Essay structure

Essays are a piece of discursive work and often have no formal layout in terms of heading and sub-headings. However, this does not mean that essays should not have a logical structure. The format for an essay can vary by school, so always check your module guide! (It is on GCULearn). Before you start, watch this vidcast by Angela Shapiro from the SCEBE Learning Development Centre.

As with reports, you need an introduction, middle and conclusion:

A good introduction:
  • sets the scene for the main body of the assignment. This means that it introduces the question, your assignment answers, defines important concepts and terms, provides a background and contextual information and often justifies why a topic is worthy of attention and discussion.
  • provides an outline of the essay. This should not simply be a list of topics you will discuss, but should explain why you will discuss the topics, how they help you answer the question and how the individual sections are connected to each other.
  • Approximately 10% of the word count of an assignment should allow you to cover these points well.
  • This is a very important part of your essay. Some people prefer to write this last, once they know what they have written in the main body.

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SMILE by Imperial College, Loughborough University and the University of Worcester, modified by Marion Kelt Glasgow Caledonian University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.