Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Essay Structure

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
English

When writing an essay, it is important to have a good structure. This helps you to organise your thoughts in a concise way and present your ideas clearly. But how should an essay be structured, and what should you include?

In this article, we will explore a few different types of essays (including traditional essays and reflective essays) and look at how you can effectively structure an essay.

Essay Structure Types

Depending on the type and purpose of your essay, the structure may differ slightly; particularly in the main body of the essay. We will now look at how to structure a number of different essays. This includes more traditional essays and reflective essays.

Academic essays

What is an academic essay?

An academic essay is a clear, concise piece of writing that focuses on developing your ideas and/or argument through analysis, interpretation and evidence.

There are a few traditional essay styles, such as:

We will focus on argumentative and expository essays as these are the most common (so you may already be familiar with writing them!). Let's look at them in more detail:

Argumentative essay

As the title suggests, an argumentative essay focuses on developing and strengthening an argument. This is done through the analysis and interpretation of evidence, and is used to persuade the reader of your side of the argument.

Argumentative essays are written in the third person (he/she/they).

Fairclough (2011) found evidence of language being used to create a new 'common sense'. He stated that this often happens in advertising.

The structure of an argumentative essay might go a little something like this...

In the main body of an argumentative essay, you could write a couple of paragraphs arguing for something, and another arguing against it - this shows you are able to consider other points of view and can form your own opinion from it. The main body should consist of at least three paragraphs, although this can vary depending on the word count.

This type of essay tests your ability to research effectively and also develop a strong argument. You will usually write an argumentative essay for a final project (i.e. as part of coursework) as it is a chance for you to show off your knowledge about a topic.

Expository essay

Like an argumentative essay, an expository essay focuses on the argumentative aspect of writing and is written in the third person - however, it does differ slightly. An expository essay is usually shorter and relies less on extensive research/preparation.

There is more of a focus on a specific topic or idea - each paragraph in the main body should focus on one aspect of the topic. It is unbiased (providing an objective view of the topic).

Another example of a type of expository writing is a newspaper article! In such writing, there is a focus on a particular topic, and each paragraph is about an aspect of the topic. There is also not a bias, but instead a reliance on facts.

You may be asked to write an expository essay in class, or for an exam (e.g. as a timed exercise). Because of this, the number of paragraphs depends on how much you are able to write in a particular time frame.

Essay Structure Image of a person writing StudySmarterPerson writing, pixabay.com

Essay Structure Example

Argumentative and expository essays should contain the following three things:

1. Introduction

2. Main body

3. Conclusion

Let's look at these in more detail.

Essay introduction structure

An introduction is an opening paragraph that states the purpose and outlines the main objectives of your essay.

An example of an introduction structure is as follows:

A hook - a memorable sentence to draw your reader in and give them something to think about.

Background information - context for your reader, giving them a better understanding of the topic you are exploring in your essay.

Essay brief and outline of main points - a brief is the main idea of your essay; it tells the reader what your essay is about. Outlining your main points means briefly stating what you are going to talk about in your essay and what you are going to expand on. It lets the reader know what to expect throughout the rest of your work.

Not all introductions include these exact elements - this is simply an example of how you could structure an essay introduction.

Essay introduction example

Blue: hook

Pink: background information

Green: essay brief and outline of main points

Worldwide, around 1.35 billion people speak English. The use of the English language is becoming increasingly prominent, particularly within political and economic communication around the world. Due to its global influence, English is now regarded as a lingua franca (global language). But how and why has English become so powerful? Through the analysis of language globalisation, this study will explore the positive effect English has on both global communication and language learning. It will also consider the ways in which English could be used in the future to further develop learning potential.

Main body structure

The main body of your essay is divided into different paragraphs and allows you to expand on your ideas and/or your argument. It is your chance to think critically and analyse and interpret information. It shows the reader that you have a deep understanding of the topic!

An example of a structure to follow for the body of your essay is the PEE paragraph structure, which is most often used for academic essays. PEE stands for: point, evidence, explain.

Point - a statement relating to your essay brief

Example - back up your point with evidence (this is where your research comes in handy!)

Explain - analyse your evidence; go into detail about what it shows and how it relates to your topic.

PEE Paragraph example

Blue: Point

Pink: Evidence

Green: Explain

Williams uses the motif of a paper lantern throughout the play to represent Blanche's concealing of the truth and her insecurities. An example of this is shown when Blanche declares "...put a—paper lantern over the light ... It isn’t enough to be soft. You’ve got to be soft and attractive. And I—I’m fading now! I don’t know how much longer I can turn the trick" (A Streetcar Named Desire, 1947, p. 92). The use of this motif shows Blanche's attempt to manipulate the truth, as she wants to be seen in a more flattering light and appear more attractive than she is. She wants to gain respect from others, so instead of revealing her true self in a realistic light, she creates an unrealistic illusion. Further, this portrays Blanche as an insecure character who deceives those around her in order to appear pure and young, as she cannot face the harsh reality of growing old.

Essay conclusion structure

A conclusion is a final paragraph that summarises the main points of your essay and brings it to a close.

An example of a conclusion structure is as follows:

1. Review the main point of your essay brief (what your essay is about).

2. Summarise the main points made in your essay.

3. Offer a recommendation/improvement/question (to help with future studies and leave the reader with something to think about).

Not all conclusions include these exact elements - this is simply an example of how you could structure an essay conclusion.

Essay conclusion example

Blue = revisited essay brief

Pink = summary of the argument

Green = ending on a rhetorical question

Overall, the effect of social media on teenagers' communication is negative. Social media use among teens decreases communication skills and causes face-to-face interactions to feel disconnected. It also encourages laziness and conveys inauthentic emotions. Due to a lack of emotional connection, it also gives teens the ability to be spiteful online, which impacts the well-being of others. Will social media continue to negatively affect how young people communicate in the future?

Reflective Essay Structure

Another type of essay is the reflective essay. As the title suggests, a reflective essay is used to reflect on an experience. Unlike both argumentative and expository essays, a reflective essay is written in the first person, as it is used to recount a personal experience. For example, reflecting on a project or study you carried out.

The structure of a reflective essay is the same as an academic essay, consisting of an introduction, main body, and conclusion. However, there is more of a focus on individual thoughts and feelings as opposed to creating an objective view and argument.

Think of a reflective essay as a diary entry, in which you recount a personal experience!

The introduction should briefly tell the reader about the project or study you carried out. For example, something like:

'I carried out a study on the use of fillers used by women and men in spoken language. I recorded a total of 15 casual conversations between pairs (5 with only men, 5 with only women, 5 with mixed-sex). I wanted to find out whether or not fillers are used more by women in both same-sex and mixed-sex conversations. This study was inspired by the gender theory of Deborah Tannen, who suggested that women talk in a more indirect way than men.'

The main body of the essay should expand on your experience carrying out the project/study and your feelings towards it. Be honest about what happened and what you found out from it. For example, you could take into account the following things:

  • What did I find out from this experience?
  • Did this experience have a positive or negative impact on me?
  • Which elements went well?
  • Which elements could have been improved?

The conclusion should summarise what you found out about the experience and your feelings towards it.

You could also consider how things could improve if you were to carry out the experience again. For example, you could write something like:

'If I were to carry out the project again, I would ensure to gather more recordings as it would allow me to gain a more varied perspective and would be more reliable. It would allow me to gain a deeper understanding of the similarities and differences in language use between men and women.'

It is important to note that, while a reflective essay is about describing something that happened, it should also be critical. This means you should consider not only how your experience relates to your own life, but also the wider world and the experiences of others. Ask yourself the following questions:

How does my own experience link to society as a whole?

Have I recognised and appreciated the views of others?

Does my own experience differ from others?

There will always be limitations to what people can know (and not everything has a definite answer) but it is good to be aware of other opinions and interpretations, as everyone views the world in different ways.

Essay Structure - Key Takeaways

  • An academic essay is a clear, concise piece of writing that focuses on developing your ideas and/or argument through analysis, interpretation and evidence.
  • An argumentative essay is a type of academic essay that focuses on developing and strengthening an argument through the analysis and interpretation of evidence.
  • An expository essay is a type of academic essay that focuses more on a specific idea/topic. It is shorter and relies less on extensive research/preparation.
  • Argumentative and expository essays consist of an introduction, main body and conclusion.
  • A reflective essay is used to reflect on a personal experience. It follows the same structure but is not as detailed and is written in the first person.

Essay Structure

Most essays include the three following aspects:


1. Introduction

2. Main body

3. Conclusion

You should begin your essay with an introduction. This lets the reader know of the topic you are writing about and the main points you will make throughout your essay.

The number of paragraphs in an essay depends on the type of essay and what you are writing about! For example, if you are writing an argumentative essay, you should show an in-depth analysis and interpretation of evidence. You should have at least: an introduction, conclusion and three paragraphs in the body of your essay.

An example of an introduction structure is:


1. A hook (draw in reader)

2. Background information (context for reader)

3. Essay brief (what is the essay about)

1. Review the main point of your essay brief (what your essay is about). 


2. Summarise the main points made in your essay.


3. Offer a suggestion or improvement (to help with future studies).

Final Essay Structure Quiz

Question

What does PEE stand for?

Show answer

Answer

Point, evidence, explain.

Show question

Question

What is a point?

Show answer

Answer

A statement relating to the question you are answering.

Show question

Question

What is evidence?

Show answer

Answer

Examples used to back up your point.

Show question

Question

What does 'explain' refer to?

Show answer

Answer

Going into detail about how your quote backs up your point and considering what it suggests/implies. 

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:


You should  ____  your explanation back to the question.

Show answer

Answer

Link

Show question

Question

A quote should be long.


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False.


Try to keep quotes short and succinct!

Show question

Question

What is a conclusion?

Show answer

Answer

An ending paragraph that brings an essay to a close.

Show question

Question

What comes before a conclusion?

Show answer

Answer

The main body of the essay.

Show question

Question

What is an essay brief?

Show answer

Answer

The main idea of the essay.

Show question

Question

You should directly repeat ideas from the rest of your essay in your conclusion.


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False.

Show question

Question

You shouldn't introduce new ideas in a conclusion.


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:


Directly repeating ideas can be _____ for the reader.

Show answer

Answer

boring

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:


Directly repeating ideas takes away from the main _____ of your essay.

Show answer

Answer

message

Show question

Question

A conclusion should be around __% of your total word count.


A. 15

B. 10

C. 20

Show answer

Answer

B. 10

Show question

Question

A conclusion ______ your argument.


A. develops

B. disproves 
C. summarises

Show answer

Answer

C. summarises

Show question

Question

A conclusion _____ your essay brief.


A. reviews

B. changes

C. disproves

Show answer

Answer

A. reviews

Show question

Question

What is an introduction?

Show answer

Answer

An opening paragraph that states the purpose and outlines the main objectives of your work.

Show question

Question

What is an introduction followed by?

Show answer

Answer

Main body and conclusion

Show question

Question

What is a hook?

Show answer

Answer

 A memorable opening line that draws the reader in and intrigues them.

Show question

Question

A hook can be written in a variety of ways. What are they?

Show answer

Answer

Statement, question, quotation, fact/statistic

Show question

Question

What does background information do?

Show answer

Answer

Provide the reader with context.

Show question

Question

Fill in the blanks:


Background information allows the reader to gain more of an ________ of the _____ you are exploring.

Show answer

Answer

understanding

topic

Show question

Question

What does an essay brief refer to?

Show answer

Answer

The main idea of your essay.

Show question

Question

Outlining the main goal of your argument lets the reader know what?

Show answer

Answer

What to expect in the body of the essay.

Show question

Question

Your introduction should be long.


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False.


Your introduction should be brief and concise, not too long.

Show question

Question

An introduction should be around __% of your overall word count.


A. 15

B. 10

C. 20


Show answer

Answer

B. 10

Show question

Question

PEE paragraphs can sometimes be referred to as PEEL paragraphs. What does the 'L' stand for?

Show answer

Answer

Link

Show question

Question

You can use more than one example in a PEE paragraph.


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

True.


It is good to show that you have read from multiple sources and can use a range of evidence!

Show question

Question

Fill in the blanks:


Critical _______ is the process of _______ and evaluating information in a skilful way.

Show answer

Answer

thinking

analysing

Show question

Question

Evidence can only be a quote.


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False.


You can also paraphrase!

Show question

Question

What is an academic essay?

Show answer

Answer

A clear, concise piece of writing that focuses on developing your ideas and/or argument through analysis, interpretation and evidence.

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:


A reflective essay is written in the _____ person.

Show answer

Answer

first

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:


An argumentative essay is written in the _____ person.

Show answer

Answer

third

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:


An expository essay is written in the _____ person.

Show answer

Answer

third 

Show question

Question

Which essay tends to be shorter:


Argumentative or expository?

Show answer

Answer

Expository

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:


An argumentative essay is a type of ________ essay.

Show answer

Answer

academic

Show question

Question

A reflective essay recounts the experience of another person.


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False.


A reflective essay recounts your own personal experience.

Show question

Question

An academic essay structure consists of three elements. What are they?

Show answer

Answer

Introduction, main body, conclusion

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:


A paragraph structure you could use for the main body of academic essays is known as a ___ paragraph.


Show answer

Answer

PEE 

Show question

Question

What structure does a reflective essay follow?

Show answer

Answer

Introduction, main body, conclusion.

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Essay Structure quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.