What are the key elements of an essay

You may clearly understand what an essay is and have had the experience of writing a number. However, it is important that as you advance academically you get to improve your methodology of research, writing, and organization.

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Studying the different elements of an essay equips us with the skill to write an essay more effectively and in a well-structured format. In writing, there are always areas to improve to produce quality work.


What is an essay?

We can simply define an essay as writing on a certain subject. An essay is a well-structured piece of writing containing several elements that merge to create an argument, describe an experience, narrate a happening, or state a problem and provide a solution.

Parts of an essay

It takes a few pieces to put together to create a good essay. In this section, we will learn the parts of an essay and how we use them to craft good writing.

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The Introduction

The introduction part of an essay is the reader’s initial contact with your writing. It is herein that you not only introduce your topic but also may give some insight into the structure of your essay.

Your task as a writer at this point is to seize your reader’s attention and make a clear argument. We achieve this by using; an opening hook or a thesis statement. To come up with a suitable opening hook or thesis statement, here are a few things you may need to consider;

  • The type of your essay
  • The writing style and tone you want to employ
  • Your intended audience 
  • The kind of text structure you want to establish

In other types of essays, you may need to include an overview of the plot in the introduction. For most essays, however, the opening hook or thesis statement is always enough.

The body paragraphs

The body is the longest part of an essay. You should present, develop and defend your argument and ideas in the body.

 In a typical essay, you will write a few paragraphs with the same structure but different content. Each body paragraph should have a main idea or a claim, which in turn should be supported by evidence or relevant examples. This is the general format of a paragraph within the body part of an essay;

  • Topic sentence – the first sentence in a paragraph that communicates the main idea or claim of the preceding text in the paragraph
  • Explanation – this is a clarification or justification of the details in the topic sentence
  • Evidence – provide proof to support your claim. The evidence should be based on your research such as; case studies, statistics, experiments, quotes, journal articles, etc. Remember to cite all your research.
  • Comment – this is a how statement and explains how your evidence supports your claim while also mentioning its strengths and limitations

While writing your paragraphs in the body of the essay, a good approach would be to start with a paragraph that has the strongest argument and wind up your body part of the essay with a paragraph that has the weakest argument. Make a smooth transition between the current paragraph and the next paragraph or with the next part of the essay with a link sentence.

The conclusion

Mind your audience by finishing off your great essay with an even greater conclusion. The conclusion ought to reaffirm your thesis statement. Employ creativity and just as you did in the introduction and body. You should make sure your conclusion leaves the reader with a rhetorical question that leaves them thinking more about your topic.

Elements of literature in an essay

An essay is a literary work. It follows the general writing structure of any other work of literature. Conversely,  you could have come across literature elements of an essay in literature. These two dynamics are not mutually exclusive to each other and sometimes merge in the creation of literary works. The setting, point of view, character analysis, and plot summary all contribute to being elements of literature in an essay.

Elements of an essay

To fulfill this writing we need to appropriately answer the question, what are the basic elements of an essay? An essay contains certain elements and a specific form because it serves a particular purpose. To accomplish its purpose an essay must therefore incorporate a few elements of academic writing: a suitable tone, a clear thesis, a comprehensible structure, and ample fitting evidence.


This is the writer’s attitude, that is, their outlook on the subject matter. The tone of an essay is employed depending on the audience and the purpose of the essay. The purpose of the essay would be to inform, analyze, criticize, validate, etc. The tone is achieved through the use of relevant vocabulary. There are various tones you may employ in your writing such as sad, humorous, formal, informal, optimistic, horror, etc.

As a writer, you are not limited to using one tone in your essay. You may have a variety of tones infused together to bring out a sense of reality. For example, you may infuse horror and humor into a certain event. However, it is important to note that there will always be a dominant tone that carries through any work of writing.

A clear thesis

A clear thesis statement contributes to an essay’s bearing and structure. Remember that a thesis is not the topic itself but an interpretation of the subject matter. As such a thesis statement should leave room for argument and be supported by evidence. Here are a few elements of a clear thesis statement;

  • Concise – should be short, direct, and to the point without any unnecessary wording
  • Coherent – should sum up different ideas on a topic into one main theme
  • Contentious – should be an arguable statement that needs evidence to be backed up
  • Confident – should claim to strengthen the reader’s assurance in the writings

A comprehensible structure

Essay structure refers to the look of an essay on a page and the building of paragraphs towards that structure. An essay is made up of several paragraphs that can either be indented or in block format. The paragraphs however are comprised of the introduction, body, and conclusion parts of an essay.

Ample fitting evidence

Evidence is used to strengthen your thesis statement and any affirmation you make toward your argument. There are ways in which you may infuse evidence into your writing as below:

  • Offer evidence  in agreement with your claim and add some relevant concepts of your own
  • State evidence that challenges your stance and refutes that evidence in a stronger position
  • Contrast sources against each other
  • Use quotations to back up your thesis statement instead of merely restating it

Evidence is infused in essays in the form of summarizing, paraphrasing and quotations. Ensure to cite all the evidence within your text. This not only gives credit to the sources but also differentiates other writers’ ideas from your own.

Elements of writing

Whether you are writing a brief essay taking a few minutes or a long narrative essay that requires critical research spanning over a few days, all essays employ elements of writing. There are predominantly five elements of writing also known as elements of style. Let’s briefly have a look at each of them.

  1. Main Idea

Good writing aims its focus on a clear idea, thesis, or argument on which to build your material around. It includes secondary ideas that support and emphasize the main idea.

  1. Organization

This is the articulate procedural arrangement of arguments. It comprises of keeping your audience focused on the central and secondary ideas. A decent organization is logical and progressive.

  1. Support

Always support your assertions by using: examples, quotations, statistics, etc. to clarify your thoughts and validate your argument.

  1. Point of View

Use language appropriately as it communicates your attitude towards your subject and readers. Strike a balance between formal and informal language and remain relevant to the context. For technical writing, use jargon only when necessary and useful to the reader.

  1. Correctness

Ensure your writing is free of grammatical, spelling, or punctuation mistakes. A well-written essay shows attention to detail and tidiness.

Essay terms explained

Essay terms are used when giving instructions on the requirements needed to fulfill certain writing. It is therefore beneficial to familiarize yourself with the vocabulary, rhetorical strategy, and requirements of essay writing. In the table below are a few essay terms and their descriptions.

Essay Term Description
Analyze An in-depth investigation of the subject, broken up into constituent parts and discussed distinctly
Argue Give an opinion and support with evidence
Compare/Contrast Outline significant similarities and differences between two or more phenomena or objects
Critique Judging text as to the extent of truth in it pointing out its aims, strengths, and weaknesses
Define An accurate description of a term or idea
Demonstrate Do an illustration of how something happens or is done
Explain A thorough account of the meaning of something within a certain context
Interpret Establish your understanding of a particular subject
Outline Give the key points to a particular topic
Review Look exhaustively into a topic. This should be a critical assessment
State Pointing out the major aspects of a subject without being overly descriptive
Summarize Give a compressed account only highlighting the central facts

In a nutshell

Understanding the elements of an essay allows you to produce more quality writing. Hence mastery of all the parts of an essay, elements of literature, and essay terms are all the ingredients needed to skillfully articulate and show the elements of an essay.

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