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Essay Writing Part 3: How to Finalise Your Essay Plan

Essay Writing Part 3: How to Finalise Your Essay Plan

It is important that, before you start writing your essay, you have a clear idea of what position you will be taking in your essay, what topics you want to cover, what information you need to include, and in what order that information should be presented. Only in this way can you be sure of producing a high-quality academic essay. The key to this is a detailed essay plan, carefully refined during the research stage and finalised before writing.  

At the first stage (‘How to Begin’), you will have drafted your rough essay plan. The example provided looked like this:

Question: ‘Was indigenous culture completely decimated in the Americas as a result of Spain’s colonisation in the 16th century?’ (1,000 words)
  • Introduction (100 words)
    • Thesis statement: Spain’s colonisation had a negative effect on the indigenous population of the Americas but some aspects of the culture of some indigenous groups survived—it was not completely decimated.
    • Introduce main points or topics to be discussed: disease, language, art and craft, religion
  • Topic 1: Disease and demographic impact (200 words)
  • Topic 2: Language (200 words)
  • Topic 3: Art and craft (200 words)
  • Topic 4: Religion (200 words)
  • Conclusion (100 words)
    • Concluding statement: Thus, while Spain’s colonisation of the Americas had a negative impact on the culture of its indigenous peoples, it was not completely decimated as some aspects survived.
    • Sum up main points or topics that have been discussed: disease, language, art and craft, religion

This plan will have informed your research phase, as described in the article ‘How to Organise Your Research’. 

In that article, it was noted that during the research phase you may have found that your rough essay plan needed to be adapted to fit your findings from the literature. You will have made decisions around what information to include in your essay and how your topics should be ordered to best support your argument. Having started this process while preparing your research document (see ‘How to Organise Your Research’), you can now write your final essay plan, which will be more detailed than your original plan and reflect all the firm decisions you made about how your essay should be written. This must be done by the time you come to writing.

Your final essay plan may look like this:

  • Introduction (100 words)
    • Thesis statement: Spain’s colonisation had a significantly negative effect on the indigenous population of the Americas but some aspects of the culture of some indigenous groups survived and even thrived—it was not completely decimated.
    • Introduce main points or topics to be discussed: disease, religion, family, language
  • Topic 1: Disease and demographic impact (300 words)
    • Para 1: Diseases
    • Para 2: Treatments
    • Para 3: Demographic impact
  • Topic 2: Religion (175 words)
  • Topic 3: Family (175 words)
  • Topic 4: Language (150 words)
  • Conclusion (100 words)
    • Concluding statement:  Thus, while Spain’s colonisation of the Americas had an overwhelmingly negative impact on the culture of its indigenous peoples, it was not completely decimated as some aspects survived.
    • Sum up main points or topics that have been discussed: disease, religion, family, language

In this example, you will see that through the process of conducting the research, the student has realised that ‘disease and demographic impact’ is the most important topic and so should be allocated more words and be broken up under subheadings. ‘Family’ was also identified as an important topic, replacing ‘art and craft’. The least important topic was ‘language’, so this is now positioned last. 

Note that your final essay plan may be even more detailed than this one, including subheadings under each topic. This will depend on the length and nature of your essay. 

You are now ready to begin writing the first draft of your essay. You might like to print your essay plan for quick reference. In addition, you should have your research document open (or printed if you prefer). These two documents will together guide you easily through the writing stage of your essay. For detailed advice on writing your essay, see ‘How to Write the First Draft’.

And don't forget, Capstone Editing's YouTube channel provides a video lecture series by Dr Lisa Lines on how to write an essay.