Body Paragraphs

Your introduction provides an overview of your topic and a clear vision of your argument. In the body of the paper, paragraphs develop aspects of your argument through the use and analysis of evidence.


The Structure of a Body Paragraph

Begin with a clear topic sentence that explains what idea the paragraph will develop and how this links to the previous paragraph and/or thesis. See “Transitions Between Paragraphs” for sample topic and transition sentences.

Provide evidence: explain how it supports your point.

Conclude a paragraph by showing how it relates to the thesis or by relating the paragraph to what will come in the next paragraph.


Using Evidence


Your paper's success depends on your ability to provide and explain evidence. Do not assume that because your professor already knows the information that you do not need to include it. Never let evidence speak for itself. The sentences around the evidence should interpret this evidence and show how it relates to your thesis. Hence, evidence should usually not be presented in a paragraph's last sentence.

Examples of Evidence

  • Data: quantifiable measurements and relationships
  • Events or actions
  • Images
  • Experiments
  • Summaries, paraphrases and quotations from scholarly work
  • Primary sources

The more specific your evidence is, the stronger the evidence is.

Make sure that you properly cite the source of the evidence that you use. See our Documentation Guide for how to cite information.



Writing About Primary and Secondary Sources

Whether you are using ideas or information found in a scholarly book, journal, newspaper or web site, you need to consider how to discuss your sources properly. There are several ways in which you can use sources in your paper, the most common of which are paraphrasing, summarizing or directly quoting.

How to Refer to Sources in the Text of the Paper

Titles of books, journals, works of art, plays and movies should be italicized or underlined (be consistent throughout the essay). It is more usual, these days, to italicize.

Tiles of “articles,” “chapters,” and “unpublished works” should be put in quotation marks (double quotes).

Titles of “short poems” should be put in quotation marks. Longer poems should be italicized.

In general, capitalize the titles of works when you discuss them in the text. (APA reference style is different).


Summarizing means rewriting something in your own words, stating only the key ideas and making it shorter and more concise than the original. A summary generally does not include the source’s supporting details or evidence. You can summarizes when you only need the main points of a source in order to support your arguments.


Example: Despite changes in legislation, Colchester argues that indigenous peoples have little participation in conservation efforts (Colchester, 24).


Paraphrasing means giving, in your own words, a precise re-statement of your source's fact and ideas.  It does not necessarily means shortening, and it usually follows the structure and  organizational pattern of the original source. Paraphrase when your essay requires detailed information. It is usual to paraphrase only short sections of a source otherwise you risk depending too heavily on that one source.

Example: For thirty years, international conservation agencies like the World Conservation Union and World Parks Congress have made recommendations to governments about the use of protected lands (Colchester, 28).          

Avoiding Plagiarism While Summarizing and Paraphrasing

When you summarize or paraphrase ideas, examples, data, or any information from a source, you must take great care not to plagiarize.

  • You must put the source into your own words. In order to rephrase a passage from a source properly, you must completely reword it. It is not enough to change a few words into synonyms. You must make it completely your own. Read the original and take point-form notes from it, cover the original, re-write it using your notes in your words, and cite the source.
  • Do not copy the sentence structure of a source. Some students cut and copy text or type sentences into their papers and then simply change a few of the words. This is plagiarism. You must use your own sentence structure; otherwise you are plagiarising. It is much easier to use your own sentence structure when you don't have the original in front of you and if you use point-form notes.
  • Reference your source properly. After you put the text into your own words and sentence structure, reference the source properly. Depending on the course, you may use parenthetical references, footnotes, endnotes, or a sequential numbering system in order to document the source. Learn the rules for proper referencing at the ASC’s Documentation Guide.
  • Include the source in your list of sources at the end of your essay. This list will have a different name depending on which documentation style you use. The ASC’s Documentation Guide has complete information on how to format your references, works cited, or bibliography.


Example of an Improper Paraphrase

(words in bold are found in both the original source and in the paraphrase; too many bolded words and phrases means the writer is to close to the original source)


Original Source:

Economies of scale sent farmers away from local, independent suppliers to better deals in regional supply centres. Larger livestock barns led to demands that municipalities and provincial regulators set standards for the increasing volumes of livestock manure being produced on small acreages.


Improper Paraphrase

Economies of scale sent farmers away from local small businesses to save money in regional supply stores. Larger livestock barns led to demands that governments make laws about the increasing volumes of livestock manure found on small farms (Palwick, 2010).

Proper Paraphrase

Palwick (2010) focuses on mass production as a primary cause of rural economic hardship. Increasingly, farmers tried to economize by buying goods from large, centralized suppliers rather than local businesses. Using the example of increases in livestock manure, Palwick shows that as farms themselves increased in size, so too did the need for laws to regulate them, laws which were often too expensive for small farmers to comply with.

For more information on avoiding plagiarism, please see "Avoiding Plagiarism."

Quoting from Sources

In some disciplines, you can support your ideas and make an essay more interesting with well-chosen quotations. Quoting involves copying an author’s exact words and enclosing them in quotation marks. Well-chosen quotations add to your essay, and support your arguments and give them validity because of the authority good secondary sources have.

Use quotations sparingly: while using them to support your ideas adds support to your paper, allowing them to overwhelm your papers does not. Quotations are effective when they are an integral part of your essay. Think of them as a strong spice: resist the temptation to throw in a quotation merely because it sounds impressive. Always have a reason for using a quotation.

When to Quote

  • when the writer's style or eloquence is so powerful that summarizing or paraphrasing would be significantly less effective.
  • when the writer’s words give your argument validity and support.
  • when you want to comment on, agree with, or take exception to what the writer has said.
  • when you want to comment specifically on the writer’s choice of words.

How to Quote

Always link the quotation clearly and smoothly to your thoughts. Make sure you interpret or explain how the quotation illustrates your ideas. Never leave quotations to speak for themselves.

Avoiding Plagiarism When Quoting

  • Always indicate a quotation by using quotation marks around the borrowed passage. This indicates the words are not your own.  If you are quoting a longer passage, you will generally use a block quotation format rather than quotation marks. Check the formatting guidelines for the style that you are using on our online Documentation Guide for information about longer quotations.  
  • Always follow a direct quotation with a parenthetical reference, footnote, or superscript number to show its source. Most documentation styles (including APA)  require that you include a page number in a reference to a direct quotation.

For more information on avoiding plagiarism, please see "Avoiding Plagiarism."


Making Changes to Quotations

At times you may want to shorten a quotation by removing words from it or change part of a quotation to clarify it or to make it fit into your sentence grammatically. Ellipses and square brackets allow you to make these changes.


Use ellipses dots wherever you take words out of the middle of a quotation. If you omit words within the same sentences use three ellipses dots and put spaces between each.

For example: “Previous fossil discoveries there…include trilobites of middle Cambrian age” (Smith, 2010, p.12).

If you omit words that occur between two different sentences, use four ellipses dots. The fourth dot stands in for the period you have removed.

For example: Bedford was well known and appreciated for his ability to engage his audiences. . . . Michael Sindell’s review of The School For Wives describes the energy and flair of Bedford’s work” (Mankad, 2010, p.18). 

You do not need to use ellipses to remove words at the beginning or end of a quotation.

Square Brackets

Use square brackets if you wish to insert a word or explanation into a direct quotation.

For example: “The task [of the commission] is to investigate the alleged illegal activities of the RCMP” (Jones, 2009, p.301).

Use square brackets to make a change to a quotation that allows it to fit into your sentence grammatically. This could be changing the tense of a verb or changing the first letter of a quotation to lower case.

For example: She stresses that "[i]n modern Western culture, much emphasis is placed on body image” (Walcott, 2011, p.12).

Incorporating Quotations in Paragraphs

If quotations are to be effective, they must be carefully worked into your own sentences and paragraphs. It is important to ensure that quotations are introduced, commented on, and related to the controlling ideas of the paragraphs in which you place them. 

There are many ways to introduce quotations. Consider these alternatives to "X writes":

                  according to X

                  in the opinion of X

                  as X adds, admits, affirms, argues,

                  believes, confirms, declares, insists,

                  mentions, proposes, reports, states,

                  reveals, suggests, thinks

Ways to Incorporate Quotations into Your Writing

The passage below is a direct quotation from Annette Tromly’s The Cover of the Mask: The Autobiographers in Charlotte Bronte’s Fiction. Following this are several examples illustrating how part of this passage may be incorporated into a writer’s own sentences.

"Jane’s most important relationship exists in that strange imaginative mid-region half-way between illusion and reality. The genesis of the relationship goes as far back as Gateshead. Enclosed in the Red Room, Jane is torn by opposition and dominated by her literary imagination." (Tromly 7). 

The examples below simply report Tromly’s ideas, but they do so smoothly, and without abandoning the reader.

  • Tromly argues that “Jane’s most important relationship exists in that strange imaginative mid-region half-way between illusion and reality.”
  • According to Tromly, “Jane’s most important relationship exists in that strange imaginative mid-region half-way between illusion and reality.”
  • “Jane’s most important relationship” occurs, in Tromly’s view, “half-way between illusion and reality.”

The next two examples make a direct comment on the material quoted:

  • Tromly is wrong when she argues that “Jane’s most important    relationship exists in that strange imaginative mid-region half-way between illusion and reality.”
  • Tromly argues convincingly that Jane Eyre’s attachment to Rochester “exists in that strange imaginative mid-region half-way between illusion and reality.”

The last example places Tromly’s ideas in context by referring to other researchers’ treatment of the same topic:

  • All Bronte scholars agree with Tromly on one point: “Jane’s most important relationship exists in that strange imaginative mid-region half-way between illusion and reality.”



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