How to plan an essay


Faculty: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
School: School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Course: BA (Hons) English Literature
Category: Student Ambassador

31 May 2017

We’re always told as English students to plan our essays before we start writing, especially in exam situations. But what exactly does planning mean?

Well, simply put, it’s an outline of what you’re going to write in your essay. If you follow your plan, you’re less likely to go off track. Everyone plans differently, and it’s important to find your own style, but here is my advice on how to plan an essay.

1. Pick your question

When you get your list of essay questions, you need to pick one to answer. Pick one that you find interesting, and that you can put an interesting spin on. Start by picking out the key word in the question. For example, if your question was ‘How is gender presented in two or more texts?’, your key word is gender. An interesting thing to talk about might be masculinity as opposed to femininity, or gender ambiguity. Think about texts you can use in response to this question, and take note of what the question says. In this case, you should write on at least two texts, but more than that is also acceptable. 

2. Research

Once you’ve picked your texts and your question, it’s time to do some research. Read up on critics that write about your question topic and chosen questions, and see what research has been done before. This not only helps you develop an interesting, original argument, but it can also be used in your essays to help you argue a point.

3. Find your evidence

Once you have done this, you need to go through your chosen text and find quotations. It’s similar to how science students would do an experiment. Quotations from a text are an English Literature student’s evidence. Pick the most relevant and interesting quotes, and jot down some ideas of what you can analyse about them.

4. Create an argument

The next step is to think about all the evidence and research you have compiled, and think of an interesting way to pull it all together in your argument. Make it interesting, and say something original.

5. Think about structure

Lastly, think about how you will structure your essay. What will be in each paragraph is very important, and crucial to the structure. How will you start? How will you conclude? Where will you bring in your secondary sources?

Once you’ve done that, you’re all done! You’re now ready to start your essay. Good luck!



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