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Clear Essay

How is an essay structured?

In order for your essay to be convincing and make sense, it needs to be presented inside a well structured piece of writing. How do you do this within the framework of an essay's general structure of Introduction,Body, Conclusion? Firstly, you need to be clear about what elements you should include within these three sections of an essay. The table below outlines these elements.

Introduction General statement or orientation to topic
Thesis statement
Brief summary of the main topics/arguments/points made in the essay
Body paragraphs
  1. Topic sentence A
    1. supporting sentence
    2. supporting sentence
    3. supporting sentence
  • Topic sentence B
    1. supporting sentence
    2. supporting sentence
    3. supporting sentence
  • Topic sentence C
    1. supporting sentence
    2. supporting sentence
    3. supporting sentence

  • These sentences support, expand or explain the point made in the topic sentence
    ConclusionRestatement or summary of the main points made in the body paragraphs and a final comment (if appropriate)

    You also need to be clear about the function of each of these essay sections.

    © Copyright 2000
    Comments and questions should
    be directed to Unilearning@uow.edu.au


    When the argument is not clear

    In the paragraphs which formed the body of the essay we saw that these paragraphs argued there were a number of obstacles blocking the unification of the Italian states into one nation. Each paragraph discussed one of these obstacles. Let's now compare the structure of this essay's argument to another essay written in response to the same question. Can you see this essay's weaknesses? The comments in the right hand side column highlight what is wrong with this example essay.

    Sample essay1

    Essay Question: Italy on the eve of 1860 has often been described as an unlikely nation. Why?

    Before 1860 Italy was a collection of independent states. The peninsula of Italy on the eve of 1860 included the Restoration States formed by Austria and the Congress of Vienna in 1815. These states consisted of the Papal States, ruled by the Pope, Lombardy-Venetia which was an Austrian province, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies which included the island of Sicily and the Italian mainland south of the Papal States and which was ruled by a Spanish Bourbon. There were the Duchies of Tuscany, Modena, Parma and Lucca, all ruled by members of the Austrian Royal House, and the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, the only Independent state. Despite the independence of the states before the 1860s, on March 17, 1861, Italy become one nation.functions as Introduction
    What is the thesis statement?
    What is being argued? Despite an abundance of description, it seems the writer has failed to take a position on why Italy was seen as an unlikely nation on the eve of 1860.

    Also, the points discussed the essay's body have not been outlined in this introduction.
    Economically, Duggan (1994) points out that Italy seemed to be stagnating during the period before 1860 while the economic pace in the rest of Europe was quickening.....Body
    Relevance of this point to the argument and the topic is not clear.
    Leeds suggests the average Italian around 1860 "was a poor peasant, illiterate, living on the edge of starvation" (1974:10). The peasant presumably had little or no thought to any matters other than his or her own survival .... Peasants spoke the dialect of their own region and were generally illiterate. In fact, when Italy was unified in 1861, only four per cent of the population had knowledge of the official Italian language (Duggan, 1994:156).Body
    How does this point relate to the question?
    Reliance on an author and a quote rather than establishing a clear topic sentence.
    Mack-Smith (1959) comments that many secret societies emerged after 1815 because of the Restoration States' vigorous censorship. According to Duggan (1994:103), these secret societies "lacked a clear sense of what they hoped to achieve on a practical level". They were integral, however, to a number of unsuccessful uprisings that were occurring at this time in many of the states.....Body
    The emergence of the societies needs to be explicitly related to the topic of the essay: Italian unification.
    During the 1840s-1850s, Jucker (1970) says the key figures of "Il Risorgimento", the Italian independence movement were Count Camillo di Cavour, Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi. Cavour became Prime Minister..... Mazzini was an idealist ..... Garibaldi did not belong to the political elite....... It has been suggested that "Cavour and Mazzini didn't like each other" (Mack-Smith, 1971:26). Cavour was a practical politician whereas Mazzini was.... Garibaldi felt Cavour was a "coward and a fomenter of civil war" (Mack-Smith, 1959:16).Body
    Although discussing the independence movement, the writer merely describes the key figures rather than focussing on its relevance to the question. A heavy reliance on quotes.

    1This essay has been adapted from material developed by R. Woodward-Kron, E. Thomson & J. Meek (2000) Academic Writing: a language based guide (CD-ROM), University of Wollongong

    The essay above presents an answer to the question 'What was the state of affairs in the Italian states around 1860?' or 'Describe the events and people of the Italian states before the 1860s?' instead of answering the given essay question . It looks at the economic and social state of Italy at this time and provides a description of political figures and events of this period but the student has failed to develop an argument relating to why the Italy on the eve of 1860 was considered unlikely to unify. By starting off each paragraph with a quote or a reference to a theorist, the student fails to establish clear topic sentences, and so the main point of each paragraph and their relevance to the argument presented in the essay is not clear. As a result, this student's essay fails to develop an argument in relation to the set essay question and would probably fail.

    © Copyright 2000
    Comments and questions should
    be directed to Unilearning@uow.edu.au


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