Basic Essay Structure

A typical essay should consist of:

  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Conclusion

Introduction

This should persuade the reader that they want to read on, and give a summary of what the essay will be about. This summary is called a thesis statement. The introduction should lead into the next part of the essay – the body.

Introductions can:

  • Give a review of events – ‘As we know, the Second World War ended in the defeat of the Nazi regime.’
  • Make a statement that will surprise the reader – ‘Did you think you’d read everything there is to know about the Second World War? In fact, there is a little-known event …’
  • Begin with an anecdote – ‘Munitions factory worker Agnes Stone expected this day to be like any other …’
  • Mention a famous person – ‘Leaders like General Patton were revered by their men.’
  • Make a declaration – ‘During the Second World War, the equivalent of $700 million per day was spent on the war.’

Avoid doing any of the following:

  • Explaining what you are going to do in the essay. Don’t make statements like ‘I am going to examine …’, ‘this essay will look at …’, or ‘my intention in this essay is to …’. Instead, your reader should be able to discern your intention without it being explicitly stated.
  • Making the introduction too lengthy and wordy. It is better to keep your introduction concise and not waste any words.
  • Appearing uncertain. Even if you are not an expert on the subject, you should not give the impression that you do not know what you are talking about.
  • Defining what you will be writing about. Do your reader the courtesy of assuming that they know what a word means. If they don’t, they would be perfectly capable of consulting a dictionary.

Body

The body of the essay should be divided into three sections, each forming one paragraph in the case of shorter essays. The most important is the first section, as if you save your best arguments for the subsequent paragraphs you risk losing your readers’ interest and diluting the impact of your argument.

The first paragraph should contain the most important argument. Begin this paragraph in a way that links with the end of the introduction, You should also place the topic for this paragraph in the first two sentences, and end it in a way that leads into the second paragraph.

The second paragraph must flow from the previous one. It should include your next most important argument. As with the previous paragraph, the topic for this one should be placed in the first two sentences. Make sure that it ends by linking into the final paragraph of the body.

The third paragraph concludes the main part of the essay. Ensure that it ties in to the ‘thesis statement’ that you made in the introduction. Make it clear that you are closing your arguments here, and lead into the conclusion.

 Conclusion

Refer to the thesis statement in the introduction, without repeating it precisely.  Summarise the main points that you made in the body of the text, and conclude with a statement that demonstrates that the debate is over.

Let’s suppose you are given the following title:

Does it matter if Harry Potter is not great literature, providing it encourages children to read more?

A Brief Sample Essay

“Harry Potter is hugely popular among young readers, yet the books are often dismissed as unoriginal and inferior when compared to other books written for children. However, at a time when 30% of households do not contain a single book, does the quality of the books matter? Or is this less important than encouraging children to read more?”

Here the writer is referring to the essay title, and posing relevant questions.

Argument 1

Books act as a gateway to others. When children discover books that they enjoy, they are likely to develop an interest in reading. However, it is very easy for young readers to be discouraged by books that fail to engage them. A reader may begin with Harry Potter, and go on to read Tolkien, as the less literary book leads them to develop an interest in fantasy literature. Therefore we should never dismiss less literary books as being of little value.

This section offers support for the argument that the books have value by encouraging children to read.

Argument 2

Reading is also of great value in itself. Spending time with books is surely preferable to the more modern pastimes of computer games and smart phones. Adults constantly express concern that children are too devoted to technology, rather than playing or reading. Surely, therefore, it is preferable that children read any book, regardless of its perceived quality.

This section explains that reading any book is better than not reading at all, or engaging in less healthy pastimes.

Argument 3

Nor should we dismiss the tastes of young readers simply because of their youth; the popularity of the Potter series  reflects their enthusiasm for the books, and shows that these novels have value for them. From the time of the publication of the first novel to the final book in the series, loans from public libraries among the 8-12 age group had increased by 30%. Although we cannot be sure that this was due entirely to the Harry Potter series, such a noticeable increase cannot be solely coincidental. It should also be noted that the books are also popular among adult readers. In fact, they were repackaged for an adult market, with different covers. So, if older readers enjoy the books, it suggests that they have universal appeal.

 This section continues by giving evidence to suggest that the Harry Potter books have led to an increase in reading among children (look for similar statistics to support your arguments).

Conclusion

If the Harry Potter books had never been written, it would be unlikely that reluctant readers would have turned to more serious books in their place. The popularity of the series has undoubtedly encouraged more children to borrow and buy books, and the increase in library loans suggests that they are borrowing other books as well as the Potter series. Therefore, we may conclude that the popularity of the series leads to a positive outcome, and that they are helping to increase the interest in reading as a whole.”

The conclusion refers back to the statement in the introduction that the Potter series is criticised for not being high-quality literature, as well as the title. It offers a firm conclusion and summarises why the writer feels that the books have benefited the cause of reading.