Skip to Main Content

Essay planning and structure: A short guide

Short guide to essay planning

The process of essay planning

Everybody writes in a different way, so you need to find a planning and writing process that suits you. However, it is important not to leap too quickly from research to writing. It is worth giving some thought to how you will order your ideas, and what the central argument of your essay will be. This course on LinkedIn Learning has some useful hints and tips on writing to a deadline. 

You may wish to reflect on your writing and consider whether it's working. If you have had feedback from your tutors about poor structure or lack of a focused argument; you may need to spend more time thinking about the thread that will run through your essay.

Suggested stages of essay planning

1. Break down the different part of your assignments question. Figure out what the task word means (e.g., discuss, argue, describe) and identify specifically what you have been asked to write. If the question is very broad and general, decide which aspects to focus your answer around. 

2. Identify what your instinctive response to the essay question is, and mind map everything you already know about the topic.  

3. Research! Be sure to keep track of where you have obtained information from. You could use referencing software to keep a note of where you have found your sources of information. Engage with what you are reading, and note everything that is relevant to your response to the essay question. 

4. From your research, identify key points that will help you to answer the question. You should also decide what the over-arching argument of your essay is going to be, based on the evidence you have gathered and analysed. 

5. Decide on a logical order for your points. You could summarise each point on a separate card or sticky note and physically move them around until you have found the best flow. The key thing is to be aware of the progression of your argument and how each point links to the one before it and the one after. This signposting is especially important within your introduction and conclusion. 

Accessibility statement