Every piece of coursework requires an introduction (generally 10% of word count) and a conclusion (generally around 5-10% of word count)

In an essay, you don’t need to use the headings introduction and conclusion – you do in a report. Note that “Main body” is not a heading – where you are using headings and sub-headings in the main body of your coursework, these should reflect the content of the sections. Check your module handbook or assessment guidelines for this.

The introduction
  • Presents relevant background information that provides a rationale for this piece of writing. This can be research findings and/or real-world information that shows why the issue is important.
  • Outlines the aim and scope of the essay.
  • Often indicates the writer’s position or line of argument
Main Body (not a heading)

Identifies and develops main themes and issues in paragraphs and sections. In a report, you use headings and sub-headings to identify different sections. It is not unusual to find headings in essays nowadays – there isn’t a hard and fast rule. It will often depend on the preference of the marker – check with your lecturer if you’re not sure.

Read more about the differences between essays and reports

You’ll find a typical Essay Structure here and a typical report layout here

The conclusion
  • Restates the main argument made in the essay.
  • Refers back to the issue raised in the introduction
  • Do not provide a summary of the structure of the essay – focus on issues, not structure.
  • This is a poor example as it focuses on structure... “the first section discussed the importance of planning, and illustrated this with corporate examples.”

    This is a good example which focuses on issues... “The importance of planning cannot be understated: as the examples provided show, failure to plan can lead to significant financial losses”

  • Considers future implications or possibly recommendations
  • Why the issue is important
  • What the main arguments are; what the writer’s position is

The above provides an overview on essay content. Further information on structuring an essay can be found here.

You can have a look at sample introductions and conclusions for different disciplines at these links: