Aetre’s Guide to Essays:


Before you start the essay, you should come up with a “thesis statement.” Here’s how:


A thesis statement contains two parts: the Argument and the Controls.


The Argument is simply something you want to prove. It usually comes in the form of either an adjective or an adjective clause related to your main topic. For example, if your assignment is to write a paper on Mozart, your Argument might be, “Mozart’s music was revolutionary for his time.” This is a simple statement of opinion, which you intend to prove in your essay. Other possibilities are, “Mozart’s most famous opera, Don Giovanni, was scandalous for its time.” The Argument sets the tone for the whole essay, since it’s basically your entire essay summarized in one sentence.


The Controls, which come next, are your reasons supporting the Argument. You should probably have three Controls, and they should be added in list format after the argument. Example:


“Mozart’s music was revolutionary for his time, as can be seen in his concertos, symphonies, and operas.”


In this case, the concertos, symphonies, and operas are the three Controls. This is now a complete thesis statement, since it has both Argument and Controls. Here are some other useful formats for thesis statements (note that the blank spaces are where the Controls go):


For when the assignment is to prove/disprove a theory or controversy:

“[Theory] is [true/false], because _____, _____, and _____.”


For when the assignment is to examine symbolism/hidden meaning in literature:

“[The Author’s name] brings about [his/her/the] dominant theme of [whatever the theme of the work is] in [whatever the name of the work is] through _____, _____, and _____.” (NOTE: in this example, oftentimes the Controls will simply be characters from the literature in question.)


For when the assignment is to examine any kind of trend:

“[Some random statistic] has been [increasing/decreasing/doing something else] because _____, _____, and _____.”


For when the assignment is to examine a person or a person’s works (Also applicable for examining a group or a group’s works):

“[Person]’s [works] [are/were/is/was] [adjective], as can be seen in [his/her] _____, _____, and _____.” (NOTE: the Controls here are all specific types of work done by the person in question. Note also that my earlier example with Mozart fits this format.)


For when the assignment is open-ended and factually based (you picked your own topic to research for this essay):

“Upon examination of the topic, one finds that [whatever you want to prove] [based on, because of, or because; whichever transition fits your sentence best] _____, _____, and _____.”


For when the assignment is open-ended and opinion-based (otherwise known as an “Opinion Essay”):

“[Your opinion: usually, whatever “should” or “should not” be done] because _____, _____, and _____.” (NOTE: the Controls here end up being long, since they’re full reasons for your opinion.)




“[What should be done] [in cases of/in such cases as/when] _____, _____, or _____.” (NOTE: the Controls here are specific cases in which the action you mention in the Argument, i.e. “What should be done,” should be carried out. Example: “Abortion should only be a legal option when the mother has been raped, the mother’s health is in danger, or the child would be born with extreme birth defects.”)


For a generic essay (in case yours is not on the above list):

“[Argument] [one of the following: because, because of, due to, as can be seen in, as is evidenced by, as shown in, in cases of, when, in such cases as, based on, for, for such reasons as, etc.]  _____, _____, [and/or] _____.”




Once you have a thesis statement written and ready, proceed with the rest of this template.


Date the Assignment is Submitted

Class or Section Number / Period

Professor / Teacher’s name


The Essay Title Goes Here


[after this point, double space the document if necessary]


            Introductory Paragraph.

            First Body Paragraph.

            Second Body Paragraph.

            Third Body Paragraph.



Format for the Introductory Paragraph:


  1. The first sentence should introduce your topic with a statement of fact; for example, if you are writing about Mozart, you might want to start by stating Mozart’s year of birth and death.
  2. The second sentence should be just as factual, but it should contain information specific to the topic of your essay, such as the number of Operas Mozart wrote, and which was his most famous opera (Don Giovanni, in case you’re curious).
  3. The third sentence should be a statement of opinion, preferably one that agrees with the thesis statement. You may add an extra sentence if necessary to transition into your thesis statement.
  4. The fourth (and final!) sentence should be your thesis statement, complete with at least three controls.


Format for the First Body Paragraph:


  1. The first sentence should just be your thesis, restated in different wording, and including only the First Control. The other two controls stay out of this sentence. Using the Mozart example from the earlier section, I might write something like, “Mozart’s concertos were revolutionary for his time.” A slightly sloppier version might be, “Mozart’s concertos are one reason why his works were considered revolutionary for his time.” I might actually prefer the sloppier version, though, just because it’s longer; if there’s a page minimum for your essay, stretch the sentences for all they’re worth! (No teacher or professor will ever tell you that, probably, but they never take off points for it, just as long as your grammar is technically correct.)
  2. The second sentence should be a reason behind the First Control. In my case, it should effectively answer the question, “What makes Mozart’s concertos so revolutionary?” The answer might be that they use instrumentation never seen before in European music.
  3. The third sentence should be a direct quotation, in quotation marks, from one of your bibliographical sources (one of the books you ran to the local library for and randomly picked off the shelf because it had the name “Mozart” in the title somewhere). Flip to a random page, try to find a quotation that backs your statement in sentence two, and write it down here. IMPORTANT: You must document your source after you quote it. How you document it depends entirely on how your professor/teacher wants it documented. See your assignment sheet for details. Listed below are the three most commonly used documentation formats. If there is no specified format of documentation in the assignment, you should assume the following: if the assignment is for English class, use MLA format; if the assignment is for a History, Social Studies, Science, or Art class, use APA format; if the assignment is for a Music class, use Turabian. Some Art classes use Turabian, too, but in that case, the professor/teacher should specify that format in the assignment instructions.
    For MLA format: Put the author’s (or editor’s) last name and the page number of the quotation in parentheses after the quotation marks close. E.G. “The quoted sentence goes here.” (Author, page number)
    For APA format: Same as MLA, except, instead of writing the page number, write the year of publication.
    For Turabian format: After the quotation marks, insert a footnote number, and place a footnote at the bottom of the page. (NOTE: Some professors prefer endnotes, which would instead be at the end of the document. Check your assignment sheet to see which one applies to you.) In the footnote, include the Author’s last name and the page number of the quotation.
  4. In the fourth sentence, you explain the above quotation in your own words. Basically, just restate it, in the wordiest way possible, so that it “proves” your Argument.
  5. Start this sentence with the word, “Thus,” followed by a comma. Then, restate the first sentence of this paragraph (i.e., restate the thesis with only the First Control), using different wording. For my example, “Thus, Mozart’s concertos are one of the main reasons why his works were revolutionary for his time.”




Now that we’ve done the first body paragraph, the other two body paragraphs will be easy. This is because the other two body paragraphs have the exact same format, with only a few changes:




Format for the Second Body Paragraph:


  1. This time, include only the Second Control when you restate the thesis. You might want to include a word like “Secondly,” or “The next way in which…” to help make a smooth transition into this paragraph.
  2. Explain the Second Control and the reasoning behind it.
  3. Insert a quotation from one of your sources, backing what you said in sentence two. Use appropriate documentation.
  4. Explain the quotation in your own words, in the context of your thesis. (NOTE: It helps greatly if it’s also in the context of the work you’re quoting. Otherwise, you’re “quoting out of context.” That’s not a good thing, so avoid it when you can by picking statements that really do back your Argument. This will help to validate your thesis statement. For the strict purpose of this fourth sentence, though, you should focus on explaining how the quotation “proves” your thesis).
  5. Same as for the First Body Paragraph, but write “Hence” instead of “Thus” and use the Second Control.


Format for the Third Body Paragraph:


  1. Use the Third Control.
  2. Explain the reasoning behind the Third Control.
  3. Quotation backing your statement in sentence 2. Use appropriate documentation.
  4. Explain the quotation in your own words, in the context of your thesis.
  5. Use “Therefore.”


Format for the Conclusion Paragraph:


  1. Rewrite the thesis statement, this time in a different wording. Just play around with it, basically. Include ALL of the controls in this sentence.
  2. Write several sentences summarizing your main points (if you need guidance, check the second and fourth sentences of your body paragraphs).
  3. Close by writing some vague statement that leaves the reader thinking. A famous closing line would be, “Only time will tell.” For Mozart, I might write, “These revolutionary aspects of his music are what make Mozart not only an icon of his day, but a legendary composer for the ages.”


NOTE: The conclusion is probably the most pointless paragraph of the essay, so feel free to do whatever you want with it. If you are ever writing an essay as part of a timed exam, don’t even bother writing anything more than the rewritten thesis statement for your conclusion paragraph.




NOTE: If you need to make your essay longer, add a fourth control, and add a fourth body paragraph to go with it. In the fifth sentence, use “For this reason” in place of “Therefore,” “Hence,” and “Thus” from the previous paragraphs.




Bibliography format:


For information on MLA format, go here:


For APA format, go here: (scroll down)


For Turabian format, go here:




Variations on a Theme:


There are several forms of essays that are not covered by this template; however, you can use this template and make certain changes for different essays.


  1. The Compare/Contrast Essay: This is the most common variation. Your thesis statement will be of the following format:
    “[Thing/Person/Idea 1] and [Thing/Person/Idea 2] are [similar/different] because of _____, _____, and _____.”
    Even though you only have three controls, though, you will have six body paragraphs; one for each Thing/Person/Idea with all three controls. In essence, the First Body Paragraph will be Thing/Person/Idea 1 with the First Control. The Second Body Paragraph will be Thing/Person/Idea 2 with the First Control. The Third Body Paragraph will be Thing/Person/Idea 1 with the Second Control. Continue the pattern from there.
  2. Essays done in class or for a test: For these essays, you won’t have any sources handy (probably), so you do not need quotations or sentences explaining quotations. So what you end up with is a body paragraph format that eliminates the third sentence (quotation) in this template, and the template’s fourth sentence now becomes sentence three. It now explains the second sentence in the context of your thesis, instead of explaining the quotation in the context of your thesis. Lastly, as I mentioned in the note below the Conclusion Paragraph format, for an in-class essay, you do not need to write any more than the restated thesis statement for your conclusion.
  3. The College Entrance Essay: THIS IS NOT COVERED AT ALL BY THE ABOVE TEMPLATE FORMAT. College entrance essays should not have thesis statements, and therefore, this entire template is irrelevant for them. Your English teacher should give you specific instructions for writing this.