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How to Structure an Essay: Guide and Examples

Published by at November 1st, 2021 , Revised On February 1, 2024

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 valuable tips and templates to effectively outline an essay, make decisions about the structure, and present the text coherently.

The Rules of Essay Structure

There are a couple of essential points to be aware of when structuring an essay.

  • Make sure to present correct information in each part of the essay.
  • Figure out how to best organise the information within the main body.

The Main Parts of 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.

Component Attributes
Introduction States the topic

Includes a bold claim to hook the audience

Provides background information

Presents the thesis statement

Includes an essay structure map for more extended essays

Main body 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 central claim of your essay

Conclusion 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.

Putting Information Together in the Correct Order

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 state 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 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:

Also read: How long is an essay

Compare-and-Contrast Approach

Choose this approach 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 texts 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.

Also read: How to shorten an essay

Alternating Method

The alternating method involves comparing and contrasting the subjects concerning a specific point of interest. Each paragraph of the body compares 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

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Block Method

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.

Problems-methods-solutions Approach

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.

  1. Define the problem you are trying to solve
  2. Propose a theory, method, or approach to address the problem
  3. Present analysis and indicate a theory or method that could be implemented as the solution.

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 correctly applying this structural approach to your essay.

Enhancing the Clarity of Structure Through Signposting

Signposting can be defined as 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 Essay Structure Map

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 the order of information. It is written in the past tense.

Transition Words and Phrases

It is advised to link different points presented in the essay’s body 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 those 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

An essay comprises three parts, including the introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction introduces the topic, provides background information, and expressed the main argument. The body includes analysis, evidence, and interpretation. The conclusion wraps up your ideas.

Make sure to take your time to organize your essay and the sequence of information within the main body.

While you should try to stick to your original outline, if you notice your ideas have evolved as you improved your knowledge around the subject and the essay structure can be improved, then, by all means, you can depart from the initial plan. Just make sure to have a good reason for this change.

An essay is a focused piece of academic writing that involves putting specific ideas ad facts together. Every piece of information presented in the essay should relate to the key argument in your thesis statement.

The use of correct essay structure can help you effectively and coherently present your argument. A well-constructed essay takes the reader through the essay by presenting ideas in a logical manner.

  1. An introduction outline 
  2. Write 3 main arguments 
  3. Back your arguments using quotes 
  4. Summarise in conclusion 

The main components of a standard essay are an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion. Generally, an essay is five paragraphs long. 

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