Oxford Brookes University

Essay plans

An essay plan is a way to identify, select, and order the points you want to make in your essay. It helps you to work out your argument and your structure before writing, which should make the writing process more efficient and focussed. Sometimes essay plans are set as formative assignments so tutors can provide feedback before you write your full essay. 

Scroll down for our recommended strategies and resources. 

Enough detail for feedback

If you have an essay plan as an assignment, the main purpose is to give your lecturer enough information about your structure and main points so they can give you useful feedback. Follow any guidance you have been given, but usually an essay plan doesn’t have to be in full sentences; an outline structure of main points in a bullet point list, maybe with some further details of the evidence you will use or explanation under each point, is often enough. See these guides on how to do simple outline plans for an essay:

How to plan an essay (University of Newcastle)

Structuring the essay (Monash University)

Different ways of planning

Group similar ideas.

The aim of planning is to put down all your ideas and then to sort through them and order them. Look at where the ideas group together to see if any common themes start emerging, as these might form the paragraphs in your essay. See the video below for an example of how to group and order ideas in a plan.

Planning: General structure [video] (University of York)

Changes are normal - reverse outline

We rarely follow our essay plans exactly because our ideas develop as we write. If you don’t keep to your plan, it isn’t a sign of failure or a sign that planning doesn’t work. However, you may need to reflect on your planning process - are you over-planning and it takes too much time, or are your plans too vague and more detail would help? If you have strayed from your plan, a good strategy is to check the structure of your essay afterwards to make sure it all matches up. See the guide below on how to do a reverse outline as a useful part of your redrafting process.

Reverse outlines (Queen’s University, Belfast)

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The Beginner's Guide to Writing an Essay | Steps & Examples

An academic essay is a focused piece of writing that develops an idea or argument using evidence, analysis, and interpretation.

There are many types of essays you might write as a student. The content and length of an essay depends on your level, subject of study, and course requirements. However, most essays at university level are argumentative — they aim to persuade the reader of a particular position or perspective on a topic.

The essay writing process consists of three main stages:

  • Preparation: Decide on your topic, do your research, and create an essay outline.
  • Writing : Set out your argument in the introduction, develop it with evidence in the main body, and wrap it up with a conclusion.
  • Revision:  Check the content, organization, grammar, spelling, and formatting of your essay.

Table of contents

Essay writing process, preparation for writing an essay, writing the introduction, writing the main body, writing the conclusion, essay checklist, lecture slides, frequently asked questions about writing an essay.

The writing process of preparation, writing, and revisions applies to every essay or paper, but the time and effort spent on each stage depends on the type of essay .

For example, if you’ve been assigned a five-paragraph expository essay for a high school class, you’ll probably spend the most time on the writing stage; for a college-level argumentative essay , on the other hand, you’ll need to spend more time researching your topic and developing an original argument before you start writing.

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Before you start writing, you should make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to say and how you’re going to say it. There are a few key steps you can follow to make sure you’re prepared:

  • Understand your assignment: What is the goal of this essay? What is the length and deadline of the assignment? Is there anything you need to clarify with your teacher or professor?
  • Define a topic: If you’re allowed to choose your own topic , try to pick something that you already know a bit about and that will hold your interest.
  • Do your research: Read  primary and secondary sources and take notes to help you work out your position and angle on the topic. You’ll use these as evidence for your points.
  • Come up with a thesis:  The thesis is the central point or argument that you want to make. A clear thesis is essential for a focused essay—you should keep referring back to it as you write.
  • Create an outline: Map out the rough structure of your essay in an outline . This makes it easier to start writing and keeps you on track as you go.

Once you’ve got a clear idea of what you want to discuss, in what order, and what evidence you’ll use, you’re ready to start writing.

The introduction sets the tone for your essay. It should grab the reader’s interest and inform them of what to expect. The introduction generally comprises 10–20% of the text.

1. Hook your reader

The first sentence of the introduction should pique your reader’s interest and curiosity. This sentence is sometimes called the hook. It might be an intriguing question, a surprising fact, or a bold statement emphasizing the relevance of the topic.

Let’s say we’re writing an essay about the development of Braille (the raised-dot reading and writing system used by visually impaired people). Our hook can make a strong statement about the topic:

The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability.

2. Provide background on your topic

Next, it’s important to give context that will help your reader understand your argument. This might involve providing background information, giving an overview of important academic work or debates on the topic, and explaining difficult terms. Don’t provide too much detail in the introduction—you can elaborate in the body of your essay.

3. Present the thesis statement

Next, you should formulate your thesis statement— the central argument you’re going to make. The thesis statement provides focus and signals your position on the topic. It is usually one or two sentences long. The thesis statement for our essay on Braille could look like this:

As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness.

4. Map the structure

In longer essays, you can end the introduction by briefly describing what will be covered in each part of the essay. This guides the reader through your structure and gives a preview of how your argument will develop.

The invention of Braille marked a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by blind and visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.

Write your essay introduction

The body of your essay is where you make arguments supporting your thesis, provide evidence, and develop your ideas. Its purpose is to present, interpret, and analyze the information and sources you have gathered to support your argument.

Length of the body text

The length of the body depends on the type of essay. On average, the body comprises 60–80% of your essay. For a high school essay, this could be just three paragraphs, but for a graduate school essay of 6,000 words, the body could take up 8–10 pages.

Paragraph structure

To give your essay a clear structure , it is important to organize it into paragraphs . Each paragraph should be centered around one main point or idea.

That idea is introduced in a  topic sentence . The topic sentence should generally lead on from the previous paragraph and introduce the point to be made in this paragraph. Transition words can be used to create clear connections between sentences.

After the topic sentence, present evidence such as data, examples, or quotes from relevant sources. Be sure to interpret and explain the evidence, and show how it helps develop your overall argument.

Lack of access to reading and writing put blind people at a serious disadvantage in nineteenth-century society. Text was one of the primary methods through which people engaged with culture, communicated with others, and accessed information; without a well-developed reading system that did not rely on sight, blind people were excluded from social participation (Weygand, 2009). While disabled people in general suffered from discrimination, blindness was widely viewed as the worst disability, and it was commonly believed that blind people were incapable of pursuing a profession or improving themselves through culture (Weygand, 2009). This demonstrates the importance of reading and writing to social status at the time: without access to text, it was considered impossible to fully participate in society. Blind people were excluded from the sighted world, but also entirely dependent on sighted people for information and education.

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The conclusion is the final paragraph of an essay. It should generally take up no more than 10–15% of the text . A strong essay conclusion :

  • Returns to your thesis
  • Ties together your main points
  • Shows why your argument matters

A great conclusion should finish with a memorable or impactful sentence that leaves the reader with a strong final impression.

What not to include in a conclusion

To make your essay’s conclusion as strong as possible, there are a few things you should avoid. The most common mistakes are:

  • Including new arguments or evidence
  • Undermining your arguments (e.g. “This is just one approach of many”)
  • Using concluding phrases like “To sum up…” or “In conclusion…”

Braille paved the way for dramatic cultural changes in the way blind people were treated and the opportunities available to them. Louis Braille’s innovation was to reimagine existing reading systems from a blind perspective, and the success of this invention required sighted teachers to adapt to their students’ reality instead of the other way around. In this sense, Braille helped drive broader social changes in the status of blindness. New accessibility tools provide practical advantages to those who need them, but they can also change the perspectives and attitudes of those who do not.

Write your essay conclusion

Checklist: Essay

My essay follows the requirements of the assignment (topic and length ).

My introduction sparks the reader’s interest and provides any necessary background information on the topic.

My introduction contains a thesis statement that states the focus and position of the essay.

I use paragraphs to structure the essay.

I use topic sentences to introduce each paragraph.

Each paragraph has a single focus and a clear connection to the thesis statement.

I make clear transitions between paragraphs and ideas.

My conclusion doesn’t just repeat my points, but draws connections between arguments.

I don’t introduce new arguments or evidence in the conclusion.

I have given an in-text citation for every quote or piece of information I got from another source.

I have included a reference page at the end of my essay, listing full details of all my sources.

My citations and references are correctly formatted according to the required citation style .

My essay has an interesting and informative title.

I have followed all formatting guidelines (e.g. font, page numbers, line spacing).

Your essay meets all the most important requirements. Our editors can give it a final check to help you submit with confidence.

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An essay is a focused piece of writing that explains, argues, describes, or narrates.

In high school, you may have to write many different types of essays to develop your writing skills.

Academic essays at college level are usually argumentative : you develop a clear thesis about your topic and make a case for your position using evidence, analysis and interpretation.

The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:

  • An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
  • Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
  • A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.

The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

A topic sentence is a sentence that expresses the main point of a paragraph . Everything else in the paragraph should relate to the topic sentence.

At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).

Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.

The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .

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FigJam Build a strong foundation with our essay plan template

No shaky arguments here. Whether it’s a class assignment, personal statement, or a missive on the company blog, FigJam’s essay writing plan will help you construct a stronger essay outline from the ground up.

three pieces of paper with a pencil and sticky note

Essay plan template

Share ideas, hone arguments, and refine your writing with our collaborative essay plan template.

essay plan template cover photo

Nail down your message

Organize evidence, strengthen supporting arguments, and hammer your main point home with our essay planning sheet.

Create flow: Maintain a cohesive writing process with an essay planning template that clarifies how one section leads to the next.

Evaluate your argument from all sides: Crystallize your claim and test it out from new angles in a visual format.

Do your research: Fact check your work and sources before writing by laying out supporting evidence on an easy-to-read outline.

essay draft marked up with FigJam's collaboration tools

FigJam Make a statement together

Writing doesn’t have to be a solo act. FigJam’s Community-built widgets make it easy to draft with collaborators and source feedback from trusted peers. Fold in new ideas and fine-tune existing arguments with Badge, Storymapper, and Lil notes.

Break it down, then build it up

Perfect the nuts and bolts of your essay with a well-organized essay plan example. Next, find new ways to tell your story with templates from our Community.

plan an essay template

Story mapping

Design a compelling narrative step by step.

plan an essay template

Compare and contrast the main points in your essay.

plan an essay template

Other templates from the community

Share your message with peers, mentors, and more with interactive templates.

If you’re wondering how to plan an essay or how to write an effective essay plan with important points and supporting details, just tap into our free essay plan example to get started. From there, you’ll be prompted to break your essay down into the following sections:

  • Introduction
  • Body paragraph #1
  • Body paragraph #2
  • Body paragraph #3

Fill in each of these sections with relevant information and credible sources. Then, share it with your trusted collaborators and peers to make sure your argument sings.

The 5 aspects of planning an essay correspond to the 5 main sections of your essay: the introduction, the 3 body paragraphs, and the conclusion.

  • Introduction – Planning an introduction involves writing a thesis statement and a brief list that outlines the order of your supporting arguments.
  • Body paragraphs (3) – As you plan your 3 body paragraphs, you’ll collect evidence—from credible sources—that backs up any supporting detail, arguments, and thesis.
  • Conclusion – While you conceptualize this final section, consider how you can open up the floor for further conversation after the essay ends. Are there any related questions you wished you’d asked? What makes this a relevant topic—today? Jot down all of your ideas on a planning sheet for essays.

Many essays follow the classic 5-part structure—the introduction that states your main argument, the 3 points supporting that claim, and the conclusion that wraps everything up.

Keep in mind, however, that you don't have to follow this essay planning example exactly. Some of the best essays break the mold—so don’t be afraid to customize your essay planning sheet or collaborate on a creative structure as you outline.

Other templates you might like

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University of Newcastle

How to plan an essay: What's in this guide

  • What's in this guide
  • Essay Planning
  • Additional resources

What's in this guide?

This guide contains key resources for planning your essay.

Click the links below or the guide tabs above to find the following information

  • Learn how to plan an essay
  • Find additional resources that include a short essay planning video and an essay template.
  • Link out to the Foundation Studies Library Portal

Click below to view our related resources

How to write an essay.

The basics on how to write an academic essay for university

How to analyse an essay question

This simple technique can help you unpack an essay question

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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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This page is the first of two that describe the processes involved in producing an essay for academic purposes, for school, college or university and covers the planning stages of essay writing, which are important to the overall process.

The second page, Writing an Essay , provides more information on the steps involved in actually writing an essay. We recommend you read both pages to gain a full understanding.

Developing the skill of essay writing takes practice, time and patience , your essay writing skills will improve and develop the more you write.

With the help of your course tutor (teacher or lecturer) and peers (other students) and from constructive feedback from the marker of your work, writing an essay will become easier as you progress through your studies and your confidence increases.

This page details general good practice in essay planning, including what you should do and what you should try to avoid. It is important however, that you understand the specific requirements of your school, college or university.

Writing an essay helps you to consider the issues raised in your course and to relate them to your own experience, way of thinking, and also any wider additional reading and research you may have undertaken in order to tackle the essay topic. 

Writing an essay (or other assignment) is an important part of the learning process.  In the writing of an assignment, learning occurs as you think through and interpret the points raised (together with those of other writers on the subject).

Presenting your experience and showing understanding within your assignment will, from the marker's point of view, demonstrate your knowledge of the subject area.

The Purpose of an Essay

The original meaning of an essay is ' an attempt ', or a try, at something. It is therefore appropriate to consider writing an essay as a learning exercise.

Essays, and other academic writing, focus the mind and encourage you to come to conclusions about what you are studying.

Writing is often the best possible way to assimilate and organise information. Writing helps to highlight any areas that you have not fully understood and enables you to make further clarifications. It develops your powers of criticism, analysis and expression, and gives you a chance to try out your and other writers' ideas on the subject.

The feedback you receive from the marker of your essay should help to advance your study skills, writing, research and  critical thinking skills .

What is the Marker Looking For?

As an essay - in the context of this page - is an assessed piece of work, it can be very useful to consider what the person who will be assessing the work, the marker, will be looking for.

Although different types of essays in different subject areas may vary considerably in their style and content there are some key concepts that will help you understand what is required of you and your essay.

When marking an assignment, a marker will look for some of the following elements, which will demonstrate you are able to:

Find relevant information and use the knowledge to focus on the essay question or subject.

Structure knowledge and information logically, clearly and concisely.

Read purposefully and critically. (See our page: Critical Reading for more)

Relate theory to practical examples.

Analyse processes and problems.

Be persuasive and argue a case.

Find links and combine information from a number of different sources.

Answer the Question

One main factor, always worth bearing in mind, is that a marker will usually only award marks for how well you have answered the essay question.

It is likely that the marker will have a set of criteria or marking guidelines that will dictate how many marks can be awarded for each element of your essay.

Remember it is perfectly possible to write an outstanding essay, but not to have answered the original question.  This will, in all likelihood, mean a low mark.

Planning Your Essay

Planning is the process of sorting out what you want to include in your essay.

A well-planned and organised essay indicates that you have your ideas in order; it makes points clearly and logically.  In this way, a well-planned and structured essay enables the reader, or marker, to follow the points being made easily.

Essay assignments are usually formulated in one of the following ways:

As a question

A statement is given and you are asked to comment on it

An invitation to ‘ outline’ , ‘ discuss’ or ‘ critically assess’ a particular argument or point of view

Remember always write your essay based on the question that is set and not on another aspect of the subject. Although this may sound obvious, many students do not fully answer the essay question and include irrelevant information. The primary aim of an academic essay is to answer the task set, in some detail.

To help you do this, you might find the following list of stages helpful.

Producing an Essay Plan

The essay plan below contains ten steps.

It is often useful to complete the first six steps soon after receiving your essay question. That way information will be fresh and you are more likely to be thinking about your essay plan as you do other things.

Study the essay question intently.

Write the essay question out in full.

Spend some time, at least half an hour, brainstorming the subject area.

Write down your thoughts on the question subject, its scope and various aspects.

List words or phrases that you think need to be included.

Note the main points you should include to answer the question.

If, at this point, you feel unsure of what to include, talk to your tutor or a peer to clarify that you are on the right track.

Once you have finished the first six steps and you feel sure you know how to proceed, continue to expand on your initial thoughts and build a more in-depth essay outline.

Skim through any course material or lecture handouts and start to build up a more detailed outline. Scan through your own lecture notes, and if anything strikes you as relevant to the assignment task, write where to find it on your detailed outline

Write down where you will find the necessary information on each of the points in your detailed outline (lecture notes, course handouts etc.).  Indicate on the outline where you feel that some further research is necessary.

Be careful not to allow your outline to become too complicated; stick to main points and keep it relevant to the question.

If you have been given a reading list or a core text book then check the relevant sections of that.

See our page: Sources of Information for more ideas of where you can find relevant information for your essay.

Academic essays usually have a word limit and writing within the word limit is an important consideration. Many institutions will penalise students for not writing the correct amount of words – for example, the essay question may call for a 2,000 word essay, there may be a 10% grace, so anything between 1,800 and 2,200 is acceptable.

Think about the main elements that need to be covered in the essay. Make sure you allocate the greatest number of words to the 'main body of the essay' and not to a subsidiary point.

Decide how much space you can devote to each section of your outline.  For example, a third of a page for the introduction, half a page for point 1 which has two sub-points, one and a half pages for point 2 which has five sub-points etc.  Although you will not follow such a space scheme rigidly, it does enable you to keep things under control and to know how much detail to put in, keeping the balance of the essay as you originally planned.

Of course, you will make minor adjustments to your essay plan as you actually write. However, do not make major adjustments unless you are absolutely certain about the alternative and how it fits into your original scheme.

Having a strong essay plan makes the actual task of writing an essay much more efficient.

Continue to: Writing an Essay Sources of Information

See also: Essay Writing Tips Note-Taking for Reading Finding Time To Study


Essay writing

  • Introduction

Answering the question

Generating ideas, planning your essay, different planning methods.

  • Writing your essay
  • Developing your essay writing

Useful links for writing essays

  • Study Advice Helping students to achieve study success with guides, video tutorials, seminars and one-to-one advice sessions.
  • Academic writing LibGuide Expert guidance on punctuation, grammar, writing style and proof-reading.
  • Guide to citing references Includes guidance on why, when and how to use references correctly in your academic writing.
  • Reading and notemaking LibGuide Expert guidance on managing your reading and making effective notes.
  • Academic Phrasebank Use this site for examples of linking phrases and ways to refer to sources.
  • Ten stages of assignment success (Prezi) Based upon Burns and Sinfield, Essential Study Skills.
  • Critical Thinking A short video on Critical Thinking that the BBC have prepared in partnership with The Open University

The first thing to do when preparing to write an essay is to make a plan. You could just rush in and write everything that comes into your head, but that would make it difficult for your marker to read and would reduce the effectiveness of your ideas. These will make much stronger arguments if you group them together than they would do on their own.

The guidance on this page will show you how to plan and structure your essay to produce a strong and focused response to the question.

A very common complaint from lecturers and examiners is that students write a lot of information but they just don't answer the question. Don't rush straight into researching – give yourself time to think carefully about the question and understand what it is asking.

plan an essay template

Underlining key words – This is a good start point for making sure you understand all the terms (some might need defining); identifying the crucial information in the question; and clarifying what the question is asking you to do (compare & contrast, analyse, discuss). But make sure you then consider the question as a whole again, not just as a series of unconnected words.

Re-read the question – Read the question through a few times. Explain it to yourself, so you are sure you know what it is asking you to do.

Try breaking the question down into sub-questions – What is the question asking? Why is this important? How am I going to answer it? What do I need to find out first, second, third in order to answer the question? This is a good way of working out what important points or issues make up the overall question – it can help focus your reading and start giving your essay a structure. However, try not to have too many sub-questions as this can lead to following up minor issues, as opposed to the most important points.

  • Answering the question and planning (video) Watch this brief video tutorial for more on the topic.
  • Answering the question and planning (transcript) Read along while watching the video tutorial.

plan an essay template

The kinds of things to note briefly are:

  • What you already know about the topic – from lectures, seminars, general knowledge.
  • Things you don't know about the topic, but need to find out in order to answer the question.
  • Initial responses or answers to the question – what you think your conclusion might possibly be.

This helps you start formulating your argument and direction for answering the question. It also helps you focus your reading, as you can pinpoint what you need to find out and go straight to the parts of books, chapters, articles that will be most relevant.

After reading - After your reading, it is often good to summarise all your findings on a page. Again, a spider diagram can help with this.

Bringing together the key points from your reading helps clarify what you have found out, and helps you find a pathway through all the ideas and issues you have encountered. If you include brief details of authors and page nos. for key information, it can act as a quick at-a-glance guide for finding the evidence you need to support your points later.

It also helps you see how your initial response to the question might have changed or become more sophisticated in light of the reading you've done. It leads into planning your essay structure.

plan an essay template

  • It enables you to work out a logical structure and an end point 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!

You need to work out what to include, and what can be left out. It is impossible to cover everything in an essay, and your markers will be looking for evidence of your ability to choose material and put it in order. Brainstorm all your ideas, then arrange them in three or four groups. Not everything will fit so be prepared to discard some points (you can mention them briefly in your introduction).

Outline what you are going to include in each section:

  • Introduction : Address the question, show why it's interesting and how you will answer it.
  • Main body : Build your argument. Put your groups of ideas in a sequence to make a persuasive argument. One main point in each paragraph.
  • Conclusion : Summarise your arguments and evidence, and show how they answer the original question.

Writing a summary - Some people plan best once they have written something, as this helps clarify their thinking. If you prefer to write first, try summarising the central idea of your essay in a few sentences. This gives you a clear direction for working out how you are going to break it down into points supported by evidence. You can then use one of the methods below to write a more detailed plan.

  • Structuring your essay (video) Watch this brief video tutorial for more on the topic.
  • Structuring your essay (transcript) Read along while watching the video tutorial.

plan an essay template

Bullet points / linear plans - This type of plan lists the main points using bullet points or numbers. It can be a brief outline of the main point per paragraph, or a more detailed plan with sub-points and a note of the evidence to support each point (e.g. source and page no.).

No plan is perfect, so be prepared for your ideas to change as you write your essay. However, once you have an initial plan it is much easier to adapt it and see where new things fit if your thinking does change.

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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.

Planning stages

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!

Internal resources

  • Library Research and Critical Thinking - Referencing
  • English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC)– Language Resources  

External 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

Related information

Academic Skills Certificate

Scientific writing and lab reports


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7 Steps for Writing an Essay Plan

Have you ever started writing an essay then realized you have run out of ideas to talk about?

This can make you feel deflated and you start to hate your essay!

How to write an Essay Plan

The best way to avoid this mid-essay disaster is to plan ahead: you need to write an Essay Plan!

Essay planning is one of the most important skills I teach my students. When I have one-to-one tutorials with my students, I always send them off with an essay plan and clear goals about what to write.

Essay Planning isn’t as dull as you think. In fact, it really does only take a short amount of time and can make you feel oh so relieved that you know what you’re doing!

Here’s my 7-Step method that I encourage you to use for your next essay:

The 7-Step Guide on How to write an Essay Plan

  • Figure out your Essay Topic (5 minutes)
  • Gather your Sources and take Quick Notes (20 minutes)
  • Brainstorm using a Mind-Map (10 minutes)
  • Arrange your Topics (2 minutes)
  • Write your topic Sentences (5 minutes)
  • Write a No-Pressure Draft in 3 Hours (3 hours)
  • Edit your Draft Once every Few Days until Submission (30 minutes)

I’ve been using this 7-Step essay planning strategy since I was in my undergraduate degree. Now, I’ve completed a PhD and written over 20 academic journal articles and dozens of blog posts using this method – and it still works!

Let’s go through my 7 steps for how to write an essay plan.

Prefer to Watch than Read? Here’s our video on writing an Essay Plan.

how to write an essay plan

1. figure out your essay topic. here’s how..

Where did your teacher provide you with your assessment details?

Find it. This is where you begin.

Now, far, far, far too many students end up writing essays that aren’t relevant to the essay question given to you by your teacher. So print out your essay question and any other advice or guidelines provided by your teacher.

Here’s some things that your assessment details page might include:

  • The essay question;
  • The marking criteria;
  • Suggested sources to read;
  • Some background information on the topic

The essay question is really important. Once you’ve printed it I want you to do one thing:

Highlight the key phrases in the essay question.

Here’s some essay questions and the key phrases you’d want to highlight:

This strategy helps you to hone in on exactly what you want to talk about. These are the key phrases you’re going to use frequently in your writing and use when you look for sources to cite in your essay!

The other top thing to look at is the marking criteria. Some teachers don’t provide this, but if they do then make sure you pay attention to the marking criteria !

Here’s an example of a marking criteria sheet:

Sample Essay Topic: Is Climate Change the Greatest Moral Challenge of our Generation?

Now, if you have a marking criteria you really need to pay attention to this. You have to make sure you’ve ticked off all the key criteria that you will be marked on. For the example above, your essay is going to have to make sure it:

  • Takes a position about whether climate change is a serious challenge for human kind;
  • Discusses multiple different people’s views on the topic;
  • Explores examples and case studies (‘practical situations’);
  • Uses referencing to back up your points.

The reason you need to be really careful to pay attention to this marking criteria is because it is your cheat sheet: it tells you what to talk about!

Step 1 only takes you five minutes and helps you to clearly clarify what you’re going to be talking about! Now your mind is tuned in and you can start doing some preliminary research.

2. Gather your Sources and take Quick Notes. Here’s how.

Now that you know what your focus is, you can start finding some information to discuss. You don’t want to just write things from the top of your head. If you want top marks, you want some deep, detailed and specific pieces of information.

Fortunately, your teacher has probably made this easy for you.

The top source for finding information will be the resources your teacher provided. These resources were hand picked by your teacher because they believed these were the best sources available our there on the topic. Here are the most common resources teachers provide:

  • Lecture Slides;
  • Assigned Readings.

The lecture slides are one of the best resources for you to access. Lecture slides are usually provided online for you. Download them, save them on your computer, and dig them up when it’s time to write the essay plan.

Find the lecture slides most relevant to your topic. To take the example of our climate change essay, maybe climate change is only discussed in three of the weeks in your course. Those are the three weeks’ lecture slides you want to hone-in on.

Flick through those lecture slides and take quick notes on a piece of paper – what are the most important topics and statistics that are relevant to your essay question?

Now, move on to the assigned readings . Your teacher will have selected some readings for you to do for homework through the semester. They may be eBooks, Textbooks or Journal Articles.

These assigned readings were assigned for a reason: because they have very important information to read ! Scan through them and see if there’s any more points you can add to your list of statistics and key ideas to discuss.

Next, try to find a few more sources using Google Scholar. This is a great resource for finding more academic articles that you can read to find even more details and ideas to add to your essay.

Here’s my notes that I researched for the essay question “Is Climate Change the Greatest Moral Challenge of our Generation?” As you can see, it doesn’t have to be beautiful #Studygram notes! It’s just rough notes to get all the important information down:

sample of rough notes scrawled on paper

Once you’ve read the assigned lecture slides and readings, you should have a good preliminary list of ideas, topics, statistics and even quotes that you can use in step 3.

3. Brainstorm using a Mind-Map. Here’s how.

Do your initial notes look a little disorganized?

That’s okay. The point of Step 2 was to gather information. Now it’s time to start sorting these ideas in your mind.

The best way to organize thoughts is to create a Mind-Map. Here’s how Mind-Maps often look:

sample blank mind-map

For your essay plan Mind-Map, write the essay question in the middle of the page and draw a circle around it.

mind-map with essay question written in center

Then, select the biggest and most important key ideas that you think are worth discussing in the essay. To decide on these, you might want to look back at the notes you took in Step 2.

Each key idea will take up around about 200 – 350 words (1 to 2 sentences).

Here’s a rough guide for how many key ideas you’ll want depending on your essay length:

  • 1000-word essay: 3 to 4 key ideas
  • 1500-word essay: 5 to 7 key ideas
  • 2000-word essay: 6 to 8 key ideas
  • 3000-word essay: 9 to 12 key ideas

Once you’ve selected your key ideas you can list them in a circle around the essay question, just like this:

mind map with essay question and key ideas filled-in

Last, we need to add detail and depth to each key idea. So, draw more lines out from each key ideas and list:

  • Two sources that you will cite for each key idea;
  • A statistic or example that you will provide for each key idea;
  • Any additional interesting facts for each key idea

Here’s how it might look once you’re done:

completed mind-map

4. Arrange your Topics. Here’s how.

You’re well and truly on your way to getting your essay down on paper now.

There’s one last thing to do before you start getting words down on the manuscript that you will submit. You need to arrange your topics to decide which to write first, second, third, fourth, and last!

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Start and end with your strongest points;
  • Ensure the points logically flow.

To ensure your points logically flow, think about how you’re going to transition from one idea to the next . Does one key point need to be made first so that the other ones make sense?

Do two key points seem to fit next to one another? If so, make sure you list them side-by-side.

Have a play around with the order you want to discuss the ideas until you’re comfortable. Then, list them in order. Here’s my order for my Climate Change essay:

Each of these key ideas is going to turn into a paragraph or two (probably two) in the essay.

5. Write your topic Sentences in just 5 minutes. Here’s how.

All good essays have clear paragraphs that start with a topic sentence . To turn these brainstormed key points into an essay, you need to get that list you wrote in Step 5 and turn each point into a topic sentence for a paragraph.

It’s important that the first sentence of each paragraph clearly states the paragraph’s topic. Your marker is going to want to know exactly what your paragraph is about immediately. You don’t want your marker to wait until the 3 rd , 4 th or 5 th line of a paragraph before they figure out what you’re talking about in the paragraph.

So, you need to state what your key idea is in the first sentence of the paragraph.

Let’s have a go at turning each of our key ideas into a topic sentence:

6. Write a No-Pressure Essay Draft in just 3 Hours. Here’s how.

Okay, now the rubber hits the road. Let’s get writing!

When you write your first draft, don’t put pressure on yourself. Remind yourself that this is the first of several attempts at creating a great essay, so it doesn’t need to be perfect right away. The important thing is that you get words down on paper.

To write the draft, have a go at adding to each of your topic sentences to turn them into full paragraphs. Follow the information you wrote down in your notes and Mind-Map to get some great details down on paper.

Forget about the introduction and conclusion for now. You can write them last.

Let’s have a go at one together. I’m going to choose the paragraph on my key idea “Is climate change caused by humans?”

I’ve already got my first sentence and my brainstormed ideas. Let’s build on them to write a draft paragraph:

screenshot of a section of a mind map displaying key ideas for the essay

  • “Most scientists believe climate change is caused by humans. In fact, according to the IPCC, over 98% of climate change scientists accept the scientific data that climate change is caused by humans (IPCC, 2018). This figure is very high, signalling overwhelming expert consensus. This consensus holds that the emission of carbon from burning of fossil fuels in the 20 th Century is trapping heat into the atmosphere. However, a minority of dissenting scientists continue to claim that this carbon build-up is mostly the fault of natural forces such as volcanoes which emit enormous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere (Bier, 2013).”

Your turn – have a go at your own draft paragraphs based on your Mind-Map for your essay topic! If you hit a rut or have some trouble, don’t forget to check out our article on how to write perfect paragraphs .

Once you’ve written all your paragraphs, make sure you write an introduction and conclusion .

Gone over the word count? Check out our article on how to reduce your word count.

7. Edit your Draft Once every Few Days until Submission. Check out this simple approach:

Okay, hopefully after your three hour essay drafting session you’ve got all your words down on paper. Congratulations!

However, we’re not done yet.

The best students finish their drafts early on so they have a good three or four weeks to come back and re-read their draft and edit it every few days.

When coming back to edit your draft , here’s a few things to look out for:

  • Make sure all the paragraph and sentence structure makes sense. Feel free to change words around until things sound right. You might find that the first time you edit something it sounds great, but next time you realize it’s not as good as you thought. That’s why we do multiple rounds of edits over the course of a few weeks;
  • Check for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors;
  • Print out your draft and read it on paper. You notice more mistakes when you read a printed-out version;
  • Work on adding any more details and academic sources from online sources like Google Scholar to increase your chance of getting a top grade. Here’s our ultimate guide on finding scholarly sources online – it might be helpful for this step!

Before you go – Here’s the Actionable Essay Plan Tips Summed up for you

Phew! That essay was tough. But with this essay plan, you can get through any essay and do a stellar job! Essay planning is a great way to ensure your essays make sense, have a clear and compelling argument, and don’t go off-topic.

I never write an essay without one.

To sum up, here are the 7 steps to essay planning one more time:

The 7-Step Guide for How to Write an Essay Plan


Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 102 Examples of Social Norms (List)
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 15 Social Environment Examples
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 15 Selective Perception Examples
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ Field Observation (Research Method): Definition and Examples

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How to Write an Essay Plan

Essay planning might seem like a waste of time, but it’s not! In fact, planning your essays will save you time and energy in the long-run.

This is because it’s much easier to write an essay that’s already been planned. You won’t need to worry about which point should come next or whether your argument is strong enough. Instead, you can focus purely on writing the essay.

So, if you want to ease the stress of essay writing and improve your grades, make essay planning a priority!

How will planning improve my grades?

Essays plans can:

  • Help you create a clear structure
  • Help you distribute the word count evenly
  • Prevent you from missing material out
  • Help you build a strong argument
  • Allow you to get feedback (many tutors will look at essay plans)
  • Alleviate writer’s block (when it comes to writing the essay)

Once you’ve written a few essay plans, you’ll appreciate just how much value they can add to your essays.

What does an essay plan look like?

An essay plan is a skeleton outline of your essay. It summarises what will be included in each paragraph and how the paragraphs will link together. It also states how many words will be used in each section, and the key references that’ll be used. Check out the essay plan template below for more details.

Essay plan template

Essay title: [….], introduction – […] words.

  • Engage with the essay question: [….]
  • State your position or argument: [….]
  • State any theories or frameworks that will inform the essay (if applicable): […]
  • Outline the structure of the essay: [….]

Paragraph 1 – […] words

  • Outline your first key point: [….]
  • Provide evidence (empirical research, theories, examples etc): [….]
  • Consider any criticisms of the above, then rebut: […]
  • Restate the main point and its relevance to the overall argument, link to next paragraph: […]

Paragraph 2 – […] words

  • Outline your second key point: [….]
  • Consider any criticisms of the above, then rebut […]

Paragraph 3 – […] words

  • Outline third key point: [….]
  • Restate the main point and its relevance to the overall argument: […]

Conclusion – […] words

  • Revisit the essay question and re-state your position/argument: [….]
  • Summarise the points from each paragraph: [….]
  • Offer a slightly new perspective and leave a lasting impression: [….]
  • List the key references to be used: [….]

Total word count: […]

It’s worth mentioning that essay plans aren’t perfect. They provide an outline of the essay, but some elements will probably change during the write-up process. In many ways, writing an essay plan is like planning a car journey. You’ll have a clear sense of where you’re going, but you might have to take some detours along the way.

A step-by-step guide to filling in the essay plan

If the essay plan template looks daunting then don’t worry, try breaking it down into stages:

1. Interpret and rephrase the essay question

You’ll see that the first stage of the essay plan asks you to ‘engage with the essay question’ .

Often, essays fail because they haven’t answered the question. That said, you should begin by making sure you understand the essay question. To do this, take a copy of the essay title and highlight the most important phrases. Then, slightly rephrase the question, and add it to your essay plan.

As an example,

Engage with the essay question: This essay critically evaluates what the gig economy means for employment relations issues, particularly workers’ rights and work-life balance.

2. State your position or argument

As shown above, the next stage of the essay plan is to state your position or argument. You will need to have done some research/background reading to get a sense of what you want to ‘argue’ in your essay. As an example,

3. Choose your key points

Once you’ve planned your introduction, it’s time to choose the themes that will be covered in your paragraphs. You should only include one key point per paragraph. Example:

Paragraph 1 – 150 words

  • Outline your first key point: Some gig economy workers are labelled as ‘independent contractors’, rather than ‘workers’ (even though they do the duties of ‘workers’). This means that they are not entitled to employment rights such as sick pay and holiday pay. By labelling their staff as ‘independent contractors’, these companies undermine workers’ rights.
  • Provide evidence (empirical research, theories, examples etc): Deliveroo will be used as an example. Employee experiences reported in the press (see Smith, 2018) and journal articles relating to this case will be cited (see Adams, 2019). Also, employment rights legislation will be presented (Gov, 2020).
  • Consider any criticisms of the above, then rebut: Independent workers’ unions have helped some gig-economy workers fight back and achieve ‘worker’ status. This suggests that the gig economy is not inevitably exploitative. However, the unions have not been able to achieve ‘worker’ status for Deliveroo riders, despite fighting hard.
  • Restate the main point and its relevance to the overall argument, link to next paragraph: As such, this substantiates the suggestion that some gig economy companies have undermined centuries of workers’ rights progress. As such, it can be said that some gig economy companies are leaving workers vulnerable to exploitation. Indeed, another exploitative facet of the gig economy is that workers often carry a high ‘burden of responsibility’ but are not comparatively compensated, as is explored in the next paragraph.

If you want to learn more about how to structure your paragraphs, check out our guidance on how to structure an essay .

4. Gather the evidence

When writing your plan, make a note of the key sources you will use in your essay. You’ll notice that under each paragraph, it says to ‘Provide evidence (empirical research, theories, examples etc)’.

It’s advisable to include at least one reference per paragraph. The more references you can gather before you start writing your essay, the better! Also, put the full citation in the ‘Reference list’ section of your essay plan so that you don’t lose it.

5. Offer a slightly new perspective and leave a lasting impression

Good essay conclusions don’t just repeat material that was discussed in the essay. Rather, they offer a slightly advanced perspective on the material that was discussed in the essay. This ‘advanced’ perspective can be quite difficult to plan for as it is often realised as a result of actually writing the essay.

However, this point has still been included in the essay plan template as it acts as a reminder. Want more tips on how to write an essay conclusion? Check out our detailed guidance!

6. Divide up the word count

You will notice that, next to each paragraph on the essay plan, there’s a space to fill in the suggested word count. Dividing up the word count before you start writing will stop you from exceeding the word limit when you write up your essay.

Essays are all different, but, as a general rule, the word count tends to be allocated as follows:

  • Intro – 5-10%
  • Main body (split into paragraphs) – 80-90%
  • Conclusion – 5-10%

To create a sense of balance, try to keep all the paragraphs a similar length.

When done properly, an essay plan can take several hours to write. But, as mentioned, it’ll save you so much time and energy in the long run. Not to mention, it’ll make the writing process a lot less stressful!

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Essay Planning: Guidelines and an Example Structure

25 May 2021

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Basic Parts of an Essay

Types of Essay Structure

Stages of good essay organization, how to plan an essay.

Before getting to the writing process, you must think about an essay plan structure. The essay plan is drawn up to rebuild the stream of thoughts into coherent, logically combined sentences. Immediately after receiving the topic of the essay, ideas, and images will start appearing in your mind. Sketch out the phrases or words that come to mind on a draft sheet, they can be developed for the whole task. If you want to make an assignment well that will be worth an A-level grade, use these recommendations from our essay writing guide at PapersOwl.com to create the finest essays.

  • In this piece, you get to learn Essay planning plus organizing and structuring the content and flow of it.
  • You will find out how essay planning helps to clarify the main idea and argument.
  • You also understand the structure of an essay plan constituents.
  • The introduction, main body, conclusion, and references will also be discussed.

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Basic parts of an essay.

While the most basic form of your essay is the opening, body, and conclusion, breaking it down further helps to make the writing process more straightforward. This allows you to write down the main points that need to be made throughout the writing. Understanding each section of the paper means presenting a well-thought-out and coherent end product. For these reasons, using an essay outline helps the writer and reader. Follow along as we demystify how to structure an essay template and give you tips.


A detailed thesis structure plan is crucial in writing an academic essay introduction. It helps to grasp the audience’s attention and guide the author’s writing. In essay planning, a well-written introduction follows the proper form and pays attention to detail. A good introduction paragraph helps focus the essay question and ideas and presents the paper’s topic in a single sentence. This makes it valuable for projects and research papers assigned to students.

Additionally, it will help focus your ideas at the beginning of a big assignment. A basic structure of essay works for various projects, texts, and research papers.

Importance of Hook

A hook is the first line of your paper intended to encourage your audience to read on and get their answer. It is among the key points of the opening ideas and is easy to learn. You can get a great hook by keeping a definite stance in your coherent argument, sensationalism, or stating an intriguing fact from the beginning. It keeps the reader entertained and eager to learn more from the paper you develop.

Thesis Statement

Simply put, the good thesis statement is the core sentence of your essay. It’s one of the essential components of an essay of all kinds. You can find it in a standard essay format of your essay plan at the beginning of the piece. For example, it could be resuming general points of the analysis, answering a “how to” answer the question, or just suggesting powerful ideas or useful tips.

Body Paragraphs

The essay’s thesis is backed up by the work’s body paragraphs. A standard body paragraph starts with a topic sentence, followed by supporting sentences, and ends with a conclusion. It sticks to one topic and connects to the other paragraphs.

Topic Sentence

The viewpoint is an information-packed section that throws a challenge at readers and requires a logical structure. This is where a detailed plan of the topic sentence comes in.

A topic sentence introduces the ideas you brainstorm, provides evidence, and concludes the topic in a condensed paragraph. This statement logically organizes the information, ensuring the reader understands the topic.

Your Points and Arguments

This will vary depending on what type of paper you are writing. If penning an expository job, a persuasive argument, or an argumentative academic essay , you will be doing lots of research and formulating your response to the responses you’re reading from professors and academics. This is the section where you state your position on an issue or its significance in world history and the points to substantiate your main argument to your audience.

Concluding Sentence

A concluding sentence in essay planning is the last sentence of a paragraph that summarizes the main idea and connects it to the rest of the essay. It should also signal the reader that the paragraph is ending and prepare them for the next one. Here are some tips for writing a good concluding sentence:

  • Restate the main idea of the paragraph in different words from the topic sentence.
  • Use a transition word or phrase to show how the paragraph relates to the previous or next one. 
  • End with a strong statement that leaves an impression on the reader. You can use an essay question, a quote, a call to action, etc.

The conclusion is the final section of an essay in that the essay’s conclusion helps the reader recall the important points and decide the end point of the essay. Each main point in your essay plan should be reduced to a statement in the last paragraph. This means that a three-point text will produce a template of three sentences for the conclusion. It gives readers a sense of completion by closing the work with a strong challenge and uniform writing conclusion across the entire essay.

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A structure is important for organizing your essay question and ideas in a proper logical structure. They help you present your topic, provide background information, give your thesis statement, support your claims with evidence and show why your argument matters. Different academic essay structures can suit different types of topics, purposes, and audiences.

For instance, if you employ a student's essay writer online , they can use a chronological essay plan to show the cause and effect of events over time. At the same time, you use a compare-and-contrast structure to highlight the similarities and differences between two or more subjects. Choosing an appropriate essay structure can help engage your readers and support your argument.

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Compare and contrast

In this basic essay structure, you write about several subjects, such as historical events, themes, or novels. As the name suggests, you then spend a passage comparing the subjects of your essay and the following passage contrasting them against each other. For example, the first body passage may discuss a novel's similarity with another book in how they deal with the theme of marriage.

While the next section will illustrate how they differ in their discussion of country versus city life, the last portion highlights if they're more comparable than not. It's a very common format for a college essay or thesis.


The chronological format follows a timeline or sequence of events from beginning to end. Perfect for a history and process essay, or a book from the prologue to the epilogue, it's also a standard essay format for cause-and-effect pieces. It's an easy method to follow and has a very basic essay structure. First, you outline your topic and points of the timeline you will be touching on in order of appearance.

After, each paragraph will deal with a particular place in the timeline, then move on to the next, according to what happened first. For example, you could analyze an initial historical skirmish. The following paragraph will deal with the ensuing battle, which eventually led to the declaration of all-out war. Write beginning from the first instance to the last in order of what happened first.

Problems-methods-solutions structure

The problems-methods-solutions example is valuable for essays dealing with resolving a particular problem or for a scientific research paper. It divides the body into three relevant headings: a problem, ways to resolve the problem the solution achieved by using these strategies to resolve the problem.

In the opening, you explain the problem you're attempting to solve in the essay, provide an outline of the experiment or ask a how-to question. The following paragraphs in the paper will discuss methods of solving the problem and any solutions.

As the final section will deal with multiple solutions, you can emphasize the answer you believe is the most useful. An analysis can also be added here with a summary where you compare the various options. Though it might not be the most basic essay construction, it's a great solution for an argumentative essay where you want to prove your thesis backed by consistent analysis.

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Understand your Topic

The first stage of a good organization is to understand your topic well. This means that you need to do some preliminary research and find the essay question or problem you want to address in your essay. You must also consider the essay plan’s purpose, audience, and tone. What are you trying to achieve with your essay? Who are you writing an essay for? How do you want to sound? What is the marking criteria for the assignment? These factors will influence and decide the type and level of information you must include in your essay.

Take Keynotes

The second stage in essay planning is to take keynotes of the relevant information you find in your research. This is like making a mind map, a mind map of your essay template. It is essential that, while writing your assignments , you familiarize yourself with the topic and take concise notes. You must select and record the essential information, facts, arguments, and evidence related to your topic and research question. You also need to use your own words and avoid plagiarism.   Effective note-taking helps you synthesize information, capture key points, and remember important details. Employ a structured approach, such as a closed question, bullet points, or headings, to categorize your notes, making and not going over the word limit.

Group Similar Ideas

The third stage of a good organization is to group similar ideas and label them with keywords or phrases. To deliver a great job plan to your clients who have been paying for papers from you, you must look for patterns and connections among your notes. See how they relate to your topic and essay question. You also need to identify the main argument that you want to make in your essay. Also, group similar ideas together, like you would in a mind map, and label them with keywords or phrases that describe their content. This will help you organize your initial thoughts and build the structure of your essay. 

Note Down Sources of Further Information

The fourth stage of a good organization is to note down sources of further information you decide to use in your essay. This means you may need more evidence or examples to support your points or explore some aspects of your topic more deeply. You must also list the sources you plan to consult for the work. To note down sources of further information, you should review your notes and identify any gaps or weaknesses. Ensure you list the sources you plan to use in your essay and their bibliographic details, and evaluate each source based on its credibility.

Outline What You Will Include in Each Section

The fifth stage outlines what you will include in each section when writing your essay. This means you must decide on the order and transitions between sections. Your outline should include the following parts:  An introduction that introduces your topic and provides background information. It will also state your thesis statement and outline the main point of your essay A main body that develops your main points and sub-points in paragraphs, using evidence and examples to build a coherent argument. It should also help in drafting an answer to your essay question.  A conclusion that will summarise your endpoint, restates your thesis statement, and shows why your main argument matters. 

Write a Draft

The sixth stage is to write a draft of the essay based on your outline plan. This means that you must write in complete sentences and paragraphs and follow the conventions of academic writing. You must also use clear, precise language and avoid grammar and spelling errors.  Ensure you cite your sources properly using the required citation style. To write the first draft of your essay, follow your outline as a guide and write your essay from start to finish. Clear and precise language should be a given; avoid jargon, slang, or vague words. Carry out grammar and spelling checkers to correct any errors and build your writing.

Figure out a Word Count

The final stage in the essay writing process is to decide how many words are appropriate. You may need to add or delete from the total word count to adjust the length. You also need to check the quality and clarity of your writing and make revisions to the essay plan. To determine a word count plan, you should use a word processor or an online tool to count the number of words in your essay. Get feedback on the quality and clarity of your writing, and make revisions as needed to improve your essay writing.

planning sheet for essay


Begin by establishing a clear and captivating title. The title should glimpse your piece’s main focus or argument. Also, if required, formulate an essay question or thesis statement that succinctly paves the way for your main body paragraphs.

Identify the essay topic that your essay will address. Whether it is a literary analysis, a scientific inquiry, or a historical exploration, clearly define the subject to maintain a focused and cohesive approach throughout your essay.

After getting the essay topic, know the due date for your essay. This will help you establish a realistic timeline and allocate sufficient research plan, essay writing, and revising time.

Conduct thorough research on your chosen subject and take concise and relevant notes. Capture key points, essential facts, and significant elements from various sources. organize your notes structured, employing headings or categories to facilitate easy navigation during the writing process.

Ideas to Discuss

Based on your brainstorming sessions, research, and keynotes, identify the main ideas and outline how many words are enough for each. These ideas should align with your thesis statement and should develop a coherent argument.

If appropriate to your essay’s subject and style, cite relevant quotations from reputable sources to support your arguments. Select quotes that directly contribute to your analysis or provide valuable insights. Remember to attribute the quotes to their original authors properly and include accurate citations in your plan.

Note down the sources you have consulted during your research that helped to answer the question of the essay. This includes books, articles, scholarly journals, websites, and other relevant materials you can cite. Ensure you gather all necessary bibliographic information, such as author names, publication titles, publication dates, and page numbers, to create accurate citations and a comprehensive bibliography later.


Moreover, create an outline or layout for your essay. Organize and summarise the ideas you brainstorm into sections and subsections in the essay plan (like a mind map), establishing the structure and flow in drafting your essay. 

Additional Information

Consider any additional information and elements relevant to your essay before you start writing. This may include specific formatting requirements, referencing styles, marking criteria, or word count provided by your instructor or institution.

An Example of Using a Template

essay planning example

How do you structure a long essay?

How can you ensure that your essay is well organized, what is the best essay structure, was this article helpful, thanks for your feedback.

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Dr. Karlyna PhD

I am a proficient writer from the United States with over five years of experience in academic writing. I comfortably complete given assignments within stipulated deadlines and at the same time deliver high-quality work, which follows the guidelines provided.

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Essay Plan Templates

Not Everyone is a Born Writer, So If Your University Instructor Gives You the Assignment to Write an Essay in English or History Subjects, It’s Best to Download Template.net’s Free Essay Plan Templates. Download Printable Blank or Ready-Made Simple and Informative Template Examples that Are Content-Ready that Outline the Structure of Your Planned Essay. Write Your Essay with Confidence Courtesy of Our Templates Today!

Get Access to All Essay Plan Templates

An essay plan is something that will help you organize your thoughts as you are preparing to draft an essay. It's almost like a mind map , but all text and no graphics and diagrams. It is applicable to any topic such as academic, history, psychology, research, biology, literature, and others. So if you’re planning on writing an essay, make sure to start making an essay plan first.

Template.net has a variety of Essay Plan Templates . We guarantee you high-quality and original templates as these are made by our professional team of designers and writers. We make sure for your convenience that is why our templates already have pre-written content and well-crafted design that you can easily edit. We have an integrated editor tool for quick and easy customization. You can change the font style or size, alter the background, modify the graphics, revise the color theme, or adjust the arrangement to suit your desired essay plan. Our templates are accessible too and can be opened using any device of your choice. This is surely advantageous to you as you can edit the templates you want anytime and anywhere. When you are done with the necessary adjustments to the template, save it right away. You have the choice to email it or print it instantly as our templates are printable. 

Aside from plans, we also have education mind map templates and education flowchart templates if you prefer to organize your thoughts through infographics. These templates will undoubtedly save you time when compared to creating one from scratch. So download it today!

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