Planning

Sometimes students think that writing a plan is a waste of time but in fact, it helps give clarity and structure to the way your final product will look. The more detailed your plan, the easier it will be for you to: organise ideas logically, identify where you can include statistics and references, and see where you have gaps.

As you start to complete background reading for your essay, you may decide to modify the organisation or focus of your essay, or you may realise you cannot find enough information about the topic within your time limit. This is a normal part of the writing process. It is better to make changes at the planning stage before you have spent a lot of time writing the essay.

Here are two approaches you may find helpful to consider when you come to plan your essay. The approach that you take will depend on whether you have been given an essay question to answer or whether you have to choose your topic and title. These flowcharts suggest that this process follows a linear structure, but in reality, you will find that often you are moving from one stage to another and then back to previous stages. Very often you will find, for example, that after reading and organising your notes and ideas, you will still have to do some more reading.

Planning an answer to an essay question you have been given

Analyse the essay question, arrow to think of some ideas, arrow to look for source texts to read, arrow to do some reading and take notes, arrow to organise your ideas logically (arrow returns back to look for source texts to read) arrow to write the plan)

Planning an essay for which you have to choose the topic and title

Think about a possible topic, arrow to Use the 'questioning technique' to focus on a more specific topic, arrow to Think of some ideas, arrow to Decide on a working title for your essay (you can change it later if necessary), arrow to Look for source texts, arrow to Do some reading and take notes, arrow to Organise your ideas logically (arrow back to Look for source texts to read), arrow to Change your working title if necessary, arrow to write the plan.

As an example, here is a possible plan for the essay which you saw in Week 3. One item missing from this plan is information on the source texts that the student will refer to:

Accessible text available as a PDF

You can download the accessible text for this plan.

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This article is from the free online course:

An Intermediate Guide to Writing in English for University Study

University of Reading