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Essay Writing: Essay Writing Basics

The Monroe College Guide to Essay Writing presents the information necessary to write effective essays.

Basic Essay Format

Basic Essay Format

Please note: these guidelines are general suggestions. When in doubt, please refer to your assignment for specifics.

Most essays consist of three parts:

  • the introduction (one paragraph);
  • the body (usually at least three paragraphs); and
  • the conclusion (one paragraph).

minimum of 5 paragraphs total


Standard Parts of an Essay

Introduction Paragraph (including the Thesis Statement)

Begin your paper by introducing your topic. 

Parts of an Introduction paragraph:

  • Hook - Grab the reader’s attention.
    • “I danced so much at my birthday party, my feet are killing me!!”
  • Background Information - Briefly inform the reader of what the essay is about.
    • “The surprise birthday party my friends gave me was amazing.”
  • Thesis - Inform the reader of your opinion and give the 3 supporting points.
    • “I was so glad that the party remained a secret, my friends from the old neighborhood were there, and most surprisingly, I didn’t know I could still dance so much.”

Be sure your Introduction makes a clear, general point, which you can then back up with specifics as you lead to your Thesis Statement.

Thesis Statement

The final sentence in your Introduction paragraph should be your Thesis Statement: a single, clear and concise sentence stating your essay’s main idea or argument.

According to Denis Johnson of the Rasmussen College Library, you should think of a thesis statement as one complete sentence that expresses your position or tells your story in a nutshell.

The Thesis Statement should always take a stand and justify further discussion.

 

3 or More Body Paragraphs (and using Transitions)

Now use the Body of your essay to support the main points you presented in your Thesis Statement. Develop each point using one or more paragraph, and support each point with specific details. Your details may come from research or from your direct experience. Refer to your assignment for required supporting documentation. Your own analysis and discussion of your topic should serve to tie your narrative together, and draw conclusions that support your thesis.

Use effective Transition words and phrases to give your paper “flow,” to connect your ideas and move from one supporting statement to another.

Conclusion Paragraph

  • Restate/Summarize thesis using different words. Link last line back to Hook.
    • “The surprise party my friends had for me was a great reminder of the good old days. It was a wonderful surprise seeing old friends again and have fun like we did when we were younger. My feet will never be the same again.”

Use your conclusion to restate and consolidate all the main points of your essay. You should first restate your Thesis Statement (using slightly different phrasing this time). Give closure to your essay by resolving any outstanding points, and by leaving your readers with a final thought regarding the future or long-term implications of your argument. Your Conclusion is not the place to introduce new ideas or topics that did not appear earlier in your paper.

Citations

Don’t forget to cite each source of any information that you used -  using In-Text Citations throughout your paper, and a References page at the end. Use these LibGuides to help you with your In-Text Citations and your References page.

(Sample Essay excerpts and instructions, thanks to Professor Deborah Ashby: Monroe College, Department of Social Sciences)