Planning is key to writing a great essay. It finalises the thoughts in your head and forces you to think out what you actually want to say. We've compiled the basics of planning below, so have a read!

On this page

1. The basics of planning
2. Structure
3. Making a plan: first steps
4. Making a more comprehensive plan

The Basics of Planning

The first part to writing an essay is to plan it well. This will mean that your ideas are sorted out and in written form, rather than just being random possibilities in your head. If you can put your ideas into words on paper, then you will be clear about what you actually want to say in your essay.


Remember the basic format for an essay is to have an introduction, some body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Depending on the length of your essay, you will have different options about how to structure it. Here are some possible ways to structure your essays:

  1. All in one

Your introduction goes first, then some body paragraphs, and a conclusion. There are no sections and this is a good idea for shorter essays where you don’t need to make too many points.

2. Divide your essay into sections

This is a good option for essays of about 3000+ words, as it makes sure that you have a clear line of reasoning and can keep each part of your argument in a separate section. If you are writing an essay for anthropology for example, sections explaining the theory, and then giving relevant examples in case studies, are a good idea to break up your work and keep it really clear and focused.

Making a Plan: First step

The first step to planning is to sort out the following three things:

  • Your thesis statement (what you want to say, all in one sentence. The main point to your essay and what you will be able to conclude by the end)
  • The main arguments that you want to make (you can use some brainstorming techniques for this – see here)
  • An outline of which structure you will use – one body, or split up into sections?
Making a more comprehensive plan

The next thing to do is develop what you want to say into some more comprehensive points, and there are a couple of ways to do this: either in a table or in a list – it doesn’t really matter as long as you are actually using a piece of paper and not just thinking about it in your head!

You first want to list each point that you will make so that you can arrive at the conclusion that you want to reach.

The next thing to do is, under each point, put some explanatory notes, examples, evidence, or other information which you need to explain your point. This is where you compile all your research and find the most important bits to note down under each point. Think about it like building a skeleton for your essay, and you will add the flesh later when you actually come to writing it.

Finally, check that your plan has a comprehensive set of points that flow to and from each other, that you have collected evidence for your points, and that you know where to find each piece of evidence (keeping track of your sources is important to avoid plagiarism!).

Here are some examples of essay plans by students for different subjects, to help you with what to do: