Defining a Short Essay Format

The short essay is the meat and potatoes of the college curriculum. It’s the staple of your diet as a student. You’re going to be doing a lot of essay writing, so get yourself used to the idea. Luckily, the structure of the short essay is quite simple. In its broad construction it’s actually no different than a long essay, except that the long essay may have sub-sections in the body, or multiple paragraphs devoted to the introduction or conclusion. The short essay consists of three parts:

  1. Introduction: This is a single paragraph that introduces the general topic, lets your reader know why the topic is interesting or important, and states the thesis at the end. A good thesis statement is everything for a college essay. It states the point you are arguing in a clear and concise manner.
  2. Body: This will be the longest part of the essay, though in a short essay it will probably be only a few paragraphs long. Each paragraph should introduce a new idea, and discuss only one idea. Much like the introduction, the first sentence should introduce the new idea generally, and reach a conclusive point at the end. Each paragraph should flow smoothly in a logical transition from one to the next. This can usually be accomplished by referring to the previous paragraph using some transitional phrase, such as “because of,” “in addition to,” or “despite,” depending on how the ideas are related to each other. 
  3. Conclusion: This is your “ladies and gentlemen of the jury” moment where you must review and sum up all the evidence presented in the body of the essay, and then restate your thesis. Write a different though similar version of your thesis statement because you don’t want to sound repetitive, which can quickly happen in a short essay.

There are various types of short essays. Here are a few:

  • Argumentative: a research paper that takes a position on a particular issue and makes a case for it.
  • Expository: expounds on a particular idea. It’s similar to an argumentative essay, but is less dependent on research.
  • Descriptive: describes some object, person, or place.
  • Narrative: tells a story, often a personal one.

All of these types of essays, however, use the same basic format described above, so once you get that down you’ve got it made.