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Basic Essay Format

The three main parts of an essay are the introduction, the body and the conclusion. Using this basic format will help you write and organize any essay, but you’ve got to be a bit flexible. Keeping this basic essay format in mind is important, but also be sure to let the topic of the paper and the specificities of assignment guide you as well.

Parts of an Essay


The introduction is your opportunity to let your reader know what the essay is about. Start with a hook that draws the reader’s attention right away. This could be a compelling question, quote or statement that will make your reader want to know more. Once you have the reader’s attention, you can introduce basic information about the topic. The facts you share in the introduction should be general, allowing for more detail in the body of the essay.

Thesis Statement

The thesis statement is an important aspect of your essay because it tells the reader what your argument is, outlines limits surrounding the topic and gives a glimpse of the way the paper is organized. Think of the thesis as a road map for the essay, giving the reader clues as to what the paper will say and how you’ll use the main points to support your argument.


The purpose of the body is to support the ideas presented in your thesis statement. Each point should have a dedicated paragraph or two with supporting details throughout. This can be done through research and experiences, which will be based on the parameters of the assignment. You’ll also want to include your own analysis and deductions to support your argument and flesh out each idea.


A transition will connect each paragraph to the one before and link back to your thesis. They are used to help your essay flow from section to section, paragraph to paragraph. Transitions can be one or two words, such as “next,” “in addition,” or “first.” They might also a sentence or two that leads the reader to your next point. In general, the topic sentence of each paragraph will be your transition.


The main job of the conclusion is to tie everything together, leading back to the thesis. It will restate the thesis and resolve any ideas you brought up in the body of the essay. This is also where you will mention any implications of your argument. Never introduce new topics or bring up anything that was not discussed in the paper in your conclusion.


If you use any research in your paper, be sure you cite your sources within the body of the paper as well as in a “Works Cited” page at the end of the essay. Use the style guide and format assigned by your instructor.

Parts of a Paragraph

Each of the paragraphs in your essay will discuss one of the ideas that support your thesis statement. Your paragraphs should each start with a topic sentence, details that support that topic sentence and a conclusion sentence. The purpose of the paragraph and what it discusses will determine the length, but in general, your paragraphs should be at least two complete sentences.

Topic Sentence

The main idea of each paragraph will be outlined in the topic sentence, which links back to your thesis. In most cases, the topic sentence will be the first sentence in your paragraph, but may be placed elsewhere depending on the audience and the organization of the paragraph. The topic sentence is usually the transition between paragraphs.

Supporting Details

Supporting details flesh out your topic sentence and thesis statement. Depending on the genre and assignment, these details should come from a variety of sources, as well as including your own analysis.

Concluding Sentence

Each of your paragraphs should end with a sentence that tie together the ideas presented in the paragraph. Sometimes, it is also the transition that leads into the next paragraph.

Unity and Coherence

The organization of your paragraphs and essay help provide cohesion and understanding for your reader. Topic sentences and well worded sentences throughout also lend unity to your paper.

  • Unity is maintaining a single idea, your thesis, throughout the entire paper. Every detail you add to your essay should link back to this.
  • Coherence is when each point in the essay links to the ones before and after it, providing a logical flow through the paper. The easiest way to do this is to use transitions between each paragraph.