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Study Skills- Essay Structure

A guide focussing on university essay structure expectations.

Essay Structure

This guide discusses basic university essay structure. 

A basic essay structure consists of these main elements:

  • Introduction
  • Main Body
  • Conclusion
  • Reference List

Your essay is usually written in the third person, meaning you will use formal language such as:
"it was suggested..." rather than "I suggested..."

It is important that your essay is clear to understand so that you can identify where you have met specific criteria. By producing a clear, well planned essay you are more likely to maintain focus and ensure that you are meeting the specific criteria asked for by your tutor. 

Essays do not have subheadings but are a continuous piece of text. The only subheading expected is to indicate the beginning of your reference list. Your reference list is not included in your word count but citations included in your text are included. 

Below is a link to a document to support you with structuring university essays and a video to support with overall essay structure. 

If you have any questions after reading this Library Guide you can ask questions at the Study Skills drop in, every weekday on the library website or in person on Thursdays in the Murray Health drop in space between 3:30pm-4:30pm. 

You can book a one to one appointment of up to one hour with a Study Skills Adviser to discuss sections of your work either on Microsoft Teams or at the St Peters Library or the Library in the Murray Health building. You are entitled to two appointments per assignment.

We run Masterclasses, open to all students on a rolling programme on topics such as Academic Writing and Assignment Planning. 

Book an appointment, look at the wider library website and explore our upcoming masterclasses below:


Check the University of Sunderland Generic Assessment Criteria below to gain a further insight into expectations for university study. 


Hull Uni Library (2022) Essay writing: Structuring your essay. Available at: (Accessed: 13 February 2024).