Structuring Your Essay
Structuring your essay properly means that when you’ve finished, each paragraph does what it’s supposed to do. There are certain things you need to think about while writing an essay that will make it easier for the reader. Ensure that your essay will answer questions the reader may have. To begin, you want the introduction of your essay to set the content you’re going to talk about in the essay, while the body paragraphs should present facts and develop your arguments. The conclusion should answer any questions you proposed, or cover the main facts from the body. Mapping out an essay is one tool you can use to easily predict how your reader will want to see the facts you’re presenting them.
You want to be well organized when writing an essay. While your first draft will probably be as unorganized as you can get, revisions need to combine relative information together and keep it running smoothly throughout the whole essay. By the time your reader finishes reading your essay, you should have answered any answers they may have had due to your provocative thesis statement. If your thesis statement isn’t thought-provoking, it’s probably an observation of fact instead of an arguable claim.
Generally, essays will have any background material, such as historical context, any bibliographic information, definition to key terms, and a summary of relevant theory or criticism, near the beginning of the essay. This type of information is usually found between the introduction and the first analytical section, or it may be in the first part of the section if it’s relevant to.
Answer what, how, and why in different sections of your essay. “What” is the first question a reader may have. You want to show evidence that your thesis statement is true. To do so, examine all the evidence you’ve researched that demonstrates truth to your claim. This section, often found right after the introduction, lets you have your say, but keep it relatively short. If this paragraph is any more than one-third of your total essay, it won’t be balanced and your essay will seem more like a summary.
Next, you should answer “how.” Show the reader that your thesis is true in all cases. Explain to the reader how your thesis would stand up to a counter-argument. Also, clarify how your thesis would be affected by any new material or evidence. While this section usually goes after the “what” section, if you complicate your argument multiple times in a lengthy essay, a counter-argument can go where it fits best.
Answering “why” to your reader will let the reader know what’s at stake with your claim. You’ll want to tell the reader why this is important to them and not just you. This section will also show the reader why the essay itself is important. You may mention some reasons in your introduction, but at the end of the essay if you haven’t included a paragraph dedicated to answering “why,” your reader may think the essay isn’t finished, or even pointless.
You want to map out an essay to match how you believe your reader thinks. Perhaps mapping an essay can help you in this process. The purpose of an essay map is to help you predict where your reader will want specific information, such as a counter-argument, background information, or a close analysis or primary source. One way to map your essay is to begin by stating your thesis statement in a sentence or two, with a follow-up sentence that says why it’s important you made that claim. This should help you answer the “why” section in your essay.
Next, think of one fact that a reader should know that would convince them of your claim. Write that down along with evidence that supports it. This will help you answer the “what” segment. Now, every sentence that follows should be other reasons you’ve found that support your claim along with its evidence. Once you’ve finished mapping out your essay you should have a good basis to start on.
After you’ve found evidence to support your thesis, and have mapped out key points to include in the essay, it’s finally time to write. Essays need to have a strong introduction that looks at any questions raised by the thesis statement, outlines the main issues you’ll further explain, and presents the method of research or experiment you performed. Don’t have too much background information in your introduction, there’s plenty of time for that in the body of your essay. An introduction should grab the reader’s attention and want them to continue reading to answer the questions they thought of from your thesis. Have the introduction factual, and don’t keep the reader guessing. Tell your reader what your conclusions are so they can think of it while being presented with the evidence.
In the body paragraphs, each paragraph needs to present information that is relevant, discuss opinions and evaluate information, as well as form an argument from the information and opinions. The body paragraphs of an essay should take up 80-90% of the finished essay, and needs to show the reader you have a clear understanding of the topic and have done solid research.
The conclusion paragraph will leave a last impression on your reader, and should be considered just as important as your introduction paragraph, which was used to get the reader’s attention in the first place. Make sure your conclusion has a clear answer given to the presented question. Summarize the main points of your essay and repeat any important information and arguments. Don’t forget to point out anything the evidence may suggest.
Preparation is extremely important when it comes to writing a good essay. An essay’s first draft doesn’t have to be organized at all, just use it as a way to get your ideas on paper. Some may find that mapping out their essay is the best way to find the answers to certain questions a reader should have after reading your thesis statement. Keep in mind that certain information belongs in different parts of an essay. Don’t leave your reader guessing after the introduction. State the facts and present your answer so the reader can assess all the information and arguments while reading through and editing your essay before you think about printing and submission.