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How to Structure an Essay | Tips & Templates

Published on September 18, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

The basic structure of an essay always consists of an introduction , a body , and a conclusion . But for many students, the most difficult part of structuring an essay is deciding how to organize information within the body.

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Table of contents

The basics of essay structure, chronological structure, compare-and-contrast structure, problems-methods-solutions structure, signposting to clarify your structure, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about essay structure.

There are two main things to keep in mind when working on your essay structure: making sure to include the right information in each part, and deciding how you’ll organize the information within the body.

Parts of an essay

The three parts that make up all essays are described in the table below.

Order of information

You’ll also have to consider how to present information within the body. There are a few general principles that can guide you here.

The first is that your argument should move from the simplest claim to the most complex . The body of a good argumentative essay often begins with simple and widely accepted claims, and then moves towards more complex and contentious ones.

For example, you might begin by describing a generally accepted philosophical concept, and then apply it to a new topic. The grounding in the general concept will allow the reader to understand your unique application of it.

The second principle is that background information should appear towards the beginning of your essay . General background is presented in the introduction. If you have additional background to present, this information will usually come at the start of the body.

The third principle is that everything in your essay should be relevant to the thesis . Ask yourself whether each piece of information advances your argument or provides necessary background. And make sure that the text clearly expresses each piece of information’s relevance.

The sections below present several organizational templates for essays: the chronological approach, the compare-and-contrast approach, and the problems-methods-solutions approach.

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structure in writing an essay

The chronological approach (sometimes called the cause-and-effect approach) is probably the simplest way to structure an essay. It just means discussing events in the order in which they occurred, discussing how they are related (i.e. the cause and effect involved) as you go.

A chronological approach can be useful when your essay is about a series of events. Don’t rule out other approaches, though—even when the chronological approach is the obvious one, you might be able to bring out more with a different structure.

Explore the tabs below to see a general template and a specific example outline from an essay on the invention of the printing press.

  • Thesis statement
  • Discussion of event/period
  • Consequences
  • Importance of topic
  • Strong closing statement
  • Claim that the printing press marks the end of the Middle Ages
  • Background on the low levels of literacy before the printing press
  • Thesis statement: The invention of the printing press increased circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation
  • High levels of illiteracy in medieval Europe
  • Literacy and thus knowledge and education were mainly the domain of religious and political elites
  • Consequence: this discouraged political and religious change
  • Invention of the printing press in 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg
  • Implications of the new technology for book production
  • Consequence: Rapid spread of the technology and the printing of the Gutenberg Bible
  • Trend for translating the Bible into vernacular languages during the years following the printing press’s invention
  • Luther’s own translation of the Bible during the Reformation
  • Consequence: The large-scale effects the Reformation would have on religion and politics
  • Summarize the history described
  • Stress the significance of the printing press to the events of this period

Essays with two or more main subjects are often structured around comparing and contrasting . For example, a literary analysis essay might compare two different texts, and an argumentative essay might compare the strengths of different arguments.

There are two main ways of structuring a compare-and-contrast essay: the alternating method, and the block method.


In the alternating method, each paragraph compares your subjects in terms of a specific point of comparison. These points of comparison are therefore what defines each paragraph.

The tabs below show a general template for this structure, and a specific example for an essay comparing and contrasting distance learning with traditional classroom learning.

  • Synthesis of arguments
  • Topical relevance of distance learning in lockdown
  • Increasing prevalence of distance learning over the last decade
  • Thesis statement: While distance learning has certain advantages, it introduces multiple new accessibility issues that must be addressed for it to be as effective as classroom learning
  • Classroom learning: Ease of identifying difficulties and privately discussing them
  • Distance learning: Difficulty of noticing and unobtrusively helping
  • Classroom learning: Difficulties accessing the classroom (disability, distance travelled from home)
  • Distance learning: Difficulties with online work (lack of tech literacy, unreliable connection, distractions)
  • Classroom learning: Tends to encourage personal engagement among students and with teacher, more relaxed social environment
  • Distance learning: Greater ability to reach out to teacher privately
  • Sum up, emphasize that distance learning introduces more difficulties than it solves
  • Stress the importance of addressing issues with distance learning as it becomes increasingly common
  • Distance learning may prove to be the future, but it still has a long way to go

In the block method, each subject is covered all in one go, potentially across multiple paragraphs. For example, you might write two paragraphs about your first subject and then two about your second subject, making comparisons back to the first.

The tabs again show a general template, followed by another essay on distance learning, this time with the body structured in blocks.

  • Point 1 (compare)
  • Point 2 (compare)
  • Point 3 (compare)
  • Point 4 (compare)
  • Advantages: Flexibility, accessibility
  • Disadvantages: Discomfort, challenges for those with poor internet or tech literacy
  • Advantages: Potential for teacher to discuss issues with a student in a separate private call
  • Disadvantages: Difficulty of identifying struggling students and aiding them unobtrusively, lack of personal interaction among students
  • Advantages: More accessible to those with low tech literacy, equality of all sharing one learning environment
  • Disadvantages: Students must live close enough to attend, commutes may vary, classrooms not always accessible for disabled students
  • Advantages: Ease of picking up on signs a student is struggling, more personal interaction among students
  • Disadvantages: May be harder for students to approach teacher privately in person to raise issues

An essay that concerns a specific problem (practical or theoretical) may be structured according to the problems-methods-solutions approach.

This is just what it sounds like: You define the problem, characterize a method or theory that may solve it, and finally analyze the problem, using this method or theory to arrive at a solution. If the problem is theoretical, the solution might be the analysis you present in the essay itself; otherwise, you might just present a proposed solution.

The tabs below show a template for this structure and an example outline for an essay about the problem of fake news.

  • Introduce the problem
  • Provide background
  • Describe your approach to solving it
  • Define the problem precisely
  • Describe why it’s important
  • Indicate previous approaches to the problem
  • Present your new approach, and why it’s better
  • Apply the new method or theory to the problem
  • Indicate the solution you arrive at by doing so
  • Assess (potential or actual) effectiveness of solution
  • Describe the implications
  • Problem: The growth of “fake news” online
  • Prevalence of polarized/conspiracy-focused news sources online
  • Thesis statement: Rather than attempting to stamp out online fake news through social media moderation, an effective approach to combating it must work with educational institutions to improve media literacy
  • Definition: Deliberate disinformation designed to spread virally online
  • Popularization of the term, growth of the phenomenon
  • Previous approaches: Labeling and moderation on social media platforms
  • Critique: This approach feeds conspiracies; the real solution is to improve media literacy so users can better identify fake news
  • Greater emphasis should be placed on media literacy education in schools
  • This allows people to assess news sources independently, rather than just being told which ones to trust
  • This is a long-term solution but could be highly effective
  • It would require significant organization and investment, but would equip people to judge news sources more effectively
  • Rather than trying to contain the spread of fake news, we must teach the next generation not to fall for it

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Signposting means guiding the reader through your essay with language that describes or hints at the structure of what follows.  It can help you clarify your structure for yourself as well as helping your reader follow your ideas.

The essay overview

In longer essays whose body is split into multiple named sections, the introduction often ends with an overview of the rest of the essay. This gives a brief description of the main idea or argument of each section.

The overview allows the reader to immediately understand what will be covered in the essay and in what order. Though it describes what  comes later in the text, it is generally written in the present tense . The following example is from a literary analysis essay on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .


Transition words and phrases are used throughout all good essays to link together different ideas. They help guide the reader through your text, and an essay that uses them effectively will be much easier to follow.

Various different relationships can be expressed by transition words, as shown in this example.

Because Hitler failed to respond to the British ultimatum, France and the UK declared war on Germany. Although it was an outcome the Allies had hoped to avoid, they were prepared to back up their ultimatum in order to combat the existential threat posed by the Third Reich.

Transition sentences may be included to transition between different paragraphs or sections of an essay. A good transition sentence moves the reader on to the next topic while indicating how it relates to the previous 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.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

  • Ad hominem fallacy
  • Post hoc fallacy
  • Appeal to authority fallacy
  • False cause fallacy
  • Sunk cost fallacy

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The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

An essay isn’t just a loose collection of facts and ideas. Instead, it should be centered on an overarching argument (summarized in your thesis statement ) that every part of the essay relates to.

The way you structure your essay is crucial to presenting your argument coherently. A well-structured essay helps your reader follow the logic of your ideas and understand your overall point.

Comparisons in essays are generally structured in one of two ways:

  • The alternating method, where you compare your subjects side by side according to one specific aspect at a time.
  • The block method, where you cover each subject separately in its entirety.

It’s also possible to combine both methods, for example by writing a full paragraph on each of your topics and then a final paragraph contrasting the two according to a specific metric.

You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay . However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your essay outline . Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.

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A clear, arguable thesis will tell your readers where you are going to end up, but it can also help you figure out how to get them there. Put your thesis at the top of a blank page and then make a list of the points you will need to make to argue that thesis effectively.

For example, consider this example from the thesis handout : While Sandel argues persuasively that our instinct to “remake”(54) ourselves into something ever more perfect is a problem, his belief that we can always draw a line between what is medically necessary and what makes us simply “better than well”(51) is less convincing.

To argue this thesis, the author needs to do the following:

  • Show what is persuasive about Sandel’s claims about the problems with striving for perfection.
  • Show what is not convincing about Sandel’s claim that we can clearly distinguish between medically necessary enhancements and other enhancements.

Once you have broken down your thesis into main claims, you can then think about what sub-claims you will need to make in order to support each of those main claims. That step might look like this:

  • Evidence that Sandel provides to support this claim
  • Discussion of why this evidence is convincing even in light of potential counterarguments
  • Discussion of cases when medically necessary enhancement and non-medical enhancement cannot be easily distinguished
  • Analysis of what those cases mean for Sandel’s argument
  • Consideration of counterarguments (what Sandel might say in response to this section of your argument)

Each argument you will make in an essay will be different, but this strategy will often be a useful first step in figuring out the path of your argument.  

Strategy #2: Use subheadings, even if you remove them later  

Scientific papers generally include standard subheadings to delineate different sections of the paper, including “introduction,” “methods,” and “discussion.” Even when you are not required to use subheadings, it can be helpful to put them into an early draft to help you see what you’ve written and to begin to think about how your ideas fit together. You can do this by typing subheadings above the sections of your draft.

If you’re having trouble figuring out how your ideas fit together, try beginning with informal subheadings like these:

  • Introduction  
  • Explain the author’s main point  
  • Show why this main point doesn’t hold up when we consider this other example  
  • Explain the implications of what I’ve shown for our understanding of the author  
  • Show how that changes our understanding of the topic

For longer papers, you may decide to include subheadings to guide your reader through your argument. In those cases, you would need to revise your informal subheadings to be more useful for your readers. For example, if you have initially written in something like “explain the author’s main point,” your final subheading might be something like “Sandel’s main argument” or “Sandel’s opposition to genetic enhancement.” In other cases, once you have the key pieces of your argument in place, you will be able to remove the subheadings.  

Strategy #3: Create a reverse outline from your draft  

While you may have learned to outline a paper before writing a draft, this step is often difficult because our ideas develop as we write. In some cases, it can be more helpful to write a draft in which you get all of your ideas out and then do a “reverse outline” of what you’ve already written. This doesn’t have to be formal; you can just make a list of the point in each paragraph of your draft and then ask these questions:

  • Are those points in an order that makes sense to you?  
  • Are there gaps in your argument?  
  • Do the topic sentences of the paragraphs clearly state these main points?  
  • Do you have more than one paragraph that focuses on the same point? If so, do you need both paragraphs?  
  • Do you have some paragraphs that include too many points? If so, would it make more sense to split them up?  
  • Do you make points near the end of the draft that would be more effective earlier in your paper?  
  • Are there points missing from this draft?  
  • picture_as_pdf Tips for Organizing Your Essay

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9.3 Organizing Your Writing

Learning objectives.

  • Understand how and why organizational techniques help writers and readers stay focused.
  • Assess how and when to use chronological order to organize an essay.
  • Recognize how and when to use order of importance to organize an essay.
  • Determine how and when to use spatial order to organize an essay.

The method of organization you choose for your essay is just as important as its content. Without a clear organizational pattern, your reader could become confused and lose interest. The way you structure your essay helps your readers draw connections between the body and the thesis, and the structure also keeps you focused as you plan and write the essay. Choosing your organizational pattern before you outline ensures that each body paragraph works to support and develop your thesis.

This section covers three ways to organize body paragraphs:

  • Chronological order
  • Order of importance
  • Spatial order

When you begin to draft your essay, your ideas may seem to flow from your mind in a seemingly random manner. Your readers, who bring to the table different backgrounds, viewpoints, and ideas, need you to clearly organize these ideas in order to help process and accept them.

A solid organizational pattern gives your ideas a path that you can follow as you develop your draft. Knowing how you will organize your paragraphs allows you to better express and analyze your thoughts. Planning the structure of your essay before you choose supporting evidence helps you conduct more effective and targeted research.

Chronological Order

In Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” , you learned that chronological arrangement has the following purposes:

  • To explain the history of an event or a topic
  • To tell a story or relate an experience
  • To explain how to do or to make something
  • To explain the steps in a process

Chronological order is mostly used in expository writing , which is a form of writing that narrates, describes, informs, or explains a process. When using chronological order, arrange the events in the order that they actually happened, or will happen if you are giving instructions. This method requires you to use words such as first , second , then , after that , later , and finally . These transition words guide you and your reader through the paper as you expand your thesis.

For example, if you are writing an essay about the history of the airline industry, you would begin with its conception and detail the essential timeline events up until present day. You would follow the chain of events using words such as first , then , next , and so on.

Writing at Work

At some point in your career you may have to file a complaint with your human resources department. Using chronological order is a useful tool in describing the events that led up to your filing the grievance. You would logically lay out the events in the order that they occurred using the key transition words. The more logical your complaint, the more likely you will be well received and helped.

Choose an accomplishment you have achieved in your life. The important moment could be in sports, schooling, or extracurricular activities. On your own sheet of paper, list the steps you took to reach your goal. Try to be as specific as possible with the steps you took. Pay attention to using transition words to focus your writing.

Keep in mind that chronological order is most appropriate for the following purposes:

  • Writing essays containing heavy research
  • Writing essays with the aim of listing, explaining, or narrating
  • Writing essays that analyze literary works such as poems, plays, or books

When using chronological order, your introduction should indicate the information you will cover and in what order, and the introduction should also establish the relevance of the information. Your body paragraphs should then provide clear divisions or steps in chronology. You can divide your paragraphs by time (such as decades, wars, or other historical events) or by the same structure of the work you are examining (such as a line-by-line explication of a poem).

On a separate sheet of paper, write a paragraph that describes a process you are familiar with and can do well. Assume that your reader is unfamiliar with the procedure. Remember to use the chronological key words, such as first , second , then , and finally .

Order of Importance

Recall from Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” that order of importance is best used for the following purposes:

  • Persuading and convincing
  • Ranking items by their importance, benefit, or significance
  • Illustrating a situation, problem, or solution

Most essays move from the least to the most important point, and the paragraphs are arranged in an effort to build the essay’s strength. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to begin with your most important supporting point, such as in an essay that contains a thesis that is highly debatable. When writing a persuasive essay, it is best to begin with the most important point because it immediately captivates your readers and compels them to continue reading.

For example, if you were supporting your thesis that homework is detrimental to the education of high school students, you would want to present your most convincing argument first, and then move on to the less important points for your case.

Some key transitional words you should use with this method of organization are most importantly , almost as importantly , just as importantly , and finally .

During your career, you may be required to work on a team that devises a strategy for a specific goal of your company, such as increasing profits. When planning your strategy you should organize your steps in order of importance. This demonstrates the ability to prioritize and plan. Using the order of importance technique also shows that you can create a resolution with logical steps for accomplishing a common goal.

On a separate sheet of paper, write a paragraph that discusses a passion of yours. Your passion could be music, a particular sport, filmmaking, and so on. Your paragraph should be built upon the reasons why you feel so strongly. Briefly discuss your reasons in the order of least to greatest importance.

Spatial Order

As stated in Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” , spatial order is best used for the following purposes:

  • Helping readers visualize something as you want them to see it
  • Evoking a scene using the senses (sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound)
  • Writing a descriptive essay

Spatial order means that you explain or describe objects as they are arranged around you in your space, for example in a bedroom. As the writer, you create a picture for your reader, and their perspective is the viewpoint from which you describe what is around you.

The view must move in an orderly, logical progression, giving the reader clear directional signals to follow from place to place. The key to using this method is to choose a specific starting point and then guide the reader to follow your eye as it moves in an orderly trajectory from your starting point.

Pay attention to the following student’s description of her bedroom and how she guides the reader through the viewing process, foot by foot.

Attached to my bedroom wall is a small wooden rack dangling with red and turquoise necklaces that shimmer as you enter. Just to the right of the rack is my window, framed by billowy white curtains. The peace of such an image is a stark contrast to my desk, which sits to the right of the window, layered in textbooks, crumpled papers, coffee cups, and an overflowing ashtray. Turning my head to the right, I see a set of two bare windows that frame the trees outside the glass like a 3D painting. Below the windows is an oak chest from which blankets and scarves are protruding. Against the wall opposite the billowy curtains is an antique dresser, on top of which sits a jewelry box and a few picture frames. A tall mirror attached to the dresser takes up most of the wall, which is the color of lavender.

The paragraph incorporates two objectives you have learned in this chapter: using an implied topic sentence and applying spatial order. Often in a descriptive essay, the two work together.

The following are possible transition words to include when using spatial order:

  • Just to the left or just to the right
  • On the left or on the right
  • Across from
  • A little further down
  • To the south, to the east, and so on
  • A few yards away
  • Turning left or turning right

On a separate sheet of paper, write a paragraph using spatial order that describes your commute to work, school, or another location you visit often.


Please share with a classmate and compare your answers.

Key Takeaways

  • The way you organize your body paragraphs ensures you and your readers stay focused on and draw connections to, your thesis statement.
  • A strong organizational pattern allows you to articulate, analyze, and clarify your thoughts.
  • Planning the organizational structure for your essay before you begin to search for supporting evidence helps you conduct more effective and directed research.
  • Chronological order is most commonly used in expository writing. It is useful for explaining the history of your subject, for telling a story, or for explaining a process.
  • Order of importance is most appropriate in a persuasion paper as well as for essays in which you rank things, people, or events by their significance.
  • Spatial order describes things as they are arranged in space and is best for helping readers visualize something as you want them to see it; it creates a dominant impression.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

How to Structure an Essay

  • Writing Essays
  • Writing Research Papers
  • English Grammar
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

If you've been tasked with  writing an essay  for a class assignment, the project might seem daunting. However, your assignment doesn't have to be a hair-pulling, frazzled all-nighter. Think of writing an essay as if you were  making a hamburger . Imagine the parts of a burger: There's a bun (bread) on top and a bun on the bottom. In the middle, you'll find the meat. 

Your introduction is like the top bun announcing the subject, your supporting paragraphs are the beef in the middle, and your conclusion is the bottom bun, supporting everything. The condiments would be the specific  examples  and  illustrations  that can help to  clarify  key points and keep your writing interesting. (Who, after all, would eat a burger composed only of bread and beef?)

Each part needs to be present: A soggy or missing bun would cause your fingers to slip immediately into the beef without being able to hold and enjoy the burger. But if your burger had no beef in the middle, you'd be left with two dry pieces of bread.

The Introduction

Your  introductory paragraphs  introduce the reader to your topic. For example, you might choose to write an essay titled, "Technology Is Changing Our Lives." Start your introduction with a  hook  that captures the reader's attention: "Technology is taking over our lives and changing the world."

After you introduce your topic and draw the reader in, the most important part of your introductory paragraph(s) would be you the main idea, or  thesis . "The Little Seagull Handbook" calls this a statement that introduces your main point, identifying your topic. Your thesis statement could read: "Information technology has revolutionized the way we work."

But, your topic can be more varied and may cover seemingly mundane subjects, such as this opening paragraph from Mary Zeigler's " How to Catch River Crabs ." Zeigler grabs the reader's attention  from the first sentence:

"As a lifelong crabber (that is, one who catches crabs, not a chronic complainer), I can tell you that anyone who has patience and a great love for the river is qualified to join the ranks of crabbers.​"

The final sentences of your introduction, then, would be a mini-outline of what your essay will cover. Don't use an outline form, but explain briefly all the key points you intend to discuss in narrative form.

Supporting Paragraphs

Extending the hamburger essay theme, the  supporting paragraphs  would be beef. These would include well-researched and logical points that support your thesis. The  topic sentence  of each paragraph might serve as the reference points of your mini-outline. The topic  sentence , which is often at the beginning of a  paragraph , states or suggests the main idea (or  topic ) of a paragraph.

Bellevue College in Washington state shows how to write  four different supporting paragraphs on four different topics : a description of a beautiful day; savings and loan and bank failures; the writer's father; and, the writer's joke-playing cousin. Bellevue explains that your supporting paragraphs should provide rich, vivid imagery, or logical and specific supporting details, depending on your topic.

A perfect supporting paragraph for the technology topic, discussed previously, could draw on current events. In its Jan. 20-21, 2018, weekend edition, "The Wall Street Journal" ran an article titled, " Digital Revolution Upends Ad Industry : A Divide Between Old Guard and New Tech Hires."

The article described in searing detail, how one of the world's biggest ad agencies lost a major Mcdonald's advertising account to a relative upstart because the fast-food chain felt the older agency "was not adept enough at using data to quickly produce online ads and target minute slices of its customer base."

The younger, hipper, agency, by contrast, had worked with Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc's Google to assemble a team of data experts. You could use this news story to illustrate how technology—and a need for workers who understand it and are able to use it—is taking over the world and is changing entire industries.

The Conclusion

Just as a hamburger needs a durable bottom bun to contain all the ingredients inside, your essay needs a strong conclusion to support and buttress your points. You can also think of it as the closing argument a prosecutor might make in a criminal court case. The closing arguments section of a trial takes place when the prosecution attempts to strengthen the evidence she presented to the jury. Even though the prosecutor likely provided solid and compelling arguments and evidence during the trial, it isn't until the closing arguments that she ties it all together.

In the same way, you'll restate your main points in the conclusion in reverse order of how you listed them in your introduction. Some sources call this an upside-down triangle: The intro was a triangle that was right-side up, where you started with a short, razor sharp point—your hook—which then fanned out slightly to your topic sentence and broadened further with your mini-outline. The conclusion, by contrast, is an upside-down triangle that starts by broadly reviewing the evidence—the points you made in your supporting paragraphs—and then narrows to your topic sentence and a restatement of your hook.

In this way, you've logically explained your points, restated your main idea, and left readers with a zinger that hopefully convinces them of your point of view.

Bullock, Richard. "The Little Seagull Handbook with Exercises." Michal Brody, Francine Weinberg, Third edition, W. W. Norton & Company, December 22, 2016.

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Basic essay structure

Postgrad students taking notes and planning essay

Improve your writing

Organise your essays to demonstrate your knowledge, show your research and support your arguments

Essays are usually written in continuous, flowing, paragraphed text and don’t use section headings. This may seem unstructured at first, but good essays are carefully structured.

How your assignment content is structured is your choice. Use the basic pattern below to get started.

Essay structure

An essay consists of three basic parts:, introduction.

The essay itself usually has no section headings. Only the title page, author declaration and reference list are written as headings, along with, for example, appendices. Check any task instructions, and your course or unit handbook, for further details.

Content in assignment introductions can vary widely. In some disciplines you may need to provide a full background and context, whereas other essays may need only a little context, and others may need none.

An introduction to an essay usually has three primary purposes:

  • To set the scene
  • To tell readers what is important, and why
  • To tell the reader what the essay is going to do (signposting)

A standard introduction includes the following five elements:

  • A statement that sets out the topic and engages the reader.
  • The background and context of the topic.
  • Any important definitions, integrated into your text as appropriate.
  • An outline of the key points, topic, issues, evidence, ideas, arguments, models, theories, or other information, as appropriate. This may include distinctions or contrasts between different ideas or evidence.
  • A final sentence or two which tells the reader your focal points and aims.

You should aim to restrict your introduction to information needed for the topic and only include background and contextual information which helps the reader understand it, or sets the scene for your chosen focal points.

In most essays you will have a considerable range of options for your focus. You will be expected to demonstrate your ability to select the most relevant content to address your focal points.

There are some exceptions. For example, if an assignment brief specifically directs the essay focus or requires you to write broadly about a topic. These are relatively rare or are discipline-specific so you should check your task instructions and discipline and subject area conventions.

Below are examples of an opening statement, a summary of the selected content, and a statement at the end of the introduction which tells the reader what the essay will focus on and how it will be addressed. We've use a fictional essay.

The title of our essay is: 'Cats are better than dogs. Discuss.'

To submit this essay you also would need to add citations as appropriate.

Example of opening statements:

People have shared their lives with cats and dogs for millenia. Which is better depends partly on each animal’s characteristics and partly on the owner’s preferences.

Here is a summary of five specific topics selected for the essay, which would be covered in a little more detail in the introduction:

  • In ancient Egypt, cats were treated as sacred and were pampered companions.
  • Dogs have for centuries been used for hunting and to guard property. There are many types of working dog, and both dogs and cats are now kept purely as pets.
  • They are very different animals, with different care needs, traits and abilities.
  • It is a common perception that people are either “cat-lovers” or “dog-lovers”.
  • It is a common perception that people tend to have preferences for one, and negative beliefs about and attitudes towards, the other.

Example of closing statements at the end of the introduction:

This essay will examine both cats’ and dogs’ behaviour and abilities, the benefits of keeping them as pets, and whether people’s perceptions of their nature matches current knowledge and understanding.

Main body: paragraphs

The body of the essay should be organised into paragraphs. Each paragraph should deal with a different aspect of the issue, but they should also link in some way to those that precede and follow it. This is not an easy thing to get right, even for experienced writers, partly because there are many ways to successfully structure and use paragraphs. There is no perfect paragraph template.

The theme or topic statement

The first sentence, or sometimes two, tells the reader what the paragraph is going to cover. It may either:

  • Begin a new point or topic, or
  • Follow on from the previous paragraph, but with a different focus or go into more-specific detail. If this is the case, it should clearly link to the previous paragraph.

The last sentence

It should be clear if the point has come to an end, or if it continues in the next paragraph.

Here is a brief example of flow between two summarised paragraphs which cover the historical perspective:

It is known from hieroglyphs that the Ancient Egyptians believed that cats were sacred. They were also held in high regard, as suggested by their being found mummified and entombed with their owners (Smith, 1969). In addition, cats are portrayed aiding hunters. Therefore, they were both treated as sacred, and were used as intelligent working companions. However, today they are almost entirely owned as pets.

In contrast, dogs have not been regarded as sacred, but they have for centuries been widely used for hunting in Europe. This developed over time and eventually they became domesticated and accepted as pets. Today, they are seen as loyal, loving and protective members of the family, and are widely used as working dogs.

There is never any new information in a conclusion.

The conclusion usually does three things:

  • Reminds your readers of what the essay was meant to do.
  • Provides an answer, where possible, to the title.
  • Reminds your reader how you reached that answer.

The conclusion should usually occupy just one paragraph. It draws together all the key elements of your essay, so you do not need to repeat the fine detail unless you are highlighting something.

A conclusion to our essay about cats and dogs is given below:

Both cats and dogs have been highly-valued for millenia, are affectionate and beneficial to their owners’ wellbeing. However, they are very different animals and each is 'better' than the other regarding care needs and natural traits. Dogs need regular training and exercise but many owners do not train or exercise them enough, resulting in bad behaviour. They also need to be 'boarded' if the owner is away and to have frequent baths to prevent bad odours. In contrast, cats do not need this level of effort and care. Dogs are seen as more intelligent, loyal and attuned to human beings, whereas cats are perceived as aloof and solitary, and as only seeking affection when they want to be fed. However, recent studies have shown that cats are affectionate and loyal and more intelligent than dogs, but it is less obvious and useful. There are, for example, no 'police' or 'assistance' cats, in part because they do not have the kinds of natural instincts which make dogs easy to train. Therefore, which animal is better depends upon personal preference and whether they are required to work. Therefore, although dogs are better as working animals, cats are easier, better pets.

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Better Essays: Signposting

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Paragraphs main body of an assessment

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Academic Writing

  • Introduction
  • Planning an Essay
  • Basic Essay Structure

Writing an Essay

  • Writing Paragraghs
  • Plagiarism This link opens in a new window

Basic academic essays have three main parts:

  • introduction

structure in writing an essay

  • Video Explanation

Writing an Introduction

  • Section  One  is a neutral sentence that will engage the reader’s interest in your essay.
  • Section  Two  picks up the topic you are writing about by identifying the issues that you are going to explore.
  • Section  Three  is an indication of how the question will be answered. Give a brief outline of how you will deal with each issue, and in which order.

An introduction   generally does three things. The first section is usually a  general comment  that shows the reader why the topic is important, gets their interest, and leads them into the topic. It isn’t actually part of your argument. The next section of the introduction is the  thesis statement . This is your response to the question; your final answer. It is probably the most important part of the introduction. Finally, the last section of an introduction tells the reader what they can expect in the essay body. This is where you  briefly outline your arguments .

Here is an example of the introduction to the question - Discuss how media can influence children. Use specific examples to support your view.

Example of an introduction

Writing Body Paragraphs

  • The topic sentence  introduces  the topic of your paragraph.
  • The sentences that follow the topic sentence will  develop and support the central idea  of your topic.
  • The concluding sentence of your paragraph  restates the idea  expressed in the topic sentence.

The essay body itself is organized into paragraphs, according to your plan. Remember that each paragraph focuses on one idea, or aspect of your topic, and should contain at least 4-5 sentences so you can deal with that idea properly.

Each body paragraph has three sections. First is the  topic sentence . This lets the reader know what the paragraph is going to be about and  the main point it will make. It gives the paragraph’s point straight away. Next, come the  supporting sentences , which expand on the central idea, explaining it in more detail, exploring what it means, and of course giving the evidence and argument that back it up. This is where you use your research to support your argument. Then there is a  concluding sentence . This restates the idea in the topic sentence, to remind the reader of your main point. It also shows how that point helps answer the question.

Body paragraph example

Writing a Conclusion

  • Re-read your introduction – this information will need to be restated in your conclusion emphasizing what you have proven and how you have proven it.
  • Begin by  summarizing  your main arguments and restating your thesis ; e.g. "This essay has considered….."
  • State your general conclusions,  explaining  why these are important.
  • The final sentences should  draw together  the evidence you have presented in the body of the essay to restate your conclusion in an interesting way (use a transitional word to get you started e.g. Overall, Therefore).

The last section of an academic essay is the conclusion. The conclusion should reaffirm your answer to the question, and briefly summarize key arguments. It does not include any new points or new information.

A conclusion has three sections. First,  repeat the thesis statement . It won’t use the exact same words as in your introduction, but it will repeat the point: your overall answer to the question based on your arguments. Then set out your  general conclusions , and a short explanation of why they are important.  Finally,  draw together the question, the evidence in the essay body, and the conclusion. This way the reader knows that you have understood and answered the question. This part needs to be clear and concise.

Conclusion example

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Structuring an essay

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Thesis statements

Most academic writing at university will require you to argue a position. This means including a thesis statement upfront in the first paragraph that concisely states the central argument and purpose of the essay. This video addresses the key features of a thesis statement.

  • Parts of an essay
  • Writing introductions and conclusions
  • Writing paragraphs
  • Making your writing flow

Academic writing structures may vary, but the main sections are the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. Here is an overview of what these sections contain:


  • The introduction tells the reader what your writing is about.
  • Start by defining the topic and any terms which will be crucial for your discussion.
  • The introduction should also state what position you will argue and how you will do it. This is the thesis statement .
  • Use words and phrases which are in the assignment question to help the reader see that you are directly addressing the main issues.
  • It can help to write the introduction last. This is particularly helpful if you have not yet fully determined what your document is going to say and what your arguments will be.
  • This is the most important part of your writing. Begin each sentence with a "topic sentence" which is then discussed and explained.
  • Each paragraph must discuss a different point. Each paragraph should be a discussion on the point you have made in the first sentence.
  • Paraphrase or summarise the sources you have read in your research. If using direct quotes, ensure they are relevant and impactful. Evaluate what is being said. Never assume the reader knows what you are talking about.
  • Always reference any ideas you have used in your writing. 
  • Paragraphs should flow in an organised and logical sequence. One way to do this is by introducing the next paragraph (topic) in the last sentence of the previous paragraph.
  • Avoid repetition and rewriting another version of what you have already said.
  • Transition or linking words ,   such as  however, therefore,  and  although tell the reader about the direction you are arguing or when there is a change of direction.
  • Avoid using first person point of view.
  • Avoid slang or jargon (use academic language).
  • Avoid using long and complicated sentences. Make your point obvious and easy to read.
  • The work should read as one organised discussion, not a mix of unrelated information. Make sure each sentence in the paragraphs has a role in the discussion and contributes to the overall argument and topic you are addressing.
  • Restate what you planned to do in your introduction and discuss how you have done it. You should tell the reader that your discussion led to the conclusion that your thesis (argument/position) supported.
  • No new information should be included in the conclusion.

An essay introduction usually:

  • clearly states the topic that will be the focus of the essay;
  • offers a preview of main aspects that will addressed, or the particular angle that will be taken in; and
  • clearly articulates the position that will be argued. This is known as the thesis statement.

Consider this introduction:

Leadership has been defined as “the process of influencing the activities of an organized group toward goal achievement” (Block & Tackle, 2019 , p. 46). This essay compares and contrasts two approaches to leadership from Western and Eastern traditions. The first is Fayol’s Administrative Principles approach, considered to be one of the foundations of the study of Management. The second approach is Confucianism, which is said to continue to guide leadership and management across China and much of South-East Asia (Shih, Wong, Han, Zheng, & Xin, 2004). It will be argued that these two approaches share certain core values, and a critical understanding of both approaches can support management decision-making.

The first sentence clearly states the topic. Leadership has been defined as “the process of influencing the activities of an organized group toward goal achievement” (Block & Tackle, 2019 , p. 46).

The middle sentences preview the aspects that will be addressed and hints at the approach (compare and contrast). This essay compares and contrasts two approaches to leadership from Western and Eastern traditions. The first is Fayol’s Administrative Principles approach, considered to be one of the foundations of the study of Management. The second approach is Confucianism, which is said to continue to guide leadership and management across China and much of South-East Asia (Shih, Wong, Han, Zheng, & Xin, 2004).

The final sentence clearly states the thesis, or position that will be argued. This is essentially a succinct version of the response to the essay question. It will be argued that these two approaches share certain core values, and a critical understanding of both approaches can support management decision-making.

In any academic essay, the paragraphs should follow the key points that have been outlined in the introduction. Each paragraph then contextualises and expands upon these points in relation the thesis statement of the essay. Having a paragraph plan is an effective way to map out your essay and ensure that you address the key points of the essay in detail – especially for longer forms of essays and academic writing that students engage with at university.

An basic paragraph plan would generally contain:

  • The thesis statement (for an essay)
  • A topic heading for each paragraph
  • The claim of argument to be made in each paragraph (this will be, or will inform, your topic sentence)
  • The evidence that will be presented to support the claim
  • Summary of the conclusion paragraph

Consider this example of a paragraph plan:

Paragraph plans provide an overview of your essay and provide an effective starting point for structured writing. The next step is using this plan to expand on the points as you write your essay.

Getting your writing to flow.

In almost all cases, written assignments call for students to explore complex topics or aspects of an area of study. Any academic writing task  is an opportunity to show how well you understand a particular topic, theme or area. Usually this means demonstrating how various ideas, knowledge, information or ways of thinking are connected within the context of the task or area of focus. 

This means that successful academic writing presents ideas logically, and that there is high connectivity within the writing. In other words, the aim should be for writing to have high flow to help make the connections clear.

Three ways to achieve this include:

  • ensuring that there is good connection from one paragraph to another;
  • ensuring that there is good connection from one sentence to another; and
  • using transition words effectively to make the logical connections between ideas clear.

Flow from one paragraph to another

Topic sentences, or the leading sentences of a paragraph, play a key role in connecting the ideas of an essay. High-flow topic sentences should look to include three key elements:

  • An explicit reference to the topic of the essay.
  • A reference to the main aspect of the previous paragraph
  • An introduction to the topic of the new paragraph

Consider the following examples of topic sentences in response to an essay question about Virtue Ethics.

A low-flow topic sentence : Aristotle defined phronesis as practical wisdom.

This sentence does not reference the topic (virtue ethics), nor does it link to an idea from a previous paragraph. It does however, introduce the sub-topic of the paragraph (phronesis).

A high-flow topic sentence:  Another fundamental concept in Virtue Ethics is phronesis.

This sentence refers to the essay topic (virtue ethics), acknowledges that this is an additional concept that build on the previous paragraph, and introduces the topic of this paragraph (phronesis).

Flow from one sentence to another

Well-constructed paragraphs have high connections between sentences. In general sentences that promote flow should:

  • reference the topic of the previous sentence;
  • add new information in the second half; and
  • use topic words.

The following paragraph example can be considered high-flow. It includes sentences that reference the previous sentence ( underlined ), add new information ( maroon ) and use topic words ( green ).

Another fundamental concept in Virtue Ethics is phronesis. According to Aristotle, phronesis is a form of practical wisdom through which individuals make principled decisions in line with virtues such as courage and honesty (reference). Its practical nature means that phronesis can only be developed over a lifetime of carefully considered actions and sober reflection . This practice builds a person’s moral character, allowing them to make morally-defensible choices even in unfamiliar and complex situations (reference). In other words, it is a kind of social and professional skill, which at first requires conscious effort and can still result in mistakes. However, through discipline and persistence, it becomes second nature. As a result, practitioners consistently act wisely and in accordance with the virtues they uphold . Their wise actions further strengthen their own character and contribute to human fulfilment at both individual and community levels (reference). 

Transition words that improve flow

Transition words help make the relationships and connections between ideas clear. Some examples of helpful transition words and phrases for various types of connections include:

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Strategies for Writing a Great Problem Solution Essay

  • Essay Writing Guides

Strategies for Writing a Great Problem Solution Essay

Composing an assignment on a problem and solution essay topic allows you to demonstrate your ability to resolve human challenges. It helps you understand human problems and how to be a part of the solution instead of allocating blame and pointing fingers.

So, how do you compose a great problem solutions essay ? This post has all the answers. Read it to discover more and be a part of the solution.

What Is a Problem-Solution Essay ?

Answering the fundamental question, “ What is problem solution essay ?” is critical to writing a perfect assignment in this niche. As its name suggests, a problem-solution paper is an academic writing that requires you to analyze a problem, propose viable solutions, and support your ideas with relevant evidence. 

This paper’s primary objective is to address real-world challenges and offer practical solutions to them. You begin by describing the problem before highlighting its gravity and impact on people’s lives. You will then need to propose solutions to the challenge and intensively explain how your proposed remedy will address that issue. 

Your assignment may also discuss the possible challenges or limitations of your suggested solutions. A great problem-remedy paper must also propose reasonable and easy-to-implement solutions without deviating from the topic.

How to Write a Problem-Solution Essay ? 

After defining and understanding a challenge-remedy essay, the next task should be answering the “ How to write problem-solution essay ?” This section discusses the process of drafting this essay from start to finish. 

Select a Topic

Start by selecting a relevant topic that bothers you and affects other people’s lives. This topic can focus on anything that affects your readers. You can list these challenges a community, generation, or group of people faces. 

Think About Solution Options  

Next, figure out possible solutions. Ensure that these solutions are easy and applicable instead of being mere “paper tigers” to impress your audience. These solutions must be affordable so that they don’t add more challenges.

You can suggest a solution that eliminates the challenge’s cause. For instance, if a person is addicted to drugs, they will need to stop doing it. However, it would be more beneficial if you investigated their addiction’s root cause and tried to uproot it. You may also propose educating the person with an addiction on the dangers of doing drugs.

Outline the Essay

Next, you should outline problem-solution essay to help you remember what you want to say. Your outline also ensures your ideas flow logically to promote easy reading and understanding. You can divide your outline’s information into paragraphs or sections. 

You will need to research the relevant materials to fill in your outline. Several online and offline resources can provide you with these details.

Write Your Assignment

You need to write your paper. This assignment will follow the traditional introduction, body, and conclusion order. 

Revise Your Paper

Lastly, revise your first draft to perfect it. Your revision will identify and eliminate spelling, grammar, citation, formatting, vocabulary, and other errors. This stage includes editing and proofreading, which is the last phase. 

After adding or removing parts, you might make new errors that were not in the original draft. For instance, you could end up with spelling errors in the new sentences you introduced when polishing the first copy.

Problem-Solution Essay Example

Learning from examples boosts your chances of writing problem-solution essay that rocks and fetches excellent grades. We selected this sample paper to give you a practical hint of what you should do in your next paper. This excerpt highlights the problem, its causes, and the possible solutions to it. The model is about obesity and poor physical wellness . Read on to learn more.

Consuming processed and fast foods and the modern generation’s dependence on vehicles have significantly increased obesity and reduced the fitness levels of our adult population. In some nations, especially in the developed world, the number of people living with obesity could be as high as a third of a country’s population. This figure is significant because obesity and poor fitness levels decrease life expectancy. Thus, people and governments should collaborate to solve this health crisis and enhance the general citizens’ diet and fitness. 

Fortunately, people’s decisions to change their diets and their physical activities can increase life expectancy. Remember, processed and fast foods contain high fat and sugar levels. By cooking their own foods and consuming more fruit and vegetables, citizens could have healthier and more balanced diets, which could reduce obesity levels. To promote fitness levels, people could walk or cycle to work or the shops rather than drive. Moreover, they could walk upstairs instead of taking the elevators. These simple lifestyle adjustments could significantly improve fitness levels.

Organization of a Problem-Solution Essay

Proper organization is critical to drafting great problem-solution essays . Like other essays, an IELTS essay problem-solution assignment should have the following structure.


This vital section allows you to introduce your chosen problem and show readers why it matters. Your introduction may also feature other solutions that failed to work before showing your proposed solution fully.

 If the challenge is new, you’ll explain how it affects people’s lives and its consequences. Inversely, a common challenge requires you to tell people about what happens when it’s not resolved and how people feel about it. Irrespective of the problem’s cause, you should convince readers that it matters and requires attention. 

Your introduction will also include a brief thesis statement that outlines your paper’s primary focus. It will be your assignment’s strategic guidepost that shows readers where you intend to take them. The thesis helps them understand what they will gain by reading your essay.

You can also add other solutions that did not work before explaining your solution in detail.

Your body part will include three paragraphs. Each paragraph will contain a solution to your problem. When handling these solutions, it’s vital to remember the following: 

  • Explain the problem fully.
  • Propose your remedy and explain it correctly.
  • Explain how your solution solves the problem.
  • If you want to demonstrate why your solution is best, you could utilize an expert or personal experience, stats, examples, and other renowned people’s credible work.


This closing section is critical. While it comes last, it doesn’t in any way make it less important than the intro or the body. Failing to compose a convincing conclusion could easily erode all the gains you made in the previous sections. Below are tips for drafting a compelling conclusion. 

  • Summarize your introduction. 
  • List your argument’s main points.
  • Advise someone with a similar problem.

The Structure of Writing a Problem-Solution Essay

Four core components comprise a problem-solution essay structure . Understanding the basic structure of problem-solution essay is vital for drafting a great paper. Below are the elements comprising this format. 

The situation in this essay may or may not be included in your assignment’s prompt. If it’s included in the prompt, you won’t need to include it in the main body. If it’s necessary for your paper, you will include it in the introduction, especially when drafting short papers. 

The paper covers a specific challenge that concerns you. When stating it, pay attention to the concepts, ideas, and terms you will need to define.

You will also need to analyze the problem. The analysis will address its history, cause, symptoms, and current methods that address it. You also need to address the shortcomings of these methods. 

You have to propose solutions after analyzing the problem. Suggest the criteria for your solution and try envisioning tentative or hypothetical solutions. It would be best to start by proposing various possible solutions before evaluating them. 

Your evaluation weighs each solution’s merits and limitations. The evaluation should show readers that the method’s merits outweigh its demerits. It shows your solution’s possible short-term and long-term implications if it’s adopted.

Composing problem-solution essays lets you prove your ability to address people’s real-world problems. We’ve shared practical insights to help you compose a perfect essay that addresses real-life problems and suggests practical solutions. Go ahead and use these strategies to perfect your skills in this essay category.

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Strategies for Writing a Great Problem Solution Essay

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