Staring into the face of a long essay assignment is always daunting. Maybe you don’t understand the question, or maybe you just don’t know where to start. Either way, it’s all too easy to close your laptop and promise yourself that you’ll do it later. But then suddenly that deadline is just a day away and you’re up all night pulling together a rough essay that’s never going to get you the grade you want.
So next time, try starting with a plan. Follow these steps to make the perfect essay plan and the writing will be easy – get ready to score your highest grade yet!
1. Understand the Question
Essay questions can be vague, complicated and confusing. Before you even think about writing your essay make sure you have a full and thorough understanding of what you are being asked to argue. Take time to unpack the question, highlighting keywords and contemplating how you will define those keywords in the context of your essay.
Write it out, think about it, understand it. This is the most important part of your essay plan – if you haven’t fully grasped what the question is asking you, it will be impossible to score highly on the essay.
Either by hand or on your laptop, write down any initial ideas or thoughts you have about the essay title. Whether it’s questions you want to answer, information from a lecture that you’ve remembered or the name of a reading that you want to check back on, this will kickstart your essay creativity. Brainstorming is a good starting point, especially if you’re feeling lost as to where you should start, and is also useful to look back on once you’re into your writing process to get ideas and inspiration.
3. Do Your Research
With many essays, researching will actually be your biggest task and can take up a lot of time. So make sure you are using that time effectively and efficiently. Start with your course reading list if you have one, but avoid using it exclusively. If you want your essay to stand out to your examiner, find some more original research that other students may not have included.
Do your readings and make notes as you go of important points. Write down specific quotes that you think you may want to include with their corresponding page number – this will save you so much time later. As well as this, although it’s a tedious task, try to create your bibliography as you go – this makes such a difference as it will avoid rushing it and consequently losing easy marks.
4. Form Your Argument
You should now have all of your ideas and your research, so it’s time to start deciding what your essay is going to say. Form a thesis – this should be about one sentence long and should sum up as concisely as possible what your essay is arguing. This will help you form a coherent argument. Make a list of your paragraph headings, ensuring that each one is absolutely relevant in proving your thesis statement to construct a strong and convincing argument.
5. Colour Coding
Highlight each of your paragraph headings in a different colour and then return to the notes you made whilst doing your research. With each paragraph heading in mind, go through the research and highlight your notes correspondingly with which paragraph heading they relate to. This clearly organises which parts of your research are relevant to your argument and tells you exactly where it will fit into your essay.
6. Construct Your Plan
Now you can begin creating your final plan which will guide you through your writing process seamlessly. Combine your ideas with your research under each paragraph heading, including your full quotations.
7. Introduction and Conclusion
Write down some bullet points for the introduction and conclusion that will enclose your essay, this will help you to round out your argument and ensure it flows coherently.
8. Start Writing!
Now you are (finally) ready to start writing your essay! With a plan this detailed, this will be the easy part. You know exactly what is going in your essay, where your argument is going and what research is supporting it. All you need to do is pull together your argument in full sentences and you’re finished! Get ready to get your highest grade yet.