Teacher of English, David Murray’s blog on Planning An Essay

David has been teaching for longer than any of his students have been alive. He was born at a young age in west London. Growing up near the M4 and Heathrow, he dreamt of going to great places. And so he moved to Stoke. When he isn’t reading, he is writing. And when he isn’t writing, he’s sleeping. He finds it hard to do all three at once.


David Murray – is an experienced English teacher and examiner who is part of our English team here at the college

There are few things in life that do not need to be planned. Spontaneity has its place, of course. But if you’re trying to form a rigorous, well-argued, thought-through argument, you will definitely need to plan. Key to your planning should be an awareness that someone is going to have to make sense of what you are saying. So the onus is on you to communicate clearly. The reader should not have to work to understand. You should do the work to help them understand. And that will take planning. 

So, of course, you need to give yourself time. You cannot write a good essay if you leave it to the last minute. Everything needs the time it needs. You wouldn’t try to bake a cake five minutes before a party. You wouldn’t wonder about how you were getting to London if you had an appointment there in ten minutes. Everything needs its time. So take the time it needs. Treat your thoughts and your words with the respect they deserve and work to make yourself heard. 

When it comes to planning an essay, there are lots of different approaches and so it is impossible to mandate a single way of doing it. Some people make mind maps. Some people make lists. Some people have post-it notes plastered around their computer screen. Some people use highlighters (but, please, don’t highlight every word). You will need to find the best way for you to plan. The important thing all forms of planning will have in common is that each of them should help you to clarify your ideas for yourself first and then help you to organise them logically to be understood. This is the purpose of a plan: to make something work.

One thing we would ask of you: do not think your essay is finished just because you’ve written the final word. When you’ve done that, then go back to the beginning. Read it yourself first. Proofread it. Read it aloud. Get someone else to read it. Leave it a few days and then look at it again. You need to be sure that what people will read is the best representation of your thoughts. So give it your best. And remember that it will take the time it needs.

Further guides to look into regarding good academic writing:

The University of Sussex: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/skillshub/?id=356

The University of Leicester: https://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/ld/all-resources/dept/crim/planning-essays

The University of Newcastle: https://libguides.newcastle.edu.au/essay_planning/essay-planning

Texas A&M International University: https://www.tamiu.edu/uc/writingcenter/documents/TransitionsandConnectives.pdf