Have you ever borrowed some books to start your research and realised you did not know where to begin?
Have you ever spent time reading a great deal of information that in the end was irrelevant to the essay or assignment you were working on?
Have you ever started to write your essay and realised you had too much information on one topic, and not enough information on another topic?
If you write a first draft of your essay plan before you begin your research, you will be organised, prepared and save time.
You must write the first draft of your essay plan before you start your research. This will give your research direction and ultimately make it easier for you to write your essay. Having a plan will let you know what you need to research and how much research you need on each topic or subject that you will be writing about.
You will base this first draft of your essay plan on your essay question, and your current knowledge of your subject. It will not happen very often that you are asked to write an essay on a topic you know nothing about, since you will already be studying the subject and will normally have had one or more lectures or tutorials on the topic.
It is acceptable if your essay plan is rough or vague at this point, or if you do not have a great deal of detail. You will develop your essay plan (expanding it and including more detail) and possibly even change it as you go through the research process.
What does a first draft of an essay plan look like?
The first draft of your essay plan will show you what main topics you will discuss in your essay, how the essay will be structured, and roughly how many words you will spend on each part.
If your essay question was ‘Is Critical Thinking relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse?’ and you had to write 1,500 words, then your essay plan might look like this:
Essay question: ‘Is Critical Thinking relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse?’
Essay length: 1,500 words
Introduction (150 words)
1) Thesis statement: Through an examination of the evidence, it is clear that Critical Thinking is highly relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse for a number of reasons.
2) Introduce main points or topics to be discussed: accuracy of diagnoses, patient outcomes, prevent and solve problems, communication
Topic 1: Accuracy of diagnoses (300 words)
Topic 2: Patient outcomes (300 words)
Topic 3: Prevent and solve problems (300 words)
Topic 4: Communication (300 words)
Conclusion (150 words)
1) Concluding statement: Thus, it can be seen that the concept of Critical Thinking is invaluable and highly relevant to Registered Nurses.
2) Sum up main points or topics that have been discussed: accuracy of diagnoses, patient outcomes, prevent and solve problems, communication
Introductions and conclusions
As you can see from the example essay plan above, an introduction and a conclusion will normally be approximately 10% of the word count of the entire essay. (This is a general guide and does not apply to essays longer than 5,000 words).
In order to be considered a true introduction your first paragraph must do two things: 1) answer the essay question in a clear statement (this is called your thesis statement) and 2) introduce the main points your essay will make to support your argument. You cannot discuss any major points or topics in your essay if you have not introduced them in your introduction. Also, you must discuss all your main points or topics in the order that you introduce them in your introduction. This helps to maintain the flow and structure of your essay.
Similarly, in order to be considered a true conclusion your last paragraph must do two things: 1) re-state the answer to the essay question and 2) sum up the main points your essay has made to support your argument. Remember, a conclusion cannot contain any new information.
Body of the essay and topic sentences
You can find out how many words you will write in the body of your essay by taking away the number you will spend on your introduction and conclusion from the total amount. How you divide the number of words in the body of your essay between your main topics will depend on how important each topic is to your argument. How long you spend writing about each topic should reflect the importance of each topic. If all of your topics were of equal importance, you would write roughly the same amount of words on each. If one topic was more important, you would write about it first and spend longer discussing it. If one topic was less important, you would write about it last and write fewer words on it.
Using topic sentences at the beginning of each new paragraph is essential for ensuring that your essay is well organised and well structured. It also ensures that the essay flows logically and reads well. A topic sentence must do two things: 1) introduce the new topic about to be discussed and 2) shows how this new topic helps to answer the essay question or support your argument in answering the essay question.
If your essay question was ‘Is Critical Thinking relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse?’ and you were about to discuss the topic ‘accuracy of diagnoses’, then your topic sentence might sound like this: ‘Another way in which Critical Thinking is highly relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse is in ensuring accuracy of diagnoses’. This sentence clearly demonstrates to the reader that you are about to discuss ‘accuracy of diagnoses’ and you are doing so because it is another way that Critical Thinking is relevant to Registered Nurses, which is what your essay is arguing.