For all of you freshman and essay writing beginners out there, this is a quick look at the main parts of an essay.
- Introductory Paragraph—This is the first paragraph in your essay and introduces your reader to your topic and what you will discuss. Nothing should show up here that doesn’t also show up in the essay: that would be like giving someone a dinner menu and when they order you give them something completely different. It is important here to stay focused and on topic.
- Thesis Statement—The thesis statement is a sentence about your essay’s main focus, and it appears at the end of your introductory paragraph, as a transition into the body of your writing. It should be direct, clear, and focused solely on what you will discuss in your paper. A couple examples would be: “I will explain how this does that to those,” and “So and so author changed the way we think about _______ by writing in this style, with that language, and to such and such audience.” Now, this style, that language, and such and such audience need to be the focus of the body paragraphs that follow.
- Body paragraphs—This is the bulk of your essay, where you explain, describe, and illuminate for your reader the topic of your writing. Those points you just made in your introduction and thesis statement will be brought up again and expanded upon in these paragraphs. Typically, and this goes for the introduction as well, a paragraph is 3-5 sentences long, minimum. If you’re struggling to make a point in that many lines, you should probably think about finding another point to make. Also, be careful not to fill paragraphs with useless or unrelated information or language—your professor can tell when you are using filler to make your paper longer, and they will not appreciate it.
- Conclusion—Here you summarize everything that has been said in your essay. All of the main points in your body paragraphs as well as a rephrasing (stating in a different way) of your thesis statement happen here. No new information should show up here. If you are writing a draft and find you’ve placed a new point, extra information, or an inconclusive statement in this last paragraph, think about moving it into a related body paragraph, adding the point to your introduction, or getting rid of it all together.
Be sure that before you begin writing your essay you have a solid idea of what you’re going to write about. Nothing is worse than writing up to your page count only to realize that half of what you’ve written is off topic or just not where you want it to be. Writing an essay outline will tell you what’s worth focusing on, how much you have to say about different points, and how long it will take to write the thing.