How to Write a Good Essay

Moving from the general to the specific, a good introduction to an academic essay should:

  1. Capture the reader's attention with an interesting "hook" (such as a compelling fact or anecdote)
  2. Provide a clear thesis statement that provides a strong, debatable argument
  3. Refer to the arguments that will be made to support the thesis statement throughout the essay

The body of an essay has a series of paragraphs with arguments, ideas, and/or interpretation that supports your thesis statement. 

Each paragraph should have three parts:
Topic Sentence
  • Tells the reader what will be discussed in the paragraph, indicating the central point or argument that will be made
Supporting Evidence & Analysis
  • Claims with cited research and/or interpretation that provides supporting evidence
  • These sentences may define key terms, provide explanations, give examples and additional details, or otherwise support or expand on your thesis statement
Transitional Device or Concluding Statement
  • Provide a transitional link or cue that leads the reader to the next paragraph or a concluding sentence that briefly summarizes the paragraph

Peel paragraph structure [digital image] (n.d.). Teach Starter. Retrieved from

How to Use Transitional Devices, Voice Markers & Signal Phrases

These are words and phrases that improve the flow of academic essays by helping the reader follow your main line of thought.

Common Signal Phrases:

Common Transitional Devices:

  • According to
  • Contended
  • Declared
  • Found
  • Disputed
  • Illustrated
  • Implied
  • Stated
  • Argued
  • Noted
  • Suggested
  • Furthermore
  • Moreover
  • In this way
  • However
  • Conversely
  • Similarly
  • Consequently
  • Subsequently
  • In contrast
  • Lastly
  • Finally

This video tutorial from the Suny Empire State College library explains how to use signal phrases to incorporate sources into your writing:

Follow the links below to learn more and view additional examples of transitional devices and signal phrases:

How to Incorporate Sources into Papers

This video tutorial explains how to use summary, paraphrase and quotation to incorporate sources into academic research papers. It demonstrates how to effectively structure sources, include analysis, and use sources to support an argument.

For help citing and referencing according to APA guidelines, go to the online Bow Valley College Guide to APA Style

Why You Must Cite Sources

When using sources such as books, journal articles, or websites, you must always properly cite and reference the original source of the ideas and research findings that you are using in an essay or research paper.

This video explains some of the reasons why it's important to cite and reference sources when writing an academic research paper. Go to the online Bow Valley College Guide to APA Style guide for more help citing and referencing sources according to APA guidelines.

In contrast to the essay introduction, the conclusion should move from the essay's specific arguments and thesis statement to a more general view of the research topic:

  • Restate the focal argument of the essay (the thesis statement)
  • Briefly summarize the primary supporting arguments and evidence made in the essay's body paragraphs
  • Finish by mentioning directions for future research, actions that should be followed based on the essay's findings, and/or general discussion of the topic's importance

NOTE:  An essay conclusion should follow logically and align closely with the information provided in the introduction and body paragraphs. No new information or arguments should be included in an essay conclusion.