A standard format for analytical and argumentative essays is the three-part essay structure consisting of Introduction, Body and 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, follows the Body, which is the main part of the text. In the Body, the discussion/analysis is carried out and the results are presented. In the last part of the essay, the Conclusion, the argument is summed up and conclusions are drawn.
A more formalised text structure is the IMRaD structure (Introduction - Method - Results - and Discussion), where the body part of the text consists of two sections referred to as Method and Results. The concluding part of research articles written according to this format is called Discussion, and has a slightly different set-up than the Conclusion of the three-part essay. For more information on the IMRD structure, see
The information below is based on the three-part essay structure, although most of the advice is applicable to other text formats as well.
Structure of the three-part essay
Each section of the text needs to be structured in a way that helps the reader understand the argument and the points that the writer wishes to make.
The main purpose of the Introduction is to provide the reader with a clear idea of the focus and aim of the text. Therefore, the topic of the essay/article will be presented in the Introduction, often accompanied by a thesis statement (the claim that the writer wishes to make).
Furthermore, depending on the type of essay, the introduction also
- provides the context/background of the argument
- introduces the theoretical perspectives, terminology, etc. that will be used
- explains how the writing will be organised
All the information in the Introduction must be relevant to the points that are subsequently made in the body of the text. The Introduction is usually structured to start with a broad, or general, statement of the topic and then narrow down to more detail and to the particular focus of the essay.
The main section of the essay, referred to here as the Body, is where the essay's (or article's) argument, ideas and results are developed and discussed. What is brought up in this part of the text relates back to what was presented in the Introduction.
Depending on discipline, aim and context, there are various ways of structuring the body of the text. A basic strategy is to deal with one thing at a time and to order the different issues that are brought up in a logical sequence that makes the argument easy to follow. A seemingly trivial method to maintain focus is to frequently ask the question: "Why is this here?". In other words, each piece of the text should have a purpose, and should be in a place where it best can fulfil its purpose.
The Conclusion is the last part of the essay (or article). Generally, a Conclusion should not contain any new facts or ideas, but rather function as a brief restatement of the main arguments and facts that have been treated in the essay.
The Conclusion might refer back to the Introduction and comment on the thesis statement or the research questions presented there.
In some texts, it is appropriate to include a look forward, in the form of suggestions for further study, for instance.