A standard academic essay consists of an introduction, the main body, and a conclusion. However, it is not the structure of an essay that challenges many students but the order of information within the body.
Not sure how to structure an essay and organise the information within it? This article provides useful tips and templates to effectively outline an essay, make decisions about the structure, and present the text coherently.
There are a couple of essential points to be aware of when structuring an essay.
There are three main components of an essay: the introduction, the main body, and the conclusion. The following table describes the attributes of each of these three components.
States the topic
Includes a bold claim to hook the audience
Provides background information
Presents the thesis statement
Includes an essay structure map for longer essays
Expresses arguments and analysis relating to the essay's central argument
Includes supporting evidence material
Each paragraph starts with a topic sentence and discusses a unique point
The content of each paragraph should relate to the main claim of your essay
Provides a summary of the points discussed in the main body.
Links back to the thesis statement
Demonstrate the significance and value of your arguments to the topic.
Once you know how to organise your essay, the next step is to figure out how to best present information within the main body. Here are some tips and guidelines to help you with this.
The main body is the longest part of the essay, but it should follow a logical structure. Expand your argument from the most straightforward claim to the most complicated.
Start the first paragraph with a widely accepted claim and gradually move towards stating more complicated argumentative claims.
For example, you could start by explaining a widely accepted social concept and applying it to a specific situation. The knowledge of the general idea will enable your audience to comprehend your exclusive use of it.
The second rule that you should keep in mind is that background information should be presented at the start of the essay. While the introduction part of the essay includes the most relevant and vital background information, you can provide additional background information at the beginning of the body.
The third rule is that every piece of information presented in the essay should be directly related to the essay title and the thesis statement. Ensure everything in your essay helps either advance your main argument or provide the necessary background.
Essay organisational templates in academic writing include the compare-and-contrast structure, the chronological approach, and the problems-methods-solutions strategy. These are briefly explained below:
This approach is chosen when there is a need to compare and contrast two or more subjects, arguments, or texts. For example, suppose you want to compare and contrast the effectiveness of different arguments in an argumentative essay or compare two different text in a literary analysis essay. In that case, you will need to structure your essay around the compare-and-contrast approach.
You can base your essay on a compare-and-contrast structure using two methods: the block method and the alternating method.
The alternating method involves comparing and contrasting the subjects concerning a specific point of interest. Each paragraph of the body presents a comparison of subjects in terms of one particular point of interest.
Below you will find a general template for the compare-and-contrast structure and an explicit example for an essay comparing the concept of distance education with conventional on-campus education.
Altering essay outline template
Altering essay outline example
The block method involves exploring each subject in one go. You can cover each subject over several paragraphs if needed.
For example, you could write a couple of paragraphs about the advantages and limitations of distance education, and then write a couple of paragraphs about the advantages and limitations of on-campus education. Present the comparison between the two subjects in the paragraphs.
Below you will find a general template for the block method and an example for an essay comparing the concept of distance education with conventional on-campus education using the block structuring technique.
Block essay outline template
Block essay outline example
If an essay investigates a specific problem, whether theoretical or practical, then it should be addressed through the problems-methods-solutions structural approach.
The name of this method defines the structure the essay must follow.
Propose a workable solution for practical problems. For theoretical problems, the answer could lie in the analysis your present. Here are a template and an example of how to correctly apply this structural approach to your essay.
Signposting can be defined as the use of signs or hints to guide the reader through your essay. The use of signposting can help your readers predict your essay structure as they read and clarify the structure and organisation of ideas for yourself.
The main body of extended essays is generally split into several smaller sections, each exploring a unique point. It is recommended to end the introduction section by providing an overview of the essay structure and the type of information within each section of the main body.
The essay structure map enables the readers to understand your essay's structure and the flow of ideas. It summarises what will be covered and what will be the order of information. It is written in the past tense.
It is advised to link different points presented in the essay's body by using transition words and essays. Transition words and phrases improve the flow of information and guide the reader through your text. Academic essays that use signposting and transitions are more effective than the ones that don't.
The following example demonstrates how the use of transition words shows different relationships
Transition words example
In this paragraph, I will discuss a few reasons why practice is important to mastering skills. Firstly, the only way to truly learn a skill is by actually doing what you'll have to do in the real world. Secondly, I think practice can be a fun way of putting in the necessary hours. There are, however, some people who will disagree.
As you can see in the above example, with transition words, the reader does not need to wonder whether a sentence belongs to the previous argument or a new one. Moreover, it shows a clear link between sentences that are all part of one argument. The readers will find it easier to comprehend the information within the paragraph.
Likewise, use transition sentences to transition from one paragraph or section to the next. A good transition sentence relates to the ideas discussed in the previous paragraph and introduces the new one.
… Distance learning, then, seems to improve accessibility in some ways while representing a step backwards in others.
However, considering the issue of personal interaction among students presents a different picture.