What are the six different essay lengths?
This is the second of three lessons about Essays. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.
– Discuss why essays might vary in length
– Outline the six major lengths of academic essay
– Provide defining features for each essay length
The length of essay you’re assigned will likely depend on where you are exactly in your academic course. Generally, assignments at the start of a bachelor’s degree will be shorter than those required in a student’s final years, just like master’s and doctoral-level essays will continue to increase in both length and difficulty.
1. The One-Paragraph Essay
Generally about 150 to 250 words in length, the one-paragraph essay may be assigned by academic tutors simply in order to practise the basic concepts of paragraph writing, or it may also be used for specific purposes such as to practise summarising an article that’s been read in class or to write an extended definition of a concept. Additionally, one-paragraph essays may also be used as a diagnostic to quickly determine the level of a student’s writing. Unlike other essay lengths, for the one-paragraph essay, you’ll need to include at least some introductory, body and conclusive elements within the same paragraph.
2. The Three-Paragraph Essay
Usually around 500 words in length, the three-paragraph essay is generally used to introduce students to the concept that all essays should maintain an introduction, body section and conclusion if the writer wishes to produce cohesive and a logical writing. The introduction and conclusion will be the first and last paragraphs and tend to be a little shorter in length, while the central body paragraph will contain the essay’s content or argument. A simple table explaining the balance of content in a three-paragraph essay has been provided below:
3. The Five-Paragraph Essay
Around 1,000 words in length, the five-paragraph essay is generally set by tutors who are content that their students understand the introduction-body-conclusion essay structure and wish to allow more freedom to expand the ideas and arguments presented by the writer in the body section of the essay. This length of essay still only dedicates one paragraph to the introduction and conclusion, but allows three paragraphs to be dedicated to the exploration of the theme in the essay’s body. At this length, certain essay types such as cause and effect essays or compare and contrast essays may now be utilised. The following is a simple diagram of the balance of paragraph lengths in a five-paragraph essay.
4. The Extended Essay
The extended essay is the most common type of essay that’s assigned during a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and it may be of any length – although it’s unusual for such essays to be above 5,000 words. The most common lengths for an extended essay are 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000 words, with a word count allowance of plus or minus 10%. Such essay types will most certainly require research and referencing skills, and may also begin to follow more complex structures such as are found in dissertations and theses rather than simply following the introduction-body-conclusion structure of shorter essays.
5. The Dissertation
Generally assigned as the final project for both bachelor’s and master’s degree, the typical length of an academic dissertation is 10,000 or 15,000 words. Unlike shorter essay types, dissertations have more complex structures and are almost always based around primary research (original research that the writer has conducted themselves). The following table demonstrates some of the key parts of a dissertation as well as the rough word count percentages for each section:
6. The Thesis
Finally, the thesis is the longest academic essay type and the one that’s reserved for doctorate students studying PhDs. Generally between 40,000 and 60,000 words in length, the doctorate thesis may contain all the elements of a dissertation but in much more detail and with more careful investigation. Such essays are almost certainly original and are based on primary research, with a larger focus on the accuracy of the literature review, data collection and data analysis. Many students will never encounter this essay type.
Once you can recognise which essay length you’ve been assigned, the next question covered in Lesson 3 is about determining the type of essay you have to write. This is because each essay type will require particular styles, structures, foci and language.
Once you’ve completed all three lessons about essays, you might also wish to download our beginner, intermediate and advanced worksheets to test your progress or print for your students. These professional PDF worksheets can be easily accessed for only a few Academic Marks.
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