Every college essay you write must have structure - aka anatomy. Structure lets your professor follow your thought process, critical when proving your point. When was the last time you won an argument by talking in circles and mixing up ideas? Your essays need to move your professor from point to point to point to conclusion.
So here's our take on the basic anatomy of a college essay--you can even use it as a template moving forward. Note: This is assuming that most essays are about five to seven doubled-spaced pages.
Don't forget the obvious. Put your name, the date the essay is submitted, the name of the class, and name of your professor in a list on the top right or left corner.
Length: About five to 10 words, and make sure it fits onto one line
Main Purpose: To say what the essay is about
Even though you have a guaranteed reader--your professor--the title should still grab attention. You are likely being graded on that. But avoid complicating the title. Say what the essay is about, simply and tightly.
Length: One to two paragraphs
Main Purpose: To provide context for your thesis
The introduction sets up your piece. Your professor is about to read your thesis statement for the first time. What does he or she have to know first to understand the context of your argument?
Length: One sentence
Main Purpose: Communicate your argument
The thesis statement is the heart of your piece. It must be strong and take a stance. You know you're taking a position when someone could argue against your thesis.
Length: About five to seven sentences each, about eight to 12 paragraphs in an essay
Main Purpose: To prove your thesis
This is the meat of your essay. Every paragraph should contain one idea, with some explanation and/or hard evidence (such as examples and reputable statistics) to support it. An organizational trick is to state the paragraph's main idea in the first sentence. Once you've written the piece, read only the first sentence of every paragraph. If the sentences flow, you're in a good place. If they don't make sense, go back and edit.
Length: One paragraph
Main Purpose: To tie up your entire essay
Don't introduce new information in the conclusion. It's the place to summarize your essay and drive your thesis home. Give your professor a final thought to remember.
Length: As long as it needs to be to cite every source
Main Purpose: To show where your evidence came from
Citations give validity to your sources and show that you didn't just fabricate research. They are a "necessary evil"--be sure to include them.
Keep this framework handy the next time you begin outlining an essay.
Word to your flocker.