How to Structure an Essay; A Guide for College Students

How to Structure an Essay

Essay Structure Introduction

At its base, the purpose of an academic essay structure is to give a clear, logical and reasoned argument in response to a specific question; However, structuring that argument can sometimes be difficult, but really, it is quite simple, an essay must be built on a core theme, where you plan an order for how you present your ideas. The first thing you need to do is decide on what planning and writing process best suits you. A good essay can only be achieved when you decide upon the most understandable process specific to you. Many people will wax lyrical on what the best format for this can be, but really it is all based upon each individual, as we all work differently.

Tips and Tricks To Structure An Essay 

All quality essays start with thorough research and planning. A solid essay format is one where you keep to certain fundamentals and not deviate from them, of course, as we have just pointed different process of academic essay writing suit different people, but below is an outline of what we think are the key principles to structuring an essay.

  • First and foremost, you should ask yourself the all important question of do I understand what is being asked of me? For you to write a comprehensive and effective essay, this is without a doubt the most crucial thing.
  • Secondly, without thinking too in-depth yet, ask yourself what is my instinctive response to the question my tutor is proposing to me? Instinctive responses are what most help you to give your argument the gravitas it needs. 
  • Again, without thinking too in-depth, ask what do I already know that relevant to the question I’m being asked? To achieve an effective essay structure, already possessing some knowledge on the question at hand will prove to be your driving force.
  • Once these basic principles are at play, you should ask what else is it that I need to find out? Which is where the process of thorough research can commence.
  • Upon commencing your research into the question, you should now ask yourself what other scholars have produced on this topic and whether or not you agree or disagree. One of the foundation principles of an academic essay structure is building an engaging and forceful argument that adds to the often long and rich history of the subject. Sometimes you will find yourself in absolute agreement with what others have written, therefore you should be laying out why it is you agree, and vice-versa if you strongly disagree.  
  • Another fundamental principle of a good essay is what the main point is you want to argue. Having a question laid out in front of you can often lead to you branching into many nuances and idiosyncrasies, it is true that this can lead a person to instead of potentially hitting upon an effective essay structure, to falling into nonsensical rambling. So, always keeping that main point you have at the forefront of your mind is the best way to be.
  • Finally, continually asking yourself why should my reader, believe me, is what will aid you in producing your best academic essay. Laying out reasons that constantly prop up and support your argument will give your essay a lot of weight.

Basics Of Essay Structure & Essay Format Example

How to Structure an Essay

How to Structure an Essay

From Beginning to End

We’re sure you have been told that every single word of your essay is important, and we will not tell you any different. A solid academic essay heavily relies on the importance of succinct and well structured sentences. So, from beginning to end, you need to think as carefully as possible on just what you’re writing, filler and waffle is to be avoided at all costs.

Think of your essay as something your life depended on, actually your future career partially depends on how well you can give an in-depth answer with crystal clear clarifications. What we should say, however, is not to stress too much, do your research, write your notes and go into writing your essay with a clear head. Remember, you can only create an essay of merit if you are calm and are armed with all the knowledge you need.

A Powerful Introduction to Essay Structure Outline

Let’s focus on introductions, an introduction is when your tutor will begin to make judgments and begin to form his or her overall idea of what mark to give your essay. We cannot stress the importance of crafting an introduction that gives your essay that veneer of brilliance it needs to really make your tutor stand to attention and take notice, in the most positive way possible.

For introductions, you don’t need to fill it up with all the crucial information you have in your arsenal, as that would render your overall argument too short, leaving you floundering as to what to do in regards to filling up every other paragraph. Essentially, your first paragraph is where words and sentences must be layered neatly, remember the classic quote about sentencing, which goes something like – “if it can be said better in your head, it can be written better on paper.” Basically, any words you think just elaborate the overall message too much, just get leave those out, take your time to really think – “how can I say this in the clearest way possible?”

It is always expected from tutors across all universities, that a certain amount of information should be heavily included in your initial paragraph. With this, what we would say is to collate the bulk of your research and filter out what you think packs a punch, think to yourself when doing this – “What is the finest point that makes my argument?” By doing this you’re giving your tutor your clearest introduction.

Keep The Momentum Going From Start To End 

The bulk paragraphs are when you can relax a little and, if needed, touch upon the nuances of why you are making this specific argument. But, never go overboard when it comes to nuances, as we said before. Always have in the back of your mind your initial introduction and let it flow with the same clarification, leaving out any unnecessary words and sentences that may labor the points you want to make.

As you work your way through each paragraph, remember to have a rational mind, so often you can become over enthused with the subject at hand, which inevitably leads to you filling up the pages with too much like every sentence is bursting with information, which will certainly give your tutor a headache.

The gold standard of a comprehensive essay structure is to be just that, comprehensive, but not over the top. The best essay structure is one which tips a fine balance between gentle and in-depth, what do we mean by this? Well, think of the best speeches you’ve heard, they are generally powerful yet subtle at the same time, they are packed with knowledge and brevity, which makes them powerful, but gentle in the fact they are digestible to those listening. Think of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech for example, that was something that was powerful in its content, yet easily understandable to the average listener. Of course, the basic essay structure is different to a speech, as you’ll need to explore the minutiae of a certain subject, but the importance of clarity and the power of words is the same. 

In addition, a lot of students find our Free Essay Writing Tools helpful. It’s worth to check it out.

Remember, all basic essay structures start with these principles and what process you articulate these principles is up to you. Essays can appear like an overwhelming and sometimes frightening mission to undertake, but never underestimate the strength of your abilities, and if you take our advice, you will produce an essay that achieves top marks.

Please Read More About our Guideline on How to Write & Structure a Dissertation


Ben Mirza

Bio – Ben Mirza runs Aestheticus Media is a freelance writer and photographer. His primary focus as a writer is exploring the worlds of art, history and contemporary culture across Europe, Russia and Iran.


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