The structure may be strong and clear, or it may be unobtrusive and minimal but, in a good essay, it will be there. Again this may be strong and obvious, or it may be almost invisible, but it needs to be there. However, even in those essays that appear to be highly creative, unscientific, or personal, an argument of some kind is being made. It is the argument, and how you decide to present and back up your argument, that will influence your decision on how to structure your essay.
The essay structure is not an end in itself, but a means to an end: the end is the quality of the argument. By creating a relevant structure, you make it much easier for yourself to present an effective argument. There are several generic structures that can help you start to think about your essay structure e. These can be useful starting points, but you will probably decide to work with a more complicated structure e. In addition to these macro-structures you will probably need to establish a micro-structure relating to the particular elements you need to focus on e.
You may feel that, for your particular essay, structures like these feel too rigid. You may wish to create a more flexible or fluid structure. An analogy could be that of symphony writing. This set out a pattern for the numbers of movements within the symphony, and for the general structure of writing within each movement. The continued popularity of their work today shows that they clearly managed to achieve plenty of interest and variety within that basic structure. Later composers moved away from strict symphonic form.
Some retained a loose link to it while others abandoned it completely, in favour of more fluid patterns. It would be rare, however, to find a symphony that was without structure or pattern of any kind; it would probably not be satisfactory either to play or to listen to.
Similarly, a structure of some kind is probably essential for every essay, however revolutionary. The process of essay planning and writing does not need to be a linear process, where each stage is done only once. It is often an iterative process i. A possible iterative process is:. This section heading is in quotes as it is also the heading of chapter 8, pages , in Barass Barass p80 makes the simple but valid statement, that:. The tutors reading and marking your essays deserve your consideration. They will be reading and marking many, many student essays.
If you make your argument hard to follow, so that they need to re-read a paragraph or more to try to make sense of what you have written, you will cause irritation, and make their job slower. Realistically, it is possible that they may even decide not to make that effort. Your tutors will not necessarily be looking for the perfect, revolutionary, unique, special essay; they would be very happy to read a reasonably well-planned, well-argued and well-written essay.
They will not want to pull your essay to pieces. They would much rather enjoy reading it, and be satisfied by the thread of your argument. In the words of a tutor:. A powerful introduction is invaluable. It can engage your readers, and can give them confidence that you have thought carefully about the title, and about how you are going to address it.
A useful generic structure is to:. It may be possible to use only one paragraph for your introduction, but it may fall more easily into two or more. You will need to adapt and extend this basic structure to fit with your own discipline and the precise task set. Here is an example of an introduction for an essay entitled:.
Although the introduction appears at the beginning of your essay, you may prefer to write it towards the end of the drafting process:. Questions to ask of your introduction and conclusion may be useful. The middle part of the essay must fulfil the promises made in your introduction , and must support your final conclusions. Failure to meet either or both of these requirements will irritate your reader, and will demonstrate a lack of self-critique and of editing.
The central part of your essay is where the structure needs to do its work, however explicit or implicit your chosen structure may be. The structure you choose needs to be one that will be most helpful to you in addressing the essay title. The content of this central part will probably contain: ideas; explanations; evidence; relevant referencing; and relevant examples.
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It will be characterised by:. Questions to ask of your essay content may be useful. A powerful conclusion is a valuable tool.
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The aim is to leave your reader feeling that you have done a good job. A generic structure that you may find useful is:. The study guide What is critical writing?
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With critical writing, you are doing work with the evidence you are using, by adding a level of examination and evaluation. Questions to ask about your level of critical writing may be useful.
Another useful tool to support critical writing is the paragraph! Aim to present one idea per paragraph. Within the paragraph you could:. Finally, you need to take a break from your essay so that you can return to it with fresh eyes for the final editing. They are absolutely crucial because it is only at this stage that the student can see that the argument hangs together, has a sequence and is well-expressed.
Editing is both difficult and important. Yes, editing is important, but no it does not need to be difficult. Also, criticising your writing tends to be easier than creating it in the first place. The study guide: The art of editing and the sheet: Questions to ask when editing may be useful. A tutor can learn a worrying amount about the quality of your essay simply from how it looks on the page.
The lengths of paragraphs; the lengths of sentences; the neatness of the reference list; the balance of length between different sections; all offer insight into the kind of essay they are about to read. Shorter words are often preferable to longer words, unless there is some specific vocabulary that you need to include to demonstrate your skill. Short to middle length sentences are almost always preferable to longer ones. And over-long paragraphs tend to demonstrate that you are not clear about the specific points you are making. Of course, these are general points, and there may be some occasions, or some subject areas, where long paragraphs are appropriate.
Accurate grammar and spelling are important. Consistently poor grammar or spelling can give the impression of lack of care, and lack of clarity of thought. Careless use of commas can actually change the meaning of a sentence. And inaccurate spelling and poor grammar can make for very irritating reading for the person marking it. This practice is now widely accepted where it makes good sense. Take the points you listed in your introduction and discuss each in one body paragraph. Now you have a body paragraph. Repeat for points two and three.
The best part about introducing your main points in the first paragraph is that it provides an outline for your body paragraphs and eliminates the need to write in transitions between paragraphs.
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The concluding paragraph must summarize the essay. This is often the most difficult paragraph to write. In your conclusion, you should restate the thesis and connect it with the body of the essay in a sentence that explains how each point supports the thesis. Your final sentence should uphold your main idea in a clear and compelling manner. Be sure you do not present any new information in the conclusion.
When writing an essay for a standardized test, outline your essay and get through each paragraph as quickly as possible. Think of it as a rough draft. When your time is up, a complete essay will score more points than an incomplete essay because the evaluator is expecting a beginning, middle and an end. If you have time to review your essay before your time is up, by all means do so! These interactive writing classes build basic writing skills, explain essay types and structure, and teach students how to organize their ideas.
Types of Essays on Standardized Tests When you begin to write your essay for a standardized test, you must first decide what type of essay you are being asked to write.
The best way to tackle the introduction is to: Describe your main idea, or what the essay is about, in one sentence. You can usually use the essay writing prompt or question to form this sentence. Develop a thesis statement, or what you want to say about the main idea.