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Academic Support: How to Write Essay Plans

Here you will find useful directions to the variety of study support services available to you..

Key points to remember

A plan will save you time in the long run.

  • Make sure you understand the key things you are being asked to answer in your essay question.
  • Keep looking back to your question to make sure your plan is answering it.
  • You don't have to write in sentences when you write a plan.
  • Make sure you note your references down as you are making notes.
  • You can organise the main body of your text before you think about what to include in your introduction and conclusion.
  • Think about the key points you are going to make in each paragraph and organise your notes so you can see what willl go where.

Think carefully about your sources

Your sources are the books journals or other types of material you use when you are researching for your essay.You need to make sure that you use what you have read. This means that when you are researching and making notes you have to think about your plan and the question. You should be thinking about why you are using the sources you have chosen and what purpose they have in your essay. Whatever points you decide to write about should include sources to support your point.

Why a plan is important

The most important thing about anything you write at university is that your writing is clear. Doing a plan and then following it is the best way to make sure that your written work ends up doing what you intended it to do. Although some people say they like to write as they go along, the danger of this is that you may end up going off your topic and not sticking to your key points. A plan will help you  check that you have included all the information you wanted to and that your ideas are in an easy to follow, logical order.

Think about the question before you start

It is very easy to fall in to the trap of misunderstanding what a question is asking you to do by not reading it properly. This could lead to you only answering part of the question,  or worse still, not answering the question at all. Before you begin your plan, you should make sure that you have identified the KEY things you are being asked to do. You should then reflect on what you already know or think about the subject you are going to be writing about. In some cases you may not know anything about the subject, so you could write a list of some of the things you would need to find out as part of your planning stage. If you do know something about the  question  you could make notes about any opinions you may already have, before you start your research.

Make a list of the things you are going to have to find out about

The first stage of writing your plan is to make an initial list of the things you need to find out. Once you have found out what you need to, you can start to think about your first plan.  You will have, by this time, identified the key areas you are going to look at in the essay as you will have considered the key points in the question. You need to make sure that you have researched each of the areas sufficiently. You then need to think about the main points you want to make. Make sure that you have enough source information to back up your key points (evidence or data from books and journals). If you haven't, go back and find some more information out.. Once this is done you can think about the structure of your essay.

Consider breaking down your essay into sections

The common structure for an essay is introduction, main body and conclusion. You will have to think about your word count and decide how many words you will need to dedicate to each section. If you are used to writing short essays then you will have to bear in mind that longer, extended essays mean longer conclusions and introductions. When it comes to the main body you will have to think carefully. If your question asks you to do more than one thing you will have to make sure you have given enough thought to each aspect. Whatever your essay title, you will have to break the main body down into paragraphs. It's a good idea to talk about one  key topic or idea in each paragraph. You can talk about one topic over a number of paragraphs as long as you talk about different aspects in separate paragraphs.

Think about where your source information will go in each section

When you have made your notes it is important to find the most suitable place in your essay for your research to go in to. One way to do this is to make a note of the key point you are going to be talking about in each paragraph. When you have worked out your key points and placed them in a sensible order you can add the source material that is going to support the points you are going to make. Remember you can always change your plan before you start to write.

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