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Purpose of an Essay
The purpose of an academic essay is to demonstrate your ability to think critically in response to a particular question or issue. It allows you to make an argument and persuade readers of your position through written composition supported by credible evidence. Essay-writing is the hallmark of tertiary academic writing, and as such, is an important skill to cultivate in developing your academic autonomy.
Structure of an Essay
Structure of an Essay
A simple essay (without an abstract) has four main parts:
- the introduction;
- the body;
- the conclusion;
- and the reference list.
Think of the introduction as a brief guide to your essay. Your introduction should:
- Provide the context or focus of your essay—in other words, what is it about?
- Outline the key areas in the order they will be covered in your essay.
- Outline the controlling argument of your essay—this is called the thesis statement.
The body of your essay will be made up of a number of paragraphs that work through the key areas of your essay. In the body of your essay you should:
- Ensure each paragraph focuses on only one main idea.
- Build the points you are making in a logical order.
- Clearly link the end of one paragraph to the beginning of the next.
Your conclusion should draw together the main points of your essay without introducing any new ideas. Your conclusion should be closely related to your introduction and should:
- Restate the main argument of your essay—your thesis statement.
- Summarise the key areas of your essay
- Conclude with a general statement about your topic. This is the last chance to make an impression on your reader, so think of this sentence as a final flourish.
4. Reference List
Referencing allows you to acknowledge the contribution of other writers, and is a way of giving credit to those whose words and ideas you have used. It also provides evidence to support your claims, and provides avenue for your readers to do further research on the topic you are writing about (University of NSW, 2019). Collating all your references into a reference list is a critical part of writing your essay.
Here are some points to remember about your reference list:
- Do not underestimate how much time it will take to accurately format your reference list. It is important not to leave building your complete reference list until the last minute.
- Keep a record of all your sources in both the researching and writing stages of your essay.
- Build your reference list as you go, retrofitting references is a recipe for disaster.
- The format of your reference list will depend on the referencing system you are required to use (APA, Turabian, MLA). Make sure you know which one applies to your discipline.
Need to contact a tutor?
This resource page has been developed to help you structure a basic essay, however, your lecturer may have specific ideas of what should and shouldn't be included in your assignment. Always ask your lecturer if unsure.