What Is the Basic Academic Essay Format?

The basic academic essay format is a custom structure that includes four parts: introduction, body, conclusion, and reference list. The text is not supposed to have any sub-headings (with the only exception being the reference list heading), but it must be broken into paragraphs to look accurate and read smoothly. The correct way of separating your paragraphs will be discussed below, as it is closely connected to the basic four-element structure.


The introduction has to inform the reader of what the essay will be about and state its goal (description, evaluation, comparison and contrast, etc.). In other words, the introduction shows your essay topic in a broader context. This part should occupy no more than the first two paragraphs of your paper; ideally, only the very first one.


The body of the essay consists of what you actually have to say on the subject. You should make a separate paragraph for each important point. This part can include 3 to 12 paragraphs, depending on your word count requirements.

Proper paragraphing of the body is not an easy thing to master. The general rule is that each paragraph should contain a single idea and be connected to both the previous and the next ones. Here are more tips:

  • The first sentence should either introduce the paragraph’s main idea or be linked to what was discussed above. In the latter case, it has to begin with something like “However,” “Despite that,” “Therefore”.
  • The next several sentences must support the main point by stating evidence or further explanations. They may also show exceptions and alternative points of view.
  • The last sentence contains a short summary of the paragraph’s idea.


The conclusion is the very last paragraph in your paper. The purpose of the conclusion is to answer the question you have asked in the introduction, and to also remind the reader of the essay’s aim and methods you used in your research.

The introduction and conclusion are the two essay parts students have the most problems with. Make sure that your introduction clearly states the problem explored in your paper, and that your conclusion demonstrates the result of your research.

If you stick to the custom structure described above, it will make your essay logical, flow smoothly, and consistent with the academic requirements. However, the basic academic format does not regulate such details like the proper paragraph size. You will have to experiment with them until you develop your own set of effective techniques.

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