Essay structure

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There's nothing worse than putting a lot of effort into your research for your essay and still getting a poor mark. Unfortunately, it doesn't matter how good your info is if the marker can't make head nor tail of your essay. Like a book, an essay has to have a beginning, a middle and an end, if you like a skeleton, on which your background research is the flesh. Here's how to connect the ankle bone to the shin bone …

Markers often complain that student essays lack a clear essay structure. What they mean is that the material presented is not connected in a logical way. Often essays are full of disconnected sentences and paragraphs because the student has not had a clear idea of what the essay is about. Whilst the content is there, it is presented in a haphazard, almost scattergun way, jumping all over the place from one point to another with little linkage between sentences and paragraphs.

The way to create a clear structure is through the correct use of paragraphs, especially the correct use of topic and linking sentences. To ensure that your essays are logically put together, you need to know what essay structure is all about. The essay skeleton on the next page depicts the structure all essays should follow.

Making the logic flow: micro-easy paragraph structure 
Developing essay structure is really quite easy, but it takes practice. The trick is to treat each paragraph in your essay as a micro-essay. Just like your essay, each paragraph should have an introduction, body and conclusion.

The introduction to your paragraph is known as the topic sentence (see the essay skeleton). Topic sentences simply summarise or introduce what you are going to say in your paragraph.

The body of the paragraph then expands on this sentence by providing definitions, evidence and further explanation. Often the body of the paragraph contains an example to emphasise the main point introduced in the topic sentence.

The conclusion of the paragraph is known as the linking sentence, which simply links the paragraph to the next paragraph. You normally do this automatically, but when dealing with complex information and issues, and especially when cutting and pasting sentences and paragraphs from one part of your essay to another, it is easy for the logical structure of your micro-essays (the paragraphs) to disappear.

The essay skeleton 
State what your essay is about, what it will cover and what you will argue. Define all key words and limit essay scope if necessary. Usually one paragraph, but can be longer depending on essay length.

Topic sentence 
The topic sentence introduces the issue to be dealt with in the paragraph, followed by supporting evidence, explanation and a linking sentence to the next paragraph. 
Linking sentence

Topic sentence 
Linking sentence

Topic sentence 
The body of your essay is where you introduce your evidence, and compare and evaluate concepts and theories 
Linking sentence

Sum up your essay and argument. Ensure that you answer the question. Mention possible solutions or future implications if appropriate.

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