How to Structure an Essay?
- Date: 19 Feb, 2018
- Posted by: Emily Brown
- Category: Writing
Remember those 5-paragraph essays you wrote in high school? You probably wrote a bunch of them in your English classes all four years. The topics were easy and the structure of an essay was drilled into your head – an introduction, 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion – the classic 5-paragraph essay structure.
What Changes in College?
College essay structure doesn’t really change. You will still have the three basic parts, so you really don’t have to learn how to structure an essay all over again. But there are some big changes in college essay writing.
- Topics will be far more complex. With that complexity comes larger essay bodies, more than the three paragraphs you may have been used to writing.
- While the structure of an essay will remain generally the same, you will usually be conducting research for the information/data that must be included.
- With research will come format styles. And there are different essay structure types related to those formats – margins, pagination, headers, and citations. Be certain to follow the format styles required by each instructor.
- Because topics are more complex, academic essay structure will require a bit more thought. How will you prioritize the order in which you present your body paragraphs, for example?
- Expectations for essay paragraph structure will also rise. No more getting away with weak topic sentences; no more leaving out transitions from one paragraph to the next.
In sum, academic essay in college will require more work and more thought.
Having a Look at Proper Essay Structure in College Writing
You already understand the basic structure of an essay and you have some details of how to structure a college essay. It’s time to look at the expectations of instructors for each part of that essay writing structure.
In high school, you were probably told to introduce your topic and, especially in your 3rd and 4th years, make your thesis statement. In college, your introduction will need to be more engaging and compelling. Here are some things you can do to make that happen. Suppose you are writing an essay on the U.S. Federal Food Stamp program – an argumentative essay that the program should not be cut. Here are some possibilities for opening your introduction:
- Begin with a startling statistic. 86% of people on food stamps are the working poor, senior citizens, people on disabilities, enlisted military families, and veterans.
- Begin with an anecdote. It might be about a single mother, holding a minimum wage job and depending on food stamps to feed her two children.
- Begin with a strong simple statement that introduces your thesis. “The Food Stamp Program is a critical safety net for the poor.” There will be no question about what your argument will be.
At the college level, you will keep the essay structure format – each paragraph will provide the reader with a single point you are making. And, if there are 5-6 points to be made, then that’s how many paragraphs you will need to include.
Each paragraph addresses only one point. It begins with a strong topic sentence, followed by factual information/data that your research has provided. You cannot just express an opinion about something – it has to be backed up, and that backup must be cited.
At the end of each paragraph, or at the beginning of the next one, there must be a transition sentence. Part of solid essay structure writing is that there is a logical and natural flow of one point to the next. This is what transition sentences do. If you have concerns about transitions, you should look at essay structure example pieces to see how this is done. A simple Google search will give you plenty to look at.
It will be important to re-state your thesis in different wording and to show how your factual information supports your thesis. On occasion, there will be a call to action (especially in persuasive essays), or a call for more research on a topic. Types of essay structure do not set a length limit on conclusions. They may be only a paragraph but can easily go far longer than that. The more complex the topic and the longer the body is, the longer the conclusion will usually be.
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