Just as an essay should be unified around a clear and specific thesis (main argument), each body paragraph within the essay should be unified around one idea, and that idea should clearly relate back to the essay’s thesis. One of the most common (and easiest!!) ways to develop a paragraph is by illustrating a point with concrete examples. A helpful acronym for this technique is “P.I.E.”

The P.I.E. Paragraph:

P = Point
What is the point of the paragraph? What claim is being made? Generally, the point is the TOPIC SENTENCE of the paragraph.

I = Illustration
How is the point illustrated? With specific data, experiences, a quotation or other evidence? Illustrations (examples) are used to support/develop the point.

E = Explanation
How does the provided illustration connect to your point? The explanation is the writer’s analysis or elaboration of the point and illustration given, which connects the entire paragraph back to the thesis of the essay.

P.I.E. Strategies:

Ideas for making a POINT:
Decide what you want to say to support your thesis.

Ideas for ILLUSTRATING/ supporting your point:
Information from the readings or class discussions (paraphrases or quotes)
Personal experience (stories, anecdotes, examples from your life)
Representations in mass media (newspapers, magazines, television)
Elements from popular culture (song lyrics, movie lines, TV characters, celebrities)
Definitions (from the dictionary, the readings, or another source)
Statistics (polls, percentages, data from research studies)

Ideas for EXPLAINING how your illustration supports your point:
Interpret, analyze, explain the information, opinion or quote you’ve included
Comment on the accuracy (or inaccuracy) of the quote, fact, data, information, etc.
Explain the meaning of your observation, findings or experience
Show your reader how the information you’ve included relates to your THESIS.

Ok, that sounds good, but how does it work?

Let’s pretend I’m writing an essay on apathy. My working thesis is: Apathy is the most important political issue that members of our society should be addressing.

This is how I would approach writing a paragraph:

Hmmm…Apathy is bad, but why? I need to come up with some reasons. These will become my topic sentences or Points…

Point: Because not caring about political and social issues can have drastic and unexpected consequences for the individual, people need to educate themselves and take action.

Okay. Good. This clearly makes a point. But, where have I seen this? Can I find evidence of this in the real world? Is this really true? I need an Illustration…

Illustration: People need to pay attention or something might happen to them or someone they love.

No. That reads more like another point. It’s too vague. I need something specific. I need an example…

Illustration: For example, the date rape drug is a real threat to women.

That’s better. But it needs to be more specific…

Illustration: I remember my first semester teaching in Texas I had a student who ignored politics because she felt that they didn’t affect her. Unfortunately, midway through the semester she learned things do affect her. A friend of hers died at a party when someone slipped the date rape drug into her drink.

That seems like a pretty specific example. But how can I relate this to my Point?

Explanation: I was saddened by this young woman’s initial attitude toward society and heartbroken by her first experience with the “real world.” Even though she probably could not have controlled or prevented the situation, simply becoming aware might show her what steps she can take to help protect herself and her friends in the future. Simply being aware might make her realize that such terrifying things are real and not just fictional horror stories. By educating herself and taking action, she might eventually make a difference whether it is through demonstrating, volunteering, or simply voting for candidates who take a zero tolerance to the use of the date rape drug.