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The importance of pre-planning your essay

A little planning goes a long way

If you want to write a good essay, you should maximise the amount of time you spend planning an essay before you start to write. While brainstorming is gathering ideas, planning is organising them in a coherent, logical and cohesive structure so they can be communicated as clearly as possible to the reader.

As well as providing a base which makes writing your essay a whole lot easier, a good plan will shine through in the end result you achieve and give your essay a solid, defining structure.

Brainstorm: Master the topic

Think about the topic seriously. Dissect the question sentence by sentence. What exactly is it asking you to write about? Look up words you don't understand. Clarify the topic with the lecturer if you need to. Write down your ideas (and include sources so that you can accurately reference them later). Don't limit yourself to only one textbook—read widely and from a variety of sources: textbooks, academic journals, newspaper and magazine articles, and websites. Be selective in what you read and look for relevance to the topic.

Organise your ideas: Give them some structure

Organise your ideas on paper. What's your main idea? What evidence supports this main idea? Work from your main idea to build two or three supporting ideas and gather evidence to back them up. Develop your essay, starting with the introduction, using the outline below as a guide.

The plan

  1. Write down your key point which addresses the topic and state your point of view.
  2. Write down four or five ideas which support this point of view. Support each of these ideas with further individual statements developed from theories, ideas or examples that you have read about.
  3. Write down a concluding idea. This is closely linked to your initial key point or point of view.

This forms the skeleton of your essay and gives the reader signposts to follow. Examine your plan. Ensure that it is logical, has a clear flow and that all of the key points are included that support your argument. You may find that as you write you think differently about a particular part of your essay and you may need to re-adjust the ideas in your plan.

Get more advice and tips on how to write a great essay or report.

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