Planning an essay
Planning starts with understanding your task, how much time you have, the number of words you have to write and what direction you're going to take.
Before you embark on research, give yourself realistic goals for the amount of material you need by sketching out a plan for length. Download an essay plan template
Check the title, idea or plan with your tutor. He or she might have expectations you haven't realised and may spot a problem with the basic idea. (Luke Martell, Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Sussex).
As soon as you have done some reading and thinking, you can begin planning the content of your essay.
Allow yourself to change your plan but remember it gives you a structure for your argument, so if you change the plan you will have to check your line of reasoning and the evidence you use.
Your tutor may give you specific guidance about the structure of your written assignment.
Making a tabular plan can help visualise your argument and is useful for a comparative essay - see the example below (click on the image to enlarge).
Is globalisation a new phenomenon? [pdf 22kb]
A linear plan helps you think about structure. Your tutors may ask to see an essay plan but even if you do not need to hand it in, it is essential to your essay.
Here is a linear plan: (click on the image to enlarge).
Second year student: Molecular Cell Biology essay outline:
What are peroxisomes? What do they do? And, how are proteins targeted to them? [pdf 65KB]
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The following student templates support the development of essay writing skills.
Understanding the question [Word 9.1 KB]
This template helps students to break down an essay question so they understand what they need to do before they start to write or research their topic. For more information on breaking down essay questions, see the Essay question page of this site.
Essay plan template [Word 21.57 KB]
This template provides students with a framework for planning an argumentative essay. For more information on essay planning, see the Plan your essay page on this site.
Organising essay ideas [Word 13.46 KB]
This template supports students to physically manipulate and reorder ideas to help with impoving essay structure. For more information on essay structure, see The writing process page on this site.
Note-taking outline [Word 41.36 KB]
This template provides students with a basic note-taking framework. For more information on note-taking, see the Learn page Organise notes on this website.
Bibliography template [Word 19.88 KB]
This template provides a structure students can use to record references they find during the research process. For more information on referencing see Bibliographies and the Research skills sections of this site.