A Complete MEAL (paragraph)
What is the Writer’s Lunchbox
Writing well is one of the most difficult and
rewarding skills that you can acquire.
It will open doors, create opportunities, and
allow you to give voice to your ideas and
opinions, reaching out to a wider audience of
The Writer’s Lunchbox will provide you with
the necessary “nutrition” to write clear,
For Healthy Writing:
The EMPOWER approach should help you
to write better, more persuasive papers for any
class. It is an acronym of the steps you need
to create a complete well-written paper.
For Healthy Writing:
Step 1: Evaluate – What is this assignment
asking me to do? How many parts will my paper
need to have? Circle action words and underline
key words that tell you what to write about.
Step 2: Make a Plan – What kind of organization
am I going to use? Choices include: graphic
organizers, outlines, lists, diagrams, etc.
Step 3: Organize – Put my plan (graphic
organizer, outline, list, or diagram) into action.
Reread the assignment and make sure I’ve
answered each part of the question.
For Healthy Writing:
Step 4: Work – Write your thesis statement
and topic sentences. Follow the MEAL
paragraph format to write your body
Step 5: Edit – Use the rubric to evaluate your
paper. Get feedback from a friend, teacher or
Step 6: Rework – Make changes to your
paper and rewrite if necessary.
The Main MEAL
Body paragraphs of any
composition should be
written using the MEAL
paragraph format. This
format will help you to
write and think in an
organized manner. All
requires both ample
M – Main Idea / Make a Claim
The main idea is the paragraph’s central
thrust. Often the main idea appears in the
paragraph’s first sentence, where it is sometimes
called the “topic sentence.” This is where you
make the claim you will defend in this paragraph!
Your reader should come away from each
paragraph with a clear understanding of its
main idea. He or she shouldn’t have to stop and
reread the paragraph, trying to figure out what it’s
A paragraph should usually focus on a single
idea—paragraphs are, after all, the bite sized
chunks into which you break your argument so
Evidence is the first part of your paragraphs main
Your evidence could be:
information from journal articles you’ve found in the
data from research or interviews you’ve conducted
a quotation or paraphrase from a work of literature
a chain of logical reasoning you have developed, OR
an anecdote or personal experience
Evidence shouldn’t be plopped down in a
paragraph and left to “speak for itself.” If you
leave your evidence unexplained, your reader
may interpret it differently than you intended,
and if that happens, your main idea doesn’t
get the support it needs.
Your paragraph should carefully analyze the
evidence it provides; it should, in other words,
explain exactly how the evidence you’ve cited proves
what you think it proves.
Do NOT simply restate or summarize the
L– Link to Thesis
A paragraph’s link back to the larger claim is
often implicit—it can be awkward to wrap up a
paragraph with a really heavyhanded, obvious
link (“This idea is important to my claim because
of X, Y, and Z”).
Nevertheless your reader should get a good
sense of how your paragraph fits into the larger
scheme of your paper’s argument. He or she
shouldn’t finish reading the paragraph and think,
“Why did the writer put this paragraph in this paper? I
don’t see how this idea is relevant !”
An effective paragraph will clarify its own place in
the essay’s (or section’s) larger claim.
Sample MEAL Paragraph
Ethnocentrism played a major role in the forced migration
experiences of Native Americans (main idea ). Many of the European
settlers who came to North America believed in the superiority of
their cultures. Thus, when they encountered Native Americans,
they labeled them and their cultures as inferior. For instance,
Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to Andrew Jackson saying “the
government…must advise the Indians to sell their “useless” forests
and become farmers” (Takaki 84). (evidence from text with in-text
citation) By calling the Native American forests "useless" Jefferson
clearly shows that he thinks the Native American way of using land
is wasteful and primitive compared to the English way of farming.
(analysis) This policy of inducing Native Americans to become
farmers was considered a helpful gesture by the government, but
in fact was jarring to Native Americans. Some Native Americans
did voluntarily sell their lands. However, many others were forced
into doing so. Thus, the result of this ethnocentric process left most
Native Americans without land and in poverty. (link back to thesis)