Help with Essay Writing

To write a great essay for college, university or application to graduate school or an MBA program you need to understand the basics of academic writing.

Before dealing with the structure of an entire essay – you need to fully understand the correct structure of a paragraph, several of which will combine to form your finished essay.

What is a paragraph?

It is a collection of sentences which are related to each other. The purpose of these sentences is to discuss an idea. Normally one paragraph deals with just a single idea or concept. A typical paragraph may be as short as just one sentence or as long as ten sentences.

There is no hard rule; however, as a guide, a minimum of three sentences is considered normal in order to clearly explain an idea. If you need to use more sentences to fully explain your thoughts about the idea, then that is fine.

A paragraph is an independent piece of writing – it can exist on its own. For example, when answering a test question, you might write just one single paragraph.
    How would you define the objectives of strategic planning in business? Give an example based on the course material you have read.

Longer written work, for example, an essay, dissertation or thesis is made up of multiple paragraphs. Therefore, the paragraph is the basic building block of good academic writing.

Three Essential Parts of a Paragraph

Normally, you will find a paragraph consists of three distinct sections:
  • a topic sentence
  • supporting sentences
  • a concluding sentence

Each of these has its own purpose:

Topic sentence

This clearly explains the primary or principal idea within the paragraph. Not only should it clearly state the idea, but it should also provide boundaries within which the topic will be discussed in the paragraph.


Gold (topic), a precious metal, is highly valued because of its two main characteristic s (controlling idea).

In the topic sentence, the part of the sentence referred to as the controlling idea explains the precise nature of the idea to be discussed. In the example above, the topic and controlling idea are both expressed in the same sentence.

Supporting sentences

These help develop the opening sentence or topic sentence. Typically supporting sentences will provide evidence about, or validate, the topic sentence.

For example, supporting sentences related to the topic sentence above might include:
  • Firstly, gold is lustrously beautiful and is able to resist corrosion.
  • For example, many gold coins which have been found appear in excellent condition, as they would have been when first minted centuries ago.
  • Science and industry are also attracted to gold because of its special characteristics.
  • Recently, gold has been used in the aerospace industry.

Concluding sentence

This indicates the ending of the paragraph and often provides key points for the reader to recall regarding the idea discussed.

For example:
  • In conclusion, both its utility and beauty make gold a much valued commodity.

Note: if the paragraph stands on its own, with no other text, a concluding paragraph is crucial. However, when the paragraph is part of a longer piece of written work a concluding sentence is not always necessary.

Essay Writing