Essays and assignments 1.2 Structuring essays
Good structure is important
A well thought out structure is central to a successful essay.
A good time to start thinking about the structure of your essay is after you have
analysed your assignment question and done some preliminary reading and
A common way to structure an academic essay is described below.
Introductions generally move from general information to more specific information.
In contrast, Conclusions tend to begin with a specific focus, e.g. you can re-word your thesis statement, and conclude with a statement of general relevance or applicability.
The paragraphs between the Introduction and the Conclusion are referred to as the Body of the essay.
The Body consists of separate paragraphs which together make up the argument of your essay.
Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence
which encapsulates the main idea you will develop in the rest of the paragraph. The ideas in each new paragraph should follow on from those expressed in the previous one.
Check that each main idea is directly relevant to your thesis statement (and to the question you are answering).
Body – developing your argument
Make a general statement about the topic.
Provide background information.
State the position you will argue for– your thesis statement.
Mention the points you will cover in your essay-the outline of your essay.
Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence.
Develop each main idea by making e.g. comparisons and contrasts, using referenced explanations, examples, definitions etc.
Conclude by summarising or linking to the idea/ideas being discussed in the next paragraph.
Restate your position/thesis statement.
Sum up the main points made in each paragraph.
Finish with a strong statement about the wider context.
The way you order your paragraphs can add to or take away from the strength of your argument.
Although the Introduction is the first section of an essay, it’s best to write the final
version after you have written the Body and the Conclusion. Then your thesis
statement and the scope of your essay are more likely to accurately reflect what you have written in your essay.
Coherence — a point to keep in mind
An essay that is well organised and has good paragraphs can still be ineffective if it lacks coherence. Make sure you use words and/or phrases that show the connections between ideas
These links give your essay unity
Linking words and phrases (sometimes called transitions words) seem invisible when they are well-used but obviously absent when they are not.
Checking that you have used appropriate linking words and phrases is a vital part of
doing your final proof reading and editing.
Last but not least
Effective titles provide an edge to your essay. However, it takes time to develop a clear
, engaging title that captures what your essay is about. If you want a title that is catchy and informative,
try the following.
Develop a provisional title by playing around with the order of the key words of your essay.
Change it as you get clearer about your main argument
Make your final decision when you have completed your essay.
Like this Survival Guide? Why not check out...
Survival Guides: Linking words and phrases, Starting assignments, Writing thesis statements, Developing essay arguments.
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