For many students, the question of how many paragraphs should there be in an essay is often asked. This is because students do not know how to structure their essays in a way that each paragraph carries individual points or arguments.
Generally, an essay will have at least 3 paragraphs for a 1-page essay to 5 paragraphs for a 2-page essay, and as many as 12 paragraphs for a long essay. While short essays have fewer paragraphs than longer ones, the number is dictated by the instructor. The number depends on the size and the context of the essay.
All that is determined by the instructions. For example, an instructor may decide to give students an essay that requires them to come up with an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
This means that the essay will contain one paragraph for the introduction, three paragraphs for the body, and one paragraph for the conclusion, making the total number of paragraphs to be five.
The example provided above demonstrates the typical approach that is used to come up with an essay. Most of the instructors will require students to use the approach while writing their essays.
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Factors determining the Number of Paragraphs in an Essay
Whether an essay is informative or argumentative, there is a basic number of paragraphs that is optimal. The optimum length of an essay is influenced by a number of elements of the assignment at hand. The number of paragraphs in an essay generally depends on the following factors;
1. The Instructions from the Lecturer
The first major factor is the specifications provided by your instructor concerning the essay. Some instructors will often provide details concerning the structure of the essay and this will determine the number of paragraphs.
However, other instructors will provide different instructions for different essays.
This will result in an essay that has either fewer paragraphs or more paragraphs.
It should be noted that an essay will always have an introduction and a conclusion.
What this means is that an essay must have more than two paragraphs.
The introduction paragraph is meant to introduce the topic and the direction of the arguments while the concluding paragraph is meant to summarize the main points of the essay.
In between the introduction and the concluding paragraphs are the body paragraphs that contain the arguments. This is the reason why a typical essay will have more than 2 paragraphs.
2. Number of Pages
The second factor that determines the number of paragraphs in an essay is the number of pages or the word count.
As aforementioned, the instructions provided by the instructor will determine the number of pages in the essay. The instructor will often require students to come up with essays that have predetermined word counts and page numbers.
What this means is that the students have to adhere to the instructions and therefore produce the required page numbers and/or word counts. If this is the case, then the page numbers and the number of paragraphs will be predetermined by the instructor.
3. Content and Context of the Essay
The third factor is centered on the content and/or context of the essay. There comes a time when the essay requires students to come up with straightforward content and therefore they are not supposed to write too much content.
In such a case, then the students are supposed to come up with short paragraphs that are fewer in number. You may find such an essay having even three to four paragraphs.
Let us imagine this scenario: One student has been told to come up with an essay dealing with technical subjects like physics, engineering, or even mathematics in some instances.
On the other hand, another student has been given an informative or an argumentative that is within the discipline of social sciences like history, philosophy, or ethics.
For the first student, they will create an essay that will have fewer paragraphs because their content or the context of their topic will require them to go straight to the point.
However, for the second student, it means that they will have to expound more on the points they make because each point will require more explanation.
As aforementioned, every paragraph carries its point and therefore, if the point does not need to be expounded more, then the paragraph will be shorter or the points that are required to come up with a full essay will be comparatively fewer.
4. The points to be Argued
Another important factor that determines the number of paragraphs in an essay is the number of points that should be presented in an essay. The more points an essay has the more paragraphs.
For example, if you have a topic on, let’s say, child labor in Africa, you will be required as a student to come up with an outline that will guide you when writing the essay.
All the points will be organized in point form or within individual paragraphs. If you have more points concerning child labor in Africa, then it means that you will have more paragraphs since each point will be carried by a single paragraph.
At the same time, if you have fewer points concerning the same topic, then the number of paragraphs will be fewer.
Therefore, the nature of the topic and the number of points that have to be presented as arguments will determine the number of paragraphs that are there within your essay.
5. The size of your Paragraph
The length of the individual paragraphs will also determine the number of paragraphs in your essay. If you choose to have longer paragraphs that contain more sentences, then it means that your essay will have fewer paragraphs
On the other hand, if you decide to have shorter paragraphs, then your essay will have more paragraphs because a long paragraph might be divided into two or more paragraphs. Therefore, the shorter the length of the paragraph, the more paragraphs in your essay.
Finally, your preference as a student will determine the number of paragraphs in your essay. Some students will feel that they need to have more content in their essays and therefore come up with more points and paragraphs.
At the same time, some will prefer to have shorter essays and consequently have fewer paragraphs. It all depends on your preference as a student.
Some students can give straight-to-the-point responses while others will expound more on points to ascertain their credibility. Hence, it will depend on the students’ preference when it comes to determining the number of paragraphs in an essay.
How to Structure Paragraphs in Argumentative or Informative Essays
There is a specific structure in which all essays should take. In summary, either an informative or an argumentative essay should have an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
The introduction of an essay should be one paragraph in length for shorter essays (below 7 pages in length) or two paragraphs for longer essays (10 pages and above). Read more on
how to write a good introduction paragraph
and understand more about it.
The body paragraphs contain the main points and therefore it depends on the number of points presented.
The more the points to support the thesis statement or the main argument, the more the body paragraphs. The fewer the points, the fewer the body paragraphs.
During the concluding parts, students should dedicate a paragraph to give a summary of the main points or arguments within the essay (body).
The aforementioned structure can be regarded as the basic essay structure that most, if not all, instructors will require their students to utilize.
However, some instructors may present a different essay structure and students should always follow it.
It is therefore imperative for every student to follow the instructions of their instructors because it is from them that they will know how to structure their essays following what the teacher wants.
Other different structures can be used in an essay depending on its type. For the philosophical or argumentative essays, the student is required to still utilize the introduction-body-conclusion structure but incorporate counterarguments or refuting points (complete paragraphs) within the same structure.
Therefore, such a structure will have an introduction, a few or more body paragraphs that contain arguments and counterarguments, and a conclusion. Read more about this structure in our guide on
how to structure an essay
and learn more tips and examples.
How Long is a Typical Essay?
The length of a typical essay is approximately 2 pages of 5 paragraphs, namely; the introduction, 3 body paragraphs presenting a point each, and the conclusion paragraph. There are longer typical essays of 7 to 9 paragraphs to include counter-arguments. Any paper longer than that loses the classification of a typical essay.
However, there are longer essays depending on the instructions, but if they are very long, they will be papers, research papers, or term papers. While this depends on several different factors, the length of essays can be quantified based on the level.
For high school essays, the length can be between one page to three pages or 3 paragraphs to 9 paragraphs. When it comes to college-level essays, the length should be between 3 pages and 10 pages.
Since we noted that each page should have a total of 3 paragraphs, then it means that the total number of paragraphs should be between 9 and 30. For the post-graduate level students, their essays should be more than seven pages or 21 paragraphs.
They may decide to come up with essays that are even 30 pages in length. However, such papers are no longer essays but research papers of a thesis.
How many sentences are there in a paragraph?
Typically, the minimum number of sentences that are required to create a paragraph is 3 depending on their length. However, a paragraph should not have more than 10 long sentences because it will be too long. Therefore, a paragraph should have between 3 and 10 sentences.
How many paragraphs are there in an argumentative essay?
To effectively sustain an argument, an argumentative essay should have at least 5 paragraphs for a 2-page essay. However, others have 7 paragraphs and utmost in order to accommodate divergent points and provide viable counterarguments.
Since an argumentative essay should contain more points that are presented in an individual paragraph, then it should have 9 paragraphs. There should be one introductory paragraph, 7 body paragraphs that include arguments and counterarguments, and a conclusion.
How many paragraphs are there in 300 words?
In ordinary essays, there should be 3 paragraphs within 300 words. As aforementioned, an essay page with 300 words should have three paragraphs. Then, it means that students should always restrict the number of words for each paragraph to be around 100 words.