Planning your writing

How good is this essay?

Think about this:

To do this activity you will need to read the short essay by clicking on Essay Planning.  The essay contains some interesting and important points; but does it work?

Is there an introduction and a conclusion, which help to guide the reader?

There is no introduction and no conclusion – in fact, at the end the essay is almost left ‘hanging’ by a throw-away remark about ageism. For the reader, it is rather like undertaking a journey without a map and, instead of being in ‘safe hands’, finding that the driver is inexperienced.

Are important concepts or ideas communicated?

The writer does seem to know what is important to get across. But, there doesn't seem to be much of a framework and so the ideas tend to get lost.

Does the writing build and have a sense of direction?

This seems to be one of the major problems. There is good material here but the writer doesn't seem to know which facts are more important than others, there is no real attempt to classify or group points in order to create a sense of flow, of building an argument.

Here are two examples of this lack of order: Information about the ‘big picture’ (presumably obtained through careful research) that is, government policy, numbers entering higher education and changes in the workplace, is sprinkled throughout the essay, rather than gathered together. The focus changes back and forth between this ‘big picture’ and the personal quite frequently. The writer certainly has opinions about the issues that a mature student needs to overcome, but these don't appear to be in any particular order.  The quote about the steelworkers is really appropriate and grabs the attention of the reader, but it isn't linked to the idea of the mature student's life experience mentioned at the end of the first paragraph. This takes away some of its impact and probably means that the writer would not get as many marks for its inclusion as she or he might have done.  The original topic is ‘There are advantages to studying as a mature student. Do you agree?’ We don't really know whether the writer has a point of view on this or has just put ideas in because the words or phrases look right and may be relevant. The important thinking over of the issues doesn't seem to have happened.

Can you discern an overall plan?

  • Well? What do you think?
  • Is the presentation of evidence or supporting material effective?
  • Which points are prioritised or do they all have equal billing?
  • Are links made between different points?
  • Does the essay flow?
  • Has the writer made the ideas his/her own?
  • Are chains of logic created?

The more time we spent thinking about this – reflecting on it – the more it seemed to us that the key is direction: if you can give your writing direction, then the rest will follow. In other words if you have a case to put, an argument to make, this provides the essay's direction; the elements listed above will then slip into place much more easily.

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