Essay Structure

RyanYou know what’s fun? Essay structure.

Said no-one ever.

Essay structure is something that seems like it should be easy but isn’t. At all. It lulls you into a false sense of security with the fond high-school memories of TEEL and then smacks you around when your back is turned. There’s no one trick to nailing essay structure, but I’ll try and give you a basic breakdown. As in an explanation. I’m sure we’re all experiencing enough of the other kind of breakdown over the semester.

To start with, you need to make sure your essay holds a clear introduction, body and conclusion. The introduction and conclusion are typically one paragraph, while the body refers to the majority of the content. It’s worth stating that it will be really hard to write these if you don’t have a really clear idea of what you’re writing on, so make sure you understand the question and have a rough idea of your response.

The introduction, surprisingly, introduces the reader to the topic. It should start with a broad overview of the field and then narrow down until it explicitly states what the essay is dealing with. This should culminate in what we call a ‘thesis statement’. The thesis statement is a sentence or two that says exactly what you’re trying to do in this essay and it should be the last sentence of your introduction. The key with the introduction is to start broad and narrow down. But don’t go so broad that you lose all relevance. If your topic has to do with the development of the communist movement then you don’t have to go back to the Triassic period. After the introduction, your readers should know exactly what to expect from your essay. Nothing should surprise them. This is an academic paper not an M. Night Shyamalan movie.

The body paragraphs are the meat of your essay. This is where it all happens. Your readers have been introduced to what you’re going to do and now you’re going to do it. Each paragraph should be a topic of its own. Don’t try to deal with more than one major point at once. This is where planning comes in handy. Think about what the key points are that you want to address and devote a paragraph to each of them. Within the body paragraphs themselves, you want to start off by introducing your paragraph topic, then discussing the topic, then closing it off and leading into the next paragraph topic.

The conclusion is essentially the opposite of the introduction. Start narrow and broaden out. You typically want to start by restating your thesis statement and then look at the broader implications or the wider scope. You should not introduce any new information in the conclusion. This should be a summary of what has occurred and that is all.

A super easy way to think of the three sections is this:

     Introduction: Tell them what you’re going to do

     Body: Do it

     Conclusion: Tell them what you did

Hopefully that helps you folks somewhat. Remember, if you’re really struggling with essay structure you can contact the ASK service at

Have fun and try not to stress!


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