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Have you prepared all the materials needed for writing and done all the research? Developed a thesis statement and arranged a list of references? This is not enough to write a successful paper, as simply piling up the facts and cramming them in a given format will most likely negatively affect your final grade. Hence, you must know the necessary basics—essay structure, in particular.

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Classical 5-Paragraph Essay Structure

structure1. Introduction – hook (to gain readers’ interest) – background information – thesis statement 2. The first main body paragraph – topic sentence – supporting evidence – explain evidence 3. The second main body paragraph – topic sentence – supporting evidence – explain evidence 4. The third main body paragraph – topic sentence – supporting evidence – explain evidence 5. Conclusion – restating the key points – showing how the key points connect to the thesis statement – optionally, you can add an afterthought 6. A list of references.

Key Points to Consider

  • The introduction serves as the contextualization of your topic; in this section, you provide concise background information about your subject and your paper’s details. This is needed to help readers proceed to the material easier.
  • The main body is usually divided into several paragraphs; in them, the key points of your essay are disclosed. Here you also provide your supporting evidence, debate with your audience, or expand on your topic in some other way.
  • Conclusions summarize your key points, supporting facts, and show how they all are connected to your thesis statement. Stated succinctly, conclusions “answer” the title of your paper and provide (optionally) an afterthought on the subject.
  • Though this is the most common way to structure your essay (and the most common one in the academic environment), the way how an individual essay is structured is up to the writer.

Do and Don’t


  • Make your introduction short; normally, it takes one paragraph of 5-7 sentences (including the thesis statement) to take readers into the swing of things.
  • All paragraphs in the essay should be linked to each other.
  • Remind your readers what the topic/purpose of your paper is and how you reached it in the concluding paragraph.
  • Keep the classical 5-paragraph structure in mind, but allow yourself to experiment with the structure slightly, since this structure can be too limiting for papers that require varying lengths.
  • Divide each main body paragraph into even smaller subsections: topic sentence, key point, supporting evidence, lead-out sentence.

  • Announce each structural element of an essay; there is no need to write “Introduction,” “Main Body,” or “Conclusion.” However, the references section must have its own heading.
  • Use transition words like “First of all,” “Secondly,” “Finally,” or other similar indicators (unless it is your instructor’s requirement).
  • Neglect the importance of topic sentences in main body paragraphs—they are needed to help readers smoothly transit from the previous piece of material to the next point you analyze.
  • Turn your conclusion section into a simple summary.

Common Mistakes

  • Writing main body paragraphs about more than one idea each.
  • Simply summarizing the key points in the conclusion.
  • Composing lengthy and detailed introductions or conclusions.
  • Headlining each section of your essay and using transitions that are too obvious in the beginning of each paragraph.
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