Planning your writing

Essay planning

Try this:

Carefully read the following short essay. Try to identify its strengths and weaknesses in terms of planning. Take your time, but don't think you need to be familiar with the content; you are trying to find what provides the writing's framework.

Then try to answer the questions that follow the essay.

There are advantages to studying as a mature student. Do you agree?

Government bodies and the universities are committed to a policy of widening access to higher education. In the attempt to develop a trained, educated workforce, there is greater flexibility in terms of entrance requirements and routes to a degree. If you are 21 or over and do not have conventional qualifications you may be given credit for your life and work experience. A lecturer wrote that teaching mature students: '… is sometimes an unnerving experience: at a lecture on Dickens's Hard Times I suddenly realised that I was explaining the rigour of industrial work … to ex-steel workers. Every one of them knew more than I did and indeed they all knew more than Dickens about the lives of workers in heavy industry'. (Philippa Gregory, 1994) The mature student has often learned a powerful work discipline and can find self-directed learning difficult to adjust to. The mature student may also work full-time and have a home to run. Despite enthusiasm for returning to study, the mature student may be scared by comparing themselves to younger students who seem very quick (having spent their recent years in full-time education).

Your degree certificate is evidence that you have taken the opportunity that you missed when you were younger, it tells people that you have reached a certain level of academic attainment, that you have time management and priority setting skills, and that you have shown sustained interest, commitment and self-discipline.

As I mentioned earlier, increasingly people all over Europe are realizing that education and learning are lifelong processes, much too valuable to belong only to the young. The oldest graduate is 92. More and more mature students are entering . In 1971, the first 24 000 students began their studies. In 1994, there were more than 200 000 students registered. At least 2 million people have studied with the Open University. People are living longer and having fewer children. Changes in the workplace may mean that older workers have to retrain and seek a new career. The mature student may find it difficult to make room in their lives and their homes for study. Many people like to shut themselves off from the rest of the family, without interruptions (but this is almost impossible without the support of your partner and children). It is much easier for young people to be selfish and shut themselves off. They don't have as much to worry about as older students. It is even more difficult if you are a single parent who has to go out to work as well as taking care of children, along with studying.

It is a really big step to add to a busy life at work and at home and start to study, but you do broaden your outlook and the range of ideas and people that you are acquainted with. The self-discipline and motivation that you need to develop will be a great help in the future. Once you have finished studying it may still be difficult to find a different job because of ageism, employers may think that you can't be as quick or as full of ideas as a younger graduate.


Philippa Gregory (1994), Foreword in Taggart, C. (1994), The Essential Handbook for Mature Students, London, Kyle Cathie Ltd.

Have a go at answering these questions

Try this:

Having read the essay, now have a go at answering these questions about its structure.

  • Are there an introduction and a conclusion, which help to guide the reader?
  • Are important concepts or ideas communicated?
  • Does the writing build and have a sense of direction?
  • Can you discern an overall plan?

Have a look at 'How good is this essay?' to find out more about how well it is written.

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