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How to plan an essay

by tutlance

The essential part of writing a good essay is the process of planning. Before you start writing an essay, it is important to decide upon how your ideas should appear in the text and what kind of approach will work best for you. There are different approaches for every type of an academic essay writer. If you know them and choose one that fits you better, your essays will be more successful.

It is hard to come up with a universal advice regarding how you should prepare for your essay if you do not know what type of questions has been given in its writing instruction.

In case you were tasked with developing your own original idea on a certain topic, you need no guidelines at all. All that matters is the direction of your research and if you will approach the problem from a perspective that is different than what others usually take, it will be far more interesting to read.

how to plan an essay

If the instructions tells you how to write an essay on a specific topic using certain structure, read them carefully and follow them.

If your instructor gives you no guidelines on how to organize your thoughts in a paper or asks you not to use structured format for writing an essay, feel free to create one by yourself.

Think about how your ideas should correspond with each other and make sure that they cover every aspect of the given topic.

Use project plans or outlines as well as charts that can help keep everything under control and do not forget about peer reviews, because they are really important even when you are working on your own project.

Let us discuss the best practices in the essay planning process.

What is an essay plan?

An essay plan is an outline that helps you format and write your essay. It is also a guide to ensure that the content of your paper is relevant, cohesive, and solid. Essay plans do not have to be complex!

A typical 5 paragraph essay plan consists of an introduction paragraph, two body paragraphs that support the thesis statement, and a concluding paragraph to tie everything together.

What is essay planning?

Essay planning is the process where you develop your argument, research, organize and critically assess the sources.

The structure for developing an essay plan is rather simple:

  1. Acknowledging the prompt or assignment;
  2. Listing all of your ideas about it;
  3. Establishing a thesis statement (for some assignments);
  4. Devising a paper outline using logical headings;
  5. Researching and evaluating sources that support your argument;
  6. Writing and revising paragraphs to fit into the outline structure provided by your instructor;
  7. Writing a killer introductory paragraph that captures readers’ attention and draws them in so they want to learn more about what you have to say on this issue;
  8. Wrapping up with a solid conclusion that sums up your thoughts and leaves a lasting impression on the reader.

When you use a process of planning you are sure that your essays will be organized and logical. It is also important to mention that using this method for writing, it might help you save time for creating final versions of papers or doing some other tasks.

The most common way of composing an essay plan is by hand, but nowadays there are several applications created specifically to aid in creating plans for essays, term papers, book reports, research papers, research proposal projects etc.

These programs can create neat outline-plan which might come extremely useful if we live in fast pace world and there is no much time left till the deadline given by teacher or professor for completion of academic paper.

The intent of creating an essay plan:

Using an essay plan will make writing an essay much easier because it provides you with a road map for what should be included in each part the paper. Additionally, if you are stumped as to where exactly to begin writing your paper then having an outline can help relieve some pressure by at least helping you decide how many introductory points will need to be made.

When to use an essay plan:

You should always use an essay plan if you are writing a formal research paper, since essays in this genre typically require that the content of the paper aligns with what exactly was researched and outlined beforehand. Additionally, if you are unsure of how to begin your paper then using an outline is a good idea because it provides needed structure for where to focus your energies as you write.

On the other hand, informal essays do not strictly require an outline before they are written since people tend to read them less critically than formal essay. For example, if you need writing help and want someone else to edit your work then consider looking into online essay editors or services offered by campus tutors .

How to plan an essay

Here are 3 core steps that will help you prepare an essay plan for your college or university essay writing task. This guide can also be used other students who wish to learn how to structure an essay plan for better grades (read how to structure an essay).

  1. Decide on the structure: The first step is choosing an appropriate structure for your essay by analysing its purpose and subject matter (if there is any). A clear idea about the structure helps to make sure that all parts of an essay fit together well and have their own role in supporting the whole paper’s idea.
  2. Gathering information: The second step is gathering information from texts or people whose knowledge on the topic will to help you write the essay. If there is a certain topic about which you have to make a research, it is important that you use all your time effectively for getting enough information about the subject. If there are several sources of knowledge available, they should be used to compile a list of ideas and opinions on the one or another aspect of the theme.
  3. Note making and summarizing: The third step in planning an essay is making notes and summarizing them afterwards in order to form an outline with major points of arguments and key issues that must be discussed in detail further into writing. It will help to structure your academic essay more clearly and make sure no essential details get lost among less significant ones. When your outline is ready, it’s time for writing!

However thorough planning may seem, it is vital for a successful writing.

How to plan an essay outline

The most important part of an essay outline is its thesis statement. The thesis statement will help you focus on the main idea that relates to your research paper. It is also vital because it acts as a guide, letting you know if all sections in the content align with each other and support the main idea .

Constructing an essay outline when planning your essay

Here are 5 steps on how to plan an essay outline for your academic essay.

Step 1 : Decide on a topic for your essay; Choose one that interests you and one that fits well with the course material. If you are unsure of what exactly to write about then try doing research on different aspects of your favorite topics (for example, how consumers feel about brands or products). This will help come up with ideas regarding how to organize your writing.

Step 2 : Brainstorm about the different areas of your topic that you will need to cover as you write. There should be five or six broad subjects (for example, background information on a subject, consumer reactions to a product), which will help form the subsections that make up your research paper.

Step 3 : Organize those main ideas into an outline:

With reference to a 5 paragraph essay, here are the main items of a good outline that you need to include in your essay planning process:

  1. Title of Paper;
  2. Introduction paragraph with thesis statement;
  3. Body paragraphs 1-3;
  4. Conclusion paragraph.

Step 4 : Look over your outline to ensure that it is relevant and cohesive. For example, if one part does not link well with another section then rework them so they do connect together as intended. It is also important to use transition words , like “furthermore” and “in addition,” to help the paragraphs flow into each other.

Step 5 : Type your essay plan into a word or text editor, being sure that it is written legibly. Repeat any key points that are critical for summarizing the main ideas from your paper. In addition, you should also include some sub-points if you have enough room to write them down (for example, if one of the subjects in Step 2 required two or three different points).

Helpful hints about essay plans:

  • Use only five or six main topics to organize your paper because extensive lists tend to be overwhelming. It is better to use too few than too many!
  • If you need more space then print out your essay outline.

Essay Plan Examples

Below is an essay plan example that you can use to create a good plan for your college essay.

Plan for an essay example 1:

Title : Project Management in Different Industries

Introduction : Introduction about project management and overview of how it is used in each industry, followed by a thesis statement that states the main point from my research.

Body Paragraph 1: How project management works in the food service industry with examples;

Body Paragraph 2: How it works within the manufacturing sector;

Body Paragraph 3: The implementation of project management within healthcare settings;

Conclusion: Restate your thesis and transition into ideas for future research.

essay plan example

Overall, essay planning provides you with documentation of what was researched as well as an idea structure for how to organize your written assignment. It also eases any concerns of writing off the topic since you literally have a road map to follow while completing your work.

Essay Planning Sheet

Here is a essay planning sheet pdf to download:

Essay planning sheet 

Argumentative Essay Planning Sheet

Click on the image below to view a argumentative essay planning sheet in pdf format.

Argumentative essay planning sheet

Essay Plan Template

This is an essay plan template which can be used as a model for academic writing.

Plan for an essay example 2:

Title: The title of the paper.

Thesis Statement: A sentence in the introduction that states the main idea to be developed throughout the essay.

Body Paragraph 1: Defines “English Literature,” introduces the concept of literary criticism, names two main schools of criticism and clarifies purposes of literary criticism.

Body Paragraph 2: Introduces the following body paragraphs and defines the topics to be discussed in each one.

Body Paragraph 3: Defines “literary analysis,” provides examples and defines effectiveness of this method, including strategies for evaluating works of literature.

Conclusion: Restates the thesis and illustrates how it is central to undergraduate education in an English major program.

An essay plan template in pdf format:


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Conclusion on Essay Planning

As seen above, there are as many of planning approaches as there is the variety of essay writing types. Some writers prefer to outline their essays, while others take notes down before starting to write the actual text.

It depends on a writer and his or her personal preferences which approach will help them work most efficiently. If you have already chosen an approach for yourself, try not to change it, as it might affect your performance and output quality.

Whether you need to plan an expository essay, plan an argumentative essay, or even an essay using a mind map, this guide will help you construct a logical essay for better grades.

At the end of this article, we hope that you understand why it is important to make a plan for your academic papers and how to plan an essay for university. Now you know what makes a good essay outline and how to write one for any assignment in college or university.

How to plan an essay using a mind map

A mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information when planning an essay. Mind maps use several key components:

  • A central idea (or title of the topic)
  • Key words, phrases, or sentences that refer back to the central idea
  • Lines connecting ideas together showing relationships among them

The following sections examine how to make a mind map for an essay outline and how to use it. The example shows what you can achieve through proper planning from the very beginning.

It is worth noting that when creating a mind map, you do not need to stick strictly to this plan template . Do not be afraid if your ideas do not fit on one page. Put extra lines wherever necessary — all while keeping in mind the main points of your writing process and its structure.

How to Create a Mind Map Essay Plan

While there are numerous mind map software programs you can use (like Inspiration or Coggle), a free online tool is also an ideal choice for writing essay outlines. Using this approach, you can create your outline in real-time  and share it with other writers and tutors for further editing and modifications.

If someone has already used this method before, let us know in the comments or ask a question here.


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