Basic Essay, Literature Review and Report Structure

Academic writing adheres to particular structures for clarity, organisation, and effective communication. Set standards, conventions, and reader expectations ensure writers present ideas coherently. This structured approach is integral to academic rigor and supports the efficient communication of complex concepts and facilitates the peer-review process.

Basic Essay Structure

A common essay structure typically consists of three main parts: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

1. Introduction:
  • Background Information: Provide context or background information on the topic to orient the reader. Define all key theories that will be used
  • Thesis Statement: Clearly state the main argument or purpose of the essay. This is a concise summary of what the essay will discuss. It often begins with : “This paper will…”
2. Body:
  • Topic Sentences: Start each paragraph with a clear topic sentence that introduces the main idea of the paragraph. The topic sentence should be clear and explicit. Each paragraph should deal with one main idea.
  • Supporting Details: Support each topic sentence with evidence, examples, quotes, or data that support your arguments.
  • References: Ensure each paragraph has proper references in your discipline’s preferred style.
3. Conclusion:
  • Restate Your Thesis: Summarise the main argument by restating the thesis in a different way.
  • Summary of Key Points: Provide a brief recap of the main points discussed in the body paragraphs.
  • Closing Statement: End with a closing thought, reflection, or a suggestion for future research.

This is a basic essay structure, and the length and complexity of the essay may influence the number of paragraphs in the body and the depth of analysis. Specific types of essays (argumentative, expository, or persuasive essays) have variations in structure. Always check assignment guidelines or consult with your lecturer for any specific requirements. There is a visual guide to essay writing available here.

To view the formatting requirements and common features of an academic essay, view this annotated student paper.

A literature review is a detailed analysis of existing research and writings on a specific topic. It involves finding, summarising, and evaluating relevant sources to understand what is already known about a topic and identify gaps in knowledge. The goal is to provide a clear overview of the current state of understanding in a particular area and set the stage for new research.

Here are the key steps in writing a literature review:

  1. Set your scope: Clearly define the specific topic or question that the literature review will address.
  2. Select your sources: Conduct a thorough search for authoritative and relevant sources, such as academic articles, books, and other scholarly materials.
  3. Organise your readings: Arrange the selected literature into themes or categories to present a structured overview.
  4. Summarise and synthesise the literature: Summarise the main findings of each source and integrate them to identify commonalities, differences, trends, and gaps in the literature.
  5. Critically analyse what you’ve read: Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each source, considering factors like methodology and research design.
  6. Identify and gaps in the literature: Highlight areas where further research is needed and point out limitations or shortcomings in existing studies.
  7. Consider common theoretical frameworks: Discuss any theoretical frameworks used in the literature and their implications for the research.
  8. Write clearly and concisely: Present information in a clear, concise, and organised manner, adhering to the citation style specified by the academic institution or publication.

Types of Literature Reviews

There are two main types of literature reviews: narrative and systematic.

A narrative literature review provides an overview of relevant studies on a specific topic, placing your research within the broader field of study. This approach is commonly used in thesis writing, particularly at the PhD level.

A systematic literature review selects literature based on specific criteria to ensure trustworthiness, reliability, and objectivity – it is commonly used in medical and health research. The literature is treated as data for analysis and evaluation. Unlike a narrative review, a systematic review includes methodology details, such as the search terms and databases used.

Narrative Literature Review:

  • Covers a range of areas in your field of study.
  • Addresses a general research question.
  • Does not include a methodology section.
  • Offers a general evaluation of existing literature and suggests directions for future research.

Systematic Literature Review:

  • Responds to a very specific research question.
  • Includes methodology details.
  • Involves a comprehensive exploration of current literature.

How to structure a Literature Review

  • Introduction: Introduces the topic's importance, outlines the research question's scope, and identifies search criteria.
  • Body: Organised into sections (e.g., methodologies, theories, discussion), demonstrating synthesis and connections among sources.
  • Conclusion: Summarises main agreements and disagreements, identifies areas for further research, and provides your perspective on the topic.

Resources to help you:

Using a Reading Matrix for Literature Reviews

Reading Matrix Template

The structure of a basic report, such as a business report, typically includes the following sections:

  1. Title Page:

    Includes the title of the report, the author's name, the date of submission, and any other relevant information.

  2. Executive Summary:

    Provides a brief overview of the report, summarising key findings, recommendations, and conclusions.

  3. Table of Contents:

    Lists the main sections and subsections of the report along with their page numbers.

  4. Introduction:

    Introduces the purpose and scope of the report, outlines the objectives, and may include background information.

  5. Methodology or Approach:

    Describes the methods and processes used to gather data or conduct research if applicable.

  6. Findings or Results:

    Presents the main findings or results of the research or analysis, often using charts, graphs, or tables for clarity.

  7. Discussion:

    Analyses and interprets the findings, providing context and addressing implications for the business.

  8. Conclusions:

    Summarises the key points and insights, often tying them back to the report's objectives.

  9. Recommendations:

    Offers actionable suggestions or solutions based on the findings and analysis.

  10. References or Bibliography:

    Lists all the sources cited in the report following a specific citation style (e.g., APA, MLA).

  11. Appendices:

Includes additional supporting materials, such as supplementary data, charts, or detailed information referenced in the report.

This structure provides a clear and organised framework for presenting information, analysis, and recommendations. Depending on the specific requirements and nature of the report, some sections may be combined, or additional elements may be included. Always check the guidelines provided by your lecturer for specific formatting and content expectations.

To view the formatting requirements and common features of a business report, view this annotated student paper.

Essay Writing Basics Video 5: Paragraph Structure Basics

Essay Writing Basics Video 5: Paragraph Structure Basics