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The Basic Structure of An Essay

Writing a high-quality essay requires you to understand the parts and structure of an essay. The parts include the introduction, body, and conclusion. Organizing the body of an essay can be challenging. Although there are a variety of ways to structure an essay, deciding on the structure and how to use it can help you develop writing and communication skills to use in academics or in your career. In this blog post, we will discuss the parts of an essay, the different types of essays, examples of essay structures, and some important tips for structuring your essay.

  1. Parts of an essay

Parts of an Essay

An Essay consist of 3 main parts; Introduction, Body paragraphs and Conclusion.

  • Introduction

Every essay starts with an introduction. This is where you introduce your topic of discussion to your reader and summarize the points you tend to include in the body of your essay briefly. In the introduction, you state your thesis. A thesis is the most important part of an essay as it states the point of the writer and thus it must take a clear stance and should not have terms such as “seems to” or possibly could as these terms show uncertainty. An introduction has the following primary purposes:

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  • Setting the scene.
  • Telling the readers what is important and why.
  • Telling the reader the purpose of writing the essay (signposting).

The best way to write an introduction is by taking it as a summary of your essay. Your thesis makes and supports your essay’s point in one concise sentence. Once you are done writing your essay, proofread the essay and ensure that your thesis is clearly stated in the introduction. In case it is not clear, you can rewrite it to ensure it meets the intended purpose. Consider writing an interesting introduction to capture the attention of your readers to keep them reading your essay to the end.

A standard introduction must have the following elements:

  • A statement that explains the topic and engages the reader.
  • The background and context of the topic.
  • Important definitions merged into your text appropriately.
  • An outline containing the key points, topic, issues, evidence, ideas, arguments, models, theories, and any other important information.
  • A final sentence or two that informs the reader of your focal points and aims.
  • Body

The body of an essay is the part where you elaborate on your analysis, argument, research, and evidence to support your thesis. It should be organized into different paragraphs with each paragraph concentrating on a different aspect of the topic. It can include citations and quotations to reference materials from which you borrowed your data.

You can refer to your thesis if you are not sure whether to include a certain point or detail in the body of your essay. If the detail supports your thesis, it should be included in the body but if it does not, then you should leave it out. Your thesis should act as a guide on what to include in your essay and thus everything in the body should relate to your thesis. You can keep the body of your essay organized and engaging by ensuring all your paragraphs begin with a topic sentence and relate to your thesis.

You can keep the body of your essay organized and engaging by ensuring all your paragraphs begin with a topic sentence and relate to your thesis. When giving your ideas in the body of your essay, you should follow a logical order of ideas. The following are the three main types of orders.

  • Chronological order. This type follows the order of time and is mostly used in writing narrative essays.
  • Spatial order. It is mostly used when writing descriptive essays. It can be used to describe places.
  • Emphatic order. This order utilizes the concept of importance. The coherence of the paragraph is established from the least important to the most important or from the most important to the least important.

When writing your essay it is important to use transition sentences to create a good flow to the essay. Include substantial examples and evidence to support your argument and remember to cite everything.

  • Conclusion

A conclusion is the last part of an essay where you summarize the ideas discussed in the body. The conclusion should bring together the major points of your essay showing how they relate. The main purpose of a conclusion is to summarize the main points of your argument and draw a final decision or judgment concerning your research problem. In some cases, the conclusion attempts to connect the essay to broader issues or areas of further study. The conclusion does the following:

  • Reminds the readers of what the essay was talking about.
  • Provides an answer to the title where possible.
  • Reminds your reader how you reached that answer.

Please note that you are not supposed to introduce any new ideas in the conclusion. The conclusion should act as a reminder of what has been discussed in the body of your essay. You can also refer back to the introduction to prove to the examiner that you have discussed the topic thoroughly.

  1. Types of essays

Types of essays

There are 4 major types of essays, namely: narrative, argumentative, expository, and descriptive essays

There are different types of essays. Although each type of essay can take a different format, the structure will always be the same. Despite the nature of your essay, it must have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The basic essay structure will always remain the same even when the instructions are different. The following are the most common types of essays.

  • Narrative essays.

A narrative essay tells a story. The story can either be fictional or non-fictional. Narrative essays test the writer’s ability to express their experience in a creative and compelling way by following an appropriate narrative structure. Your tutor will use a narrative essay to test your ability to tell a story in a clear and interesting way.

When compelling a narrative essay, you are expected to think about where your essay starts and where it ends. You must use eye-catching language and a satisfying pace when writing a narrative essay to win the attention of the reader.

  • Descriptive essays

A descriptive essay gives a vivid, detailed description of something, a place, or an object. In some cases, it gives a detailed description of something more abstract like an emotion. Together with narrative essays, these are the most creative types of essays in the academic writing field.

Descriptive essays test your ability to use language in an original and creative way to convey an image in the mind of the reader of what you are describing. As a writer, you are expected to use words to create clear, descriptive images.

  • Expository essays

Expository essays are fact-based essays focused on proving a writer’s point by communicating factual information. They require exploring a particular subject matter and presenting your findings by building a well-structured and objective argument. In simple words, an expository essay provides a clear, focused explanation of a topic, process, or set of ideas. Essays in this category do not set out to prove a point but rather to give a balanced view of their subject matter.

Expository essays are usually short assignments assigned to students to test their composition skills or their understanding of a certain subject. They involve less research and original arguments as compared to argumentative essays.

  • Persuasive essays

A persuasive essay is an essay that presents logical arguments with an emotional appeal to convince readers of your point of view using solid evidence such as research, stating facts, examples, and quotes from experts. They can be a form of academic writing and personal writing. Most persuasive essays begin with a question that the writer spends the essays arguing in favor of or in opposition to. The writer makes a firm statement and back-up the statement with a combination of data, research, and anecdotal

When writing a persuasive essay, informing a reader is not enough as you are expected to use language that convinces the reader that your way of thinking is the best. Persuasive writing is very important in the world of business as advertising, website copywriting, and general branding rely heavily on persuasive writing to convince potential customers.

  1. Examples of essay structure

Examples of essay structures

There are four major structures of an essay; chronological structure, Compare and contrast structure, Problems-methods- solutions structure, and Signposting to clarify structure.

There are different ways you can present information when writing an essay. In most cases, your assignment instructions will guide you on the type of essay to write. There are different structures you can employ when writing your essay which include chronological structure, compare and contrast structure, or problems-methods-solutions structure. In case you are not sure about the structure to use when writing your essay, you can get assistance from your tutor.

  • Chronological structure

A chronological, or cause and effect structure is one of the most common ways to organize an essay. Here you discuss points or events in the order of occurrence explaining how they relate. This essay structure is the best if you are writing about:

  • A current or historical event.
  • A book or article you have read.
  • A process or procedure.

When using this structure, you start by introducing your topic and summarize the series of events in your introduction paragraph. When you come to the body, each paragraph should introduce a key stage in the series. In the conclusion, you give the end results of the series you have discussed while putting emphasis on your thesis.

  • Compare and contrast structure

A compare and contrast essay is one that points out the similarities and differences between two or more subjects. Essays in this category are perfect for showing what separates and unites related things or concepts especially when the subjects are confused for each other or unjustly lumped together. We can use the compare and contrast essay structure in any of these 2 ways:

Alternating method. In this method, you compare subjects side by side in each paragraph by reviewing one aspect at a time. Each paragraph is defined by the points of comparison.

Block method. In this method, you cover each subject separately in full and it can take several paragraphs. You can write about the first subject in the first three paragraphs and then write the next two paragraphs about the second subject comparing it to the first.

By giving the difference and similarities, essays in this category help the reader understand each of the subjects by using the other subject as a point of reference.

  • Problems-methods-solutions structure

Essays in this category focus on specific problems, methods, and solutions to those problems. They focus on the writer’s position in these three segments.

  • A problem
  • Ways to resolve the problem.
  • The solutions achieved when resolving the problems.

The problems can either be theoretical or practical. Here you explain a problem, discuss a theory or method to resolve it, and analyze the issues using the described method to see if a solution is achieved. You can propose a solution in cases where theories are involved. The solution can also be the research you present.

  • Signposting to clarify structure.

This essay structure is less commonly used although it is still as effective as the others. With this structure, the writer guides the reader with language that suggests what is contained in your essay. This can be done with an overview and the use of transitions. The overview and transitions work as follows within a signposting to clarify the essay structure.

Overview. An overview appears after an introduction and is usually written in the present tense and it gives the description of the argument or idea in each section of your essay.

Transitions. Transitions help guide a reader as well as connect ideas together throughout each paragraph or the body of your essay. You should be careful when using transition words and phrases in your essay as you must balance them. They should not be too few or too many to ensure a smooth flow of information throughout your essay.

  1. Tips for structuring an essay

Tips for Structuring an Essay

Tips for structuring an essay includes;Preparation stages, Following Structure, Background information, Simple claim and Supporting thesis

When writing your essay, you can consider the following tips.

  • Have enough time to prepare your essay. Take time to prepare your outline and structure. This will save you time later on and help you build a cohesive and coherent essay that your reader can understand easily. An essay structure helps you gather ideas and facts, organize, and merge them to your topic.
  • Follow your structure as best as possible. Once you are decided on the best essay writing structure for your essay, try to follow its structure as much as possible. In case your ideas change or you find that the outline could improve, consider repositioning your outline.
  • Mention background information at the beginning of your essay. Background information is important as it helps the reader understand the topic and points discussed in your essay. Although background information is mostly provided in the introduction, you can consider sharing background information at the beginning of the body of your essay.
  • Start with the simplest claim. When giving your arguments in the body of your essay, consider starting with the simplest and working towards the more complex ones. When the reader starts with the easier ones, they can easily understand the complex ones. They can use what they have already understood from the top of your essay to understand the other parts.
  • Always connect each point back to your thesis. To make your essay more valuable, ensure all points support your thesis. Review each point to determine whether it gives the expected background or it advances your point. If it does none of these, feel free to remove it from your essay.

    Frequently Asked Questions On Essay Structure

    What is the basic structure of an essay?

    The basic structure of an essay consists of three main parts i.e. the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. The introduction presents your topic and thesis statement while the body gives an in-depth analysis of all your arguments. The conclusion wraps up your ideas and gives your point of view about the topic under research.

    Why is the structure of an essay important?              

    The basic structure of an essay is important to both the writer and the reader as it helps them comprehend the logic and flow of the writer’s thoughts. The purpose of the assay should be stated clearly in the introduction as the thesis of your essay. All other important information about the topic should be discussed in the body of your essay. When writing the conclusion, summarize everything and share your thoughts with the readers.

    What are the different types of essay structure?

    There are four main types of essays but the structure remain the same for the most part. These types are:

    1. Expository, descriptive, and narrative.
    2. Argumentative or persuasive essays.
    3. Compare and contrast essays.
    4. Analysis, or cause and effect essay structures

    Essays in any of the above categories will have an introduction, a body with several paragraphs, and a conclusion.

    How do you structure an essay at the university level?

    When structuring your essay, you need to come up with a plan. The plan will determine the structure of your essay. It is also important to create an essay outline before you start writing your essay. The outline will help you produce elaborate arguments. Any essay structure should have the three main parts of an essay i.e. introduction, body, and conclusion.

    How many sentences should you have in each paragraph?

    There is no specification for the number of sentences you should have in each paragraph of your essay. For neatness and readability, each paragraph should have a maximum of four sentences. Each paragraph should be long enough to cover all the important details but short enough to be interesting for the reader to read to the end.

    NB: To enhance the flow and readability of your essay, ensure you use enough transition words.

    How do I compare and contrast in a structured way?

    In essay writing, comparisons are usually structured in any of the following two ways.

    • The alternating method. In this method, you compare subjects side by side according to one specific aspect at a time
    • The block method. In this method, you cover each subject separately in its entirety. Each subject on a different paragraph.

    You can combine both methods by writing a full paragraph on each of the subjects and then a final paragraph contrasting the two according to a specific metric.

    Do I have to stick to my essay outline as I write?

    It is very important to follow your outline when writing your essay. However, you can depart from your essay outline if your ideas change or if you realize that your structure could be better. If you decide to change, ensure you have enough reasons.

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