Essay Structure – Format, Layout & Outline With Examples

28.04.20 Structuring academic essays Time to read: 13min

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At the heart of every essay lies a structured framework that ensures the conveyance of ideas in a coherent and logical manner. The essay structure is the backbone of academic writing, guiding readers through the essay. A well-structured essay helps convey information seamlessly and enhances the reader’s comprehension of the topic. This article will delve into the essential components of essay structure and will answer frequently asked questions about essay structure.

Essay structure in a nutshell

An essay structure is the organised way in which the writer’s ideas are presented in writing, ensuring that the reader can follow and understand the main points easily. Think of it like a skeleton that holds and shapes the content of the essay. The parts every essay includes are the introduction, body, and conclusion.

Definition: Essay structure

Essay structure has a lot to do with the way you have presented your thoughts and logic in an academic essay. For instance, you want to ensure that you present one idea at a time, and then support them with facts to convince your readers. A good essay structure should also use an active voice and conclude with thoughts that are focused on summarizing the aforementioned ideas. Furthermore, in the concluding paragraph, let your readers know your ground based on the subject.

To write a strong essay, you need to come up with coherent ideas and use them to create a striking argument. Your essay structure should be one that lures the reader into following what you have to say closely. In this bit, we have shared valuable tips to help you learn and use the right essay structure in your next creative writing.


Imagine you’re telling a friend a story.

  1. Beginning (introduction): You set the scene.
    “Hey, I want to tell you about the time I went camping.”
  2. Middle (body): You give the main details and events.
    “First, we set up the tent. Then, at night, we heard a strange noise…”
  3. End (conclusion): You wrap up the story.
    “So, it turned out to be just a squirrel! But it was a memorable trip.”

The structure of nearly every single essay is simply like this:

  1. Introduction: Introduce your topic.
  2. Body: Explain the main points and details.
  3. Conclusion: Sum up everything you’ve said.

That’s the basic essay structure!

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Parts of the essay structure

As mentioned above, the essential parts of a strong essay include the introduction, body, and conclusion. Below you will find a quick overview of the basic structure of an essay along with the content of each part.

Part Content
  • Hook (grab the reader's attention)
  • Introduction to the topic
  • Thesis statement (main argument)
  • Topic sentence (main idea or paragraph)
  • Supporting details and evidence
  • Explanation/analysis of evidence
  • Transition to the next paragraph
  • Recap of main points
  • Restate the thesis statement
  • Final thoughts or call-to-action


To give your essay a good introduction, you want to make it broad, but be careful not to go too broad. Moreover, this is the part in which you should share some background information related to the topic. However, you want to be careful not to start your argument just yet. Toward the end of your introduction, drop a thesis statement. This is also called the topic sentence and the most important part of your basic essay structure. Some writers also prefer throwing their thesis in the last sentence, but that relies greatly on your style of writing.


The body is the term used to refer to the paragraphs that come after the introduction but before the conclusion of the essay structure. A well-structured essay should feature multiple academic body paragraphs and include transition words. However, the overall length of the body of your academic essay is determined by the number of ideas you have to share. The details you use to back up your thoughts also have an impact on the overall length of the body of the essay structure. Make sure that you present one idea after the other, and then support them with substantial facts to convince your readers.


Your conclusion might look a bit similar to the introductory paragraph of the essay structure. In this section, make sure to restate your thesis because your readers might have lost it while reading the body. Furthermore, in the conclusion, you need to create a summary of the main points your essay touches. Do not forget to remind the readers of what you think about the entyre subject in discussion of the essay structure.

Number of paragraphs

The number of paragraphs in an essay largely depends on the essay’s length, complexity, and specific requirements set by the instructor or the assignment. There is no set requirement for college essays. However, there are some general guidelines.

  • Short essays: 500 words or fewer
  • Standard college essays: 1,000 to 1,500 words
  • Long essays: 1,500 words and above

Note: Be sure to use transition words when writing your paragraphs to enhance the flow and readability of your academic essay.

Essay structure examples

Several methods exist for organizing information in an essay. Typically, your assignment will specify the style to adopt. If uncertain about the appropriate approach, it’s wise to consult your instructor. However, these are all solid essay structures. In the following, you will learn about the basics of essay structure along with templates for essays.

Chronological essay structure

A chronological essay structure is an organisation method where a series of events or steps are presented in the order they occurred in time, from the earliest to the latest or vice versa. It’s particularly useful for recounting events, like historical events, narrating stories, or detailing processes.

Note: It’s crucial to provide clear transitions and explanations, so the reader can easily follow the progression and understand the significance of each step or event.

  1. Introduction
    1.1 Hook
    1.2 Background
    1.3 Thesis statement
  2. Body
    2.1 First Event (the earliest in time)
    2.1.1 Discussion
    2.1.2 Consequences
    2.2 Second Event
    2.2.1 Discussion
    2.2.2 Consequences
  3. Conclusion
    3.1 Recap
    3.2 Significance or impact of the topic
    3.3 Closing statement (concluding thoughts or perspectives)


Topic: The development of personal computers over time.

  1. Introduction
    1.1 Hook: From massive room-sized machines to sleek devices that fit in our pockets, personal computers have undergone a radical transformation in just a few decades.”
    1.2 Background: Brief history of early computing devices and their initial applications.
    1.3 Thesis statement: “The evolution of personal computers, from their inception to the present, has not only revolutionized technology but also drastically altered our daily lives.”
  2. Body
    2.1 First Event (the earliest in time):** Introduction of the first personal computer.
    2.1.1 Discussion: Description of the first personal computer, its creators, its design, capabilities, and its reception by the public.
    2.1.2 Consequences: How the introduction of this computer paved the way for future technological developments and impacted industries.
    2.2 Second Event: The graphical user interface (GUI) and the mouse.
    2.2.1 Discussion: Origin of GUI, its integration into personal computers, and the invention of the mouse.
    2.2.2 Consequences: The transformation of user experience, making computing more accessible and user-friendly, sparking wider adoption.
  3. Conclusion
    3.1 Recap: A brief overview of the main events discussed in the essay.
    3.2 Significance: Reflection on how the evolution of personal computers has affected work, education, communication, and entertainment.
    3.3 Closing statement: “As we witness the relentless march of technological progress, it’s vital to appreciate the humble beginnings of personal computers and recognise their profound influence on modern society.”

Problems methods solution essay structure

A problems methods solution essay structure is designed to identify an issue, present a method to address it, and then propose potential solutions. This format is particularly effective for topics that involve challenges or issues that need addressing.

  1. Introduction
    1.1 Introducing the problem
    1.2 Background
    1.3 Description of solution approach
  2. Problem
    2.1 Precise definition
    2.2 Causes
    2.3 Effects
  3. Method
    3.1 Previous approaches to the problem
    3.2 New approach and why it’s better
  4. Solution
    4.1 Application of the new method to the problem
    4.2 Solution after doing so
  5. Conclusion
    5.1 Effectiveness of solution
    5.2 Description of implications
    5.3 Closing statement


Topic: Plastic pollution in the oceans.

  1. Introduction
    1.1 Problem: “Plastic pollution in the world’s oceans is an escalating crisis.”
    1.2 Background: Overview of the scale of plastic waste dumped into the ocean annually and its sources
    1.3 Description: “By employing innovative waste management and biodegradable alternatives, we may start to reverse this tidal wave of pollution.”
  2. Problem
    2.1 Definition: “Plastic pollution refers to the accumulation of discarded plastic products in marine environments, leading to habitat destruction and harm to marine life.”
    2.2 Causes: Indiscriminate disposal of plastic, lack of recycling initiatives, single-use plastic products, and ineffective waste management systems.
    2.3 Effects: Entanglement and ingestion by marine animals, disruption of marine ecosystems, microplastics entering the human food chain.
  3. Method
    3.1 Previous approaches: Use of ocean cleanup projects, awareness campaigns, and certain bans on plastic items.
    3.2 New approach: “Promoting the mass adoption of biodegradable plastics and enhancing global waste management infrastructure, offering a more holistic and sustainable solution.”
  4. Solution
    4.1 Launch of global initiatives promoting the use of biodegradable plastics, incentives for industries to adopt better waste practices, and establishment of international waste management standards.
    4.2 Significant reduction in new plastic waste entering oceans, gradual cleanup of existing pollutants, and restoration of marine ecosystems.
  5. Conclusion
    5.1 Effectiveness: “Early results from regions that have adopted these methods show a 40% reduction in marine plastic waste.”
    5.2 Implications: Healthier marine ecosystems, safeguarded marine species, reduced health risks for humans, and a model for addressing other environmental challenges.
    5.3 Closing statement: “The battle against oceanic plastic pollution, while daunting, showcases humanity’s capacity to innovate and protect our blue planet.”

Compare-and-contrast essay structure

A compare-and-contrast essay structure is designed to evaluate the similarities and differences between two subjects. This can be a litreary analysis essay that compares two texts, but it can also be an argumentative essay that compares the strengths of arguments. This structure helps readers understand and analyse the two subjects in relation to one another.

There are two primary methods of the compare-and-contrast essay structure for organizing a compare-and-contrast essay: the block method and the point-by-point method. The choice of structure often depends on the complexity of the subjects, the length of the essay, and the writer’s preference.

Point-by-point method

In this method of the essay structure, you alternate between points about the first subject and comparable points about the second subject. For example, if comparing cats and dogs, you might discuss the fur of cats, then the fur of dogs, followed by the temperament of cats, then the temperament of dogs, and so on.

  1. Introduction
    1.1 Hook
    1.2 Background
    1.3 Thesis statement
  2. Body
    2.1 First point of comparison
    2.1.1 Subject 1
    2.1.2 Subject 2
    2.2 Second point of comparison
    2.2.1 Subject 1
    2.2.2 Subject 2
  3. Conclusion
    3.1 Summary of arguments (synthesis)
    3.2 Relevance of topic
    3.3 Closing statement


The topics “traditional schooling” (subject 1) and “online learning” (subject 2) will be compared and contrasted.

  1. Introduction
    1.1 Hook: “In the age of technology, the blackboard, and chalk classroom finds itself competing with screens and keyboards.”
    1.2 Background: Brief overview of the rise of online learning platforms and their increasing popularity recently.
    1.3 Thesis statement: “While both traditional schooling and online learning offer unique educational experiences, they differ significantly in terms of interaction, flexibility, and learning environment.”
  2. Body
    2.1 First point of comparison: Interaction
    2.1.1 Traditional schooling: Emphasizes face-to-face interactions, providing students immediate feedback and promoting social skills through group activities.
    2.1.2 Online learning: Relies mostly on digital communication, which might delay feedback but also offers a wider network of international peers.
    2.2 Second point of comparison: Flexibility
    2.2.1 Traditional schooling: Generally follows a fixed schedule, with set times for classes, which might not cater to everyone’s personal schedule.
    2.2.2 Online learning: Often allows for a self-paced learning experience, offering students the flexibility to learn at their preferred times.
  3. Conclusion
    3.1 Synthesis: Both traditional schooling and online learning have their merits, with the former offering a rich interactive experience and the latter granting unparalleled flexibility.
    3.2 Relevance: In today’s evolving educational landscape, understanding the pros and cons of both learning methods is vital for educators, parents, and students alike.
    3.3 Closing statement: “As the future of education unfolds, the blend of traditional and online methods might just be the key to fostering a holistic learning experience.”

Block method

In the block method of the essay structure, you discuss one subject in its entyrety before moving on to the second subject. Using the same example, you’d first discuss cats (fur, temperament, care, etc.) and then move on to discuss dogs.

  1. Introduction
    1.1 Hook
    1.2 Background
    1.3 Thesis statement
  2. Body
    2.1 First subject
    2.1.1 Point 1
    2.1.2 Point 2
    2.2 Second subject
    2.2.1 Point 1 (compare)
    2.2.2 Point 2 (compare)
  3. Conclusion
    3.1 Summary of arguments (synthesis)
    3.2 Importance of topic
    3.3 Closing statement


The topics “living in the city” (subject 1) and “living in the countryside” (subject 2) will be compared and contrasted.

  1. Introduction
    1.1 Hook: “The hustle and bustle of city streets versus the serenity of open fields—where does one truly find peace?”
    1.2 Background: A brief description of urban and rural living and the age-old debate about which is better.
    1.3 Thesis statement: “City life and countryside living present contrasting lifestyles, each with its unique benefits and challenges.”
  2. Body
    2.1 First subject: Living in the city
    2.1.1 Point 1: Cities offer a plethora of services, entertainment venues, shopping malls, and healthcare facilities right at one’s doorstep.
    2.1.2 Point 2: City life is often characterized by its bustling nature, with people always on the move and a never-ending list of things to do.
    2.2 Second subject: Living in the countryside
    2.2.1 Point 1 (compare): While the countryside might lack some modern facilities, it offers residents a close connection to nature, with fresh air and open spaces.
    2.2.2 Point 2 (compare): The countryside provides an escape from the rush of urban areas, with its calm, laid-back lifestyle and fewer distractions.
  3. Conclusion
    3.1 Synthesis: While city life offers modern conveniences and a dynamic environment, the countryside provides tranquility and a deep connection with nature.
    3.2 Importance: The decision between city and countryside living can significantly impact one’s quality of life, mental health, and overall well-being.
    3.3 Closing statement: “Whether amidst skyscrapers or wheat fields, true contentment lies in finding a balance between modern comforts and nature’s embrace.”
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Different types

There are different types of essays. While they could take different formats, the structure remains the same. Your essay, despite its nature, must have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Other details might come in, but they should not interfere with the recommended basic essay structure.

Narrative essay

In the narrative essay, the writers communicate to the readers while sharing a real-life experience. Though this might sound straightforward, the students are usually challenged to tell a story about themselves.

Descriptive essay

A descriptive essay is more of painting a picture. It has a close relationship with the narrative essay. In this case, the writers are expected to use words to create clear, descriptive images.

Expository essay

An expository essay is an informative piece that mainly presents a well-balanced analysis of a given topic. In this case, the writer is expected to use facts, examples, and statistics to define a topic.

Persuasive essay

Persuasive essays are a tool used by writers to convince readers to agree with their perspective. Facts and logic must be used strategically in this case.

Argumentative essay

An argumentative essay is a type of writing where the author takes a stance on a particular issue and provides evidence and reasoning to support that position. The main goal is to persuade the reader to agree with the writer’s viewpoint.


The general essay structure contains three main parts. These include the introduction, body, and conclusion. Using this format, you can easily write and ensure that your academic essay is perfectly organised. With this basic academic essay structure in mind, you should stick to the topic to guide your ideas and their sequence.

The basic essay structure is not only crucial to the writer but also to the readers. It helps them comprehend the logic and flow of your thoughts as a writer. The main intention of the academic essay should be clearly stated in the essay introduction. The readers should get detailed information about the topic in the body of the academic essay. Summarize everything and share your thoughts with your readers in the concluding paragraph.

There are four main types of essay structures. However, the structure stays the same for the most part:

  1. Expository essays, descriptive essays and narrative essays
  2. Argumentative essay or persuasive essay
  3. Compare and contrast essays
  4. Analysis, or cause and effect essay structures

Each one of these essays will still have an introduction, followed by body paragraphs with a conclusion at the end.

While you learn about the five-paragraph essay in high school, an essay in university is a tad bit more complicated. You should always create an essay outline before you begin writing. The outline also helps you to come up with elabourate arguments. At a minimum, your essay structure should include the three main parts, namely, introduction, body, and conclusion.

There is no specification for the number of sentences you should have in each of your paragraphs. For neatness and readability, make sure that each paragraph has a maximum of four sentences. You need to ensure that every paragraph is long enough to cover everything, but also short enough to be interesting.