This article tells you about the importance of planning your essay.

One of my students asked me what he could do to improve his essay writing – what a difficult question! There are so many aspects to writing a good essay that it is impossible to cover them all but I’d like to emphasise one really important thing and that is planning! This is an essential first step. You are not ready to start writing until you have a plan.

Imagine building a house without designing it first! What would it look like?! The plan is essential because you need something to follow. But that’s not all – if somebody gave you a plan do you think you could write a good essay from their plan? Well, I think not, or not a very good one. Why? Because if you took somebody else’s plan then you wouldn’t have gone through the framing process which is so important to good essay writing.

Imagine trying to find your way around a new town without a map. Pretty hard. Now imagine that you have a map to examine before you go. You look at the map, you build a mental representation of the place, you see the big roads and where they meet and how all the streets tie in with each other. After this framing process you are ready to get out and see the sights. You will have the framework in place before you get out there.

Alternatively, imagine you didn’t have a map. Or you didn’t have a map until you got out there. Then you would have to stop, scratch your head, turn the map round and round and try to make sense of it. You can be sure that everyone in the street would keep bumping into you and there would be nowhere to put the map down flat so you could see it properly.

If you are writing in an exam it’s a good idea to hand in your plan with your final answer. Your marker will be happy to see a plan, and it will make a good first impression on the writer. One lecturer told me that if students ran out of time in an exam and didn’t finish their essay then he would look at the plan and might give some marks for ideas in the plan.