Writing an essay: How to structure an essay exercise

The purpose of any essay is to convince the person reading it that your opinion you've written on a topic in it is the correct one. An essay works if it does this. Although what you say in an essay (the reasons/arguments you choose to give and the evidence and examples you give to support them) is very important, a good essay also needs to both sound professional and be easy to read and understand.

To do this, you have to express what you write (both the words and ideas) well. Your essay should both use appropriate and varied phrases or expressions (i.e. formal and academic) and the ideas that you write (the arguments and points) need to flows well.

What I mean by 'flow well', is that each argument/point you make in the essay naturally follows the one that you wrote before. Doing this is very similar to giving good directions to a person to get to somewhere. When you give directions, in order to not get the person you're telling them to become lost or confused, you have to both give them in the correct sequential order (i.e. where to go or what to do first, second etc..) and to connect each part of the directions together (e.g. 'Walk down the road until you reach the supermarket. At the supermarket, cross onto the other side of the road...').

To show you what I mean, look at the following directions to a restaurant below. Apart from the third one (which is in yellow and has a tick next to it), the rest are not in the correct order (and don't make any sense). Rearrange each part of the directions (in white) by dragging and dropping them with your mouse or finger so they are in the correct order.

When you have finished, press the 'Check' button to see if you are right.

Please note: This exercise (and the one below it) doesn't work on versions 8 or 7 of the Internet Explorer browser.

The restaurant is about 5 minutes down this road, opposite a supermarket.

To get to the restaurant, take the underground to Kings Cross.

When you are on the other side of the road, turn left and walk up the road.

After leaving the underground station, cross over the road at the traffic lights directly in front of the station.

Continue walking until you reach a church on your right. Go down the road on your right directly after the church.

And like with giving good directions, how you structure what you write in an essay is equally important to making it effective. With an essay, you need to organise the different parts/paragraphs of what you write into a good order. You do this by first ensuring the essay has an introduction, body (the main part of the essay where you write the reasons/arguments) and conclusion. Then, you make sure that each argument/reason is written in its own paragraph (or paragraphs). And that each paragraph you use naturally follows each other (like with directions).

Link the paragraphs together

But an essay doesn't only flow well because of how you order what you write in it, you also need to ensure that the different parts/paragraphs of the essay are linked/connected together. You do this by either referring in the last sentence of one paragraph what the next paragraph will talk about, or by referring in the first sentence of one paragraph what you talked about in the previous one.

By doing this, it makes any essay you write a lot easier to read and as a consequence, a lot easier to understand. And if you want to convince somebody that your opinion/argument in the essay is right, this is fundamental.

To help you learn how to do this, I have created the below exercise.


In this exercise you have to put the paragraphs of an essay on 'Should schools use computers or textbooks for teaching subjects in class?' into the correct order. Apart from two paragraphs (which are in yellow with a tick next to them), the rest of the paragraphs are in the incorrect order.

When deciding which paragraph goes where, read each paragraph and decide what it is talking about. Focus especially on the first and last sentence of each one (this will help you to guess which paragraph goes before and after it).

To rearrange the paragraphs, drag and drop each one with your mouse or finger (on touch screen devices).

When you have finished, press the 'Check' button to see if you are right.

Should schools use computers or textbooks for teaching subjects in class?

Not only do they encourage students to learn more quickly than textbooks can, but they can also be used to monitor the individual performance of students. As students complete tests and exams on applications they are using on computers, a record of their results is automatically kept. This makes it easier for the teacher to identify issues any of their students are having with a particular area of a subject, so they can undertake the necessary actions to solve them.

One of the reasons which people who support the idea of replacing textbooks with computer software for teaching in classrooms give is that it makes the learning environment more enjoyable and productive. As most educational software applications on computers are interactive (they can contain videos, animations, games etc...), they are more engaging for students to use. Making students want to use them more than reading a textbook. As a result, students learn not only more, but do so more quickly than they would by using a textbook.

For hundreds of years, textbooks have been used by schools as one of the main methods to educate their students. But with the rise of technology (computers, the internet etc...) many experts are now saying that students should learn many subjects (from maths to geography) at school using computers instead. So why do these experts believe that software on a computer is better for learning than using a traditional textbook?

So if educational software is so much better than using traditional textbooks to educate students, why are most schools still using textbooks? The answer is quite simple, cost.

There are even some educational software applications which can do this automatically. The application itself monitors the students' performance on the exercises and tests they complete. If it identifies an area or topic a student is struggling on, it will give the student extra exercises and/or help on the area to ensure that they understand the concept they are learning. Although a teacher can do all of this without the need of a software application, it takes a lot longer to do it manually. And if a teacher has a lot of students, they won't have the time to monitor every student effectively.

The main problem about using computer software to teach subjects instead of textbooks is that it is a lot more expensive. Not only is the software more expensive per student than a textbook, but all the teaching staff will have to be professionally trained to use it. On top of this, schools will have to pay to have a new or better computer network installed and to employ new staff to look after it.

It is this cost which means that the only schools which will be able to afford to replace their textbooks with computers will be private schools. For schools in most countries (and especially in the developing world), the cost of replacing their textbooks with computer software will be too expensive.

Although there seems little doubt about the educational benefits of using computer software applications instead of textbooks in the classroom for students (they are more engaging, make them learn both more quickly and productively, and make it easier to monitor and improve students' academic performance), the problem is with the cost. It is not only that the software is more expensive to purchase than textbooks, but the schools will also have to install a new or better computer network, pay for somebody to look after it and provide a tablet or laptop for each of their students to use. It is this cost which I believe that will mean that most schools will continue to use textbooks for a long time into the future.

In addition to the cost of the software and the network, schools will also have to provide each of their students with their own tablet or laptop to use. And as children have a habit of dropping or losing things, schools will also have to pay for the replacement or repair throughout the year of many of the tablets and laptops which they provide to their students.

You now know what makes a good structure of an essay and why it is important. But when do you do it?

When to structure your essays

You should structure your essay when you are planning what you are going to write. The first thing you need to do when planning an essay is to decide what the opinion (or main argument) of your essay will be. After this, you have to think of some good reasons which you will use to convince the person reading it that the opinion (or main argument) of your essay is right. After you have done this, you then decide how you are going to structure what you are going to write.

To learn how to decide what to write about in an essay, do my exercise on 'Writing an essay: Choosing what to write about'.

To learn good essay vocabulary, do my exercise on 'Writing an essay: Phrases to use in your essays part 1'.

Once you have this structure, this is when you start to write your essay.

Write the introduction last

One last piece of advice is that you should write the introduction last. The introduction of an essay is used to both tell the person reading it what the essay is about and make them want to read more. It is both better and quicker to do this when you have written the rest of the essay, because you know actually what they are going to read about.


Now that you understand how to structure, practise it by writing your own essay.