10 Great Essay Writing Tips
Knowing how to write a college essay is a useful skill for anyone who plans to go to college. Most colleges and universities ask you to submit a writing sample with your application. As a student, you’ll also write essays in your courses. Impress your professors with your knowledge and skill by using these great essay writing tips.
Most college essays ask you to answer a question or synthesize information you learned in class. Review notes you have from lectures, read the recommended texts and make sure you understand the topic. You should refer to these sources in your essay.
Plan Your Essay
Many students see planning as a waste of time, but it actually saves you time. Take a few minutes to think about the topic and what you want to say about it. You can write an outline, draw a chart or use a graphic organizer to arrange your ideas. This gives you a chance to spot problems in your ideas before you spend time writing out the paragraphs.
Choose a Writing Method That Feels Comfortable
You might have to type your essay before turning it in, but that doesn’t mean you have to write it that way. Some people find it easy to write out their ideas by hand. Others prefer typing in a word processor where they can erase and rewrite as needed. Find the one that works best for you and stick with it.
View It as a Conversation
Writing is a form of communication, so think of your essay as a conversation between you and the reader. Think about your response to the source material and the topic. Decide what you want to tell the reader about the topic. Then, stay focused on your response as you write.
Provide the Context in the Introduction
If you look at an example of an essay introduction, you’ll see that the best essays give the reader a context. Think of how you introduce two people to each other. You share the details you think they will find most interesting. Do this in your essay by stating what it’s about and then telling readers what the issue is.
Explain What Needs to be Explained
Sometimes you have to explain concepts or define words to help the reader understand your viewpoint. You also have to explain the reasoning behind your ideas. For example, it’s not enough to write that your greatest achievement is running an ultra marathon. You might need to define ultra marathon and explain why finishing the race is such an accomplishment.
Answer All the Questions
After you finish writing the first draft of your essay, make sure you’ve answered all the questions you were supposed to answer. For example, essays in compare and contrast format should show the similarities and differences between ideas, objects or events. If you’re writing about a significant achievement, describe what you did and how it affected you.
Stay Focused as You Write
Writing requires concentration. Find a place where you have few distractions and give yourself time to write without interruptions. Don’t wait until the night before the essay is due to start working on it.
Read the Essay Aloud to Proofread
When you finish writing your essay, read it aloud. You can do this by yourself or ask someone to listen to you read it. You’ll notice places where the ideas don’t make sense, and your listener can give you feedback about your ideas.
Avoid Filling the Page with Words
A great essay does more than follow an essay layout. It has something to say. Sometimes students panic and write everything they know about a topic or summarize everything in the source material. Your job as a writer is to show why this information is important.
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Master the Five-Paragraph Essay
The five-paragraph essay is one of the most common composition assignments out there, whether for high school or college students. It is a classic assignment because it presents an arena in which writers can demonstrate their command of language and punctuation, as well as their logic and rhetorical skills. These skills are useful not only for classroom assignments and college application essays, but even in the business world, as employees have to write memorandums and reports, which draw on the same skills.
Mastering the five-paragraph essay is doable, and here are some tips.
Components of a Good Essay
The five-paragraph essay lives up to its name, because is has five paragraphs, as follows: an introductory paragraph that includes a thesis, three body paragraphs, each which includes support and development, and one concluding paragraph.
Its structure sometimes generates other names for the same essay, including three-tier essay, one-three-one, or a hamburger essay. Whether you are writing a cause-and-effect essay, a persuasive essay, an argumentative essay or a compare-and-contrast essay, you should use this same structure and the following specifics.
Keys to Introductory Paragraphs
Any introductory paragraph contains from three to five sentences and sets up the tone and structure for the whole essay. The first sentence should be a so-called hook sentence and grabs the reader. Examples of hook sentences include a quote, a joke, a rhetorical question or a shocking fact. This is the sentence that will keep your readers reading. Draw them in.
What Makes a Thesis Statement
The last sentence should be your thesis statement, which is the argument you are going to make in the essay. It is the sentence that contains the main point of the essay, or what you are trying to prove. It should be your strongest claim in the whole essay, telling the reader what the paper is about. You should be able to look back at it to keep your argument focused. The other sentences in this paragraph should be general information that links the first sentence and the thesis.
Content of Supporting Paragraphs
Each of the next three paragraphs follows the same general structure of the introductory paragraph. That is, they have one introduction sentence, evidence and arguments in three to five sentences, and a conclusion. Each one of them should define and defend your thesis sentence in the introduction.
The first body paragraph should be dedicated to proving your most powerful point. The second body paragraph can contain your weakest point, because the third body paragraph can, and should, support another strong argument.
Concluding Paragraph Tips
Your concluding paragraph is important, and can be difficult. Ideally, you can begin by restating your thesis. Then you can recall or restate all three to five of your supporting arguments. You should summarize each main point. If you have made similar arguments multiple times, join those together in one sentence.
Essentially, in the concluding or fifth paragraph, you should restate what your preceding paragraphs were about and draw a conclusion. It should answer the question: So what? Even if the answer seems obvious to you, write it down so that your reader can continue to easily follow your thinking process, and hopefully, agree with you.
A Note on Compare and Contrast
Let’s look a little more closely at the compare-and-contrast essay, which is a very common assignment. It can be a confusing one due to the terms used. Comparing two items is to show how they are alike. Contrasting two items is to show how they are different. One way to approach this essay is to make a grid for yourself that compares or contrasts two items before you start writing. Then, write about those characteristics. Do not try to write about both. The name of the essay is actually misleading.
Keep these pointers in mind when you need to write a five-paragraph essay, and your end result will be clear in its argument, leading your reader to the right conclusion. Often, that conclusion is to agree with you, and who doesn’t like to be right?
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A good essay doesn't appear out of thin air — it develops from a plan. Essay planning is essential to ensure your essay is organized and coherent. Using a plan to begin your essay writing process will help you figure out your main idea, topic sentences, and details. Luckily, tried…
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A good essay doesn't appear out of thin air — it develops from a plan. Essay planning is essential to ensure your essay is organized and coherent. Using a plan to begin your essay writing process will help you figure out your main idea , topic sentences, and details. Luckily, tried and tested essay planning sheets and templates can assist you with outlining your essay and improving your writing skills.
How to Begin Planning Your Essay
You need to take a few steps to begin planning your essay.
Decide on an Essay Topic
If your teacher didn't provide an essay topic, consider some questions, events, or ideas that you feel are important and would like to expand on. If they did provide an essay topic, identify keywords and phrases to focus on. You should strive to use these keywords throughout your essay and as a basis for your research plan.
Essay Plan: Research Your Thesis and Take Notes
Your teacher may have already provided you with some reference material or links to reputable sources. If so, plan on using this material to kickstart your research on the topic. Supplement this with your own findings as needed. If you're starting from scratch, use reputable sources to research your topic, and keep a list of references as you do this if you are required to cite your information. Some credible sources include dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, and many websites with .edu or .org domains.
Essay Plan: Organize Your Research and Ideas
You can use a mind map, essay plan sheet, or other essay planning tools to organize your research and main ideas. See the essay plan sheet in the "Structuring your Essay" section for an example. Organizing your research and ideas will help you plan out your main topic sentences for each paragraph and the order of these paragraphs. You'll also use this step to structure your research into supporting sentences for each main topic. Write a concluding sentence at the end of each paragraph to summarize how they contribute to the main topic.
Essay Plan: Write Your First Draft
Once you've organized your ideas using an essay planning tool of your choice, you're ready to write your first draft. Use your essay plan sheet to form your introduction, the topic sentence for each paragraph, supporting details, concluding sentences, and your overall conclusion. Remember, your first draft doesn't have to be perfect.
Essay Plan: Edit and Revise
Once you complete your first draft, it's time to re-read, edit, and revise your essay. Use this time to cut out unnecessary details and restructure your essay. Here are some helpful tips to improve your editing skills:
- Print out your essay and read it out loud slowly. Listen for ways to improve the clarity and overall flow of your essay.
- Check for spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors.
- Ask a friend or schoolmate to read your essay and give you suggestions and corrections.
Structuring Your Essay
Because structuring your essay can seem daunting, the best way to help you is to use an essay planning sheet.
Essay Planning Sheet
An essay planning sheet (sometimes called a template) is a document that gives you some suggested categories to organize your essay topic and main points. These plans will help to improve your essay formatting skills. Planning sheets have different formats and offer different suggestions, but most include the following:
- Thesis /Essay Topic
- Topic Sentence
- Supporting Details
- Concluding Sentence
You can find free essay plan sheets online or create your own. You can also use a mind map or box plan to organize your writing. Here is an example of an essay planning sheet for a general five-paragraph essay:
Essay Plan: Introduction
In the introduction, you'll want to ensure you present your argument , idea, or thesis in this section. Do your best to start with an attention-grabbing hook or introductory statemen t that will keep your reader interested in your essay. Thought-provoking questions, interesting quotes, or controversial statements can be good tools to use in your introduction. After you have drawn your reader in, it is important to state your thesis statement (a sentence or two summarizing the main argument of your essay). Your order of topics comes last and gives your reader an overview of the main supporting points you will make in your essay. This will help your reader to follow your argument from the get-go. Improving the quality of your introduction is a skill that comes with time and is a crucial part of the writing process.
Essay Plan: Paragraph Structure
Each paragraph should start with a topic sentence that presents a main idea or argument that supports your main point. You should include at least three supporting details in each paragraph. These details should provide quotes from reputable sources, data, verifiable facts, or other information that gives weight to your topic sentence. Finish with a concluding sentence to summarize the overall argument in each paragraph.
Essay Plan: Conclusion
Writing an effective conclusion is an important skill to help your reader remember the main idea or argument of your writing. You should restate your thesis, main points, and key findings from your supporting paragraphs . Finish off your essay with your concluding statement . Similar to the concluding sentences you have created in your previous paragraphs, the concluding statement wraps up your essay and signals to the reader that you have completed your argument. Don't include any new information in your conclusion. This paragraph is intended to summarize and restate what your reader has already learned in your essay.
Remember, readers often remember the first and last few sentences of an essay more easily than the overall text. Use quotes, questions, or statements that will grab the attention of your readers and leave a lasting impression on them.
Essay Plan Example
Let's create an example essay plan using the planning sheet we previously discussed. First, if you don't already have an essay topic or thesis, take the time to choose one. For this example, we'll use the topic "intercultural awareness."
Your first step in the writing process would be to research intercultural awareness. There are many aspects to this topic, so it might be helpful to think of a question regarding intercultural awareness that you'd like to answer. A mind map can help organize your thoughts and discover what you already know about this topic. After completing your research and mind map, use this information to figure out your main topic sentences. Take the time to arrange these main topics in a logical order and ensure these topics relate to your thesis.
Now that we have our main topic sentences, we can use our research to add supporting details and form our paragraphs. Be sure to add references to the end of your essay if these details include quotes, data, paraphrased text, or facts. Once you've completed the body of your essay, you can flesh out your introduction and conclusion. Be sure to use attention-grabbing sentences and paraphrase your main idea and topic sentences in these introductory and concluding paragraphs.
Here is an example of a completed essay planning sheet:
Essay Topic: Why is intercultural awareness important for business?
Don't forget to add your references to your essay and cite them in the required format.
Essay Planning Next Steps
Once you've filled out your essay planning sheet, it's time to write your first draft! Using an essay planning sheet or template and looking at other essay examples can help you to organize your writing logically and coherently. These tools will help ensure you've included all the necessary parts for a successful essay in your writing process.
Essay Plan - Key takeaways
Decide on your thesis if your teacher hasn't provided one.
Use credible sources to research your thesis .
Use a mind map, essay planning sheet, or other essay planning tools to organize your ideas.
Write out your first draft.
Re-read, edit, and revise your essay.
1 Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989).
Frequently Asked Questions about Essay Plan
--> how to plan an essay, --> how do i structure an essay plan.
Make sure your essay plan structure includes space to note down your:
- topic sentences
- supporting details
- concluding sentences
--> When planning a narrative essay what should the writer do?
Look for an essay planning sheet or template designed specifically for a narrative essay. This type of planning sheet can help you make sure you've included the necessary details and used the right structure in your essay.
--> How do I plan an essay outline?
First, decide on your thesis or main topic if you haven't been provided one. Next, use that as the basis for your research. Use an essay outline tool or make your own to organize your thoughts into the key parts of your essay.
--> How to plan an expository essay?
Look for an essay plan sheet designed specifically for an expository essay. This type of planning sheet can help you make sure you've included the necessary details and used the right structure in your essay.
Final Essay Plan Quiz
Essay plan quiz - teste dein wissen.
What areas should you check while proofreading your essay?
Grammar, spelling, and typography.
What grammar points should you look for while proofreading?
Make sure your verb tense is correct, subject and verbs are in agreement and you've used the correct pronouns.
What tips can improve your proofreading?
Print your essay, read it out loud slowly and have a friend check it for errors.
What common spelling errors should you look for?
Check if you've properly used its vs. it's or you're vs. your. Also be careful about using their, there or they're.
How can you check your spelling?
Use online proofreading services or editing tools to check your spelling. Read your writing out loud. Have a friend read your essay and look for errors.
How can you make sure your verb tense is correct?
Print out a copy of your essay. Circle the verbs in each sentence. Make sure they are all in the same tense.
How can you make sure your subject and verb agree with each other?
Print out your essay. Find the subject and verb in each sentence. Check if they are singular or plural and make sure they are the same.
What typographical errors should you pay attention to?
Look at the punctuation you use at the end of your sentences and make sure it's correct. Read your paper out loud and add commas where appropriate. Make sure you've capitalized all proper nouns.
Which sentence had been proofread and corrected?
David wants to swim at the swimming pool.
Which sentence correctly used a modifier?
With my camera, we took pictures of a cow and a goat.
How do you know if a sentence is complete?
Make sure your sentence contains a subject, verb, and phrase. Read your sentences out loud and listen for these three parts. If your sentence is incomplete, add information or combine it with another sentence.
Which sentence is complete?
The boy is running to school.
How can you check if you've used the correct pronoun?
Circle the pronouns and antecedents in your writing. Make sure the gender and number of both words agree
Which sentence correctly used a pronoun?
The puppy was recognizable by its markings.
Which sentence uses the correct verb tense?
When I woke up I went to wash my face and then I ate breakfast
What are some essential parts of an essay?
An essay must include a thesis statement, introduction, topic sentences, supporting details, concluding sentences, and a conclusion.
What should you do if you don't have a thesis for your essay?
Think about some questions, events, or ideas that you feel are important and would like to base your essay on.
Which research sources are credible?
Dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, and many websites with .edu or .org domains.
What can you use to organize your research and ideas?
A mind map, essay plan sheet, or other essay planning tools.
How many supporting details should each paragraph contain?
What should your introduction include?
An introductory statement, your main argument or idea, and the order of the following topics.
What should your conclusion include?
Restate the main idea, present your findings, and give a concluding statement.
What should you include in your introduction to grab your reader's attention?
A thought-provoking question, interesting quote, or controversial statement.
What is the main point of a conclusion?
To help your reader remember the main idea or argument of your writing.
True or False: You should include new information in your conclusion.
What should you do after filling out your essay plan sheet?
Write your first draft using the essay plan sheet as a guide.
Where can you find essay templates?
You can find essay templates online or in word processors. You can also make your own template.
How can a mind map help you plan your essay?
A mind map can help you organize your thoughts and discover what you already know about your topic.
What information should supporting details contain?
Quotes from reputable sources, data, verifiable facts, or other information that gives weight to your topic sentence.
What information does a topic sentence provide?
It presents one of the main ideas or arguments that support your thesis.
"Home Store has the lowest cost hammers." Is this a thesis statement?
No. "Lowest cost hammers" among what? Always be specific. This position is also not complex. There is only one way to attack or defend this position.
When taking a position...
Avoid personal positions
Is a prompt more like an open or closed question?
Open. This means there is room for debate.
"How does a balloon stay afloat?"
Is this a closed question?
Yes. The answer is known science.
What is the strongest type of position, in terms of writing an essay?
A thesis statement.
What is a non-position?
A non-position is a brief personal decision regarding an inconsequential topic. This decision lasts mere moments.
What is a position?
Your stance on an open question or prompt.
If your position is arguable, have you created a thesis statement?
Not yet, as a thesis statement needs to be complex. It has many ways to attack it and defend it. It has a lot of room for discussion.
You can write a whole essay about your position. Are you headed in the right direction?
Of course you are! Writing an essay is kinda the point here, after all.
A position is stated in the first body paragraph.
Clarity is a secondary concern when taking a position.
Do not exaggerate your position in an essay.
Where does your position belong, first and foremost?
In the introductory paragraph.
When should you not reassess your position?
If you find that it is weak.
Your position is defensible and has no possibility for argument. Is it a strong position for an essay?
No. If your position cannot be attacked, it might answer a closed question.
What is the definition of a prompt?
A writing prompt is an introduction to a topic as well as instruction on how to write about it.
True or false, a prompt could be a picture.
What type of writing prompt would require a response that tells a story?
What type of writing prompt would require a response that formulates a hypothesis and uses evidence to support it?
What should you do after reading the prompt several times for information and with a critical eye?
Summarize the prompt in a sentence
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How to plan an essay: Essay Planning
- What's in this guide
- Essay Planning
- Additional resources
How to plan an essay
Essay planning is an important step in academic essay writing.
Effective planning can speed up the essay writing process, and give the essay direction and precision. As you are working through the process of drafting and writing your essay, you can record any changes you make on your essay plan, so that your essay and the plan develop side by side.
One way to start planning an essay is with a ‘box plan’.
First, decide how many stages there are in your argument – how many important points do you want to make? Then divide up a box into an introduction, one body paragraph for each part of your argument, and a conclusion.
Next, figure out how many words per paragraph you will need. This depends on the word count and how many paragraphs you want. Remember you need one paragraph to discuss each main point you are making. The introduction and conclusion are both usually 10% of the word count and what is left is divided into how many body paragraphs you have.
Let's use the following example: Discuss how media can influence children. Use specific examples to support your view.
Next, in each body paragraph box record your main argument, either as a heading or as your topic sentence.
Finally, use dot points to list useful information or ideas from your research notes for each paragraph. Remember to include references so you can cite each idea in your essay.
Remember, a useful document for essay planning is the marking rubric (also known as the marking checklist or marking criteria). This indicates what the lecturer is looking for, and helps you make sure that all the necessary elements are there.
- Essay plan template Use this template to plan your essay. This template also contains a structural plan, along-side the essay plan, to help you organise your paragraphs and keep your arguments cohesive. Sticking to the word limit allocated for each section means your overall word count will remain within the assigned limit for your task.
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Essay structure and planning
Information on how to structure and plan your essay.
What is an essay?
An essay is a focused, academic discussion of a particular question, problem or issue.
Many of you have been writing essays for years, and are probably good at it. That's great, and everything you look at here will build on and develop those skills.
But it's worth asking: are there different things expected of a university essay from those for school, college, or other contexts?
The obvious answer is yes, and it takes time and effort to learn the range of writing skills needed to produce university essays effectively.
There are all sorts of reasons why essays are common forms of assessment. They allow you to explore a problem in-depth, express yourself concisely and precisely, and debate other people's published opinions on a topic.
They're also a good warm-up for traditional forms of academic publication, such as a journal article.
Academic essays usually follow an established organisational structure that helps the writer to express their ideas clearly and the reader to follow the thread of their argument.
An essay's structure is guided by its content and argument so every essay question will pose unique structural challenges.
301 Recommends: Glossary of Instruction Words
Our Essay Structure and Planning workshop will outline how to analyse your essay question, discuss approaches logically structure all your ideas, help you make your introductions and conclusions more effective, and teach how to link your ideas and ensure all essay content flows logically from the introduction. The Putting it into Practise workshop
Have a look at our Glossary of Essay Instruction Words (PDF, 100KB) , or watch this short Study Skills Hacks video on identifying the tasks in a question to help you identify what is required.
Essay writing is a process with many stages, from topic selection, planning and reading around, through to drafting, revising and proofreading.
Breaking the task down and creating a clear plan with milestones and intermediate deadlines will allow you to focus attention more fully on the writing process itself when you put your plan into action either as part of an assignment or an exam.
1. Understand the question
- Is the question open-ended or closed? If it is open-ended you will need to narrow it down. Explain how and why you have decided to limit it in the introduction to your essay, so the reader knows you appreciate the wider issues, but that you can also be selective.
- If it is a closed question, your answer must refer to and stay within the limits of the question (ie specific dates, texts, or countries).
- What can you infer from the title about the structure of the essay?
2. Brainstorm for ideas
- What you know about the topic – from lectures, reading etc
- What you don't know about the topic, but need to find out to answer the question
- Possible responses or answers to the question – any ideas about your conclusion.
- Consider using a mind map to organise your thoughts…
3. Make a plan
- Planning your essay makes it more likely that you have a coherent argument
- It enables you to work out a logical structure and an endpoint for your argument before you start writing
- It means you don't have to do this type of complex thinking at the same time as trying to find the right words to express your ideas
- It helps you to commit yourself to sticking to the point!
The Hourglass essay
If you're stuck on an overall structure for your essay, try this simple model for organising a typical academic essay. An hourglass essay introduces a broad area, before narrowing the focus towards the specific question that you are answering. It finishes by placing that narrow area back into a wider context.
Introduction: the funnel of the hourglass
Set the scene and lead your reader into your essay by introducing the broad area of interest and then narrowing towards your specific focus:
- Start broad with a hook to catch the reader's attention
- Provide some context for the hook. What does your project add to it?
- Focus on the narrow area of your essay: can you summarise it in a single sentence mission statement?
Body: the stem of the hourglass
The body of your essay should be as narrow and focused as possible. Body paragraphs will take one sub-topic at a time and provide a logical flow of ideas for your reader:
- Start each paragraph with a topic sentence to tell your reader what it will cover
- Fill your paragraph with a range of supporting evidence and examples
- Finish your paragraph with a final wrapping-up sentence to summarise and/or link ahead
Conclusion: the base of the hourglass
Your chance to reinforce your key messages and go out with a bang:
- Revisit your mission statement: how have you addressed it?
- Summarise the main points of your argument or findings
- Finish with a broader scope, explaining how your topic might inform future research or practice, or where gaps remain
301 Recommends: Essay Planning Template
Use this template (google doc) to plan a structure for your essay, paying particular attention to the ways in which you have broken down the topic into sub-themes for your body paragraphs.
Top tips and resources
- Start planning early, leave your plan for a couple of days, and then come back to it. This may give you a fresh perspective.
- It is often easiest to write the introduction last, but when you are planning your essay structure make sure you have your mission statement.
- A good plan will make it much easier to write a good essay. Invest the time in making a plan that works.
- Check what your tutor wants, but it is often best to focus on one element in great detail, rather than discuss several aspects superficially.
- Make sure you allow time to proofread your work before submission!
- Library Research and Critical Thinking - Referencing
- English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC)– Language Resources
- Royal Literary Fund– Writing Essays
- University of Reading– Planning and structuring your essay
- Cottrell, S (2008) The Study Skills Handbook. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan
- Bailey, S (2003) Academic Writing: A Practical Guide for Students. Routledge
- Reading University– Study Resources
- University of Manchester– Academic Phrasebank
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Essay plans, what can an essay plan assess.
Much of what an essay could without the detail and extended timeframe. The plan could be in written form, or diagrammatic as in a simple concept map / spider diagram.
The value of essay plans over essays is that we could require more plans than essays during a module and so cover a wider range of the curriculum. We noted above that one disadvantage of essays is that the strategic students only selecting the classes that cover ‘their chosen topic’. Not so easy to do if they have to plan for several topics ….
The Study Gurus (2018) provide an ‘different’ approach to structuring an essay plan:
Every essay needs an introduction (3-5 sentences), so at the top of your essay plan just jot down introduction or intro, so you remember to write one.
Every essay must be written in paragraphs. Each paragraph should explain one main idea, and needs to have the SEXI structure:
S: A Topic S entence. This tells the reader what the paragraph is going to be about. You only need to write down the jist of the topic sentence for each paragraph in your essay plan.
E: A full E xplanation of the point you’re making in this paragraph. This should make up the bulk of your paragraph. In your essay plan jot down what you’re going to explain.
X: e X amples or justifications that back up what you’ve said in that paragraph. Jot down what examples you’re going to include in your essay plan so you don’t forget to include them in your essay!
I: Why is this point I mportant? A really amazing essay would also explain why this point is important to the essay as a whole. What’s the significance of this point to the essay topic?
Every essay needs a conclusion that briefly summarises what’s been said in the essay. You can just write down conclusion in your plan to make sure you write one.
This is simply used as an example here; you will be advising your students about essays in your discipline and how they should be structured and planned. Once you have established the planning process with them then it can become the assessment task.
Perhaps the strategy could be several plans are submitted and receive feedback and then students select one or more to complete for further grading.
Diversity & inclusion
Little different to full essays.
Plans, like full essays, can be run through plagiarism checkers like Turnitin. It is important not to assume that by asking to see the plan you can guarantee that the essay is the students' own work or that the plan will be the students' own work. Essay mills or cheat sites are perfectly able to provide a plan, and then write an essay to that plan (or vice versa ).
Generative AI is incredibly adept at writing essay plans to prompts, which can include specific instructions (such as SEXI) and feedback on previous work that you or other lecturers may have given. AI can help students to generate and refine ideas, provide examples, summarise the literature and is increasingly sophisticated. AI can provide individuated support to scaffold student thinking and writing, and as part of an iterative and dialogic process can be integrated into student work so seamlessly that students might struggle to identify precisely what is them and what is AI.
Seeing essay plans as a thinking/learning tool - and emphasising the formative function - should minimise anxiety around AI/academic integrity. Framing essay plans as a powerful mechanism to generate productive feedback that will help students do their best work in an essay will promote academic integrity.
(Click here for further guidance on designing for academic integrity .)
Richardson, J.T.E. (2015) Coursework versus examinations in end-of-module assessment: a literature review, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education . 40 (3), 439-455.
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Construct an Essay Plan
Construct an initial essay plan.
After you have generated some ideas, it’s important to write an initial plan before you head for the library. This can feel strange—after all, how can you answer a question when you haven’t done any research?—but starting with an initial plan helps you order your ideas and focus your reading. Without a sense of which direction to head in, it’s easy to get lost in the research process.
This initial plan will be provisional and might consist of:
- a provisional answer to the question (or thesis statement)
- a brief outline of possible main point.
As you research and develop your understanding of the topic, your ideas will likely change, and your answers may change with them. Try to see your essay plan as something that evolves as you engage further with your topic.
While it’s a good idea to write an initial plan before you start researching, if you really know nothing at all about the topic, some initial skimming and browsing through recommended or assigned readings can provide a few ideas. However, the initial planning stage is not the time for a lot of intensive or detailed reading.
What elements should an essay plan consist of?
A 1-2 sentence thesis statement.
A plan should indicate the answer to the question. A clear and well-written thesis statement will help you to determine the direction and structure of your argument.
What is a thesis statement?
- A clear and direct answer to the essay questio.
- A claim that can be discussed and expanded further in the body of the essay.
- One or two complete sentences.
- A part of the introduction.
In the initial plan, the thesis statement is usually provisional. However, after you’ve done some research, you will need to work on your thesis statement until it is clear, concise and effective.
- Try introducing your thesis statement with the phrase ‘this essay will argue’ or ‘this essay argues’.
- Paraphrasing the assignment question can help ensure that you are answering it.
Possible main points
Once you have a thesis statement, follow it with a paragraph or a set of points that indicate the ‘reasons why’ for your answer. The ‘reasons why’ can be developed into the main points of your essay.
What are main points?
- Main points make up the body of an essay.
- Each point should be developed in a paragraph. These paragraphs are the building blocks used to construct the argument.
- In a 1000-1500 word essay, aim for three to four main points
In the initial plan, try to express the main idea of each point in a single, clear sentence. These can become topic sentences—usually the first sentence of each paragraph which summarise the information in the paragraph. In your second plan, you develop these points further.
Arrange your main points in a logical order and number them. Is there one that would seem to go first or one that would seem to go last? Are there any two that are closely linked? How are the ideas connected to each other? Do the main points, when considered as a whole, present a unified discussion?).
The structure of the essay
A plan should follow the structureof an essay, e.g. Introduction, body and conclusion.
While you may not be ready to construct an introduction or conclusion, this three-part structure should be at least suggested in your plan.
Some indication of the research
A plan should include some indication of the sources you might use to RESEARCH the topic.
Make a few notes about how each main point might be developed. If possible, specify the evidence you might draw on and which texts you might refer to. Jot down titles, authors, page numbers etc.
Next: Step 4 - Research and gather information
Essay and assignment writing guide.
- Essay writing basics
- Analyse the task
- Work out your ideas
- Construct an essay plan
- Research and gather information
- Write a second essay plan
- Answering assignment questions
- Editing checklist
- Writing a critical review
- Annotated bibliography
- Reflective writing
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Before commencing the essay writing task, it is necessary for you to prepare an essay plan. This essay plan will be helpful to you to organize your ideas and to modify your ideas by reading information from different resources and by discussing these ideas with other people. An essay plan is also known as a basic outline for your essay. By preparing this essay plan, it is also easy for you to discuss the content of your essay with your advisor. Here, we will provide an essay plan example prepared by one of the expert writers of essay writing services .
How smoking affects your body? This is the main topic of the essay. In the essay, we have to explain how smoking is harmful, how many deaths are occurring due to smoking, harmful effects of smoking on our body and some real-life examples of the harmful effects of smoking on our health.
Smoking is the major cause of preventable deaths in England. It is estimated that almost 80,000 people are died due to smoking every year. This is the hook of the essay. This hook will intrigue the readers. You can also add another sentence in the hook “One in two smokers died due to the smoking-related diseases”. After that, we have to provide a possible background of the topic idea. In this background, we can write some harmful impacts of smoking on our body.
You can also explain different components of cigarettes and tell the readers how these components are harmful to us. After that, there comes a thesis statement. It is a fact that smoking damages our whole body. In an essay, it is not possible for us to explain the damages of smoking on all the parts of our body. In the thesis statement, you just try to explain three body parts that are being affected by smoking. These three parts are circulation, lungs and stomach.
As we know that there are three body paragraphs of an essay. Therefore, we should try to explain the harmful effects of smoking on one body part in one paragraph. In this way, we will be able to explain all three mentioned parts of the body in the main body of our essay.
First Body Paragraph:
In the first body paragraph of your essay, you should try to explain the harmful effects of smoking on our circulation system. You should start this body paragraph with the help of a topic sentence. The possible topic sentence for this body paragraph will be when you smoke, the poisons from the tar enter into our blood. After presenting this topic sentence, we have to explain the harmful impacts of this tar that enters into our blood. Therefore, you can present the following points in your essay;
- Due to the presence of this tar, our blood will become thicker and as a result, there form clots in our blood.
- This will also make our blood to work harder rather than simpler because smoking can also increase our blood pressure and heart rate.
- The presence of this tar in our blood will also narrow down our arteries. This will decrease the circulation of the oxygen-rich blood in our body.
We should conclude this essential paragraph of our essay with this sentence due to the formation of clots in our blood, the chances of heart attacks and strokes will be increased.
Second Body Paragraph:
In the second body paragraph, you should try to explain the harmful impacts of smoking on our lungs. The topic sentence of this body paragraph will be smoking can become the cause of almost 84% deaths due to lung cancer. After presenting this topic sentence, you should try to explain the possible impacts of smoking on our lungs.
Third Body Paragraph:
In the third body paragraph, you have to explain the possible impacts of smoking on our stomach. The possible topic sentence for this paragraph will be if you smoke 10 cigarettes in a day, your chances to develop kidney cancer will be increased up to 1.5 times than non-smokers. After that, you should try to explain how smoking is increasing your chances of getting stomach cancers and ulcers.
The conclusion is the last paragraph of our essay. In this paragraph, we have to summarize all the main points of our essay. While writing the concluding paragraph of the essay, you should make sure that there is no need to add any point that you have not included in the main body of the essay. First of all, you should write something about your topic idea. After that, you should write the main points of your body paragraphs.
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Basic essay structure
Improve your writing
Organise your essays to demonstrate your knowledge, show your research and support your arguments.
Essays are usually written in continuous, flowing, paragraphed text and don’t use section headings. This may seem unstructured at first, but good essays are carefully structured.
How your assignment content is structured is your choice. Use the basic pattern below to get started.
An essay consists of three basic parts:, introduction.
The essay itself usually has no section headings. Only the title page, author declaration and reference list are written as headings, along with, for example, appendices. Check any task instructions, and your course or unit handbook, for further details.
Content in assignment introductions can vary widely. In some disciplines you may need to provide a full background and context, whereas other essays may need only a little context, and others may need none.
An introduction to an essay usually has three primary purposes:
- To set the scene
- To tell readers what is important, and why
- To tell the reader what the essay is going to do (signposting)
A standard introduction includes the following five elements:
- A statement that sets out the topic and engages the reader.
- The background and context of the topic.
- Any important definitions, integrated into your text as appropriate.
- An outline of the key points, topic, issues, evidence, ideas, arguments, models, theories, or other information, as appropriate. This may include distinctions or contrasts between different ideas or evidence.
- A final sentence or two which tells the reader your focal points and aims.
You should aim to restrict your introduction to information needed for the topic and only include background and contextual information which helps the reader understand it, or sets the scene for your chosen focal points.
In most essays you will have a considerable range of options for your focus. You will be expected to demonstrate your ability to select the most relevant content to address your focal points.
There are some exceptions. For example, if an assignment brief specifically directs the essay focus or requires you to write broadly about a topic. These are relatively rare or are discipline-specific so you should check your task instructions and discipline and subject area conventions.
Below are examples of an opening statement, a summary of the selected content, and a statement at the end of the introduction which tells the reader what the essay will focus on and how it will be addressed. We've use a fictional essay.
The title of our essay is: 'Cats are better than dogs. Discuss.'
To submit this essay you also would need to add citations as appropriate.
Example of opening statements:
People have shared their lives with cats and dogs for millenia. Which is better depends partly on each animal’s characteristics and partly on the owner’s preferences.
Here is a summary of five specific topics selected for the essay, which would be covered in a little more detail in the introduction:
- In ancient Egypt, cats were treated as sacred and were pampered companions.
- Dogs have for centuries been used for hunting and to guard property. There are many types of working dog, and both dogs and cats are now kept purely as pets.
- They are very different animals, with different care needs, traits and abilities.
- It is a common perception that people are either “cat-lovers” or “dog-lovers”.
- It is a common perception that people tend to have preferences for one, and negative beliefs about and attitudes towards, the other.
Example of closing statements at the end of the introduction:
This essay will examine both cats’ and dogs’ behaviour and abilities, the benefits of keeping them as pets, and whether people’s perceptions of their nature matches current knowledge and understanding.
Main body: paragraphs
The body of the essay should be organised into paragraphs. Each paragraph should deal with a different aspect of the issue, but they should also link in some way to those that precede and follow it. This is not an easy thing to get right, even for experienced writers, partly because there are many ways to successfully structure and use paragraphs. There is no perfect paragraph template.
The theme or topic statement
The first sentence, or sometimes two, tells the reader what the paragraph is going to cover. It may either:
- Begin a new point or topic, or
- Follow on from the previous paragraph, but with a different focus or go into more-specific detail. If this is the case, it should clearly link to the previous paragraph.
The last sentence
It should be clear if the point has come to an end, or if it continues in the next paragraph.
Here is a brief example of flow between two summarised paragraphs which cover the historical perspective:
It is known from hieroglyphs that the Ancient Egyptians believed that cats were sacred. They were also held in high regard, as suggested by their being found mummified and entombed with their owners (Smith, 1969). In addition, cats are portrayed aiding hunters. Therefore, they were both treated as sacred, and were used as intelligent working companions. However, today they are almost entirely owned as pets.
In contrast, dogs have not been regarded as sacred, but they have for centuries been widely used for hunting in Europe. This developed over time and eventually they became domesticated and accepted as pets. Today, they are seen as loyal, loving and protective members of the family, and are widely used as working dogs.
There is never any new information in a conclusion.
The conclusion usually does three things:
- Reminds your readers of what the essay was meant to do.
- Provides an answer, where possible, to the title.
- Reminds your reader how you reached that answer.
The conclusion should usually occupy just one paragraph. It draws together all the key elements of your essay, so you do not need to repeat the fine detail unless you are highlighting something.
A conclusion to our essay about cats and dogs is given below:
Both cats and dogs have been highly-valued for millenia, are affectionate and beneficial to their owners’ wellbeing. However, they are very different animals and each is 'better' than the other regarding care needs and natural traits. Dogs need regular training and exercise but many owners do not train or exercise them enough, resulting in bad behaviour. They also need to be 'boarded' if the owner is away and to have frequent baths to prevent bad odours. In contrast, cats do not need this level of effort and care. Dogs are seen as more intelligent, loyal and attuned to human beings, whereas cats are perceived as aloof and solitary, and as only seeking affection when they want to be fed. However, recent studies have shown that cats are affectionate and loyal and more intelligent than dogs, but it is less obvious and useful. There are, for example, no 'police' or 'assistance' cats, in part because they do not have the kinds of natural instincts which make dogs easy to train. Therefore, which animal is better depends upon personal preference and whether they are required to work. Therefore, although dogs are better as working animals, cats are easier, better pets.
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Better Essays: Signposting
Paragraphs main body of an assessment
- Planning an Essay
- Basic Essay Structure
Writing an Essay
- Writing Paragraghs
- Plagiarism This link opens in a new window
Basic academic essays have three main parts:
- Video Explanation
Writing an Introduction
- Section One is a neutral sentence that will engage the reader’s interest in your essay.
- Section Two picks up the topic you are writing about by identifying the issues that you are going to explore.
- Section Three is an indication of how the question will be answered. Give a brief outline of how you will deal with each issue, and in which order.
An introduction generally does three things. The first section is usually a general comment that shows the reader why the topic is important, gets their interest, and leads them into the topic. It isn’t actually part of your argument. The next section of the introduction is the thesis statement . This is your response to the question; your final answer. It is probably the most important part of the introduction. Finally, the last section of an introduction tells the reader what they can expect in the essay body. This is where you briefly outline your arguments .
Here is an example of the introduction to the question - Discuss how media can influence children. Use specific examples to support your view.
Writing Body Paragraphs
- The topic sentence introduces the topic of your paragraph.
- The sentences that follow the topic sentence will develop and support the central idea of your topic.
- The concluding sentence of your paragraph restates the idea expressed in the topic sentence.
The essay body itself is organized into paragraphs, according to your plan. Remember that each paragraph focuses on one idea, or aspect of your topic, and should contain at least 4-5 sentences so you can deal with that idea properly.
Each body paragraph has three sections. First is the topic sentence . This lets the reader know what the paragraph is going to be about and the main point it will make. It gives the paragraph’s point straight away. Next, come the supporting sentences , which expand on the central idea, explaining it in more detail, exploring what it means, and of course giving the evidence and argument that back it up. This is where you use your research to support your argument. Then there is a concluding sentence . This restates the idea in the topic sentence, to remind the reader of your main point. It also shows how that point helps answer the question.
Writing a Conclusion
- Re-read your introduction – this information will need to be restated in your conclusion emphasizing what you have proven and how you have proven it.
- Begin by summarizing your main arguments and restating your thesis ; e.g. "This essay has considered….."
- State your general conclusions, explaining why these are important.
- The final sentences should draw together the evidence you have presented in the body of the essay to restate your conclusion in an interesting way (use a transitional word to get you started e.g. Overall, Therefore).
The last section of an academic essay is the conclusion. The conclusion should reaffirm your answer to the question, and briefly summarize key arguments. It does not include any new points or new information.
A conclusion has three sections. First, repeat the thesis statement . It won’t use the exact same words as in your introduction, but it will repeat the point: your overall answer to the question based on your arguments. Then set out your general conclusions , and a short explanation of why they are important. Finally, draw together the question, the evidence in the essay body, and the conclusion. This way the reader knows that you have understood and answered the question. This part needs to be clear and concise.
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- Last Updated: Oct 3, 2023 11:15 AM
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