Essays consisting of an introduction, a main body (which may be divided into sections), and a conclusion are referred to as three-part essays. You may be used to this essay format from school.
In the introduction, the reader is introduced to the topic that will be discussed and to the argument that will be presented. After the introduction comes the main part of the text, where the analysis and discussion are carried out and results are presented. Depending on the length of the essay, this body section may or may not be divided into different sections, and the division may be thematic, chronological, or based on comparison and contrast, for instance. In the final part of the essay, the argument will be summed up and conclusions will be drawn from what has been discussed in the body.
Structure of the three-part essay
Each section of the text needs to be structured in a way that helps the reader understand the argument and the points that the writer wishes to make.
The main purpose of the introduction is to provide the reader with a clear idea of the focus and aim of the text. The topic of the essay/article is presented in the introduction, often accompanied by a thesis statement (the claim that the writer wishes to make). Depending on the type of essay, the introduction section also
- provides the context/background of the argument
- introduces the theoretical perspectives, terminology, etc. that will be used
- explains how the writing will be organised
All the information in the introduction must be relevant to the points that are subsequently made in the body of the text. The introduction often starts with a broad, or general, description of the topic and then gradually narrows down to the specific focus of the essay. Read more about the structure of introductions, and learn about the CARS (Creating a Research Space) model here:
After the introduction comes the main part of the text, which is often referred to as the body. This is where the analysis and discussion will be carried out and where results are presented. Everything that is brought up in this part of the text relates back to what was presented in the introduction. Depending on discipline, aim and context, there are various ways of structuring the body of the text. A basic strategy is to deal with one thing at a time and to order the different issues that are brought up in a logical sequence that makes the argument easy to follow.
Depending on the length of the essay, the body may or may not be divided into different sections. Note that there is never a heading called "Body" in essays; this word is only used when talking about the essay format to signal that it is the bulk of the essay text.
In the final part of the essay, the argument is summed up and conclusions are drawn from what has been discussed. Generally, a conclusion should not contain any new facts or ideas, but instead provide a brief restatement of the main arguments that have been presented in the essay.
The conclusion might refer back to the introduction and comment on the thesis statement or the research questions presented there. In some texts, it is appropriate to include a look forward, in the form of suggestions for further study, for instance.
You can watch this video for more information about the three-part essay structure:
Instructional video from the free online MOOC "Writing in English at University" which was developed at Lund University in 2016.