Planning Essay

Planning Essays and Assignments

Written assignments are an important part of university education. They give you a chance to exercise your skills at assessing evidence, developing and evaluating arguments, and expressing your views. On many courses essays are a major component of the marks.

Students often find the task of sitting down to write an assignment quite daunting. But, as you'll see from the list of contents for this section, writing comes quite late in the process. This page covers planning your essay:

1. Read the question
2. An assignment with a general title
3. Decoding essay questions
4. Researching for assignments
5. Structuring essays
6. Essay outlines

Further pages cover the writing process:

7. Writing the assignment
8. Writing the first draft
9. The second draft

and writing scientifically:

10. Writing about science
11. Writing scientific reports

1. Read The Question

People often tell you to Read The Question. With assignment topics this is crucial. What does the question ask you to do?

Does it ask you to:

discuss = put the case for and against a proposition, and end with some statement of your own position.

compare = list, in an extended way, points of similarity between two or more subjects.

contrast = list points of difference between two or more subjects.

consider or evaluate = describe the subject and say how effective you think it is.

summarise = put together all you know about a topic.

2. An assignment with a general title

You may be given a general title, such as Public Transport. An assignment on this topic needs:

A definition: What is public transport?

Advantages: What are the advantages of public transport?

Problems: What problems are caused by, or encountered by, public transport systems?

Your opinion: Your opinion about the need to expand, subsidise, abolish public transport; whatever standpoint you wish to take.

These four components form part...