Essay StructureUpdated: Oct 17, 2013
The structure of a typical essay is fairly simple; generally it contains an introduction, two or three body paragraphs and a conclusion.
Proper essay structure is critical for the success of a paper. It allows you to align your thoughts and ideas logically, making them readable and easy to understand for your reader. Basic essay logic starts out with the introduction of the essay’s main idea and then explains it further in the body paragraphs and ends the essay by summing everything up in the last paragraph - the conclusion (see the scheme on the left). To better understand why essay structure is so important, try to imagine an essay that starts out with body paragraphs, followed with a thesis and a conclusion. Such essay would be impossible to read because of its faulty logic. Let’s take a closer look at each of the components.
The introduction is the main component within the structure of your essay. This part contains the main thought of the essay and states the purpose of your writing. The introduction typically consists of a thesis statement (also called “a topic sentence”) and a few more sentences that explain or expand the main statement. The topic sentence together with these few sentences are collectively referred to as the “introduction.”
The two or three paragraphs that follow the introduction are called “the body” of the essay. They are called so because they make up the body, or the main bulk of the paper. This part of the essay usually contains research data and information that supports your thesis. The purpose of every paragraph within the body of your essay should be to support your thesis.
Each paragraph should contain one main idea and should provide supporting details for your topic and thesis. The topic (introductory) sentence of each paragraph should support the main idea.
Even though there are no hard and fast rules regarding paragraph length, a general rule of thumb prescribes that a paragraph should not be neither too long (over 8 sentences) nor too short (under 2 sentences). Paragraph size varies depending on the essay style: for example the average paragraph length in business writing is generally 4-5 sentences, while the average paragraph length in academic writing is around 8-10 sentences. Academic writing tends to be longer because the author has to state a point, back it up with research data, and come to a conclusion. Such kind of writing usually requires a greater amount of writing.
Review Your Writing
Reviewing your writing or the post-writing phase takes place when you are done writing your paper. It’s always a good idea to put your essay aside for a couple of hours and then come back to it later. It is important to read through each paragraph to make sure your ideas make sense and convey your points clearly. Also, be sure that you have not strayed away from your main point. Each paragraph should be relevant to your thesis. If you have found that any of your body paragraphs strays from your thesis, a rewrite or omission may be necessary.
The final part in your essay structure is the conclusion. It summarizes the points made in the introduction and the body paragraphs of your paper. The core function of the conclusion is not only to summarize ideas stated in the introduction and the body, but to show how they relate to the thesis. A good technique is to use logical connections like: “as we can see”, “therefore”, “naturally”, “summing up” etc. Such connecting phrases help you to tie the points made previously with the actual text of the conclusion that you are writing. Once again, a conclusion should review your thesis and give a summary of your main ideas. Depending on your instructor’s requirements, your conclusion can range from one paragraph to a page in length.
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