The Structure of Academic Texts

Structure is an important feature of academic writing. A well-structured text enables the reader to follow the argument and navigate the text. In academic writing a clear structure and a logical flow are imperative to a cohesive text. Furthermore, in many university assignments the correct use of structure is part of the final assessment.

Most academic texts follow established structures. This page describes some common structures in academic writing: the three-part essay structure and the IMRaD structure. Structure should be considered on all levels of text so you will also find information on structuring paragraphs.

Common structures

The structure of your writing depends on the type of assignment, but two common structures used in academic writing are the three-part essay structure and the IMRaD structure. Even shorter essays that are not divided into titled sections follow such a structure. Longer texts may be further divided into subsections. Different disciplines or departments may prefer that students use a certain structure, so make sure to check with your instructor if you are not sure what is expected of you.

The three-part essay structure

The three-part essay structure is a basic structure that consists of introduction, body and conclusion. The introduction and the conclusion should be shorter than the body of the text. For shorter essays, one or two paragraphs for each of these sections can be appropriate. For longer texts or theses, they may be several pages long.

See example essay

The IMRaD structure

The sections of the IMRaD structure are Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion. Watch this short film about the IMRaD structure:

Other parts of academic papers

Apart from the parts that are treated in the above sections about the three-part structure and the IMRaD structure, academic papers also consist of other often quite formalized parts.

Paragraphs

A paragraph is a collection of sentences that deal with one topic or idea. When a new paragraph begins it signals to the reader that the focus shifts to a new idea or thought. At the same time, all paragraphs should connect to the main topic.