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What to include in an essay plan

Bernice Stockstill
17th Jan 2019
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The first step when putting together your plan is to take all these summaries from your sources and collate them in one place. Open a blank Microsoft Word document and copy out the various descriptions in a list, making sure to reference where each quote has come from. Often you will have several pieces of information from each source.

Your list will look something like this:

  • Africa’s poor export performance – 1
  • Impact of trade barriers – 1
  • Impact of transport costs – 1
  • Little evidence that trade restrictions caused marginalisation – 1
  • Low GDP in Africa details – 2
  • Case study of Ghana’s adjustment program – 3
  • Four reasons for marginalisation – 4
  • Impact of insufficient economic reform – 4
  • Impact of insufficient scale – 4
  • Policy reforms not gone far enough – 4

The above example shows the first ten references from a real essay plan I produced. In the plan, you can see that references one and four had several useful points, while 2 and 3 each had one relevant paragraph. If you find that some of your references have lots of useful information – say more than half a dozen separate highlights – you might find it useful to introduce a secondary level of identification, and number each paragraph within a particular reference. You would then need to include this information in your plan:

  • Africa’s poor export performance – 1:1
  • Impact of trade barriers – 1:2
  • Impact of transport costs – 1:3
  • Little evidence that trade restrictions caused marginalisation – 1:4

This is an optional step, but it will speed up the process when you need to refer back to a reference later on.

By now you will have several pages made up of a long list of random references. At this stage, though, the information will only be sorted in order of reference (i.e. from 1 to however many different sources you have in total) but you will need the information in a more ordered arrangement if it is to provide a useful tool. At this stage, you need to take a clear look at the information in front of you and pick out the main themes. Having skim read many references and then highlighted and summarised their content, this shouldn’t be particularly difficult. An essay of average length will probably need around half a dozen different categories. As discussed in writemyessay service your categories will include an introduction to the essay itself, the context of the topic being discussed, the main element of the essay (e.g. the advantages and disadvantages of a certain change) and a conclusion.

Returning to the example used above, which happened to be an essay on the topic of sub-Saharan Africa’s marginalisation in world trade, my plan was made up of the following topics:

  1. Introduction
  2. Export performance of Africa
  3. Impact of:
  4. External trade barriers
  5. Domestic trade policies
  6. Transport costs
  7. Insufficient production scales
  8. Risk/weak restraints
  9. Conclusion

As you can see, a good plan essentially sets out your structure and arguments before you’ve actually written anything yourself.

The final, and perhaps inevitable, stage of producing your plan is to allocate each of your researched paragraphs to one of the topics you’ve found. Some will have more than others, but you should find that you have a range of resources spread across your essay sections. You may find that some of your highlights don’t seem to fit into any of your categories; this is quite normal, and you’ll probably have more than enough references to allow you to drop a few of them. Alternatively, you might like to go back to your photocopies and double-check why you thought the quote was useful – this will either confirm that the reference isn’t really needed, or give you a better idea where to include it in your plan.

By now you’ll have a fairly lengthy document containing a list of information split into sections and linked to a pile of references. Now, at long last, you can set upon the task of writing your actual essay, but with the benefit of a detailed plan with sets out exactly what topics you need to cover and where you’ll find the information you need.

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