The body of your paper is where you support and discuss the main ideas for your topic. Each main idea requires its own paragraph and support. How you write the body of your essay is based on your own personal taste, but there are a couple of points you should consider:

  • All paragraphs need to have a topic sentence that links ideas back to your thesis statement. A topic sentence is the sentence that communicates the main idea of your paragraph.
  • All topic sentences will be expanded through the use of supporting details.
  • In research papers, all paragraphs must integrate research to support your position.
  • All paragraphs must logically connect to the other ideas in your paper.
  • If you have information that contradicts your main idea, it is wise to acknowledge that information and explain why it has not changed your position.
  • All paragraphs must end with a transition sentence that leads the reader from one idea to the next.

Topic Sentences

A topic sentence is the first sentence in a paragraph and provides the reader with a sense of purpose for the paragraph, just as the thesis statement defines the purpose of the paper. A topic sentence is the main idea of your paragraph and should have a clear relationship to your thesis statement.

Consider the following suggestions on this sample topic:

  • What are some benefits of distance learning?

For the purposes of this topic, your thesis might read as follows:

  • Distance learning students benefit from the flexibility of time and space; this meets the needs of individuals living far away from a post-secondary institution, working full-time jobs, or raising a family.

You might write the possible topic sentences:


Topic Sentence Checklist

If you are writing a paper, use the following checklist to determine the effectiveness of your topic sentences:

  1. Identify and underline the thesis of the paper.
  2. Identify and underline the topic sentence for each paragraph.
  3. Compare each topic sentence with your thesis and make sure that there is a clear connection. Try writing down the thesis statement and topic sentences as a paragraph. If the ideas do not flow together, revise the topic sentences to make your writing more coherent.
  4. Read each paragraph. Ask yourself if all the supporting details in the paragraph are connected to the topic sentence. If not, ask yourself what the topic sentence is about. Then look for a way to connect it to the supporting details of the paragraph. If some details are unrelated, get rid of them and replace them with appropriate information. If none of the details are related, rewrite the whole paragraph.
  5. Look at the order of your paragraphs and topic sentences. Determine if there is a logical flow of ideas. If necessary, shift the order of paragraphs to make them more effective.

Supporting Details

Supporting details are the pieces of research and information that are integrated in your writing to add authority to your argument. It is your way of saying that you have an idea that is well-informed and grounded in the course work or academic research.

Supporting details come in three forms:

  • Direct quotations from sources
  • Paraphrases from sources
  • Personal opinion (when assignment guidelines permit)

The following chart shows examples of the three types of supporting details from a sample student paper:



SEE Pattern

Whichever form of support you choose to use, you must integrate the information in your writing.

Consider using the SEE pattern to integrate the support in your paragraph:

  • Statement – Write a statement that precedes your quotation or paraphrase. This statement should provide the necessary contextual or background information and act as a transition to your piece of support.
  • Example – Insert your example: the actual quotation or paraphrase you have found in the literature.
  • Explanation – Give an explanation of how the quotation or paraphrase connects to the rest of the ideas in the paragraph.

Following this pattern will ensure that supporting details are relevant and connected to the point you are making.

Explore the following colour-coded paragraph, to better understand this concept of Statement, Example and Explanation:

In Africa[D1], savannah grassland is another ecological zone prone to wildfires. Here to there are signs that fire, people, plants, and animals co-exist in complex and sometimes misunderstood relationships.  Wild fire affects [D2] the behaviour of grazing animals, altering foraging patterns as fresh growth becomes available in burned areas (Archibald, Bond, Stock, & Fairbanks, 2005) and also promotes the "patchiness" of the savannah, as the young trees that are most likely to survive wild fires are those closest to the protection of existing clumps of older trees ( Hochberg, Menaut, & Gignoux, 1994). Researchers [D3] are just beginning to understand the role of humans in this ecosystem.

[D1]The topic sentence and following sentence introduce the idea that fire, animals, plants and people co-exist, but how they are connected is sometimes unclear.

[D2]The example is about the relationship between wild fires and animals and plants.

[D3]The explanation clarifies that while there is a basic understanding of how wildfires, animals and plants are related in this ecological zone, the role of humans is still misunderstood

Transitions and Transitional Sentences


Transitions help the reader understand the connections between your ideas. Transitions act like traffic signs, directing the reader from one idea to the next by showing a relationship between ideas. If you do not have appropriate transitions, your writing may be choppy or hard to follow. Normally, transitions indicate a shift in time, contrast, comparison, cause and effect, summary, or addition.

To ensure you incorporate a variety of transitions in your writing, explore the chart of Transitional Words and Phrases at

Read the following paragraphs. Observe how the addition of transitions in the second paragraph clarifies the connections between the ideas:

Paragraph 1 (no transitions)
Online learning is effective. Students can log in from anywhere at any time. Learning is more flexible. It fits the individual needs of the learner. Students can maintain a full-time job, raise a family and pursue a degree. This is a successful choice for many students!

Paragraph 2 (with transitions)
Online learning is effective because it allows students to log in from anywhere at any time. Consequently, learning is more flexible and fits the individual needs of the learner. As such, students can maintain a full-time job, raise a family and pursue a degree, resulting in success.

From this simple example, you can see how much easier it is to read the second paragraph. Paragraph 1 appears to be a list of disconnected ideas. In contrast, paragraph 2 uses transitions to show the relationships between the ideas.

Transitions Checklist

To ensure that your transitions provide logical flow within each paragraph, work through the following transitions checklist:

  1. Highlight the topic sentence in each paragraph.
  2. Look at the sentences in each paragraph.  Underline the words that transition between or within sentences. If there are few transitional words used, revise the paragraph to make sure you are not just listing ideas.
  3. Read your revised paragraph aloud. Listen for a smooth flow of your ideas. Are the relationships between the ideas clear? If not, consider making more revisions.

© #13957101. Used under licence with istockphoto

Transitional Sentences

Transitional sentences help the reader understand the connections between your paragraphs. They act like merge lanes onto a highway, moving the reader smoothly from one paragraph to the next. These sentences often appear at the end of each paragraph to lead the reader to the ideas in the next topic sentence.

Transitions and transitional sentences show the relationship between ideas and allow the writing to flow smoothly.

Examples of Transitions and Transitional Sentences

Transitions and transitional sentences show the relationship between ideas and allow the writing to flow smoothly. Explore an example of an individual talking through the transitions and transitional sentences for one section of a sample student paper.

The Dene and the Kissi base their land management strategies on experience and knowledge of their local landscapes, gained over many generations.  Their strategies allow them to use fire sustainably to maintain local ecosystems and protect their communities.  Europeans[D1] have misunderstood and misinterpreted the activities of native inhabitants in both Canada and Guinea.

In the past[D2] , researchers have tended to minimize or dismiss the effects that communities exerted on the land they inhabited, particularly in hunting and gathering societies.[D3] Research has often ignored or dismissed the importance of traditional burning practices and traditional knowledge of fire-ecology. Lewis[D4] (1982) acknowledged the shortcomings of researchers, writing that, "No aspect is quite so dismal as anthropologists' lack of knowledge of indigenous uses of fire for transforming and maintaining natural environments." (p. 3). In the last few decades[D5] , this has begun to change, although debate continues with some researchers continuing to assert that lightening strikes are responsible for the majority of historical fire evidence (Wuerthner, 2006).

Although[D6] ecologically distinct, experiences in both Guinea and Northern Alberta indicate that there are still many lessons to learn about fire and land management from other cultures, despite [D7] the researchers who believe that fire evidence only comes from lightening strikes.  It is vital to realize that each ecosystem responds to fire in its own way (Wuerthner, 2006), and people who have lived in a region for many generations have intimate knowledge of their local ecosystems. As Lewis (1982) wrote [D8] "we may gain and share important new insights into  the ecology and technology of fire" (p. 50).  Fire is part of nature.  Humans can not eliminate it, nor should we wish to.  In the recent past, European colonists in both North America and Africa have sought to prevent fires, overlooking a key distinction between prevention and control. Recently [D9] research has revealed the value of traditional fire-ecology practices, and offered suggestions for improving current fire practices.  In summary[D10] , much can be learned about land management from those who lived on the land before the colonizers arrived, and this knowledge should inform current fire practices.

[D1]There is no transition hereto indicate how this sentence connects to the previous sentence.  A transition that might be effective here could be: unfortunately, regrettably or disappointingly.

[D2]This is an effective transition to indicate a particular time frame.

[D3]The use of the words “hunting and gathering societies” here echoes the “native inhabitants in both Canada and Guinea” from the previous paragraph, showing that the ideas are connected.

[D4]There is no transition here to indicate how this sentence connects to the previous sentence.  A transition that might be effective here could be: Consequently, Therefore, Accordingly.

[D5]This is an effective transition to indicate a particular time frame.

[D6]"Although" acts like a contrast word that then helps emphasize the similarity between Guinea and northern Alberta.  Comparison and contrast words illustrate strong relationships between ideas.

[D7]“Despite” the information in the last paragraph.  This is an effective transition because it acknowledges the naysayers, while moving the argument forward.

[D8]“As” is an effective transition to this idea because it is understood that this sentence supports the previous statement.

[D9]“In the recent past” indicates the timeframe for the information, and then the writer uses “recently” to indicate that the new information in this sentence is more current than the information in the first sentence.

[D10]“Summary” indicates that this sentence will concisely conclude the paragraph by highlighting the main points being made about the importance of considering traditional land management knowledge when planning current fire practices.