open with an attention-grabbing hook, like a controversial sentence or a surprising fact, follow up with some context about the topic, and wrap up the introduction with a thesis statement.

We do not recommend working on your paper before you have a thesis, as it can quickly become disorganized and veer off-topic. Even if you need to rework the thesis after the paper is done, a first draft can guide your research and writing.

Body paragraphs

Unlike the introduction and conclusion, the body passages are pretty similar to one another and follow the same basic formula, regardless of the genre and topic. Whether you’re learning how to write an essay about yourself or any other issue, each of the three body paragraphs should include:

  • Transition. A transition word or phrase at the beginning of the passage can help tie the paper together.
  • Topic sentence. It’s a mini-thesis for a passage, highlighting the main idea of the paragraph and distinguishing it from other sections.
  • Evidence and analysis. Reference quotes, numbers, and facts while explaining their meaning.
  • Mini-conclusion. The final section of each passage should provide a clear tie-in with the thesis statement in the introduction.

It’s up to you to decide the main idea of each paragraph based on the information you gather during your research. You can order them chronologically, thematically, or in an ascending or descending order (from weakest to strongest argument or vice versa).


Wrap up five-paragraph essays by revisiting the major points of the three body passages presented in topic sentences and explain how these points support and strengthen your thesis statement. You shouldn’t include new information or arguments in the closing paragraph, but you can add parting thoughts or suggestions. For instance, you can address the limits of your research, describe the long-term implications of your findings, or provide recommendations for further research and reading.

How to choose 5 paragraph essay topics

Typical advice for choosing an essay topic recommends writing about something you like or are interested in. And while that’s a good suggestion, the biggest trouble with this particular task is that you only have five paragraphs to cover the topic. Therefore, your idea should fit the small scope of the required word count.

To achieve that, you’ll need to narrow down your topic by adding specifics. For example, if you want to write about the benefits of sports for teenagers’ mental health, you can further narrow the scope by writing only about team sports in high school. This small distinction will help you focus your research and guide your outlining and planning, making the whole piece more cohesive and impactful. At the same time, you should remember to keep the topic broad enough to make it researchable. Otherwise, you won’t have enough sources to cite in the paper.

The SpeedyPaper writing team came up with a short list of relevant 5 paragraph essay topics that should be easy to research and write about:

  1. The average age of American politicians and their ability to lead the country
  2. The causes of the financial crisis during the Covid-19 pandemic
  3. The effect of social media influencers on the national economy
  4. The changes to the movie-going experience post-pandemic
  5. Compare and contrast the reading experience of paper books and e-readers
  6. An overabundance of video content may result in illiteracy
  7. The major causes of the opioid epidemic in the US
  8. Medical and psychological benefits of medicinal marijuana
  9. The age of voting should be increased to 25
  10. The shift to electric vehicles will cause damage to the environment
  11. Comparative analysis of real and artificial Christmas trees
  12. The effect of smartphones on the professional photography industry
  13. The economic repercussions of species extinction caused by climate change
  14. Comparative analysis of the urban planning of American and European cities
  15. Describe your favorite summer vacation destination

If none of the ideas above tickle your imagination, you can hire a short story or biography writer to come up with a fresh and creative title for your assignment. Besides, you can skim our collection of free essay samples to get inspired.

Final thoughts

For all its deceptive simplicity, a five-paragraph paper can stand between you and a passing grade. We hope our experts’ advice on choosing the topic and outlining the essay helps you complete this task on time. Still, there’s nothing wrong with needing to pay for essay. If writing isn’t your strong suit, contact SpeedyPaper, and we’ll assign a quick essay writer to your order. Thanks to years of academic writing experience, we can get a finished paper to your inbox in under 24 hours, ready for submission and meeting the tightest deadlines.