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University of Newcastle Library guides

How to plan an essay: Essay Planning

Planning an essay keeps you organised and saves time

How to plan an essay

Essay planning is an important step in academic essay writing.

Effective planning can speed up the essay writing process, and give the essay direction and precision.  As you are working through the process of drafting and writing your essay, you can record any changes you make on your essay plan, so that your essay and the plan develop side by side.


One way to start planning an essay is with a ‘box plan’.


First, decide how many stages there are in your argument – how many important points do you want to make? Then divide up a box into an introduction, one body paragraph for each part of your argument, and a conclusion.

Box plan


Next, figure out how many words per paragraph you will need. This depends on the word count and how many paragraphs you want. Remember you need one paragraph to discuss each main point you are making. The introduction and conclusion are both usually 10% of the word count and what is left is divided into how many body paragraphs you have.

Let's use the following example: Discuss how media can influence children. Use specific examples to support your view.

1200 words 

Box plan with word count

Next, in each body paragraph box record your main argument, either as a heading or as your topic sentence. 

Box plan with main arguments


Finally, use dot points to list useful information or ideas from your research notes for each paragraph. Remember to
include references so you can cite each idea in your essay.

box plan with dot points added

Remember, a useful document for essay planning is the marking rubric (also known as the marking checklist or marking criteria). This indicates what the lecturer is looking for, and helps you make sure that all the necessary elements are there.

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