How to form a working structure for your essay

Forming the correct structure in an essay is essential to delivering your argument in the most persuasive way. It is the structure that will facilitate a cohesive argument which makes the different between a strong argument and an incoherent rambling around a certain subject.

In the article I will outline the fundamental essence of how I managed to form a properly structured first-class essay in my final year.

In order to form a strong structure for your essay you need to understand two things:

  1. What factors are large enough to be defined as building blocks?
  2. What is their logical order?


Building Blocks:

When I say “Building blocks” I mean the main sections and paragraphs of your assessment. I usually found that the most difficult aspect of structuring my essay was deciding which subjects were big enough to be made into sections and which ones were small enough that they could fit within one of the sections.

This is one of the main reasons why I advocate drafting your essay directly while you take notes from reading and research. A great essay is like hot iron which is moulded to make solid steel, and so I found that it always helped to have written material ready to edit and review in order to decide which possible sections are big enough to merit whole paragraphs or sections to themselves. Also, it allows you to see how you fit in the different issues as subordinates to the main paragraphs in a ways which made sense in the context of your argument.

For example, my dissertation was on the Independent Labour Party’s unique electoral success in Glasgow’s East End and South Side between 1931 and 1946. It took me many attempts and re-attempts in order to decide which factors were large enough that they could be the central focus of any of my 3 chapters. The main trend that kept emerging was that the primary conflict over votes was against rival left wing parties, due to the conflict over the same political machinery such as trades unions and co-operative societies. So I dedicated one chapter each to the rivalry with the local branches of the Labour Party and the Communist Party respectively. The final chapter was more difficult to pin down, but I eventually settled on the influence of religious sectarianism on voting trends, because it was the largest overarching issue in which they competed with all of their local rivals.


Logical Order:

Each set of building blocks will have a logical order. Consider the issue where the debate begins and without which the other issues do not make sense.

For example, in my dissertation I ordered the chapters based on the immediate relevance which each section posed to the question. The chapter on the rivalry between the Independent Labour Party and the Labour Party in the particular constituencies came first, because the two parties had split and were fighting to cover exactly the same political ground. The Labour Party practically absorbed all other territory outside Glasgow which made this debate the most important to cover. The chapter on the rivalry between the Independent Labour Party and the Communist party in the particular constituencies came second, because as they moved away from the Labour Party they encroached on the Communists’ territory. The final chapter which dealt with the influence of religious sectarianism on the success of the Independent Labour Party came last because it had an overarching influence across the political dynamics which impacted on the Party’s fortunes in elections in these constituencies.

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