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Writing an academic essay means fashioning a coherent set of ideas into an argument.
Because essays are essentially linear²they offer one idea at a time²they must present their
ideas in the order that makes most sense to a reader. Successfully structuring an essay means
attending to a reader's logic.

The focus of such an essay predicts its structure. It dictates the information readers need
to know and the order in which they need to receive it. Thus your essay's structure is necessarily
unique to the main claim you're making. Although there are guidelines for constructing certain
classic essay types (e.g., comparative analysis), there are no set formulas.


A typical essay contains many different kinds of information, often located in specialized parts
or sections. Even short essays perform several different operations: introducing the argument,
analyzing data, raising counter-arguments, concluding. Introductions and conclusions have
fixed places, but other parts don't. Counter-argument, for example, may appear within a
paragraph, as a free-standing section, as part of the beginning, or before the ending. Background
material (historical context or biographical information, a summary of relevant theory or
criticism, the definition of a key term) often appears at the beginning of the essay, between the
introduction and the first analytical section, but might also appear near the beginning of the
specific section to which it's relevant.

It's helpful to think of the different essay sections as answering a series of questions your reader
might ask when encountering your thesis. (Readers should have questions. If they don't, your
thesis is most likely simply an observation of fact, not an arguable claim.)

 The first question to anticipate from a reader is "what": What evidence shows that
the phenomenon described by your thesis is true? To answer the question you must examine
your evidence, thus demonstrating the truth of your claim. This "what" or "demonstration"
section comes early in the essay, often directly after the introduction. Since you're essentially
reporting what you've observed, this is the part you might have most to say about when you first
start writing. But be forewarned: it shouldn't take up much more than a third (often much less)
of your finished essay. If it does, the essay will lack balance and may read as mere summary or

  A reader will also want to know whether the claims of the thesis are true in all cases.
The corresponding question is "how": How does the thesis stand up to the challenge of a
counter-argument? How does the introduction of new material²a new way of looking at the
evidence, another set of sources²affect the claims you're making? Typically, an essay will
include at least one "how" section. (Call it "complication" since you're responding to a reader's
complicating questions.) This section usually comes after the "what," but keep in mind that an
essay may complicate its argument several times depending on its length, and that counter-
argument alone may appear just about anywhere in an essay.

 Your reader will also want to know what's at stake in your claim: Why does your
interpretation of a phenomenon matter to anyone beside you? This question addresses the larger
implications of your thesis. It allows your readers to understand your essay within a larger
context. In answering "why", your essay explains its own significance. Alhough you might
gesture at this question in your introduction, the fullest answer to it properly belongs at your
essay's end. If you leave it out, your readers will experience your essay as unfinished²or,
worse, as pointless or insular.
(  c 

Structuring your essay according to a reader's logic means examining your thesis and
anticipating what a reader needs to know, and in what sequence, in order to grasp and be
convinced by your argument as it unfolds. The easiest way to do this is to map the essay's ideas
via a written narrative. Such an account will give you a preliminary record of your ideas, and
will allow you to remind yourself at every turn of the reader's needs in understanding your idea.

Essay maps ask you to predict where your reader will expect background information, counter-
argument, close analysis of a primary source, or a turn to secondary source material. Essay maps
are not concerned with paragraphs so much as with sections of an essay. They anticipate the
major argumentative moves you expect your essay to make. Try making your map like this:

 State your thesis in a sentence or two, then write another sentence saying why it's important
to make that claim. Indicate, in other words, what a reader might learn by exploring the claim
with you. Here you're anticipating your answer to the "why" question that you'll eventually flesh
out in your conclusion.

 Begin your next sentence like this: "To be convinced by my claim, the first thing a reader
needs to know is . . ." Then say why that's the first thing a reader needs to know, and name one
or two items of evidence you think will make the case. This will start you off on answering the
"what" question. (Alternately, you may find that the first thing your reader needs to know is
some background information.)

 Begin each of the following sentences like this: "The next thing my reader needs to know is .
. ." Once again, say why, and name some evidence. Continue until you've mapped out your

Your map should naturally take you through some preliminary answers to the basic questions of
what, how, and why. It is not a contract, though²the order in which the ideas appear is not a
rigid one. Essay maps are flexible; they evolve with your ideas.


A common structural flaw in college essays is the "walk-through" (also labeled "summary" or
"description"). Walk-through essays follow the structure of their sources rather than establishing
their own. Such essays generally have a descriptive thesis rather than an argumentative one. Be
wary of paragraph openers that lead off with "time" words ("first," "next," "after," "then") or
"listing" words ("also," "another," "in addition"). Alhough they don't always signal trouble,
these paragraph openers often indicate that an essay's thesis and structure need work: they
suggest that the essay simply reproduces the chronology of the source text (in the case of time
words: first this happens, then that, and afterwards another thing . . . ) or simply lists example
after example ("In addition, the use of color indicates another way that the painting
differentiates between good and evil").

The Structure of an Essay
essay n. a composition, usually short and in prose, on any subject.
- Concise Oxford Dictionary

Being able to write coherent, organised essays is an important skill, not just in education, but
often in life as well. Therefore you must know how to write them properly. There are logical,
accepted structures for essays, regardless of length or subject, which are ignored at the
author's peril. One example is the PEE essay writing technique, which is for use in English
essays. However, structures can differ slightly from place to place. This Entry deals with one
form, which can be adapted as required.

It is often advisable to draft your essay. Making a draft is particularly important if you are
writing it by hand as this gives you a chance to go back and correct any grammar and spelling
mistakes, or change something when it simply isn't clear. If you are typing or word-processing
your essay, it is far easier to edit as you go along, and this saves a great deal of time. If your
essay is for an exam, you may not have the luxury of a draft. Try to set time aside at the end
to read it through and make changes if necessary.

One Researcher suggests the following if you don't have much time to prepare the essay:

Ê ›rite down the title of the essay and the title of each paragraph (basically, a list of
your main arguments).
Ê ‰or each of these paragraphs, use a separate piece of paper to draft your main

This method allows you to write the essay without even realising it, you just have to link all
your points together.

The same Researcher also has this tip: if the essay is to be written in a foreign language, don't
write any of it in your mother tongue. If you do, you will only end up translating it and
therefore creating extra work for yourself.

The Introduction

All essays should start with an introduction. This gives an overview of everything you will be
discussing in the essay without drawing conclusions or being very long. It may ask a question
which you intend to answer, or state a hypothesis which the essay will prove or disprove.
Here is a sample introductory paragraph:

(any people have among their school memories the experience of dissecting a frog or other
small animal. Dissections have long been considered an excellent way to teach children about
anatomy in a hands-on way. In recent years, however, an ethical question has been raised
with regards to classroom dissections: is it right to kill animals in order to teach something
that children could learn just as well from a book?

One important thing to remember: if you are writing the essay in an examination, it is often
wise to use your introduction to explain your understanding of the question. If, worst-case
scenario, you have misunderstood what the question is asking of you, by stating what you
understand the question to mean you can reduce the chance of losing additional marks. This
is especially true in arts-related courses such as literature or history where the differences in
interpretation are what singles out brilliant students from average ones.
The Body of an Essay

This is made up of as many paragraphs as you need to get all of your points across to the
reader. In non-fiction works, such as an essay, each paragraph discusses a different aspect of
the topic, and they should be in such an order that each one seems to follow logically from
the previous one. You can do this by using linking words such as however, consequently,
therefore, and subsequently. Try not to write chronologically, as this is often viewed as trite.
Your aim should be to gradually build to your conclusion, however, so there is a sense of

‰or example: If you were trying to answer a question such as 'Do you think Custer was to
blame for the defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn?', you could alternate the point of
view of your paragraphs. That is, have one paragraph present evidence that blames Custer
and the next present evidence that defends him. It is important to tell your reader about the
different points of view on the essay topic, or you will most likely lose marks and/or write a
less effective essay. If you've ever written about a science experiment, it is similar, with each
paragraph dealing with a different aspect of the topic.

Paragraphs separate your topic into ideas, each of which deserves to be considered
independently from the others. It's simpler to read an essay when it's in easily-digestible

The Conclusion

The conclusion is the final paragraph. This is the point to which you should have been building
throughout your essay, so it should appear to be consistent with what has gone before. There
are two schools of thought concerning how to achieve this: one says that you should never
repeat your previous points; the other says that briefly summing them up is perfectly
acceptable. The latter view is the method described here. Again, though, it may differ
depending on what or where you are studying.

The conclusion is where you finally state, in a short and to-the-point manner, the answers to
any questions or conclusions to any hypotheses which might have been present in the
introduction. You should do this by summing up what has been learned throughout the essay
and then drawing your conclusions from this information. Make it perfectly clear where you
stand, even if that is somewhere in the middle.

The Final Stage

If you follow this basic structure, you will be able to write an outline for your essay before
you actually get down to pouring out the ideas. You can make a bare-bones layout in which
you state briefly what you want the introduction, the body, and the conclusion to say and
then work on fleshing them all out. If you don't have time for a proper draft, it is still useful
to plan your essay in this way. At the very least, you will then have some idea where the
essay is heading. Also, in an exam, if the essay is not finished, your plan alone may help you
get a few extra marks. It is always worth planning an answer to essay questions in exams if
only to organise your ideas and ensure you say everything you meant to. Don't forget to check
your work for mistakes afterwards.


å. Introduction
O Introduction of any essay should be no longer than å å of its length. If
the essay itself must be of a significant size the introduction may have
several paragraphs; in the rest of the cases it consists of one solid
O The contents of an always introduction has a deductive nature, as it leads
the reader from the general views or positions on the analyzed topics to
the specific narrow theme of the essay.

A good introduction requires several elements:

O Opening sentences introducing to the topic of the essay

O Background information on it (gradually leading to the analyzed aspect
of the theme).
O  iterature techniques to grab the reader¶s attention.
O A strong     defining and statingthe point the author is
making in the essay, the paper¶s main argument.
2. `

a. Body paragraph å
b. Body paragraph 2
c. Body paragraph 3, etc.
O The body of a basic essay may have as many body paragraphs as it is
necessary to prove the author¶s argument of the thesis statement.
O It is vital to keep in mind that each paragraph is supposed to have one
main argument to analyze and has to reveal it in one solid thought in a
sentence called the     Therefore the amount of the body
paragraphs equals the amount of topic sentences.
O Each body paragraph must be connected to following one with a logical

Ê It is usually written in one solid paragraph.

Ê The conclusion always deals with summing up the essays arguments revealed in
the topic sentences and the therefore present substantial evidence to prove the
thesis statement.
Ê It is also important to mention the importance of the general conclusion of the

It goes without saying that different types of essay may require certain deflections from
the basic essay structure. It order to get acquainted with them proceed to Types of



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