Structure is crucial to essay writing, but it’s often overlooked. Taking some time to plan and structure your essay will pay dividends many times over.
Good structure allows you to show off your content to maximum effect. On the other hand, weak structure means that strong content isn’t presented as effectively as it might be, meaning that you won’t necessarily get the mark your research deserves.
When thinking about structure, you need to consider two things in particular: the overall structure of the essay and the paragraph structure within the essay. For advice on both aspects, watch the recording of our Lightning Session, and then scroll down for some more handy tips to get you started.
[To skip the intros, jump to 2:48]
Here are some quick tips to get you started thinking about good essay structure.
1. Always have the destination in mind.
When you begin writing, you should already know the conclusion you’re working towards. While this conclusion may evolve as you write, having a broad sense of the argument you’re working towards allows you to present your ideas in a more logical and cohesive order.
2. Always make a plan.
Following on from the previous point, the best way to get to your destination is to plan your journey in advance. Plans can come in many different shapes and forms – some people like to plan in detail, setting out each of the points or paragraphs they want to include, while others prefer a more broad overview, perhaps in the form of a mind map or a series of rough headings. In general, the more detailed the plan the easier it will be to write up the essay, but even a broad plan is better than no plan at all.
3. Use your own headings.
In longer essays, it’s usually best to use headings to break the main body down into shorter sections. This helps your reader understand the structure of your work. In shorter essays, you probably shouldn’t use headings, as this results in very short sections which can make the essay fragmented and difficult to read. However, you can still use your own headings – perhaps even for every paragraph- to help you structure the essay. Just remember to take these headings out before you submit.
Sometimes, you can turn these headings into your topic sentences- for more advice on topic sentences, and on good paragraph structure in general, see the Powerful Paragraphs section of Essay Bites.