When you search for an essay structure guide, you most probably will end up with the traditional narrative that tells you about a captivating introduction, a well laid out body, and a punchy conclusion. Even though this is an accurate essay structure summary, very few guides take the time to evaluate each section of an essay in detail. There are few that do focus on teaching you to write captivating introductions or how to craft good thesis statements.
Today, we are going to break the cycle and focus on the art of writing an engaging essay body.
The Body is the Bulk of the Essay
The sole purpose of an essay is to present an idea or problem before exposing or arguing a point of view backed up by reliable facts. Most of the arguments and back up research goes into the essay body. The essay body plays host to:
- Background information
- Data presentation and analysis
While it is clear that the body contains so much information, there is no fixed essay body structure. The appearance varies depending on essay length or the topic you are addressing. An argument might share the same paragraph with a counter-argument in a short essay. A long essay might have you split the argument from the counter-argument and clearly mark them with subheadings. Background information might be one nondescript paragraph or a complete 3-page section with multiple subheadings.
Nonetheless, you should focus on delivering information in a rather chronological way to avoid confusing the reader. For instance, it would be logical to have your background material in your very first paragraphs as opposed to sprinkling it all over the essay body.
To ensure that your essay body is chronologically sound, you should focus on answering the reader’s questions. Each reader who picks up your essay will have a series of questions after reading your introduction or thesis sentence. The body’s work is to answer this while retaining the reader’s flow of thought.
Address the Background Material First
Start by laying out a solid foundation for your essay. Discuss the background material and form a basis for your argument. The background material should justify your thesis statement or the need for the academic paper. Show that the problem you are trying to address is real. If you are doing a narrative essay, give us the information we need to understand the topic you are trying to expose.
The length of your background material section depends on how long your essay will be. A single paragraph should be enough for short and simple papers. Sometimes, you can even incorporate this section in the ‘what’ section discussed below.
Longer essays might need segmented background material sections to avoid losing the reader. Avoid giving too much attention to the background material. If the section is too long, the reader might be distracted. Just do enough to lay the foundation for your argument.
Address the “What?”
After the background material, the next question the reader has in mind is ‘so what are you talking about?’ This section is in a way an extrapolation of the background material. The reader wants to know what evidence proves your point of view or whatever stand your thesis statement takes to be true. You have to report what you observed or what you learned during your research.
This section should be less than a third of your essay. Stay straight to the point. All the reader wants to know is how you gathered the information that you will use to draw conclusions. Once again, feel free to use subtitles to structure this section of the essay and make it easier to skim for fast readers.
A good structure with some subtitles and if possible bullet lists will come in handy since some readers will refer back to this section as they read the rest of the essay. You want to make their references as smooth as possible.
Tell Us “How?”
The next question your reader will have in mind is ‘how.’
- How do the facts you gave in the ‘what’ section make sense?
- Are they the only plausible argument? What are some of the counterarguments and how are they invalid?
- How did you come to your conclusions?
- How do you think existing studies of the school of thought interact with your own ideas?
Even though this is a straightforward explanation of the results you gathered during your research, it could sometimes grow into a highly philosophical argument especially if you are writing an argumentative essay. This section prepares the reader for your deductions. It lets you condition the reader’s mind and smoothly guide him or her into your school of thought.
Finish With the “Why?”
The final section of the body should tell the reader why you believe your interpretation of the topic is right and acceptable. This is your chance to win over the reader and tie your essay to the society. After all, the main goal of all academicians is to better the society.
By explaining this, you are giving purpose to your essay. Even though you might not win everyone’s confidence, a good why might raise other questions hence creating an opportunity for other academicians to add on your findings. Leaving out this section will render your essay useless to some extent. You will leave the reader ungrounded and detached no matter how good your conclusion might be.
Use an Essay Map to Guide You Through
A good way to ensure that you address these three parts of the essay body right is by creating an essay map. An essay map captures the possible questions your reader might rise and lets you prepare to tackle them as soon as they arise. Think of the essay map as a prediction what the reader expects next when going through the essay.
The essay map doesn’t focus on essay sections. Its sole purpose is to satisfy the reader’s needs when it comes to essay flow. Here is an example of an essay map.
- State your thesis or argument in a sentence or two. After this, tell the reader what he or she might learn by exploring this topic with you. You will have given him or her reason to read on
- Your next section on the map should address the background material and the what. An example is ”To convince the reader that my claim is valid, I need to show him that…”
Here is an example: ‘The next thing my reader would like to know is…” This will give you a chance to walk the reader through your essay as opposed to just throwing in random facts and arguments all over the paper.
A good essay map will take you through:
- Statement and introduction of the basic question
- A justification of this question
- Information or research presentation related to the topic (how you evaluated the question)
- An analysis of the information
- Deductions from the study and how your deductions affect the reader or the society in general
A good essay will be as interesting to read as it is informative. The fact that you are doing a formal paper doesn’t mean that you should make it complex and boring. You can make everything pleasant by anticipating your reader’s question and answering them as they come. You stand a better chance at making a solid argument this way even if you don’t win over the reader to your train of thought.