All essays have a beginning and an end, but they also have a middle, the main body of your essay. The structure of the body of your essay can vary, depending on the type of essay you write. Essay assignments that have small page or word count requirements may not give you much room to play with the structure. However, knowing some of your options in structure will help you make the best choices to convey your ideas.
When you have an essay that relates a story or event, use the body of your essay to tell the story as straightforward as possible. This means you will need to relate your idea in a linear manner, starting at the beginning and moving through to the end. A linear structure often helps you convey your ideas with clarity, helping the reader understand what takes place, explains Janet Burroway, a retired writing professor from Florida State University. This type of structure works very well for story-related essays, but it will not work well with essays such as comparison essays.
State Your Points
Certain essays such as argumentative papers and other research-oriented writing will often use a structure that allows you to state a series of points to build your argument. In this structure, you will begin with general information and get more specific with each argument thereafter. This allows you to convey the broad information about the topic and then narrow the focus of your argument to ultimately prove your ideas.
Contrast and Compare
In essays that require you to evaluate two or more things or ideas, a contrast and comparison structure might work best. You can compare one characteristic of your topic and then compare another characteristic, showing differences and similarities in the two things you compare. You will continue this pattern until you complete your comparison. For another option, you might provide all the information about one of the ideas and then give the information for the other idea, comparing the two as you go, says Burroway.
In a longer essay, you can use a structure that allows you to incorporate more research. For example, you might have a paragraph in the body where you explain a particular viewpoint on your topic and after this you use one or more paragraphs to support that idea with your research. You can then state another argument or point and use other paragraphs to prove this next idea, continuing with this pattern until you address all of your ideas and accompanying research.
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: Essay Writing
- Prentice Hall Reference Guide; Muriel Harris
- From Critical Thinking to Argument; Sylvan Barnet and Hugo Bedau
- Imaginative Writing; Janet Burroway
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