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Essay Elements and Structure


As stated in The Nature, History, and Types of Essay, an essay is a prose non-fiction piece of writing with a varying length that addresses a thing, a person, a problem, or an issue from the author's personal point of view. To make the discussion effective, the elements that build the description, narration, exposition, or arguments in an essay should be well-organized. Structurally, the basic elements of an essay are organized into three main sections (introduction, body, and conclusion), as illustrated by the following figure.

Figure 1. Basic essay Structure


The followings are a brief description of each essay element. To make the description effective, the essay titled How Reading Empowers EFL Learners is referred to as an illustration. Thus, you are suggested to read it first before continuing reading the next section.


  1. The general statement or orientation to the topic is one or two sentences that introduce the topic. The general statement must be interesting so that the readers are motivated to read the essay up to the end. Scarry & Scarry (2010, pp. 507-508) offer 9 patterns from which an author can select and use to attract the readers, like definitions of the subject to discuss, anecdotes, a startling statement, a famous quotation, and soon. 
  2. The thesis statement tells what the writer intends to prove, defend, or explain about the topic. It gives the main idea of an essay and is usually placed at the end of the introductory paragraph. A thesis statement is built up by a topic + controlling idea.
  3. Outline of the main points (or strategy of development) describes the organization of the essay, i.e. what will be discussed first, second, etc. It is often preceded by the essay’s purpose statement. However, not all essays include this information. The topic discussed in every body paragraph should be presented in line with the order in the outline. Look how How Reading Empowers EFL Learners in Figure 2 states the purpose and outline, and how the body paragraphs are presented in the sequence determined in the outline.

Figure 2: A Sample of Analysis of Essay Elements

Body paragraphs of an essay discuss the evidence and arguments introduced in the thesis statement. In general, if a thesis statement has presented three pieces of evidence or arguments about the topic, there will be three body paragraphs. However, if there are more arguments or evidence, there could be more paragraphs. Most body paragraphs have topic sentences and some supporting sentences. Some others, however, may have a concluding sentence. 
  1. Topic Sentence in a body paragraph is usually the first sentence and states the main idea.
  2. Supporting sentence provides details, i.e. facts, explanations, arguments, analysis, and citations of someone else’s ideas employed to back up the main idea of the paragraph.
  3. Concluding Sentence recaps the main point developed by the supporting sentences and indicates to the reader that this is the end of the paragraph. Concluding sentence is rarely included in the body paragraphs of an essay. 
A concluding paragraph is used to indicate to the reader that the discussion will end. It could cover the following parts. 
  1. Thesis restatement is one or more sentence used to repeat or reaffirm the thesis presented in the introductory paragraph.
  2. Summary of main points recapitulates the key points discussed in the whole body paragraphs. The summary can be written in one to three sentences, depending on the amount of the key points. The first sentence of the concluding paragraph of How Reading Empowers EFL Learners summarizes the main points. 
  3. Final comment can be one or more of: (1) a conclusion drawn from the discussion in the body paragraph, (2) final observation about the controlling idea, (3) relevant suggestion, solution or warning, or (4) a prediction based on the details of the body paragraphs. How Reading Empowers EFL Learners includes an implication and a warning.
Achieving Coherence by Using Transitions
Coherence is the logical bridge between words, sentences, and paragraphs in the essay. Since it relates one point to another in the essay, it helps the reader to comprehend the discussion easily. Coherence is achieved through the use of transitional words, like first, second, finally, therefore, consequently, however, etc. (See Scarry & Scarry, pp. 511-513)

Scarry, S & Scarry, J. (2010). The writer’s workplace with readings: Building college writing skills. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning


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