Gaining a high grade on an essay is about more than just the content; the content needs to be presented in a logical and easy to read format, where all the relevant information and arguments follow a natural progression. The standard essay structure can be divided into three parts; the introduction, the main body, and the conclusion. Following this guide can help to ensure your essays benefit from a sound structure.


As its name suggests, the introduction should introduce the topic of the essay. If written effectively, it will also get the attention of the reader, giving some background to the essay topic and encourage the audience to continue reading. It should include either a thesis statement or the essay question, with the last sentence creating a natural link to the main body. Unless there are guidelines to the contrary, or the paper is very long, the general approach is to limit the introduction to no more than 10% of the word allowance.

Main Body

The main body accounts for the majority of the paper and should be presented in a logical structure, with each point, issue, or theory presented in their own paragraph. The structure of each paragraph should start with an outline of the idea or theory, with an explanation describing the concept. The student should also consider demonstrating the application of the concept or theory by providing an example to illustrate the points raised. The writer should also include any disserting or contrasting views to ensure there is a balance of opinions offered in the essay. Again, examples may be beneficial to demonstrate application of ideas as well as evidence the writer’s comprehension. All points raised and theories quoted should be adequately cited from suitable sources, with preference to peer review journals, academic textbooks, and primary sources.

The paragraphs should be presented in a logical order, with each section leading to the next. General structural protocols state each paragraph should have a minimum of three sentences. The number of paragraphs required may vary greatly depending on the length of the assignment, but a good rule of thumb is a minimum of three paragraphs in a short essay. Unless otherwise indicated by the essay instructions of guidelines, the main body should account for approximately 80% of the total word allowance


The main of the conclusion is to summarise the main points of the paper and gives the student the opportunity to demonstrate the synthesis of ideas as well as their comprehension of the information already provided. The summary should lead to a clear and unambiguous conclusion which refers directly back to the essay question or thesis statement, which was presented in the introduction. Unless otherwise specified by the essay instructions of guidelines, the conclusion should be no more than approximately 10% of the word count.


The final section of the essay should be a reference section, giving details of all the works cited in the essay. There are different formats which may be used to provide the references, such as Oxford or Harvard, with most schools, colleges, or universities having a preferred style. The student should be consistent in the way the citations are provided and use either the style recommended by the educational establishment or one of their own choosing if a style is not recommended.