How to Plan your Essay: Begin by Getting the Basics Right

The essay task may be quite specific and prescriptive, with deliberate and strict parameters. Alternatively, the essay task may be more open ended, leaving the writer to make the determination of matters such as length, level of language, style, number of sources, whether sources are to be contemporary or primary, broad or narrow, academic only or also more populist.

Know the Key Terms

Know the key terms in the essay question and what each one means.
Be clear whether the question expects a certain position on the question to be taken, or whether the writer is free to choose their own viewpoint to develop and defend.

How to Plan your Essay: Brainstorm Relevant Ideas

After deconstructing an essay question to identify its component parts and key requirements, your essay planning will benefit from brainstorming ideas relevant to the topic.
Once you have compiled an extensive number of ideas relating to the essay question and the topic it addresses, the ideas should be surveyed to prioritise their importance.

Establish a Clear Thesis

Once the more significant ideas are known, it will be possible to develop a clear thesis.
When planning an essay, a clear thesis directly addresses the essay question, and provides a clear justification or rationale for why the thesis position is held.
In other words, a clear essay thesis is a statement in response to the essay question that the essay will seek to explain and defend.

Access to Good Resources

Plan to have ready and easy access to quality resources, such as primary and secondary sources, including academically oriented books, peer-reviewed journals, as well as internet access.

Use Appropriate Types of Evidence

Evidence is used to back up a thesis and substantiate its claims.
An essay may paraphrase pertinent sections of a secondary text or directly cite brief but highly relevant sections of a primary source. Anecdotes, statements by subject experts, comparisons between past and present subject opinions, are all legitimate types of evidence.

Assemble Compelling Evidence

A well-organised compilation of evidence is an essential part of how to plan an essay.
When considering how to plan an essay writing, consideration must be given to accessing a wide range of relevant sources, from which relevant and illuminating citations may be drawn.
This process enhances the discussion, debate or argument as it is constructed.

Citing Authorities

Evidence can take the form of citing experts such as those regarded as authorities in a given field. In this case, transcriptions of what has been said or written must be recorded accurately, to fairly and fully reflect the ideas of someone else within a new intellectual context.

Organising Evidence

When considering how to plan an essay, thought must be given to an organisational system for the collation of evidence, so that accurate transcription and appropriation of material can be maintained and preserved.