Academic essay writing tips: how to plan your paper

Why plan before writing?

Whether you are writing a one page response paper or a one hundred page research project, you should never begin writing without doing a little planning first. Planning out your paper will guarantee that you hit on all the key points you want to consider, and will make certain that your ideas connect and flow together seamlessly.

Planning can also help motivate you to write. People procrastinate when they are anxious about doing an assignment incorrectly, or when they do not know how to begin. By planning and outlining your paper, you will ensure that you do not get lost. An outline and a plan provides you with a roadmap to success, so you always know what to write about next. This can increase your productivity an immense amount, and really allay some of the stress associated with writing.

There are three important stages to planning a paper: brainstorming, researching, and outlining. Below is a guide to all three.

Brainstorming: Choosing What to Write About

Before you choose a particular topic for your essay, you must brainstorm a bit about the general area you are interested in. Never choose a topic that is so broad as to be overwhelming; conversely, you should also avoid selecting a topic so specific or obscure that research will be difficult. Instead, select a general subject area you are interested in, and which you already know a little about. Write down everything that comes to mind when you think about this topic. Draw lines between connected ideas. Use a web to show all the facts and ideas that come to mind when you consider the paper.

After you have brainstormed in this way for a while, look at the topics that you have written the most about. Choose an essay subject from this pool. Choose subtopics from this area as well.

Researching: Give Yourself Writing Fodder

Choose a topic that you know a fair amount about to begin with, so you do not have to conduct too much research. Then, learn more information to fill in the gaps. Use online databases, text books, primary sources, and secondary sources to expand your knowledge base. Write down meticulous notes and use highlighters, notepads, stick notes, and binders to keep everything organized.

Outline Your Paper

Once you have a topic picked out and have amassed some background information, try to arrange all the pieces into a seamless essay. Find a good fact to start out with your introduction, and fold your research into three to five body paragraphs.

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