Proper Essay Structure Cannot be Compromised

From high school onwards, a student learns that any essay or research paper contains three basic parts: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The reason for this is quite simple; it is the only method by which information, data, opinions, etc. can be presented logically. A wise English professor once put it quite succinctly – “You tell them what you are going to tell them (introduction), then you tell them (body) and then you tell them what you have told them (conclusion).”

Pre-Writing Activity

The essay structure has never changed but that does not mean it is always an easy task to create a coherent, fluent, and logical essay or research paper. Prior to beginning the actual writing process, for example, there are a few pre-writing activities that are essential to thought organization. These may include literature reviews on the topic and/or original research or a simple a brainstorming activity. Whichever the case, the writer must organize the information, data, or thoughts into appropriate sub-topics; each of which will form a paragraph for the “body” section of the essay. From these sub-topics, the eventual introduction and conclusion are born. We have provided an encapsulation of the three parts of an essay structure in the hopes that it will provide insight into the impo rtance of the standard essay structure itself and assist you as your prepare your own essay/research papers.

Essay structure

The Introduction

Your introduction should introduce both the topic (also known as the thesis) and the purpose of your essay. The purpose may be to inform, to persuade, to add to previous research, or to reinforce the research of others. It may also be to compare/contrast, to present a narrative, or to analyze. The introduction is critical because, by virtue of it, the reader must want to read on. If the reader is not hooked in the introduction, no interest in the rest of the essay will be established. Be creative in the introduction. Grab the attention of your audience because you have something to “sell!”

The Body

In terms of the essay structure, the body is the “meat” of your essay work. Remember the initial mention of subtopics? Each subtopic is crafted into a well-written paragraph that supports the thesis and purpose of the essay itself. Sometimes, a subtopic will require the presentation of research information or data, or the subtopic will be a point in an argument or the description of an event. Subtopics should never create confusion so there should be solid transitions from one paragraph to the next. The number of paragraphs in the body is obviously determined by the number of subtopics presented.

Paragraph Sizes

In terms of paragraph size, the writer has some flexibility although it is never a good idea to have merely a couple of sentences in a paragraph or to have so many that the reader gets tired of reading the content. Five to six sentences are a good minimum, and 10 is an apt maximum. At the graduate level, when significant amounts of data are required within a subtopic, the use of charts and graphs resolves the issue of lengthy paragraphs. If a paragraph is too long, consider dividing the content into two subtopics, resulting into the creation of two paragraphs. Another important point to remember in paragraph writing is to vary the length of sentences using shorter sentences to bring home important points or to grab the reader’s attention.

The Conclusion

Conclusions should be bold. Again, a short attention-grabbing first sentence often works well. Your conclusion must restate your thesis or argument, yet it should not be a mirror image of your introduction. It is better perhaps if you can point the reader to a further direction, express a call to action, or provide a succinct summary in a humorous or creative manner. In short, what do you want the reader to think or to do upon finishing reading your essay? Conclusions are often the most difficult part of an essay to write because this is the last opportunity to have an impact on the reader and, of course, to the person who will be assigning a grade to your work.

The Editing Process

Once written, your essay should sit quietly alone. This action gives you time to clear your head by focusing on something else. When you return to your essay, review it carefully. Does it flow logically? Does each sentence in a paragraph directly relate to the subtopics? Does each paragraph relate directly to your thesis, hypothesis, or argument? If not, some revision will be required. You may need to change the arrangement of paragraphs, you may need to eliminate or add a paragraph, or you may need to re-arrange the sentences within a paragraph. It may also be wise to enlist the help of another whom you know is skilled in essay structure and grammar usage. It is during this phase that the final polishing of the work occurs so do not cut corners. Failure to review and revise can lower a grade significantly.

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