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Lesson 9: Sandwich Paragraphs

A sandwich paragraph is just a topic sentence paragraph that cites evidence from another source.

 

Here is another representation of a sandwich paragraph:

 
Topic Sentence

Global warming is causing sea levels to rise.

Transition / Signal Phrase

In fact, according to Jason Porter, a professor at Yale University,

Evidence & Parenthetical Citation

sea levels may rise as much as 4 meters before the end of the century (Porter).

Wrap

This would flood hundreds of major cities and create millions of environmental refugees.

 

 

Don't Start at the Beginning

Students are often tempted to start at the beginning and work their way down. This is okay if you're writing a simple essay. For example, imagine that I've asked you to write an essay arguing that the food in the cafeteria is unhealthy. You might write a body paragraph like this:

 
Topic Sentence

First, the food is very greasy.

Transition / Signal Phrase

In fact,

Evidence

when you order pizza, the grease soaks all the way through the paper plate.

Wrap

Sure, it tastes good. But greasy foods have been linked to obesity and heart disease.

 

 

A paragraph like that isn't too hard to write from the top down, because—having written the topic sentence—it's not too difficult to come up with an example that supports your claim that the food is greasy. (In this case, the evidence is your own experience). Furthermore, presumably nobody is asking you for proof that greasy foods have been linked to obesity and heart disease.

However, when you cite "outside experts", you really don't know what sort of evidence you'll find until you find it. For example, when you go online, you may find dozens of experts who say that school foods are too salty, while not finding any who say that school foods are too greasy. Therefore, wouldn't it make sense to start with the evidence first?

Start in the Middle

It's generally far easier to find your evidence first, then write a topic sentence to match it, than to write your topic sentence first, and then be forced to find evidence to match your claim.

For example, imagine I have found an online article in which the author, Betty Carson, writes:

That's a great piece of evidence! So I'll put it in the middle of my sandwich (and I'll be sure to cite it right away with a parenthetical citation).

 
Topic Sentence  
Transition /
Signal Phrase
 
Evidence "A single slice of cafeteria pizza often contains more sodium than the recommended daily limit set by the food and Drug Administration" (Carson).
Wrap

 

 

 

Next, I'll work my way up and write the signal phrase:

 
Topic Sentence  
Transition /
Signal Phrase
According to journalist Betty Carson,
Evidence "A single slice of cafeteria pizza often contains more sodium than the recommended daily limit set by the food and Drug Administration" (Carson).
Wrap

 

 

 

Third, I'll write the topic sentence. A good topic sentence is a broad, general statement which prepares the reader for evidence that is more specific or detailed. In this case, it's rather obvious.

 
Topic Sentence Cafeteria food is too salty.
Transition /
Signal Phrase
According to journalist Betty Carson,
Evidence "A single slice of cafeteria pizza often contains more sodium than the recommended daily limit set by the food and Drug Administration" (Carson).
Wrap

 

 

 

Fourth, I need to find a way to "wrap things up." Some possible ways include:

 
Ways to Wrap Up a Paragraph Example

Restate the topic sentence in different words.

Clearly, there is too much salt in the food.

Explain the meaning of your evidence in simple, everyday language.

That means that a student who eats pizza for lunch would not be able to eat any other salty foods at any other meal, in order to stay within the guidelines.

Illustrate the point with an analogy

That's like sprinkling a day's worth of salt on a single slice of pizza!

Explain the significance of your evidence.

Salty foods increase blood pressure and put a strain on the heart.

Use a rhetorical question.

Is this the kind of meal we want our kids to eat at school?

 

 

In this case, I'm going to choose the analogy, and my sandwich is almost complete:

 

Topic Sentence

Cafeteria food is too salty.

Signal Phrase

According to journalist Betty Carson,

Evidence

"A single slice of cafeteria pizza often contains more sodium than the recommended daily limit set by the food and Drug Administration" (Carson).

Wrap

That's like sprinkling a day's worth of salt on a single slice of pizza!

 

 

Finally, I'll add some transition words to make it all flow more smoothly.

 

Topic Sentence

First, cafeteria food is too salty.

Signal Phrase

In fact, according to journalist Betty Carson,

Evidence

"A single slice of cafeteria pizza often contains more sodium than the recommended daily limit set by the food and Drug Administration" (Carson).

Wrap

That's like sprinkling a day's worth of salt on a single slice of pizza!

 

 

And I'm done! I've written one of my body paragraphs—and now I only have two more to go.

Quick Summary

When writing a sandwich paragrah:

  1. Start in the middle, with the evidence.
  2. Next, write the signal phrase.
  3. Third, write your topic sentence. A good topic sentence is a broad, general statement which prepares the reader for your evidence (which is usually more specific or more detailed).
  4. Fourth, find a way to "wrap things up."
  5. Last, add some transition words, if necessary.

Check Your Understanding

 
1.

What are the elements in a sandwich paragraph?

2.

Which of the following strategies is smarter?

  1. Write a topic sentence first, and then find some evidence that backs up (supports) your claim.
  2. First, find some evidence; then write a topic sentence that prepares the reader for that particular piece of evidence.
3.

Do the quiz that accompanies this lesson.

4.

Congratulations! You're done with this lesson.