Ad­vice for wri­ting an es­say-type text

Introduction

Your introductory paragraph should start with an overview of your topic and end with the specific point of your essay.

First, set the context of your topic for your reader, giving them some relevant background information where necessary. Then, indicate to the reader what your position or your key point is, in the form of the thesis statement. Finish by briefly outlining what main points you will make in support of your thesis statement.

The thesis statement, which is usually no longer than 1 or 2 sentences, must give the reader a clear indication of the main point you will make in your essay and provide them with a ‘map’ which tells them what you will discuss in order to argue for or elaborate on your main point.

  • Example thesis statements

Weak thesis statement: “In this paper, I will discuss X.”

This thesis statement does not give the reader any idea of what the writer’s main point about X is, or what specific aspects of X are going to be discussed and why.

Stronger thesis statement: “X has made a significant impact on Y due to its...”

This thesis statement tells the reader not only what the writer’s main point about X is, but also offers a reason why. This gives the reader a clearer idea of what they can expect to read about in the rest of the essay.

You should avoid going into too much depth in the introduction and only briefly covering your main points in the body paragraphs. Remember that the introduction is there to simply give the reader a clear idea of what to expect from the rest of the essay.

Body

The body of the essay is where you will develop the main ideas that support your thesis statement.

Therefore, the body should be broken into several paragraphs whereby each paragraph deals with a separate yet related point.

Subheadings are considered inappropriate for essay-type texts. Therefore, in order to create greater cohesion between body paragraphs, it is important to have clear topic sentences at the beginning of each paragraph. Ideally, the topic sentence should make it clear to the reader not only what the main idea of the paragraph is, but also how it is relevant to your thesis.

  • Example topic sentences

Weak topic sentence: “X was introduced in the 1980s.”

This type of topic sentence does not give the reader any idea of what the point of the paragraph is likely to be.

Stronger topic sentence: “With the introduction of X in the 1980s, Y’s economy experienced an unprecedented boom for the first time in over a decade.”

This topic sentence indicates a key theme (e.g. economic boom in Y because of X) related to the essay thesis.

You may consider that each paragraph has its own IBC structure, in that it starts with a topic sentence that serves as a mini introduction, has a clearly developed main point with supporting evidence and examples, and often ends with a concluding sentence that emphasises the relevance of the point to the essay’s central thesis.

Conclusion

The conclusion is an important part of the essay and should serve as the final word on your main thesis.

The concluding paragraph should not go into too much detail, and should avoid introducing new points to the reader. If it is an important point, it should already be in the body of your essay.

In many ways, the concluding paragraph mirrors the introductory paragraph in that it briefly reminds the reader of the essay’s central thesis, summarises the key points in support of the thesis, and highlights to the reader the importance of the thesis to the overall topic.

In the conclusion, you may also raise any limitations and areas for further research or consideration. However, this need only be done briefly.

Language

Language can be equally as important as content and structure when it comes to writing a formal, academic essay.

You should use the following aspects of academic and formal language when writing your essay, as they create greater cohesion and clarity, as well as a more objective tone in your writing.

  • Discourse markers

Discourse makers are a necessary part of formal texts. They are the words and phrases that indicate to the reader where your essay or your particular point is going. Moreover, they are the cohesive element that brings your ideas together into a logical whole.

You will find that discourse markers have many different uses, depending on what your text needs. For instance, linking words such as “however” or “nevertheless” can be used to introduce counter arguments, while “therefore” or “hence” are used to conclude a point or paragraph. You can also use longer signposting phrases such as “Another significant aspect of X is …” or “Turning now to the evidence on..,” to introduce a new point or paragraph (in the case of these examples). 

  • Impersonal ‘it’

Adopting a neutral or objective tone is key to academic argumentation. Rather than using the personal pronoun ‘I’ or personal phrases such as ‘In my opinion,’ it is recommended you use the impersonal ‘it’ to introduce your points. For example;

“It can be argued that…”

“It is important to note that…”

“It has often been claimed that…”

“It seems that…”

“It would appear that…”

  • Modality

Another way to maintain an objective tone in academic argumentation is using a variety of modal verbs such as could, can, might, or may. This is particularly useful when indicating that the idea being presented is one way of interpreting the evidence, rather than an absolute certainty. For example, compare the effect that the following two statements have:

“The results of the study prove that…”

“The results of the study could be proof of…” (with modality)

  • Personifying the study

When introducing your main point, or outlining the contents of your essay, another way to avoid the use of the personal ‘I’ or ‘my’ is to personify the study itself. Rather than writing “In my essay, I will examine…” you can simply write, “This essay will examine…”

For more advice on any of the aforementioned aspects of academic writing and essay writing, it is recommended that you do some independent research online. You can find a wide range of helpful resources on many university writing and Movi websites.