When considering how to write an essay, your job as a writer is to inform the readers about a particular issue or persuade them to believe an argument about a given subject, using multiple examples to serve as proof of your directive. There are a wide variety of techniques available, and formats and styles of essay in use in education. However, you should know how to structure an essay, and understand the basic structural tenets that all essays of them follow.
As you prepare how to set out an essay, remember that all academic papers must include an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion. The main body constitutes the largest portion of the overall text (at least 70 percent of the total volume). The introduction and conclusion should each be concise, yet informative, taking up no more than 30 percent of the entire paper.
Every essay begins with an introduction to the topic about which you plan to write. It is best to keep the intro brief and concise, preparing the reader for the information they are going to consume. The essay structure introduction needs to be maintained throughout the course of the composition. Discuss the topic as well as the scope in the introduction. The scope of your paper is largely dependent on its size. For example, you cannot cover “homophobia in the United States military” in a three-page paper.
When starting out, you must address a certain issue relevant to a particular time and place: i.e. the factors leading up to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of sexual nondisclosure in the US military. Present an overview of the research you have done. Perhaps the most important part of any essay introduction is the thesis statement. In the personal thesis statement, you announce an argument you wish to make about the topic in question. You acknowledge detracting points against your argument and provide research findings that demonstrate the overarching strength of your argument in the face of those who would object. You also describe the overall conclusion you wish to convince the readers of during the course of your paper.
The body of an essay is its largest section where the author explains in detail each component of the thesis statement mentioned in the introduction; it should be the primary focus of the initial draft. Typically, it involves one paragraph per component on a shorter composition and 2-3 paragraphs each for a longer piece of writing. Regarding essay paragraph structure, each paragraph should start with an introductory sentence. It should discuss the component in detail using proper citation, and let the final sentence of the paragraph sum it up before moving on to the next idea.
Each idea in your essay is mentioned in its own distinct paragraph and should be able to stand on its own if taken out of context. At the same time, there should still be some narrative flow from one idea to the next. For example, when discussing the background to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, it is not prudent to go directly from a paragraph describing a WWII psychological screening policy to one on a 1992 paper written by a Marine Corps chaplain justifying a ban on gays in the military.
Another important aspect to consider about the body of an essay is the questions you should be prepared to answer. Consider the 6 W’s:
Who was involved in the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” decision, and who did it affect? What did the decision entail? When did it happen, and where? Of course, addressing the how and why the decision occurred are more involved answers and so require more than one paragraph each. Once again, break down the “how” and “why” into multiple components if necessary, and address one distinct component per paragraph.
By the time you have reached your conclusion, you should have nothing new to say. In other words, all of the evidence, data, or other information sources you have used exists within the introduction and main body of the essay. The conclusion is not the time for new information, but the time to reinforce your argument, and leave the reader convinced.
As for essay conclusion structure that will leave a lasting impression on the reader, use short, clear, simple sentences in your conclusion, and avoid lengthy and complex new words. If you can, echo the phrases that you used in the introduction to jog the reader’s memory and most shore up your position. Tie your argument to a greater issue in your topic (as alluded to in the introduction), persuading the readers to agree with your point of view once and for all.
Below is a list of five of the most common types of essay scholars are likely to be assigned throughout the course of their studies and what is required. Bear in mind that the structure of an essay in all cases should follow the same general rules regarding the introduction, main body, and conclusion regarding proportionate length and content. Example topics of each are included to help you get a perfect sense of what each style entails.
An analytical essay involves constructing an argument around an issue you are seeking to analyze. It is regularly framed as an analysis of a piece of art or literature, but could just as easily work as an analysis of an idea or position of philosophy. As with any standard essay, an analytical essay structure requires an introduction featuring an articulate, yet innovative thesis statement. The main body presents the central topics you wish to analyze along with substantive evidence backing your claims using proper citation. Lastly, your conclusion should be where you remind your reader about the positions you’ve made through analysis, and what you found that supports them, tying them in with greater commentary about the field at hand.
An example an analytical essay topic is looking at Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, and considering the extreme measures disenfranchised people (in this case, young Abigail Williams and her group of teenage girls) in a deeply rigid and hierarchical society will take to gain respect and recognition. Analyze the actions Abigail and her group took to defend their village against the presence of witches, and how it was reflected in their own social station in the community at large.
Argumentative essays present a debate on a given issue where both pros and cons are offered, with the writer presenting greater evidence for his or her argument before summarizing the findings in the conclusion. In its most simplistic form, an argumentative essay requires an introduction, a body consisting of developing your own argument and refuting your opponent’s argument, followed by the conclusion.
The introduction should be brief, but engaging: you want to “hook” the reader in early and make them eager to know more. Once you have captivated the readers with your hook, tell them why they should care about the issue, and finally introduce your thesis before proceeding into the main body.
Your main body should include a discussion of your arguments and an effort to refute the rebuttal. For the section where you develop your argument, you need to make claims and back them up with evidence. A claim is a statement you make to enforce your argument, and evidence is the documented information that substantiate each claim. It should go without saying that evidence must be properly cited in whichever format has been assigned to you. Any good argumentative essay includes 2-3 claims as a basis; for each claim you state, it is best to prepare at least 2-3 pieces of evidence.
The other main section of the main body concerns addressing potential views which stand in opposition to your argument. Practice due diligence with your research for this part, as it reflects on your ability to be objective. What’s more, when the opposition seems plausible, your argument is even stronger when you counter it. What is involved in countering the opposing views? Refutations, of course! Meet each opposing argument with at least one point of refutation. In a refutation, you address the claim against you and then mention any flaws, incongruences, or other pieces of information with which you can demonstrate that your argument supersedes theirs in accuracy and value.
Finally, as you conclude your work, restate the importance of your topic and your position on it, and what will happen if your claims are implemented.
An example of an argumentative essay is stating that cafes and restaurants should not use Styrofoam packing in their takeaway orders for a wide variety of ecological reasons. Acknowledge the concerns of price and convenience that those who oppose your position may present. However, as you address each concern, articulate how they are not remotely on the level of the extremely long-lasting environmental results of Styrofoam taking up space in our landfills.
An interpretive essay involves creating an analysis of another piece of writing. In many ways, it is similar to a literary review. It requires the writer to interpret a piece of literature or art as the sum of its components, and develop an analysis of the piece’s purpose based on its parts. Alternatively, the writer may use the components of the piece to offer a challenge to common interpretations of its meaning. In works of literature, this can often be enacted in the form of analyzing the relationship between different characters as a way of explaining the work’s meaning: “in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, describe the title character’s relationship with his mother, and what symbolic greater meaning you can draw from it.” Not surprisingly, this type of essay is quite common in university English classes.
When setting out to write an interpretive essay, it is best to begin by selecting a scene, character, activity, quote, or other aspect of the work of literature. From there, take the time to dissect it: what happened before and after, what are the characters’ motives, why is this scene integral to the whole of the text, and so on. Once you have set out all these important aspects by brainstorming, and later in an outline, you should be able to see a narrative develop between the lines on which you can base your interpretative analysis.
The format of an interpretative essay is rather similar to that of other essays on this list, with an introduction, body and conclusion. The writer should quote and paraphrase the literary work clearly and concisely in the introduction, more thoroughly in the body, and definitively in the conclusion to maintain the relevancy of your interpretation. Lastly, it should always include adequate citations and full bibliography in APA, MLA, or other prescribed style.
A comparative essay involves selecting two subjects that have structural similarities, but specific differences and can be compared in a meaningful way. Some easy examples include comparing two sports teams, two political leaders, two events that happened at the same time in history in different places, or two events that occurred at the same location, but at different times.
With these two subjects, identify two or three cases of comparison, and present researched facts and evidence in well-organized paragraphs to inform and captivate the reader. This is a very common assignment for students’ English classes in school.
An example of a good comparative essay topic is to look at the leadership styles of African-American Civil Rights leaders Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
As the title indicates, a problem and solution essay involves presenting a problem (most frequently in the realm of society), and a proposed solution. For the initial part, consider an arena in society that is experiencing change, volatility, and friction. Next, make a list of problems caused by this change, selecting the ones you find most pressing, and finally, consider possible solutions for the pressing problems at hand.
For example, when a new block of flats is built next to a community dog park, and a large number of new residents and their dogs make use of the park. If some of the new inhabitants fail to respect rules of the park (i.e. not cleaning up their dog’s droppings or letting aggressive dogs wander around without a lead), it can cause tension for everyone in this particular community. Some potential solutions are erecting a box of free bags for collecting dog waste and a rule stating that dogs must remain on a lead inside the park. When creating a problem and solution essay, a great way of giving it structure is to create a table under the following columns: Solution, How It Works, Assumed Cause of Problem, and an Example.
When writing a cause and effect essay, your goal is to demonstrate how one event, phenomenon, or trend led to the formation of something new. Frequently, cause and effect essays are used for history and psychology assignments, as well as those for other subjects in the social science arena at times. The process of bringing cause to its effect should be easily demonstrated using evidence that you cite.
Your introduction should include a thesis statement, which speaks to the theme you wish to discuss in your essay in terms of action and results - in other words, the cause and effect. To avoid confusing the reader, stick to just two or three general effects of the event or phenomenon you have chosen to discuss. For example, if you are looking at how environmental exposure to lead negatively affects human health, first decide on what particular source of lead exposure to focus on (food, water, soil, paint, etc.). Alternatively, you could focus on how lead poisoning affects a particular organ of the body. You are writing a scientific essay, not a treatise, after all.
There you have it! We hope you have enjoyed learning some tips about essay writing structure and formats, and wish you the best in all your future writing endeavors.