Essay structure

There are two aspects to essay structure. One is the position or argument running through the essay; the other is the structure into introduction, body and conclusion. Each section has a different role.

 (around 200 words)

The introduction has two roles:

  1. address the circumstances requiring the essay
  2. state the position in addressing the circumstances, an introduction offers some or all of the following elements:
  • information about the specific situation (this may require separate paragraph/s);
  • a rationale, or reason why writing about this issue is important;
  • research questions where relevant;
  • limits to the scope (which time or place or group?);
  • analysis of key terms and the theories about them (this may require separate paragraph/s) &
  • a brief outline of the essay to follow.
  • The writer includes the elements as relevant and in a logical order suiting the essay. The most important element of an introduction, and the only element which is not optional, is the statement of your position in response to the assignment question. The rest of the essay supports your position. Your position statement should be presented in a concise manner, preferably in a single sentence, with no explanation or supporting detail – that is the job of the body of the essay.
  • Body (around 1600 words)

Each paragraph contains a topic sentence stating one of the reasons for your position; supporting sentences containing evidence and comments on the evidence; and a concluding sentence containing evaluation of the material and findings presented in the paragraph. Each paragraph should follow the previous in a logical development of the argument and may also require a transition sentence guiding the reader from one paragraph to the next.

  • Example 1: body paragraph (reproduced with student permission)
  • Social media provides managers with an inexpensive means to connect with others. In one study, 83% of survey participants indicated that virtual teams led to reduced costs (Bosch- Sijtsema & Sivunen, 2013). In the past, connecting with people across the world was costly for organisations, with managers required to fly to different cities to attend face-to-face meetings and conferences with colleagues. Now, through the emergence of video conferencing technology such as Skype, and through the implementation of virtual worlds, organisations are able to conduct meetings without incurring the financial expenses and time-costs associated with travel (Bosch-Sijtsema & Sivunen, 2013; Johnson et al., 2009). The ability to coordinate teams from a central location has allowed managers to devote their time to enhancing productivity. Also, as Cascio (2000) explains, social media has led to savings on real estate expenses. The development of virtual teams reduces the costs associated with maintaining the physical space of an organisation as employees are able to work from various locations. The use of social media has also made the recruitment of staff significantly more affordable. For example, Slovensky and Ross (2011) argue that online background checks are much cheaper than logistically complicated tests conducted later in the application process. The reduced cost of recruitment has enabled managers to invest more money in attracting talent from across the world, thereby increasing organisational performance. Various forms of social media, therefore, have significantly reduced costs for managers by enhancing connections within and between organisations.
  • In this example, which was taken from an essay written by an undergraduate student, critical thinking is demonstrated by the researcher’s use of evidence to support her claim. She has provided several concrete examples to demonstrate that social media has reduced costs for managers
    (e.g. “video conferencing technology such as Skype”, “savings on real estate expenses”, “online background checks are much cheaper”). She has also demonstrated that her claim is based on the synthesis of a broad range of academic sources (Bosch-Sijtsema & Sivunen, 2013; Cascio, 2000; Johnson et al., 2009; Slovensky & Ross, 2011).



(around 200 words)

The conclusion, like the introduction, has two main roles:

  1. to bring the argument to a convincing close and to reword (not repeat) your position
  2. to consider the significance of the findings in the essay; for example (choose relevant items from the list below to suit your essay)
the importance of your findings regarding the issue itself
the importance of your findings for research in the field
    3. brief recommendations
    4. the consequences of implementing or not implementing your recommendations
    5. any limitations of your research
    6. suggested future directions

The conclusion should not introduce any new material, but reflect on what has already been written. A final comment might refer back to the beginning of essay, or state the most significant consequence, or make a recommendation (for example, for further research). Like the introduction, the conclusion is around 10% of your word count (around 200 words)


Structure Elements of Structure Argument
Introduction Introduce the topic: Background and context Rationale

Key terms
Outline of essay Statement of position

Your position
Body Paragraph* 1:
Claim 1 [your voice] = Topic Sentence

Supporting Evidence 1 (reference) + comment (your voice)

Supporting Evidence 2 (reference) + comment (your voice)

Supporting Evidence 3 (reference) + comment (your voice)

Your evaluation [your voice]

Optional transitional sentence to next paragraph

Paragraph 2:

Claim 2 [your voice] = Topic Sentence

Supporting Evidence 1 (reference) + comment (your voice)

Supporting Evidence 2 (reference) + comment (your voice)

Supporting Evidence 3 (reference) + comment (your voice)

Your evaluation [your voice]
Optional transitional sentence to next paragraph Repeat as necessary

Your argument (the reasons for your position plus the supporting evidence for each reason plus comments on the evidence)
Conclusion Statement of position formulated in light of findings Significance/consequences/impact Your position


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