Reading & Writing Across Curriculum

Essay Structure

Academic essays usually include the following types of paragraphs (click on the links to learn more about each type of paragraph):

introductory paragraph (introduction)

Introduces the topic and main ideas of the essay and ends with a thesis statement summing up the paper's main point
body paragraphs Demonstrates your main point through discussion of examples, quotations, and other evidence and details.
concluding paragraph (conclusion) Summarizes the main point of the paper and explains why it is important or interesting


Essays generally have one introductory paragraph and one concluding paragraph, with many body paragraphs in between. You can think of an essay as similar to a hamburger; the introduction and conclusion are like the top and bottom buns of a burger, while the meat, lettuce, cheese, and other fillings are the body paragraphs.


The main nourishment in a hamburger comes from the fillings. But without the buns, the fillings would be very messy and difficult to eat. Likewise, the bulk of the argumentation or ideas in your paper appear in the body paragraphs. But without the introduction and conclusion, readers might not be able to digest your ideas. The introdution lets readers know what to expect, so they will not be confused by your points or wonder where your argument is headed. The conclusion sums up so that readers leave the essay with the most important ideas from your paper in their minds. Together, the introduction and conclusion create a neater package that allows readers to make sense of the body paragraphs.

This page was created by Karin Spirn.

Reading and Writing Resources

Meghan Swanson
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Originally created by
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Page last modified: April 25, 2017