Writing a good essay often depends on preparing a good plan to start with. Therefore, the following outlines an effective tutorial to ensure that your plan will be as beneficial as possible.
Of course, but we can start any plan, you first need to decide what to write about. There are various different techniques that you can use to help you develop ideas, such as brainstorming methods. Likewise, simply discussing ideas with friends and colleagues can be a great way of coming up with topics, and might help you to think of titles that you would not otherwise thought of.
This is particularly relevant to exam situations where it is all too easy to forget details if you dive straight into an essay without planning it first.
Try not to put too much detail into the plans: use keywords and phrases, make notes of important references and species names that should be included in the final essay.
In exam situations, timing is crucial but you should still aim to spend at least 5-10 minutes working on your plan (assuming you are given a minimum of 45 minutes per essay).
You can improve even the most carefully planned essay by creating a reverse outline after completing your first draft. The process of revision should be as much about organization as it is about style.
A different way of moving your notes around is to use the computer. You can collect your points consecutively, just as you would on paper. You can then sort your ideas when you are ready to start planning. Take advantage of “outline view” in Word, which makes it easy for you to arrange your points hierarchically. This method is fine so long as you don’t mind being tied to your computer from the first stage of the writing process to the last. Some people prefer to keep their planning low-tech.
A useful alternative involves using both white and coloured cards. When you come up with a point that you think may be one of the main points in your outline, write it at the top of a coloured card. Put each supporting note on a separate white card, using as much of the card as necessary. When you feel ready, arrange the coloured cards into a workable plan. Some of the points may not fit in. If so, either modify the plan or leave these points out. You may need to fill gaps by creating new cards. You can shuffle your supporting material into the plan by placing each of the white cards behind the point it helps support.
The earlier you begin planning, the better. It is usually a mistake to do all of your research and note-taking before beginning to draw up an outline. Of course, you will have to do some reading and weighing of evidence before you start to plan. But as a potential argument begins to take shape in your mind, you may start to formalize your thoughts in the form of a tentative plan. You will be much more efficient in your reading and your research if you have some idea of where your argument is headed. You can then search for evidence for the points in your tentative plan while you are reading and researching. As you gather evidence, those points that still lack evidence should guide you in your research. Remember, though, that your plan may need to be modified as you critically evaluate your evidence.
When you begin planning, ask the following questions: What type of essay am I going to be writing? Does it belong to a specific genre? In university, you may be asked to write, say, a book review, a lab report, a document study, or a compare-and-contrast essay. Knowing the patterns of reasoning associated with a genre can help you to structure your essay.
The best time to think about how to organize your paper is during the pre-writing stage, not the writing or revising stage. A well-thought-out plan can save you from having to do a lot of reorganizing when the first draft is completed. Moreover, it allows you to pay more attention to sentence-level issues when you sit down to write your paper.
Are you ready to write now? Here’s a compilation of 53 for and against topics to write about from different sites and course books. Take your pick, follow all the tips and guidelines and good luck!