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The main body of the essay is where you develop your argument in detail and make reference to secondary sources that provide documentation of your argument or that have influenced your thinking. You should present both sides of an argument and then say why you think one is more convincing than the other. This should make up the majority of the text and include a number of references to authors and articles. You should also try to bring in one or more case studies (actual examples from the world) that illustrate your argument. If necessary, don’t be afraid to include diagrams and pictures, but you must always remember to refer to them in the text. Graphics should be large enough and crisp enough to make a striking visual effect.

The main body of the essay should be divided into paragraphs, each of which begins with a topic sentence and then supports that point with specific ideas and evidence. The first paragraph should follow from the thesis statement, and each paragraph thereafter should follow from the one before. Each paragraph should develop the argument in a logical and structured manner, and be clearly linked to the paragraphs that go before and after.


Click here to access an undergraduate essay that was produced in response to a question about the relationships between cities and nature. It is judged as a largely impressive answer, but what do you think? 

You may wish to consider:

  • how cohesively is the argument presented? Are points linked and developed?
  • does each paragraph have a clear topic?
  • how effectively has the author referred to sources/engaged critically with a range of views?
  • are there points where the author could improve on their expression or choice of words?


Once you have made notes, click here to access an annotated version of the essay commenting on the essay’s strengths and weaknesses.

If we were to break down this essay into its component parts, we might find a straightforward structure, something like this:

1. Introduction (paragraphs 1 and 2)
2. Remarks on the complexity of private and public interests (paragraphs 3 and 4)
3. On the provision of municipal water (paragraph 5)
    New York City (paragraphs 6-8)
    Boston (paragraph 9)
    intermediate conclusions of the comparison between New York and Boston (paragraph 10)
4. On the production and alienation of waterfront land (paragraph 11)
    Seattle (paragraphs 12 and 13)
    Boston (paragraph 14)
5. Conclusions (paragraph 15)

This list would work well as a linear plan which might have helped the author to stay on topic as they drafted the essay. It would work equally well as a mind map for more visual planners.

Clearly this is only one interpretation, and it lacks the detail of the particular argument, which, if summed up, would be something like the following: that the new relationships between society and the natural world that developed in the United States were inseparable from the inevitable tensions within urban society between different groups; these tensions revealed themselves in the competition between ‘public’ and ‘private’ interests, but we should be careful to note that these categories do not map neatly on to the interests of the poor and the rich respectively. Instead, these interests were complex and dynamic, taking different forms in different cities, particularly insofar as these interests took form in urban consciousness and were represented in urban politics. For all these complexities and specifics, we can learn from the American historical experience valuable lessons about the urban process and the political ecology of all cities.


Now that you have evaluated somebody else's essay, reflect on your own in a similar way. It is useful to reflect on a term's writing to see how you have improved or to identify recurring issues that you need to work on next term.