How to Structure an Essay

10/21/2022

It is essential to know how to write a text correctly and according to the context and purpose. To do that, you must understand how to properly format and structure your writing. This allows you to express your ideas in a consistent, coherent, and understandable way.

Essays are one of the multiple types of writing – and one of the most common types of academic papers. This means that as a student, the earlier you come to grips with the structure of an essay, the better.

What Does the Basic Structure of an Essay Look Like?

All types of writing have specific rules and distinctive writing guidelines. The essay is no exception. For your argument to be solid and persuasive, the most important thing to keep in mind is the structure of the essay.

Organize the text in such a way that the reader can easily follow the rhythm of the exposition and become convinced word by word of the validity of your opinion.

You will achieve this effect if you structure your essay in the following way:

Introduction

The introduction of an essay is a short piece of text (usually a paragraph or two) that quickly gives the reader a general understanding of its main idea. In short, it answers the general question of “What is this essay about?”

To answer this question, you must present the topic and the thesis you will defend. In other words, what you will write about and the point you want to demonstrate. Do it in a few words and without going into details.

End the introduction with a question that triggers the controversy. So your readers will feel an irresistible curiosity to continue reading.

Main Body

This is a detailed exposition of your thoughts on the chosen topic. Of all the parts of an essay, this is the most creative. It comprises ideas, reflections and arguments about the object of analysis and takes up almost the entire essay text (about 75%).

Give free rein to your creativity but don’t make it messy. Start with a reliable and irrefutable fact, something that no one can deny. And then write the thesis again, this time in detail.

After that comes the most crucial part: you must present arguments to support your thesis.

The arguments should be at least three, but the final number can be as many as you want, depending on your knowledge about the topic and the information available to support your ideas.

Conclusion

The conclusion is a recapitulation of what you’ve written. In it, you should condense all the ideas of the text to reaffirm your thesis. When writing your essay’s conclusion, you must bring together the core of each argument and articulate it in confirmation of your point of view.

A classic formula for presenting the conclusion of your essay is: “So, what has been said so far allows us to conclude that…” followed by your thesis.

How Does It Work: Example of Essay Structure

While writing a literary essay in a few paragraphs is possible, an academic essay will have to be longer. Here’s an example of the basic steps you’ll have to take.

Choose a Topic

You might have already been assigned a specific topic or had to choose from a list of topics. If that’s not the case, you’ll have to do some research. For illustrative purposes, let’s say that the topic of your essay is The Benefits of Pets for Human Health.

Formulate a Thesis

For the topic mentioned above, a possible thesis could be: Pets positively affect human health.

Structure Your Piece

Introduction

Here’s where you make a general approach to the subject. For example, you point out how, since ancient times, humans have enjoyed the company of animals. Then, present your thesis and point out that the need to have pets can be explained by the benefits they provide to the health of their owners. 

Paragraph 2 (Main Body)

This is the part where you present your arguments to support your thesis. Remember that your arguments must also be supported by reliable sources – the studies that have previously verified what you claim. 

In the case of our example, you’ll have to search books on psychology and health for data on the matter. 

Paragraphs 3-4 (Main Body)

Present more arguments and reference more authoritative sources that support them. For an academic essay, the more sources, the better. Sources must be quoted verbatim or paraphrased appropriately.

Conclusion

Once the data supporting the thesis has been detailed, you can write a few sentences that synthesize what you found. Remember that the conclusion is the culmination of the initial statement. Be forceful and seek to leave an indelible impression on your readers. To do this, write a striking conclusion and an ending that demonstrates the coherence of your arguments and the plausibility of your thesis.

Bibliography

If that’s required and you’ve made references to external sources of information, you must indicate them. 

What Is Essay Structure Like in Other Types of Essay?

According to the way you present the information in your paper, there are four main types of essay you need to consider when you outline your essay:

Scientific Essay

The subject is always scientific, and to verify the hypothesis, the author must cite other authors’ various studies, theories, or hypotheses. The purpose of this type of essay is to disseminate new scientific discoveries. Apart from the basic structure mentioned above, a scientific essay author must also present the methods they used in their research and describe its results.

Descriptive Essay

The author describes a place, a person, an event or an object. Generally, there’s no intention to convince the reader but rather to reflect and highlight the most important characteristics of a topic. For example, to provide literary analysis.

This type of essay usually doesn’t have a strict structure. However, an author does have to introduce the reader to the subject and summarize their conclusions in the end. 

Argumentative Essay

Argumentative essay is the most common type of academic essay. They usually have specific guidelines for their writing and a clearly defined structure with a proper introduction, main body, and conclusion.

Expository Essay

These usually research an idea or assess certain information. This type of essay is similar to comparing and contrasting essays and follows the basic structure.

Is There a Reason for How Is an Essay Structured?

Most academic essays are structured as described above, and there is a good reason for that. This kind of structure gives a common thread to your paper. Your reader or your target audience must feel that the ideas you present in your essay are well-connected. A well-structured essay will quickly provide that feeling.

This means that the introductory essay can’t be replaced or changed. You always start with some kind of introduction, and you always end with a proper conclusion. However, you must clearly understand your essay and how to work on it before you start.

Tips for Structure of a Good Essay

Finally, there are a few valuable tips to give to those who want to write a well-structured essay:

  • Do in-depth research on the topic
  • Look for other papers on the same or similar topics
  • Stick to the topic you were given, and don’t present too many arguments
  • Avoid wordiness: make your sentences as clear and concise as possible
  • Provide your own thought-provoking opinions after the conclusion

FAQ

How to structure a compare and contrast essay?

The main difference between a compare-and-contrast essay and other types of an essay is that there are at least two topics you have to work with. So, while the basic structure is still the same, you’ll have to establish comparisons, similarities and differences between the two topics. 

What is the structure of an argumentative essay?

The argumentative essay writing process follows the established standard. First, there’s an introductory part where you present your topic. Then, there’s the main body where you present your arguments. As a rule, each argument is presented in a separate paragraph. And, of course, there’s a conclusion where you summarize your points. 

How to structure a rhetorical analysis essay?

A standard rhetorical analysis essay structure is as follows:

  • Introduction
  • Thesis statement (one-two sentence that summarizes your argument)
  • Main body (at least 3 paragraphs with evidence for your thesis)
  • Conclusion

How to structure a persuasive essay?

A persuasive essay should have the following structure:

  • Introduction
  • Main body (present your arguments)
  • Counter-argument (provide points to disprove your arguments)
  • Conclusion or final statement (repeat your arguments and counter-arguments)

How to structure a narrative essay?

A narrative essay is a story written in the 1st person. It doesn’t have to be strictly structural but still follows the standard template:

  • Introductory part
  • Body
  • Summary

 

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