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Writing and Presentations

Essays

An academic essay is a form of writing that often contains an answer to a question and usually contains an argument. Making an argument means taking a position on a topic and critically analysing information and ideas that are relevant to that topic. An essay should both inform the reader about the topic and convince the reader that the writer's argument is valid. Writing essays helps develop critical thinking skills as the writer organises ideas into paragraphs and an orderly sequence of points.

Essay Structure

To be convincing and to make sense, an essay needs to be presented as a well-structured piece of writing. The general framework of an academic essay consists of the following:

  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Conclusion

Example structure of an essay:

  • Introduction (10% of total essay length)
  • Body Paragraphs (80% of total essay length)
    • Paragraph 1: First supporting statement, Definition, Explanation, Evidence
    • Paragraph 2: Second Supporting Statement, Definition, Explanation, Evidence
    • Paragraph 3: Third Supporting Statement, Definition, Explanation, Evidence
  • Conclusion (10% of total essay length) 

Example for a 2,000-word essay:

  • 200-word introduction
  • 1600-word body
  • 200-word conclusion

Introduction

The introduction opens your essay and introduces the reader to the main argument and points which you will discuss and develop in your essay. An introduction can be broken into three parts:

  • General statement(s)
  • Indication of essay structure
  • Thesis statement

Body

The body is the place to fully develop the argument that you outlined in the introduction. Each paragraph within the body discusses one major point in the development of the overall argument. Each main point needs to be clearly stated in the form of a topic sentence, which is then supported with evidence.

There are four types of paragraphs:

  • Narrative – Tells a story
  • Persuasive – Convinces the reader
  • Descriptive – Describes something
  • Explanatory – Gives information/explains something

Each paragraph should explain one major point and can be laid out in the following format:

  • Define – Describe the main idea of the paragraph
  • Explain – Clearly outline the main idea of the argument and link to research
  • Evidence – Use research and examples to support your main idea

Conclusion

The conclusion is where you wrap up the essay. You should restate the main argument or thesis and reinforce the most important evidence supporting the argument.

You can break up a conclusion into three parts:

  • Restate your thesis statement
  • Summarise key points in your essay
  • Reflect

 Since the conclusion is the last opportunity to convince the reader to accept your argument, ensure you end on a strong note. 

Essay Tips

Check out the Academic Style section of our Study Toolbox for information on the type of style used in academic essays (e.g. formal language, avoiding cliches). Also, see the writing guides in the Guides box on this page for helpful information relevant to essay writing and formatting.

Transitions and Links

Paragraphs focus on one main point, but all individual paragraphs should link together as a whole. There are plenty of words and phrases that can be useful to help link together paragraphs. These transitions can also be used to link ideas within paragraphs. Below are some examples:

Adding to a point or introducing a new point:

Also; further; in addition; following this; subsequently; in regards to.

To reinforce a point:

With this in mind; in other words; that is to say.

Identifying a stage in process:

First; second; third; in addition; consequently; next; following this.

Explaining or introducing an example:

For example; such as; for instance; namely.

Showing cause and effect:

As a result; it is evident; hence; for this reason; this suggests that.

Showing concession:

After all; granted; however; in any case; admittedly.

Showing conditions:

In these circumstances; provided that; even if; unless; although; despite.

Compare/Contrast:

In comparison; on the one hand; on the other hand; on the contrary; alternatively; otherwise.

Adding emphasis:

Evidently; conceivably; conclusively; undoubtedly; unfortunately.

Summing up/concluding:

To sum up; in conclusion; to summarise; therefore; to sum up.

Essay checklist

  • Have you proofread your essay for spelling and grammatical errors?
  • Does your essay answer the essay question?
  • Have you gone in-depth and backed up evidence with research?
  • Are your discussion points relevant to the essay question?
  • Is your introduction clear and concise, giving the reader a preview of what your essay is about?
  • Do your paragraphs link to each other? Are they concise and clear?
  • Does your conclusion sum up the key points in your essay?
  • Have you adhered to the word count limit?
  • Do you have a reference list and have you checked your citations?
  • Have you used the correct referencing style?