This answer defines an essay and summarises the key components: the introduction, main body and conclusion.
What key components make up an essay?
Essays are a form of academic writing that are used to present a specific viewpoint or argument, usually characterised by their brevity and keen focus. This is in contrast to other academic styles such as reports or dissertations, which usually cover a wider topic area or the presentation of primary research studies, and as such require more substantial word counts. Essays are written in prose (with some rare exceptions) and using the third person, ie. “it is implied that…” rather than “I think that…”. Essays should flow from point to point such that no part of the writing feels out of place, and the argument can be clearly understood as a whole. The standard components of an essay comprise an introduction, main body and conclusion. Most essays are then followed by a list of references that have been used in the main body as evidence and examples.
The introduction to an essay presents the main question or claim being made by the writer. It is used to briefly provide a background to the subject, as well as specifying the methods that will be used throughout the essay, signposting the key points to be made.
The main body of the text is then made up of three or more paragraphs that each contribute a key idea to the argument. Each of these should provide data or examples as evidence to support the assertions of the text. Critical analysis should also be present throughout this section, developing the discussion of the topic, and strengthening the argument. An essay will contain as many paragraphs as there are points to be made to fully answer the question.
The conclusion is then used to sum up the argument that has been presented. The overall claim of the essay is reiterated, and no new information is presented. This section of an essay is often used to discuss potential future research or recommendations that have become apparent due to the limitations of the essay.