How to Structure an Essay: Guide and Examples

Published by at November 1st, 2021 , Revised On January 13, 2022

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.

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 longer 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 main 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 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:

Compare-and-contrast approach

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 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 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

    1. Introduction
      1. Hook
      2. Background
      3. Thesis statement
    2. First point of comparing and contrasting
      1. Subject 1
      2. Subject 2
    3. Second point of comparing and contrasting
      1. Subject 1
      2. Subject 2
    4. Second point of comparing and contrasting
      1. Subject 1
      2. Subject 2
    5. Conclusion
      1. Combination of arguments
      2. Importance of topic
      3. Strong concluding statement

Altering essay outline example          

    1. Introduction
      1. A bold claim to signify the importance of distance education during the lockdown
      2. The growing popularity of distance education over the last several years
      3. Thesis statement: Distance learning offers advantages and opportunities for students worldwide, but it comes with many limitations and accessibility issues that must be addressed to make it as useful as on-campus education.
    2. Teacher’s inability to help struggling students
      1. On-campus education: In a classroom environment, teachers can easily identify struggling students and offer them support in private
      2. Distance education: The teacher cannot identify weak students, so they are unable to offer any help.
    3. Accessibility limitations
      1. On-campus education: Challenges in getting to the classroom (disability, transportation issues, distance from home to the classroom)
      2. Distance education: Issues such as inadequate tech literacy, poor internet connection, distractions at home
    4. Engagement and communication
      1. On-campus education: Teachers can encourage communication and engagement by interacting with the students
      2. Distance education: Students can reach their tutor privately by email – ensuring improved communication
    5. Conclusion
      1. Presents a summary of how distance education is still an evolving field and presents more challenges than traditional classroom learning
      2. Provide solutions as to how the issues with distance education can be solved as this form of education has become immensely popular over the last decade
      3. Distance education could prove to be the game-changer for educational institutes, but a lot of improvements need to be made

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.

Block essay outline template

    1. Introduction
      1. Hook
      2. Background
      3. Thesis statement
    2. First subject
      1. Point 1
      2. Point 2
    3. First subject continuation
      1. Point 3
      2. Point 4
    4. Second subject
      1. Point 1 (compare)
      2. Point 2 (compare)
    5. Second subject continuation
      1. Point 1 (compare)
      2. Point 2 (compare)
    6. Conclusion
      1. Combination of arguments
      2. Importance of topic
      3. Strong concluding statement

Block essay outline example

    1. Introduction
      1. A bold claim to signify the importance of distance education during the lockdown
      2. The growing popularity of distance education over the last several years
      3. Thesis statement: Distance learning offers advantages and opportunities for students worldwide, but it comes with many limitations and accessibility issues that must be addressed to make it as effective as on-campus education
    2. Accessibility in distance education
      1. Advantages: Flexibility
      2. Disadvantages: Issues such as inadequate tech literacy, poor internet connection, distractions at home
    3. Engagement and interaction in distance education
      1. Advantages: Opportunity for students to discuss their problems with the teacher over an email or a telephonic call
      2. Disadvantages: Teachers are unable to identify weak students, so they cannot offer any help.
    4. Accessibility in on-campus education
      1. Advantages: Same classroom environment for all students. Those with low tech literacy are also able to participate in classroom exercises
      2. Disadvantages: Students living far away from the campus could find it difficult to attend on-campus classes on a regular basis. Classrooms may not be adequately equipped for disabled students
    5. Engagement and interaction in distance education
      1. Advantages: Teachers can easily identify students who are struggling to understand subject concepts and can arrange to help them through personal interaction and meetings
      2. Disadvantages: Some students may find it difficult to approach their teacher to discuss their problems.
    6. Conclusion
      1. Presents a summary of how distance education is still an evolving field and presents more challenges than traditional classroom learning
      2. Provide solutions as to how the issues with distance education can be solved as this form of education has become immensely popular over the last decade
      3. Distance education could prove to be the game-changer for educational institutes, but a lot of improvements need to be made

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 how to correctly apply this structural approach to your essay.

Problems-methods-solutions template

    1. Introduction
      1. Introduce the problem
      2. Provide background information
      3. Explain your method of solving the problem
    2. Define the problem
      1. Define the problem in detail
      2. Explain its significance
    3. Solution
      1. Describe the application of your method or approach to the problem
      2. Support the proposed solution by indicating some examples
    4. Conclusion
      1. Evaluate the efficacy of the proposed solution
      2. Explain the implications
      3. End with a strong concluding sentence

Problems-methods-solutions example

    1. Introduction
      1. Problem: The growing Islamophobia in the West
      2. The dominance of polarized news sources operating on a hidden agenda spreading misinformation about Islam
      3. Thesis statement: There is a need to combat fake news and conspiracies by educating institutions and the public to enhance media literacy and curb the dangerous consequences of Islamophobia.
    2. The reality of fake news
      1. In this day and age, misinformation is spread among the public by design.
      2. There is a realization among people that there is indeed prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.
    3. Eradicating disinformation by education
      1. There have been some efforts towards moderation and labelling on social media websites and mainstream media channels
      2. But the efforts have gone mostly ineffective. The real solution lies in ensuring media literacy so users can identify the real from the fake.
    4. Educating the consumers
      1. Media literacy should be made a part of courses at colleges and universities.
      2. This approach will help end consumers to evaluate any piece of information independently and separate right from wrong.
    5. Conclusion
      1. The proposed solution will start to give the desired results over a longer time, but it would be highly effective.
      2. The solution will need a considerable amount of investment of organisation. But more importantly, it would require persistence and patience from the practitioners.
      3. It would make more sense to dedicate our efforts towards teaching our next generation to make sure they don’t fall for fake news.

Enhancing the clarity of structure through signposting

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 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 what will be 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 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.

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.

About Ellie Cross

I am Content Manager at this prestigious organization who has been assisting students for a long time. I have been part of Essays UK since its inception and have seen all the ups and downs it has faced in all those years. I manage a growing team of great writers and content marketers who are contributing to a great extent to help students with their academics.