Structuring your essay
The basic five-part essay structure
Once you have the basic structure of your essay, fill in the gaps.
The introduction should:
- Give the background to the topic
- Outline the aims of the paper ('This paper is going to examine...')
The introduction may also:
- Give a strong relevant quote
- Define key terms
|Example introductions (PDF opens in new window)|
The Main Body
- The Main Body expands on all the topics mentioned in your introduction;
- The Main Body brings together information you have gathered from sources during your research;
- The Main Body develops your argument in a logical structure.
|Essay Structure Key Points (PDF opens in new window)|
What logical structure should you apply to your essay?
The process word in your essay question should show you this.
- If the process is to describe: your paper is likely to be linear.
- If your process is to compare: use a two-sided structure.
|Process words and their definitions (PDF opens in new window)|
The conclusion always:
- Summarises main points in the essay
- Draws together ideas in a meaningful way
The conclusion may also:
- Suggest further reading
- Give a concluding statement
- Pose a further question
|Examples of conclusions (PDF opens in new window)|
The topic sentence will often be the first sentence in the paragraph.Sometimes it may come further into the paragraph. For example, a sentence linking to the previous paragraph or an introductory sentence could be used first.
- Linking phrases can be helpful to show how your paragraph fits in with the rest.
- Other sentences, before or after the topic sentence, must relate to and support the idea stated in the topic sentence.
- To offer a new idea: start a new paragraph
A standard academic essay includes the following:
- Cover page
- Main body (discussion)
- Reference list or Bibliography
Use the list below to check whether you need any extra components in your essay:
- Contents page?
- Illustrations or tables?
- A list of illustrations or tables?
Check the course’s marking criteria or unit guide to see if your tutor wants you to put in other components.
|Do you know about Topic Sentences? quiz (Opens in new window)|
|Do you know your Faculty/School requirements quiz (Opens in new window)|