Essay writing – structure

There are many different types of essays (or responses) and they can have many purposes, but the basic structure is the same. You may be writing an essay to argue for a particular point of view or to explain the steps in a particular task. Essays generally follow the same basic format.

Introduction

Purpose

The introduction sets the tone for the essay and helps to engage the reader by outlining the topic, the writer’s position on a topic or issue, and the main arguments to be presented.

The introductory paragraph has a very important role. It tells the reader what to expect in the rest of the essay: how the writer will demonstrate their opinion and how they will back up their opinion by using relevant examples from the text(s).

Quick tip

The introduction is where the writer says what they are going to say.

Overview

An introduction should start with an interesting fi rst sentence, to gain the reader’s interest and to set up a context for the essay.

  • If the essay is an exposition, the writer argues from one point of view only. The fi rst sentence may strongly support or oppose the ideas in the question.
  • In the case of a discussion question, the writer argues from two or more points of view. The fi rst sentence may show that there are a number of valid positions that can be taken about the ideas posed by the question.

The writer should state their response to the essay question and ideas about the text(s) in question. This is the statement of position and it shows whether or not the writer agrees with the idea presented by the question.

The introduction should also outline why the writer has taken this position (the reasons for the thesis) with a summary of the evidence from the text(s) which support the position. The points should be generalised and in the order that they will be presented in the essay.

Body

Purpose

The body of an essay is where the student expands on the points outlined in the  introduction. The body is where the student tries to convince the reader of their point of view and effectively ‘answers’ the essay question. The body includes a number of linked paragraphs with references to the text(s) to back up the writer’s  point of view.

Quick tip

The body of an essay is where the writer says what they have to say.

Overview

The body of an essay features a number of paragraphs that start with linking words such as: moreover, in addition, another, similarly, also, furthermore, however, in contrast, on the other hand, although and alternatively.

Each paragraph should start with a topic or lead sentence that explains the main idea of the paragraph. A writer may have to write more than one paragraph for each idea.

The writer should back up their point of view with examples taken from the text(s). This could include quotations from the text (use double quotation marks to enclose the quoted passage), or references to part of the text that supports the writer’s point of view.

Conclusion

Purpose

The conclusion to an essay is generally one paragraph long and answers the main points and questions outlined in the essay introduction. It provides the writer with the chance to restate their position and persuade the reader with reference to the main points and evidence in the body of the essay.

Quick tip

The conclusion is where the writer says what they have said.

Overview

Remind the reader of the your point of view. Do not introduce new arguments here, although it is effective to clinch arguments with fresh expression and evaluation statements or references to the main points within the essay. Check that the conclusion ends on a strong note, reinforcing your main point of view.

Ways to introduce your conclusion:

  • So…
  • It is clear that…
  • In conclusion,…
  • In light of the evidence…
  • Having considered some of the important arguments…
  • These examples suggest/demonstrate/ prove/indicate…
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