How to structure an essay

Education concept. Student studying and brainstorming campus con

An essay structure organizes your writing and helps to determine what information is included in each section. It also shows the order in which readers should obtain that information.

Let’s continue with the three basic parts that make up the structure of an essay.

Three main parts of an essay

1. Introduction

The introduction presents your topic and provides a general background. You may also show the reader what arguments you will present in the rest of your essay.

For the introduction, you need to develop a thesis statement, which is the most important point of this part. It summarizes your argument or claim in a single sentence.

Example of an introduction part

Introduction

The improvement of the health sector has unleashed the bitter truth that was long considered as normal in the previous ages; smoking. Although smoking was seen as cool in the 19th and 20th centuries, the developments of today’s technology have already revealed its drastic negative consequences on the human body. In this direction, this paper analyzes whether electronic cigarettes are a better alternative than traditional cigarette smoking. The main argument of the paper is to highlight the fact that although both should not be suggested, electronic cigarettes are better alternatives in terms of the human body and health. Using cigarettes is one of the leading risks for death. Thesis statement

2. Body paragraphs

The body is where you expand on analyses and arguments. This is also where you gradually support your thesis statement.

Example of a body paragraph

Body paragraph

Tobacco smoking is a huge health problem for people around the world. Hook sentence As research was done by Global Burden of Disease, 8 million people died because of smoking in 2017 (Ritchie & Roser, 2019, para. 2). This study shows us that every seventh death on earth is because of smoking which means smoking is the second most significant risk factor of death on earth (Ritchie & Roser, 2019, para. 6). The reasons for people smoking differ from each other. However, the results do not change much in the end.

3. Conclusion

Conclusion is the part where the ideas reach a definite point. It usually consists of a single paragraph. Conclusion paragraphs can be started in various ways; 

    • In conclusion, ….
    • To summarize, ….
    • So, …
    • Overall, ….
    • It is clear that…

Example of a conclusion

Conclusion

Although electronic cigarettes may still contain certain addictive chemicals, traditional cigarettes result in much more chemical substances which have drastic consequences for the human body in the long run. Also, electronic cigarettes are better alternatives than traditional cigarette smoking because they do not smell as bad as traditional ones as they do not contain chemicals such as carbon monoxide and benzene. After all, although both should not be suggested, electronic cigarettes are better alternatives in terms of the human body and health.

Compare and contrast structure

For essays with two or more main topics, you better use the compare and contrast structure. A compare and contrast essay structure can be used in two ways. 

1. Alternating method

With this, each paragraph compares your topics side-by-side from a certain point. Each of your paragraphs is defined by the points of comparison.

Alternating method example

Alternating essay outline sample

  1. Introduction
    1. State why urban life is more preferred than rural life. First present your hook sentence
    2. Opportunities of urban life Background on the topic
    3. Although urban life offers good living standards, it also has many negative disadvantages compared to rural life. Thesis statement: Your main argument or claim.
  2. Entertainment opportunities 1st sub-topic for comparison
    1. Urban life: Visiting museums, theaters, concerts, movies etc. Expand on 1st subject
    2. Rural life: Swimming, fishing etc. Expand on 2nd subject
  3. Education and employment options 2nd sub-topic for comparison
    1. Urban life: Better education opportunities and the easiness of finding a job Expand on 1st subject
    2. Rural life: More limited possibilities Expand on 2nd subject
  4. Environmental issues 3rd sub-topic for comparison
    1. Urban life: Air and environmental pollution, which leads to increased health problems Expand on 1st subject
    2. Rural life: Avoiding heavy traffic and long lines, fresh air and healthier food Expand on 2nd subject
  5. Conclusion
    1. Emphasize that both have advantages and disadvantages Present a synthesis of your overall discussion
    2. Although urban life has more opportunities than rural life, it has problems to be solved. Restate your thesis statement


2. Block method

With the block method, you can cover each topic separately at once, so that the topics are spread in multiple paragraphs.

For example, you can write two paragraphs about your first topic, then two paragraphs about your second topic, and make comparisons with the first.

Block method example

Block method outline sample

  1. Introduction
    1. State why urban life is more preferred than rural life. First present your hook sentence
    2. Opportunities of urban life Background on the topic
    3. Although urban life offers good living standards, it also has many negative disadvantages compared to rural life. Thesis statement: Your main argument or claim.
  2. Urban life: Education and employment options 1st subject
    1. Advantages: More and better possibilities 1st point
    2. Disadvantages: Population density 2nd point
  3. Urban life: Environmental issues 1st subject - continued
    1. Advantages: Better transportation and health facilities 3rd point
    2. Disadvantages: Health problems caused by urbanization 4th point
  4. Rural life: Education and employment options 2nd subject
    1. Advantages: More relaxed and simple life due to the low population 1st point
    2. Disadvantages: Limited facilities 2nd point
  5. Rural life: Environmental issues 2nd subject - continued
    1. Advantages: Healthier life away from pollution and noise 3rd point
    2. Disadvantages: Lackness of medical facilities and transportation 4th point
  6. Conclusion
    1. Emphasize that both have advantages and disadvantages Present a synthesis of your overall discussion
    2. Although urban life has more opportunities than rural life, it has problems to be solved. Restate your thesis statement


Chronological structure

A chronological or cause-and-effect structure is another method for organizing an essay. You can use this if you are going to talk about a series of events in your essay, you discuss the events in the order in which they occurred.

Chronological essay structure example

Chronological essay outline sample

  1. Introduction
    1. Harlem Renaissance was the golden age of African American culture. First present your hook sentence
    2. Great Migration of African Americans from South to North Background on the topic
    3. The Harlem Renaissance played an important role in literature, theater, and music and enabled many African-Americans to express themselves in artistic ways. Thesis statement: Your main argument or claim.
  2. The beginning of the Great Migration 1st event
    1. Middle-class black families began to move to Harlem in the early 20th century Discussion
    2. Harlem was overflowing with African-American-run publishing houses, newspapers, music companies, theaters, and nightclubs. Discussion
    3. Harlem has become one of the most popular destinations. Consequence
  3. Spread of new opportunities 2nd event
    1. Founding of The National Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Discussion
    2. Disadvantages: Alain Locke’s The New Negro Discussion
    3. New opportunities are created for writers to share their work. Consequence
  4. Rural life: The end of the Harlem Renaissance 3rd event
    1. The outbreak of the Great Depression and 1929 stock market crash Discussion
    2. The Harlem Race Riot of 1935 Discussion
    3. The Harlem Renaissance ends Consequence
  5. Conclusion
    1. Summarize the events
    2. Mention the importance of the Harlem Renaissance


Problems, methods, and solutions structure

Use the problems, methods, and solutions essay structure if you are focusing on a problem in your essay.

Start by explaining a problem first, and find ways to solve it as you go. Finally, analyze the problem by discussing whether the methods are suitable for the solution.

Problems, methods and solution essay structure example

Outline sample

  1. Introduction
    1. The increased risk of climate change. Present your problem
    2. The influence of climate change on the whole world Background
    3. While climate change is becoming a serious threat, there are many ways to prevent it. Thesis statement: Your main argument or claim.
  2. The gradual climate change Problem
    1. Rising temperatures across the globe Problem definition
    2. The deterioration of the ecosystem and human societies Importance of the problem
  3. Removal of carbon dioxide Method
    1. Relying on trees or technology to pull carbon dioxide out of the air Past approaches to solve the problem
    2. This approach costs a lot of money to allow the world to continue burning fossil fuels. Critique
  4. Using of renewable energy Presented solution
    1. The most effective way to solve the problem is to decarbonize the economies of the world's nations. Introduce the new method to overcome the problem
    2. It is necessary to increase the use of renewable energy and electric vehicles. Highlight your solution
  5. Conclusion
    1. But the transition to renewables is slow due to the large number of dollars required. Evaluate the solution and efficiency
    2. Although the most effective way to prevent climate change is to use renewable energy, planting trees can also be a temporary method. Restate your thesis and close your argument


Signposting structure

With a signposting structure, you clarify the structure of your essay and guide the reader as to what will happen. To clarify your essay structure, let’s look at how the overview and transitions work:

Essay overview structure example

Introduction

Podcasts are now widely available across different digital platforms across the globe. Understandably, the rise and emergence of technological assets helped a lot to this trend. They are not only a media option for some, but also a source of inspiration for many in different fields, especially justice and law. In this direction, this paper analyzes the podcast Doin' The Work: Frontline Stories of Social Change - The Social Justice Doula - Lutze Segu, MSW Episode 31. It also covers topics such as discussions of this episode, my thoughts on this topic, related policies, and suggestions for improvement. It is evident throughout the article that it is possible to overcome social injustice by working together with the right mindset and policies. Overview (Signposting): It follows after the introduction and informs what arguments to expect in your essay, written in the present tense.

To write a good essay, you can use transition words and phrases to connect different ideas. Transition sentences guide the reader through the text and move them to the next topic.

Transition example

Furthermore, Transition to highlight the flow the fact that immigrants have less access to public services such as healthcare creates another social problem, which makes them try to rest or cure themselves instead of going to a hospital when they get sick for the reason that they have to pay money to the hospital. Knowing that, Another transition word you can not use public services for free makes them more inefficient, both psychologically and physically.

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