Archived (essays)

Structuring your essay

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The basic five-part essay structure

Once you have the basic structure of your essay, fill in the gaps.

Structuring your essay


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)

Topic Sentences

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

Tutor requirements

A standard academic essay includes the following:

  • Cover page
  • Title
  • Introduction
  • Main body (discussion)
  • Conclusion
  • 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?
  • Appendices?
  • Index?
  • Glossary?

Check the course’s marking criteria or unit guide to see if your tutor wants you to put in other components.