Planning your writing nearly always helps you to think more clearly about your topic and this will save you time later.  Usually, planning effectively before you write helps you to write effectively, which means you will have less editing to do later on.

As you plan, ask yourself: 'what do I want to say in response to the question?', rather than: 'which ‘quotes’ or pieces of information do I want to include?

Writing with a clear question in mind puts you in a position as a writer to have something to say about what you have read. This results in writing that has a ‘voice’.  Of course, you do not want to write your unsubstantiated opinions on the topic, but explaining the ideas of writers you have read and then commenting on their usefulness, relevance, strengths and weaknesses is the essence of the task for an academic writer.

Imagine your topic was 'Evaluate the usefulness of a task analysis approach to assignment writing'. There are many ways of planning. Concept maps work well, as do outlines. Here is an example approach to planning for this topic:

  • Look at your research notes (under headings or questions as suggested earlier).
  • Decide how these notes will come together under a few main sections of the paper. Obviously there will be an introduction, body and conclusion, but what will you include in each part?
    • It is often useful to decide on the sections or major ideas that you want to talk about in the body first and then plan the introduction and conclusion afterwards.
    • Sometimes two or more questions from your research will come together under one heading in your plan. For example, there could have been a research question about how people learn (metacognition) and how knowledge is constructed, which could have been put together under the heading: What is task analysis? See concept map (PDF, 79 KB)
  • Create a concept map. In the concept map of the essay that follows, there are three main areas that the writer addresses: task analysis, thinking and planning, and writing.

As you write, remember to include links between ideas (between sentences, between paragraphs and between sections in your essay).  This ensures that your writing flows and will make more sense to your reader, who is (nearly always) also your marker.  Impress your reader! See also the section on paragraph planning and linking paragraphs.