Planning and Writing Essays

Planning an essay can often feel like a circular process. You need to think about the question, plan research, collect materials, think again, and so on. This is a guide to some of the key stages and activities involved.

Key points

Start thinking about the essay early on.
Keep going back to the title – be clear what is being asked.
Ask basic questions to get yourself started.
Organise your time from the start, in a way that suits your routines.

It helps to make a time-plan that works back from the deadline. Decide where you need to be each week. You need time for enough thinking and researching, and also time for re-reading and redrafting.

Tackling the question

Be clear what the essay title is about – check key terms.
Clarify main areas of the subject you need to address.
Question – what do I already know/think about this?
Make rough notes to help break down the title and think about aspects.

Planning and carrying out research

Think of questions to guide your research: Where can I find info on x?
What evidence can I find? Where?
Materials can include books, journals, articles, websites and more.
Take notes where needed – keep details for referencing later.
Keep asking: Do I need this? How will I use it?
Check word limit – how much information can you use?


Go back to the question – check you have relevant material.
Have your views/ideas changed?
Do you need to find more or other material?

Plan the structure

It helps to think about the word count.
Map out the main sections you will have –.order, prioritise.
Think about main topics for each section: points, examples and references.
Allow roughly 10% of word count for intro, and same for conclusion.