Chapter 4: Structuring, Paragraphing, and Styling

4.1 Basic Essay Structure

Emilie Zickel and Charlotte Morgan

Essays written for an academic audience follow a structure with which you are likely familiar: Intro, Body, Conclusion. Here is a general overview of what each of those sections “does” in the larger essay.

Be aware, however, that certain assignments and certain professors may ask for additional content or require unusual formatting, so always be sure to read the assignment sheet as carefully as possible.

Introductory Section

This paragraph is the “first impression” paragraph. It needs to make an impression on the reader so that he or she becomes interested, understands your goal in the paper, and wants to read on. The intro often ends with the thesis.

  • begin by drawing your reader in – offer a statement that will pique their interest in your topic
  • offer some context or background information about your topic that leads you to your thesis
  • conclude with the thesis

For more information about composing a strong introduction, you can visit “How to Write an Engaging Introduction, by Jennifer Janechek, published on Writing Commons, is an excellent resource that offers specific tips and examples of compelling introduction paragraphs

Body of the Essay

The Body of the Essay is where you fully develop the main idea or thesis outlined in the introduction. Each paragraph within the body of the essay enlarges one major point in the development of the overall argument (although some points may consist of several sub-points, each of which will need its own paragraph). Each paragraph should contain the following elements:

  • Clearly state the main point in each paragraph in the form of a topic sentence.
  • Then, support that point with evidence.
  • Provide an explanation of the evidence’s significance. Highlight the way the main point shows the logical steps in the argument and link back to the claim you make in your thesis statement.

Remember to make sure that you focus on a single idea, reason, or example that supports your thesis in each body paragraph. Your topic sentence (a mini thesis that states the main idea of the paragraph), should contain details and specific examples to make your ideas clear and convincing) (Morgan).

Details on how to build strong paragraphs can be found in section 4.2.

Conclusion

Many people struggle with the conclusion, not knowing how to end a paper without simply restating the paper’s thesis and main points. In fact, one of the earliest ways that we learn to write conclusions involves the “summarize and restate” method of repeating the points that you have already discussed.

While that method can be an effective way to perhaps begin a conclusion, the strongest conclusions will go beyond rehashing the key ideas from the paper. Just as the intro is the first impression, the conclusion is the last impression–and you do want your writing to make a lasting impression.

Below are some things to consider when writing your conclusion:

  • what is the significance of the ideas you developed in this paper?
  • how does your paper affect you, others like you, people in your community, or people in other communities?
  • what must be done about this topic?
  • what further research or ideas could be studied?

Jennifer Yirinic’s article, “How to Write a Compelling Conclusion,” which was published on Writing Commons, is an excellent resource that can help you to craft powerful and interesting closing paragraph.

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