Plan an essay with me!
Happy New Year!
Hello, and Happy New Year! I’m kickstarting 2022 with something fun: writing a 2,000 word essay that I maybe should have started a little bit sooner! But I’m sure there are plenty of us who need to get cracking on term 2 assessments, so join me as we plan this essay together.
The very first thing I do with any essay is read the question. My essay is for the module ‘Inequalities and Sustainable Development: Inclusion and Dignity for All’, where we cover how and why inequalities arise, what the consequences of inequality are, and how they are responded to. The question I chose to answer is:
“Critically evaluate an intervention put in place in any part of the world to redress economic, social, political or environmental inequalities. Propose evidence-based suggestions to improve its outcomes.”
Analysing the Question
So first, we analyse the question. I read the question, highlight key words and then annotate them with what I need to do. Like this:
Next, I jot down any ideas I have. Personally, my best work is always about topics I’m passionate about, so I think first about my interests and then how they relate to the question. I like to use a mind-mapping format, and as I jot down ideas, I consider how I’d relate them to the question using my annotations above. For example:
For this essay, I wanted to explore topics surrounding gender and LGBTQ+ issues. At this point, it can also be good to do some basic research – I just google searched “LGBTQ+ Intervention case study”. This led me to a key case study on intervention strategies in South Africa surrounding healthcare and LGBTQ+ groups.
It’s also important to consider key theories and concepts from your modules that relate to this topic. I begin adding them to my mind map to see where they fit best.
Now that I have a main focus, I want to formulate a question which summarises my key argument. This is not necessary, but it is very helpful to refocus your writing towards the question. Below, we can see how my question, summarising my essay, specifically responds to different aspects of the given question.
“Critically evaluate an intervention put in place in any part of the world to redress economic, social, political or environmental inequalities. Propose evidence-based suggestions to improve its outcome”
“To what extent is the South Africa Intervention Strategy for LGBTI Successful in reducing inequalities experienced by those groups? How does this compare to other strategies?”
Next, we begin research. This is one of the best ways I’ve found to accumulate research, and I recommend it highly. Use a research table! Below is an example of how a research table is laid out. It allows you to keep your references in one place so you can form your bibliography easily, it also allows you to find specific points quickly, summarise literature, and begin considering how you would critically respond to literature.
A Note on Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is really important, especially if you want to access higher grades. Critical thinking means considering many things:
- What are the authors motives in their research, responses and conclusions?
- Is their evidence sufficient and peer-reviewed?
- Are their conclusions logical and accurate?
- What do you think about their work?
- What do other researchers think about their work?
The Actual Plan
I next fill out my research table as thoroughly as possible, using reliable websites such as Scopus, PubMED and the Warwick Library. A great tip: follow citations between pieces of literature to find more relevant research! Once I have a reasonably fleshed-out research table, I begin planning the structure of my essay. For this essay, I split it up in the following way:
I normally aim for 300-400 words per body paragraph (although you can do longer or shorter!) and 100-200 for introduction and conclusion. That means a 2,000 word essay would have between 4 and 5 body paragraphs. This means I need to adjust my plan. Not every topic needs its own paragraph, and they will blend together naturally as I write.
Once I have a rough structure and research table, I combine the two. I add an extra column, and number each piece of literature with the paragraph that it will be in. I then put the table into numerical order. Now, I have a hefty research table and a solid structure so… Its time to start writing!
Make sure to comment and tell us what works for you!
Thanks for reading! Watch this space for my next blog post.