Body Paragraphs: Using Evidence from the Text to Support Your Thesis

As stated in the last assignment, each of your three body paragraphs should follow this basic format:
  • Topic Sentence (TS) with Transition
  • Supporting idea(s)
  • Set-up for quotation or "Lead-in Sentence" (LS)
  • Quotation: evidence from the play
  • Analysis of quotation or "Follow-up Sentence(s)" (FS)
  • repeat LS-Quote-FS steps for any additional evidence
  • Closing Line (CL)

You have developed your three topic sentences. Next you want work on finding evidence in the play -- at least one quotation per body paragraph -- that supports that topic sentence (and the thesis behind it). Quotations are the powerhouses of your essay, the “smoking gun” of your trial. But your reader should not be knocked down with them.

Leading into Quotations

You always want to lead in to a quote, and follow it up afterwards. Lead-in sentences (LS, or quote set-up), which introduce the quote, tell the following:
  • who the speaker is and to whom she is speaking (if applicable);
  • when and where the scene takes place in the storyline
  • what is going on in the scene
A lead-in sentence is a complete sentence (sometimes even two sentences), not part of a sentence that finishes with the quote.

Following-up on Quotations
After you have presented your quote (more on the format later), write a follow-up sentence (or several!). These “FSes” do one or more of the following:
  • draws a conclusion
  • interprets
  • paraphrases (put in your own words)
  • summarizes
  • states the importance of the quote/analyzes the quote’s “point of significance” to the thesis
The last item is usually the best to do, as it displays higher level critical thinking skills. AVOID the words, “This quote” or “This quote shows….” Instead, if you can think of nothing else, write “Shakespeare shows…” or “Romeo/Juliet/whoever means that” or even “This passage establishes the fact that….” This is because quotes don’t dance around & show anything! Authors & characters do.

Here is an example body paragraph which gives you an example of a strong body paragraph. Remember the student's thesis given earlier? "While Macbeth's greed and ambition are necessary conditions which contribute to his acts of tyranny, it is his increasing fear which makes him desperate and thus leads to his most tyrannical and power-hungry deeds." The following paragraph supports that thesis. I will insert, after each sentence the words or abbreviation from the list at the top of this page:

First, Macbeth's ever-increasing greed and ambition lead him towards acts of greater and greater tyranny. (Topic Sentence) His natural drive and ambition is fed by the prophecies of the three witches. (Supporting idea) In fact, he comments to himself that, having heard from them that he will be king, within moments his mind begins to imagine the possibility of murdering his king. (Lead-in Sentence) He says, "I yield to that suggestion / Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair.... ./ My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, / Shakes so my single state of man..." (1.3.147-153). (Quotation) In other words, Macbeth's ambition is so strong that it causes him to consider a "horrid image": murdering the king he has sworn to uphold -- a king we learn has been generous, gentle, and fair to him. (Follow-up Sentence) This imagined murder, which later becomes reality, is a definite step towards tyranny. (Follow-up Sentence) Instead of tempering his ambition, his wife only feeds it. Together the couple are overtaken by their desire for power. Later, fearful that his coveted throne will be usurped, Macbeth has his best friend, Banquo, murdered. These examples show how Macbeth's deep greed and ambition lead him to despotism. (Closing Sentence)

Last modified: Thursday, 14 June 2012, 4:19 PM