Essay Structure by Writing Center By Harvard

The subject matter of such an essay determines its architecture. Thus, you find the information readers need to know and the sequence in which it needs to be delivered.


Even though different types of academic papers require unique writing approaches, there are some common instructions that are suitable for each of them.

Answering questions for researching

An academic paper involves different kinds of information, organized into separate parts. When it comes to a classic study, it aims to perform standard operations, specifying the argument, researching data, finding objections, and summarizing. While introductions and conclusions usually have a standard placement, other sections can be organized randomly. For instance, counterarguments can be organized into a separate section, integrated into the paragraph, or placed before the ending. Background details are usually mentioned at the beginning to make up the theoretical basis for the introduction and the first argument. Think of possible essay sections by answering certain questions your reader might ask while getting familiar with your paper.

What? The major thing that readers should know is the subject matter of your discussion. You have to provide evidence that would prove that the described detailed are real. By analyzing your evidence, you demonstrate the reasonability of your research. This “what” section is revealed early in the essay, just after the introduction. As long as an academic essay is based on observations, this is where you have most to talk about when you start writing. Don’t forget that this section can’t cover more than half of your final paper. If it does, the content will lose balance and look more like a mix of separate facts and ideas.

How? A reader will want to have proof that your arguments are undeniably truthful. Thus, you will have to take the challenge by explaining how your initial statement stands up to counterarguments. Also, you will have to analyze the way in which a new vision of the evidence can influence your initial claims. A standard essay usually involved at least one “how” section, coming just after the “what.” Also, you should be ready for an unexpected complication of arguments somewhere in an essay. This usually depends on the length of your paper.

Why? You should be ready to explain why your claim is important. If your reflection on the subject matter affects anyone else besides you, you need to go deeper into details. By answering this question, you will address more serious complications in your academic paper. Thus, your readers will have an opportunity to understand your subject within a larger context. Even though this question is usually reflected in your introduction, the final answer is represented at the end. Otherwise, it might be looking as if your essay is left unfinished or even illogical.


Structuring your essay

You should structure your academic paper according to the reader’s logic. By knowing their interests, you lead your research in a certain direction and prove your arguments accordingly. To make it simple, you can keep track of your ideas via a factual statement. This way you can always think of the reader’s interests when it is needed in the process of crafting your paper.

The so-called essay maps contain background information, counterarguments, an examination of primary sources, and analysis based on secondary sources. These maps have nothing to do with paragraphs, as well as sections. Instead, they address the major arguments by following these steps:

  • Write your thesis in one or two sentences and then explain why it is important. Find out what a reader can know after analyzing the claim with you. At this point, you have to deal with the “why” section that you’ll eventually address in your final statement.
  • Explain why your claim is a serious topic for discussion and name a couple of reasons to support the case. This is where you start crafting the “what” section. Alternately, you may start your paper with some background details before starting the major claim.
  • Specify the reason and mention some evidence until you create a draft of the entire essay.

Your essay map should be created in such a way to cover the previous answers to the major questions of what, how, and why. Avoid putting ideas in a hectic order because the paper won’t look cohesive. Still, maps can be flexible to a certain extent unless the logical organization can be followed.


Finding structural flaws

When it comes to structural mistakes, they are usually identified in the process of writing. Walk-through papers reflect on the architecture of their sources rather than the establishment of their own. This type of essay usually contains a descriptive explanation rather than an argumentative one. Don’t be afraid of opening your paragraph with time words (first, before, after) or listing words (also, in addition, furthermore). Even though they don’t necessarily indicate trouble, these structural elements often indicate that a paper requires certain improvements. In other words, they signal that the essay appeals to the logical placement of sources or just specify the details one after another.