Ashford Writing: Essay Structure

Essay structure refers to organization; it refers to how you organize and support the ideas expressed within your essay.


  1. Introduction: one – few paragraphs at the beginning of the essay (the length should be in proportion to the essay as a whole).
  2. Body: one – several paragraphs in the middle of the essay.
  3. Conclusion: one – few paragraphs at the end of the essay (like the introduction, the appropriate length depends on the length of the essay).



  • Hook: An opening statement that attempts to grab the attention of your readers. This attention-grabber can take the form of a question to the reader, anecdote (story), interesting quotation that relates to your topic, surprising statement, revealing statistic regarding your topic, statement of opposition, statement of opinion, etc.
  • Background information: Any information that is critical to understanding the remainder of your essay and that you will not cover in the body of the paper
  • Thesis: Usually one sentence that summarizes the main point you’ll make throughout the body of the essay
    • Example 1: Students whose high school teachers provide more specialized attention are more likely to be successful in college.
    • Example 2: Parents should enroll their pre-school aged children in daycare programs, because there are many advantages that students gain in the daycare environment.
    • Example 3: The first day of college was significant to me because it is the day that I dedicated myself to my education and I set a plan in place for achieving my goals.


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  • Body paragraphs: Each body paragraph should clearly connect to the thesis statement by helping prove the point made in the thesis. Each paragraph is organized to build upon the other and should include a specific claim that supports the thesis statement and evidence that supports that claim.
    • Example Body Paragraph: Sales of violent video games should not be restricted. While some believe that violent video games should not be sold to minors without parental consent, to implement such restrictions is a violation of the First Amendment. As Andrew Cohen of The Atlantic states (2011), “Crudely violent video games, tawdry TV shows, and cheap novels and magazines are no less forms of speech than The Divine Comedy.” Cohen’s point here is that violent video games, among other questionable forms of entertainment are protected by the freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment as they are a form of art – even if that be low art. Within the context of the First Amendment, the restriction of violent video game sales and distribution would be unconstitutional, and their unrestricted distribution of these games must be enforced.
    • Topic Sentence – Sets up the basic topic [violent video game sale restrictions] and the basic stance [anti-restrictions of violent video game sales]
    • Restatement Sentence – Clarifies the basic stance of the Topic Sentence [anti-restrictions because they would be a First Amendment violation]
    • Illustration/Example Sentence – In this case, provides a quotation that supports the claim made in the Topic and Restatement Sentences
    • Analysis Sentence – Explains how the reader is to interpret the example/quotation provided in the Illustration/Example Sentence
    • Conclusion Sentence – This sentence brings us back to the claim made in the Topic Sentence [violent video game sales should not restricted], but it also adds the why that has been argued through the Illustration/Example and Analysis Sentences [because it would be unconstitutional to do so]. This sentence also foreshadows the topic of the next body paragraph [enforcement of the unrestricted sale of violent video games]



  • Restated thesis: A rephrased version of the thesis from your introduction.
  • Summary of argument: Recap the main point of each of the body paragraphs.
  • Final statement: Call to action, vivid image, warning, quotation, question, etc.
    • Example of a warning ending: If no definitive action is taken to educate Americans while they are young, the nation will soon find itself unable to function with few to no eligible candidates to fill the various sectors of the job market.

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Source: Ashford University Writing Center