How To Structure An Essay

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When tutoring students, there is one common theme that they all seem to struggle with – how to structure their essays. From conversations with others, it is clear that this is an issue across many essay-based subjects. This leads to problems with their story telling and, inevitably, a lower grade than they are capable of. To overcome this, planning is essential. I make my students do a detailed plan of the essay, before making a spider diagram that summarises the paragraphs with the use of just the theorist and the concept. Therefore, as they write the essay they have a clear understanding of what they should be writing and how the arguments are formed. In this blog I thought I would break it down to what an examiner is looking for when they look at an essay.


The introduction to the essay should clearly answer the question and enable the reader to follow a storyline. In the introduction if there are any words in the essay that are key concepts they should be defined to enable the reader to have a clear understanding of the argument before reading the following paragraphs. For example:

 This essay will explore X Y Z (define these terms). It will argue that (state the answer to the question)

The paragraphs for X -Y- Z should then follow.


Sociology is a theoretical humanities subject. Therefore, the key concepts will all have a theorist behind it that the student should have learnt. Therefore, sentences should be structured with the use of PEE (point, evidence, explanation). For example, a classic paragraph would be formatted such as :

Secondly, I would argue that X has been portrayed. Theorist A (year) states that…. For example…..This shows that…. However Theorist B (year) would argue that…..(Then link it back to the question)


Your conclusion should summarise the essay and attempt to answer the question. A common flaw is to introduce new points here that have never been discussed in the essay. It is likely the question asks for an answer to be reached. There is never a right answer. Instead it is about how to argue your points and reach your own conclusion that is being tested such:

To conclude, in this essay I have explored WXYZ. As can be seen….If I was to carry out further research I would…

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