December 06 2021 – Edinburgh School of English
There’s no set structure for essays as it will depend on the type of essay you are writing. But there are some guidelines to help you present your arguments in a logical way for the reader. Try the following tips to help you plan your writing.
- Know your thesis – you must be clear on what exactly your main argument is before you write the essay or it will probably be difficult for the reader to follow. Try writing your main thesis in one sentence to clarify it for yourself.
- Map your essay – write out short statements or questions based on the main points you want to make. Once you have these titles and some notes you can play with the order and find the best structure.
- Put yourself in the reader’s position – ask yourself what the reader needs to know about your thesis, how you can show them it’s true and why it’s important.
- Write a clear introduction – introduce your argument and give the reader any background information they need in order to follow the arguments. You may also want to indicate how you’ll go about answering the question or justifying your thesis but this isn’t strictly necessary.
- Construct your paragraphs – although it’s not a rule, most essays use a topic sentence to describe the main point of the paragraph then go on to demonstrate the evidence and reasons before giving personal analysis or opinion.
- Use counter arguments – to help answer your reader’s questions and back up your own arguments, include counter points to show that you have already considered any objections. Include the counter arguments alongside the relevant point in the main body of your essay.
- Link your paragraphs – a linking phrase or word can be enough to connect your ideas but sometimes you need to do more. Use the first sentence of a new paragraph to refer back to the previous idea and make a connection for your reader.
- Conclude with confidence - refer to your original question or thesis but don’t just summarise the ideas already expressed in your essay. Concluding is drawing a final conclusion from the arguments so no new evidence need be introduced. Try using a quote that illustrates your main message or putting the ideas into a wider context to leave the reader with something to think about.
Don’t forget that these are guidelines not a set of rules to be strictly followed. The structure of your essay will often emerge during the writing process so be open to changing your map or plan as your ideas develop.