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9.1: PIE Paragraphs

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    • Rachel Bell, Jim Bowsher, Eric Brenner, Serena Chu-Mraz, Liza Erpelo, Kathleen Feinblum, Nina Floro, Gwen Fuller, Chris Gibson, Katharine Harer, Cheryl Hertig, Lucia Lachmayr, Eve Lerman, Nancy Kaplan-Beigel, Nathan Jones, Garry Nicol, Janice Sapigao, Leigh Anne Shaw, Paula Silva, Jessica Silver-Sharp, Mine Suer, Mike Urquidez, Rob Williams, Karen Wong, Susan Zoughbie, Leigh Anne Shaw, Paula Silva, Jessica Silver-Sharp, Mine Suer, Mike Urquidez, Rob Williams, Karen Wong, and Susan Zoughbie
    • Skyline College

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    Paragraphs group related sentences around one main point, so the paragraphs can work together to prove the larger argument (the thesis) in an essay. Paragraphs provide visual breaks between ideas and signal a progression of ideas in the essay.


    In an essay, you’ll have the following types of paragraphs:

    • Introductions capture your reader’s interest, establish a context for your topic, and smoothly lead your reader into your topic and thesis. You can read more about them in Chapter 8: Introductions.
    • Body paragraphs develop each of the main points and sub-points needed for your thesis to be credible. Body paragraphs contain topic sentences, evidence and analysis. You will read more about them in this chapter.
    • Conclusions help you bring together the points you’ve made in an essay, they delve into the larger significance or impact of your argument, and they should leave your reader convinced of that central argument. You can read more about them in Chapter 8: Conclusions.


    • Consist of only quotes
    • Consist of only facts
    • Consist of only summary
    • Contain a series of sentences not related to one another or to the thesis.


    • RELEVANCY: Paragraphs help your reader to follow the logic of the essay and clearly see how each of your body paragraphs is related to your thesis.
    • FOCUS: Paragraphs help your reader easily identify the one main idea in each paragraph and how each of the sentences within that paragraph contributes to this main idea.
    • ORGANIZATION: Along with transitions and topic sentences, paragraph breaks help your reader understand you are moving on to a new point or aspect of your essay.
    • DEVELOPMENT: Paragraphs require critical thinking to prove the main point of the essay by making connections with textual evidence, outside evidence, and your own analysis.
    • VOICE: Paragraphs are a place where you get to say what you think and prove why you’re right.


    One way to ensure that each of your body paragraphs is clearly focused, convincingly developed, and connects back to thesis is to use

    The PIE strategy:

    The PIE strategy
    P = Point I = Information E = Explanation
    The “P” part of your paragraph is your topic sentence: a clear statement of the main claim you are making in the paragraph. The “I” fills out the body of your paragraph with concrete evidence that supports the main claim. The “E” is the writer’s explanation of the significance of the provided information, especially as it relates to the thesis.
    Another way to look at it:

    Tell me what your main point is.

    Person at podium

    Show me, with evidence and examples, how or why your point is true.

    Person with clipboard

    “So what?”
    Help me understand so what is the significance of the information.

    Person with Question Marks

    • Choose one arguable point to prove per paragraph.
    • Write this point out as a sentence and this will be your topic sentence.
    • Your topic sentence should be more general than the rest of the paragraph but more specific than your thesis.
    • After you write the paragraph, look again at your topic sentence to be sure that it “fits” the paragraph.

    Prove the claim in your topic sentence with evidence that can come in different forms:

    • Short direct quotes/ paraphrases from class readings and discussions
    • Data from reputable sources (facts, statistics, polls)
    • Personal experience (real life stories, anecdotes, examples, observations)
    • Relevant examples from pop culture (song lyrics, movies, TV, celebrities)
    • Representations in mass media (newspapers, magazines, television)
    • Interpret, analyze, explain the information, opinions or quotes you’ve included.
    • Examine some consequences, results, implications, ramifications of the information you just gave your audience.
    • Make it clear why your reader should care or be concerned.
    • Clarify any ambiguous ideas or information.
    • Comment on the credibility of the information, discussing its biases, assumptions, logic.
    • Relate the information explicitly to your thesis.
    Example: Sample PIE Paragraph

    See the PIE paragraph structure in the first body paragraph from an essay on Malcolm X’s “Learning to Read”:

    P for PIE The diligence and persistent effort Malcolm X showed in learning to read has become disappointingly rare. I for PIE Malcolm X in his autobiography tells us that when he went to prison, he could hardly read or write. He decided the way to improve would be to copy the entire dictionary word for word by hand. He said to copy just the first page alone took an entire day. The next day he reviewed all the words he did not remember, so he slowly built his vocabulary, and at the same time he started educating himself about the larger world as he describes the dictionary as a “miniature encyclopedia” (2). Malcolm X carried on until he copied the entire dictionary cover to cover. However, the time he dedicated to his writing was not confined to this amazing achievement alone: “Between what I wrote in my tablet, and writing letters, during the rest of my time in prison I would guess I wrote a million words” (2). The dedication to his own education and how he strengthened his own intelligence and abilities through sheer force of will is impressive but unfortunately is the exception rather than the norm. In Generation Me, the author Jean Twenge addresses the present generation of people who have been taught to put themselves first and expect instant results without working hard to achieve them. Twenge states: “They are less likely to work hard today to get a reward tomorrow—an especially important skill these days, when many good jobs require graduate degrees” (157). E for PIE If people are less willing today to work hard, then we are going to have increasingly uneducated, lazy people who spend more time complaining than achieving. With a lack of education, we won’t be strong critical thinkers so will be easily taken in by people who want to exploit us for profit like advertisers and corporate America. Instead of defining who we are, people who want to sell us things will continue to shape our wants, desires and perceptions of ourselves.

    Of course, PIE paragraphs don’t always need to look exactly like this; while you want to start a paragraph with your main Point, you might alternate between Information and Explanation, so that your paragraph could look like this:

    P => I => E => I => E

    Practice: Creating Paragraphs Using the PIE Paragraph Approach

    Let’s practice creating paragraphs using the PIE paragraph approach. P for PIEI for PIEE for PIE

    First, select a topic:

    Practice: Creating Paragraphs Using the PIE Paragraph Approach


    rap music

    legalizing all drugs

    the president

    the health care system

    the minimum wage

    reality shows

    police profiling

    a topic raised in your current class reading

    P for PIEoint } Second, using the topic you selected, write a topic sentence that states the main claim (your specific opinion) that you want to argue that fits the size of the paragraph:




    Third, brainstorm concrete evidence/information you can use to prove your main claim:

    I for PIEnformation

    Fourth, analyze and explain the significance, importance or impact of your evidence and claims:

    E for PIExplanation

    Finally, using all the advice in this chapter, put it all together into a complete paragraph

    Practice: Peer Response for PIE Paragraphs

    Use the following questions to provide constructive feedback on paragraphs:

    P for PIEoint } Underline the writer’s topic sentence. Based on this sentence alone, what do you predict this paragraph will have to say about the topic? What is the writer’s point? Is it arguable? Is the main point narrow enough to be proven in one paragraph?





    I for PIEnformation } Now, read through the entire paragraph once and jot down what you think the main point of the paragraph seems to be. Does it match with what you thought the main point would be based solely on the topic sentence? Is the evidence clear and convincing? Are there any details that seem irrelevant or not directly connected? Is any needed explanation missing?





    E for PIExplanation } Has the writer included his/her own analysis of the larger significance for the main claim in the paragraph? Did he/she explain WHY the reader should care about this topic? Has he/she looked at the larger outcome or importance of the claim? Do you feel convinced by the writer’s reasoning?





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