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Essay writing

Write the main body

The main body of your essay should present a clear and logical response to the question. You should use focussed and connected paragraphs to further your argument.

You should discuss and evidence a few key points in detail, rather than include lots of points that are dealt with in a superficial way. 

Construct focussed paragraphs

You will develop your own writing style but, as a general rule, your paragraphs should contain one main idea or argument. This should be outlined in the first sentences.

A reader should be able to look at just the first and last sentence of each paragraph and grasp what your main ideas are. 

Each paragraph should provide new evidence to support the main idea. If you don’t have evidence to support a point, do not include it.

Evidence might include data, facts, quotations, arguments, statistics and research from your readings as evidence. Make sure that you include a reference and explain how and why you think this evidence supports your point.

Your paragraph should end by stating the significance of the point to the overall argument or idea, or link to the next paragraph if you are going to build upon that main point further (eg examine the same point from a different perspective).

This short video, The Power of the Paragraph, gives a basic explanation of how to structure a paragraph.

Connect your paragraphs

Your paragraphs should connect to each other and follow on in a logical order.

Generally, you should not start a paragraph by reiterating what you have just talked about. Your first sentence of a paragraph should alert the reader to a change of focus, and each paragraph should build to show how your ideas are progressing.

Once you have finished the essay, read the first sentence of each paragraph (it can be helpful to read out loud). You should be able to follow your ideas or argument even without the details of the rest of the paragraph.

Example of a well-structured paragraph

Take a look at an example of a well-structured paragraph (PDF) taken from a first-class third year Politics essay.

Writing your paragraphs in this way will help to make your writing less descriptive, and more critical and analytical.

For further help with thinking and writing critically, please visit our critical thinking topic page.