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Academic essay writing

This page provides a basic essay writing template. Please also refer to Study Skills menu for pages on developing academic English, constructing paragraphs, critical analysis and referencing and bibliography.

Introduction: approximately 10% of word count

Introduce the topic of the essay and then state how you are going to approach it.


  • Introduce / establish background to the topic
  • Establish the reason for writing the essay (perhaps re-write the essay title, including the instruction words).
  • Outline how the essay will be answered
  • See examples below

This essay will……….describe/analyse/discuss/evaluate etc.

This essay aims firstly to examine…..

Secondly, important issues such as…

Useful link: http://www.phrasebank.manchester.ac.uk/introducing-work/

Main body: approximately 80% of word count divided into paragraphs for each of your main points

Main body of essay separated into paragraphs

Each paragraph then needs to be structured:

  • One key point per paragraph introduced in first sentence (Topic sentence)
  • Key point then developed using evidence (references) – e.g. supporting or arguing against a claim
  • Concluding sentence sums up the paragraph
  • Paragraphs lead logically from one to another

Top Tip: See handouts on writing good paragraphs, available in HE Library

Useful link: http://www.phrasebank.manchester.ac.uk/being-critical/

Conclusion: approximately 10% of word count

Re-state the question

e.g. This essay attempted to…

This essay has discussed the …….

The purpose of this essay was to…..

This study set out to …

This paper has argued that …

This essay has discussed the reasons for …

Summarise the key points – no new material should be introduced

Give final views

Useful link: http://www.phrasebank.manchester.ac.uk/writing-conclusions/

Referencing and Reference List – not include in your word count

All the sources of information you have mentioned (referred to) must be briefly referenced in the correct format in your work (in text), and fully referenced in a Reference List at the end of your work.
Study Skills recommend identifying which referencing system you are using e.g. APA 6th or Harvard, printing it out in full and having it bound in the HE Library. It doesn’t cost a lot and will help you throughout your course.

Useful link: http://www.phrasebank.manchester.ac.uk/referring-to-sources/

If you need help with referencing, workshops are available in the HE Library during the first academic term, or you can book an appointment with a Study Skills advisor – www.studyskills@barnsley.ac.uk Tel: 01226 216 884
Remember – incorrect referencing could cost you valuable marks!

For further information and printed copies of the above, please visit the Study Skills Station in the HE Library. To print out or download and save your own copy please click Academic essay writing template and constructing paragraphs

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