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English

A good essay doesn't appear out of thin air – it is developed from a plan. Essay planning is essential to ensure your essay is structured in an organized and coherent way. Using a plan to begin your essay writing process will help you figure out your main idea, topic sentences, and details. Luckily, there are tried and tested essay planning sheets and templates to assist you with outlining your essay and improving your writing skills.

How to Begin Planning Your Essay

There are a few first steps you need to take to begin planning your essay:

Decide on an Essay Topic

If you weren't provided with an essay thesis or topic, take the time to think about some questions, events, or ideas that you feel are important and would like to expand on. If you've already been provided with a topic or essay prompt to base your writing on, take the time to identify keywords and phrases to focus on. You should strive to use these keywords throughout your essay and as a basis for your research plan.

Essay Plan: Research Your Thesis and Take Notes

Your teacher may have already provided you with some reference material or links to reputable sources. If so, plan on using this material to kickstart your own research on the topic and supplement it with your own findings as needed. If you're starting from scratch, use reputable sources to research your topic, and make sure to keep a list of references as you do this if you are required to cite your information. Some credible sources include dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, and websites with .edu or .org domains.

Essay Plan: Organize Your Research and Ideas

You can use a mind map, essay plan sheet, or other essay planning tools to organize your research and main ideas. See the essay plan sheet in the "Structuring your Essay" section for an example. Organizing your research and ideas will help you plan out your main topic sentences for each paragraph and the order of these paragraphs. You'll also use this step to structure your research into supporting sentences for each main topic. Write a concluding sentence at the end of each paragraph to summarize how they contribute to the main topic.

Essay Plan: Write Your First Draft

Once you've organized your ideas using an essay planning tool of your choice, you're ready to write your first draft. Use your essay plan sheet to form your introduction, the topic sentence for each paragraph, supporting details, concluding sentences, and your overall conclusion. Remember, your first draft doesn't have to be perfect.

Essay Plan: Edit and Revise

Once your first draft is completed, it's time to re-read, edit, and revise your essay. Use this time to cut out unnecessary details and restructure your essay as needed. Here are some helpful tips to improve your editing skills:

  • Print out your essay and read it out loud slowly. Listen for ways to improve the clarity and overall flow of your essay.
  • Check for spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors.
  • Ask a friend or schoolmate to read your essay and give you suggestions and corrections.

Structuring Your Essay

Because structuring your essay can seem like a daunting task, the best way to help you is to use an essay planning sheet.

Essay Planning Sheet

An essay planning sheet (sometimes called a template) is a document that gives you some suggested categories to organize your essay topic and main points. These plans help you to logically present your writing and improve your essay formatting skills. Planning sheets can use many different formats and offer different suggestions but most include the following:

  • Thesis/Essay Topic
  • Introduction
  • Paragraph Outline
    • Topic Sentence
    • Supporting Details
    • Concluding Sentence
  • Conclusion
  • References

You can find free essay plan sheets online or create your own. You can also use a mind map or box plan to organize your writing. Here is an example of an essay planning sheet for a general five-paragraph essay:

Essay Plan Essay Planning Sheet StudySmarterEssay planning sheet - StudySmarter Originals

Essay Plan: Introduction

In the introduction, you'll want to make sure you present your argument, idea, or thesis in this section. Do your best to start with an attention-grabbing hook or introductory statement that will keep your reader interested in your essay. Thought-provoking questions, interesting quotes, or controversial statements can be good tools to use in your introduction. After you have drawn your reader in, it is important to state your thesis statement (a sentence or two summarizing the main argument of your essay). Your order of topics comes last and gives your reader an overview of the main supporting points you will make in your essay. This will help your reader to follow your argument from the get-go. Improving the quality of your introduction is a skill that comes with time and is a crucial part of the writing process.

Essay Plan: Paragraph Structure

Each paragraph should start with a topic sentence that presents a main idea or argument that supports your main point. You should include at least three supporting details in each paragraph. These details should provide quotes from reputable sources, data, verifiable facts, or other information that gives weight to your topic sentence. Finish with a concluding sentence to summarize the overall argument in each paragraph.

Essay Plan: Conclusion

Writing an effective conclusion is an important skill to help your reader remember the main idea or argument of your writing. You should restate your thesis, main points, and key findings from your supporting paragraphs. Finish off your essay with your concluding statement. Similar to the concluding sentences you have created in your previous paragraphs, the concluding statement wraps up your essay and signals to the reader that you have completed your argument. Don't include any new information in your conclusion. This paragraph is intended to summarize and restate what your reader has already learned in your essay.

Remember, readers often remember the first and last few sentences of an essay more easily than the overall text. Use quotes, questions, or statements that will grab the attention of your readers and leave a lasting impression on them.

Essay Plan Example

Let's create an example essay plan using the planning sheet we previously discussed. First, if you don't already have an essay topic or thesis, take the time to choose one. For this example, we'll use the topic "intercultural awareness."

Your first step in the writing process would be to research intercultural awareness. There are many aspects to this topic, so it might be helpful to think of a question regarding intercultural awareness that you'd like to answer. A mind map can help organize your thoughts and discover what you already know about this topic. After completing your research and mind map, use this information to figure out your main topic sentences. Take the time to arrange these main topics in a logical order and ensure these topics relate to your thesis.

Essay Plan, A diagram of a Mind Map, StudySmarterMind map illustration, pixabay.

Now that we have our main topic sentences, we can use our research to add supporting details and form our paragraphs. Be sure to add references to the end of your essay if these details include quotes, data, paraphrased text, or facts. Once you've completed the body of your essay, you can flesh out your introduction and conclusion. Be sure to use attention-grabbing sentences and paraphrase your main idea and topic sentences in these introductory and concluding paragraphs.

Here is an example of a completed essay planning sheet:

Essay Topic: Why is intercultural awareness important for business?

SectionContent
Introduction, including:
  • Introductory statement.
  • Thesis.
  • Order of topics.
  • The world is more connected than ever before and many businesses employ workers from across the globe.
  • It is imperative that businesses promote and teach intercultural awareness.
  • Doing so will help employees avoid miscommunication, increase mutual understanding, and make needed adjustments to the workplace.
Paragraph 1, including:
  • Topic Sentence.
  • Three supporting details.
  • Concluding sentence.
  • Intercultural awareness is vital to helping employees avoid miscommunication.
  • Supporting details:
    • Employees speak different languages.
    • Workers are born or raised in different countries.
    • Use of polite language is important.
  • Intercultural awareness can teach employees good communication skills and empathy to avoid misunderstandings.
Paragraph 2, including:
  • Topic sentence.
  • Three supporting details.
  • Concluding sentence.
  • Being familiar with co-workers' backgrounds and cultures, as well as sharing our own culture, can increase mutual understandings.
  • Supporting details
    • Employees have different religious backgrounds.
    • Employees hold differing attitudes towards time.
    • Employees think differently about work.
  • Learning about our co-workers' backgrounds and customs can help us understand them better and improve our work environment.
Paragraph 3, including:
  • Topic sentence.
  • Three supporting details.
  • Concluding sentence.
  • When we are familiar with the culture of employees and co-workers, we can make needed adjustments in the workplace.
  • Supporting details:
    • Some cultures have specific dietary restrictions.
    • Employees need time off for culturally significant days.
    • Support systems for immigrants is critical.
  • When we are aware of the cultural backgrounds of others in the workplace we can give them support and make needed adjustments for them.
Conclusion, including:
  • Restating of the main idea.
  • Findings.
  • Concluding statement.
  • American educator, author, businessman, and keynote speaker Steven R. Covey once said, "Strength lies in differences, not in similarities."
  • When businesses view cultural differences in the workplace as advantages, they will encourage good communication, increase mutual understanding, and make adjustments for cultural differences.
  • In this way, businesses will improve company culture and strengthen employee bonds.

Don't forget to add your references to your essay and cite them in the required format.

Essay Planning Next Steps

Once you've filled out your essay planning sheet, it's time to write your first draft! Using an essay planning sheet or template and looking at other essay examples can help you to organize your writing logically and coherently. These tools will help ensure you've included all the necessary parts for a successful essay in your writing process.

Essay Plan - Key takeaways

  • Decide on your thesis if your teacher hasn't provided one.

  • Use credible sources to research your thesis.

  • Use a mind map, essay planning sheet, or other essay planning tools to organize your ideas.

  • Write out your first draft.

  • Re-read, edit, and revise your essay.


1 Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989).

Frequently Asked Questions about Essay Plan

Use a mind map, essay planning sheet, or other essay planning tools to organize your ideas.

Make sure your essay plan structure includes space to note down your:

  • thesis
  • introduction
  • topic sentences
  • supporting details
  • concluding sentences
  • conclusion
  • references

Look for an essay planning sheet or template designed specifically for a narrative essay. This type of planning sheet can help you make sure you've included the necessary details and used the right structure in your essay.

First, decide on your thesis or main topic if you haven't been provided one. Next, use that as the basis for your research. Use an essay outline tool or make your own to organize your thoughts into the key parts of your essay.

Look for an essay plan sheet designed specifically for an expository essay. This type of planning sheet can help you make sure you've included the necessary details and used the right structure in your essay.

Final Essay Plan Quiz

Question

What areas should you check while proofreading your essay?

Show answer

Answer

Grammar, spelling, and typography.

Show question

Question

What grammar points should you look for while proofreading?

Show answer

Answer

Make sure your verb tense is correct, subject and verbs are in agreement and you've used the correct pronouns.

Show question

Question

What tips can improve your proofreading?

Show answer

Answer

Print your essay, read it out loud slowly and have a friend check it for errors.

Show question

Question

What common spelling errors should you look for?

Show answer

Answer

Check if you've properly used its vs. it's or you're vs. your. Also be careful about using their, there or they're.

Show question

Question

How can you check your spelling?

Show answer

Answer

Use online proofreading services or editing tools to check your spelling. Read your writing out loud. Have a friend read your essay and look for errors.

Show question

Question

How can you make sure your verb tense is correct?

Show answer

Answer

Print out a copy of your essay. Circle the verbs in each sentence. Make sure they are all in the same tense.

Show question

Question

How can you make sure your subject and verb agree with each other?

Show answer

Answer

Print out your essay. Find the subject and verb in each sentence. Check if they are singular or plural and make sure they are the same.

Show question

Question

What typographical errors should you pay attention to?

Show answer

Answer

Look at the punctuation you use at the end of your sentences and make sure it's correct. Read your paper out loud and add commas where appropriate. Make sure you've capitalized all proper nouns.

Show question

Question

Which sentence had been proofread and corrected?

Show answer

Answer

David wants to swim at the swimming pool.

Show question

Question

Which sentence correctly used a modifier?

Show answer

Answer

With my camera, we took pictures of a cow and a goat.

Show question

Question

How do you know if a sentence is complete?

Show answer

Answer

Make sure your sentence contains a subject, verb, and phrase. Read your sentences out loud and listen for these three parts. If your sentence is incomplete, add information or combine it with another sentence.

Show question

Question

Which sentence is complete?

Show answer

Answer

The boy is running to school.

Show question

Question

How can you check if you've used the correct pronoun?

Show answer

Answer

Circle the pronouns and antecedents in your writing. Make sure the gender and number of both words agree

Show question

Question

Which sentence correctly used a pronoun?

Show answer

Answer

The puppy was recognizable by its markings.

Show question

Question

Which sentence uses the correct verb tense?

Show answer

Answer

When I woke up I went to wash my face and then I ate breakfast

Show question

Question

What are some essential parts of an essay?

Show answer

Answer

An essay must include a thesis statement, introduction, topic sentences, supporting details, concluding sentences, and a conclusion.

Show question

Question

What should you do if you don't have a thesis for your essay?

Show answer

Answer

Think about some questions, events, or ideas that you feel are important and would like to base your essay on.

Show question

Question

Which research sources are credible?

Show answer

Answer

Dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, and websites with .edu or .org domains.

Show question

Question

What can you use to organize your research and ideas?

Show answer

Answer

A mind map, essay plan sheet, or other essay planning tools.

Show question

Question

How many supporting details should each paragraph contain?

Show answer

Answer

3

Show question

Question

What should your introduction include?

Show answer

Answer

An introductory statement, your main argument or idea, and the order of the following topics.

Show question

Question

What should your conclusion include?

Show answer

Answer

Restate the main idea, present your findings, and give a concluding statement.

Show question

Question

What should you include in your introduction to grab your reader's attention?

Show answer

Answer

A thought-provoking question, interesting quote, or controversial statement.

Show question

Question

What is the main point of a conclusion?

Show answer

Answer

To help your reader remember the main idea or argument of your writing.

Show question

Question

True or False: You should include new information in your conclusion.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

What should you do after filling out your essay plan sheet?

Show answer

Answer

Write your first draft using the essay plan sheet as a guide.

Show question

Question

Where can you find essay templates?

Show answer

Answer

You can find essay templates online or in word processors. You can also make your own template.

Show question

Question

How can a mind map help you plan your essay?

Show answer

Answer

A mind map can help you organize your thoughts and discover what you already know about your topic.

Show question

Question

What information should supporting details contain?

Show answer

Answer

Quotes from reputable sources, data, verifiable facts, or other information that gives weight to your topic sentence.

Show question

Question

What information does a topic sentence provide?

Show answer

Answer

It presents one of the main ideas or arguments that support your thesis.

Show question

Question

"Home Store has the lowest cost hammers."

Is this a thesis statement? 

Show answer

Answer

No. "Lowest cost hammers" among what? Always be specific. This position is also not complex. There is only one way to attack or defend this position.

Show question

Question

When taking a position...

Show answer

Answer

Avoid personal positions

Show question

Question

Is a prompt like an open or closed question?

Show answer

Answer

Open. This means there is room for debate. It is not scientific fact.

Show question

Question

"How does a balloon stay afloat?"


Is this a closed question?

Show answer

Answer

Yes. The answer is known science.

Show question

Question

What is the strongest type of position, in terms of writing an essay?

Show answer

Answer

A thesis statement.

Show question

Question

What is a non-position?

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Answer

A non-position is a brief personal decision regarding an inconsequential topic. This decision lasts mere moments.

Show question

Question

What is a position?

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Answer

Your stance on an open question or prompt.

Show question

Question

If your position is arguable, have you created a thesis statement?

Show answer

Answer

Not yet, as a thesis statement needs to be complex. It has many ways to attack it and defend it. It has a lot of room for discussion.

Show question

Question

You can write a whole essay about your position. Are you headed in the right direction?

Show answer

Answer

Of course you are! Writing an essay is kinda the point here, after all.

Show question

Question

"A position is stated in the first body paragraph."


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False. Your position should be made clear in the introduction.

Show question

Question

"Clarity is a secondary concern when taking a position."


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False. Clarity is critical when taking a position.

Show question

Question

"Do not exaggerate your position in an essay."


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

True. Keep your position within the realm of reason, as you are unlikely to impress your grader. You wouldn't believe what they've already seen!

Show question

Question

Where does your position belong?

Show answer

Answer

In the introductory paragraph.

Show question

Question

When should you reassess your position?

Show answer

Answer

If you find that it is weak. If you find that you have little to say about it. Remember to reassess early!

Show question

Question

Your position is defensible and has no holes. Is it a strong position for an essay?

Show answer

Answer

No. You want to take a position that fosters debate. If your position cannot be attacked, it might answer a closed question.

Show question

Question

What is the definition of a prompt?

Show answer

Answer

A writing prompt is an introduction to a topic as well as instruction on how to write about it. 

Show question

Question

True or false, a prompt could be a picture.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

What type of writing prompt would require a response that tells a story?

Show answer

Answer

Narrative

Show question

Question

What type of writing prompt would require a response that formulates a hypothesis and uses evidence to support it?

Show answer

Answer

Expository

Show question

Question

What should you do after reading the prompt several times for information and with a critical eye?

Show answer

Answer

Summarize the prompt in a sentence

Show question

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