The essay format

The term 'essay' is used in a wide sense and can refer to anything from a brief paper to a long degree essay.

The information below mainly refers to shorter essays, although the structural approach described here can be used for essays of any length. Students always need to check with their teachers as departmental requirements may differ.

Apart from the argumentative type of essays, which will be described here, there are other types as well, such  as narrative and descriptive essays. As most writing at university is of an analytical nature, we have limited the scope of this section to that kind of essay.

What is an essay?

The structure of an essay usually consists of three elements: Introduction – Body – Conclusion. In the Introduction, the reader is introduced to the topic that will be discussed and to the argument that will be presented.

After the Introduction comes the main part of the text, the Body, where the discussion is carried out and the results are presented. In the last part of the essay, the Conclusion, the argument will be summed up and conclusions will be drawn from what has been discussed.

For more detailed information and advice about essay structure in general, see the following part of the Writing process section:

Two common types of essays are described more in detail: