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Essays have three parts:

  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Conclusion

Example introduction paragraph

Example introduction paragraph

Video (1:56)

The different parts of an introduction paragraph, and their function, explained.

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Example body paragraph

The different parts of a body paragraph, and their function, explained.

Example body paragraph

Video (2:27)

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Example conclusion paragraph

Example conclusion paragraph

Video (1:30)

The different parts of a conclusion paragraph, and their function, explained.

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Not sure how to start sentences in your essays? Visit the Academic Phrasebank from the University of Manchester for examples you can use in your writing.

Reading information about your essay assignment helps you identify:

  • The learning outcomes related to your essay
  • The main parts of your essay
  • The range of expected content/topics
  • The way your lecturer expects you to write

Check your study guide for assessment information (including assessment criteria to understand how your work will be graded).

Example assignment question

Example assignment question

Key words in assignment questions

Look for the important words that tell you what to write about, as well as the way your lecturer expects you to write.

Key words in assignment questions

Common instruction words

Check with your lecturer about what their instruction words mean (as lecturers sometimes have different expectations.)

Common instruction words

Video (1:11)

Understand your assignment task by:

  • identifying key words
  • identifying the relevant learning outcomes
  • starting to structure your assignment

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To organise content for your essay, it’s useful to relate broad ideas and concepts to more specific types/parts. You can then identify the topic of each paragraph in your essay.

Start by making an ideas map.Ideas map

You can then easily organise content into clear paragraphs.

Ideas and paragraphs

The start of each paragraph (the topic sentence) should clearly tell the reader which idea you are focusing on because the reader can ‘see’ your ideas map, and understand how you have organised your essay.

Topic sentence match

Video: 2.10

Structure your essay by:

  • looking at your assignment task and reading widely
  • making an ideas map
  • organising content into paragraphs

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Journals are collections of articles which focus on particular topics. These articles are published periodically, such as four times a year.  One common purpose of an article is to report on new research. For your essays, journal articles can provide you with up-to-date content on topics you have to write or talk about. To efficiently read journal articles, you need to:

  • Quickly decide if the article is relevant for your assignment
  • Understand the structure so that you can find specific kinds of information

First page skimming

Information on the first page of the article will often help you decide if you should read further.

Journal article first page

Abstract structure

Abstracts are particularly good for quickly deciding if the content matches what you need for your essay. They are usually organised into distinctive parts that provide an overview of the whole article.

Journal abstract

Reading shortcuts

It is not always necessary to read the whole article. Two common shortcuts are:

  • Scanning: Use section headings of the article to find specific kinds of information.
  • Top and tail reading: slowly read the introduction section and then the conclusion to get a more detailed overview.

Common sections of a journal article

Journal articles commonly have distinctive parts (eg, Abstract, Literature Review, Discussion…). Each part has a clear function, which helps you to find specific information. (You may not need to read the whole thing.)

There are different note taking options to keep track of your reading for essays:

  • Note taking apps (good for adding images, graphs, pdf attachments, etc)
  • Reading grids (good for comparing research findings)
  • Three column method (good for adding examples and follow up questions)

Example notes using OneNote

OneNote example

Note taking apps

Reading grids

Reading grids

Three columns

Three column method

Video (1:52)

To answer assignment questions, you often need to group content from your readings into broad categories - often called themes. This helps you identify reoccurring topics across different readings.

Themes and sources

Showing your lecturer that you can identify themes in your essay is important because:

  • Themes focus on the big ideas and not just the people who have written about them, and
  • You can demonstrate deep understanding of the topic

Thematic paragraph