Archived Material (writing)

This book is about the strategies that you can employ in order to write well, and the writing process. It deals with the mechanics of writing well, as well as offering an approach to academic writing.

The writing process

Plan your writing

This content has been archived! For the latest version please visit:

Planning is important in order to:

  • bring your ideas together.
  • plan the flow of ideas for your writing.
  • identify what research you need to do.

How do you plan?

  • Would you automatically mind map?
  • Would you start drawing spider-grams or idea-maps?
  • Would you start listing and organising ideas in linear notes?
  • Would you draw a flow chart?
  • Would you write sticky notes or index cards?
  • Would you mix up lots of different styles of planning?

Plan visually

Draw pictures; make charts; create spider-grams that show an intricate web of ideas.

Plan in an ordered and linear way

Organise ideas in straight lines, logically and clearly laid out on a piece of paper or computer screen.

Plan physically

Notes and ideas on small pieces of paper; move them around to find the best sequence.

Essay structure

  • Start your planning from the process word. For example: compare, explain, describe.
  • The process words tell you the structure needed for your essay.
  • Build your plans around the essay structure using spider-grams, linear notes, sticky notes.
Watch this short video for a student's perspective on 'Structuring assignments':

    1. Mind mapping

    Get everything you know about the question down on paper.  This is an exercise in working out what information you’ve already got and don’t need to find.

    Mind mapping exercise:
    Spend two minutes writing everything you have done since you got out of bed this morning  in as much detail as you can, without concerning yourself about what order things come out of your head.

    • Did ideas come out sequentially, from beginning to end?
    • Did ideas come randomly?
    • Does everything you’ve written now make sense to you or does some of what you wrote seem irrelevant or unhelpful?
    • Now group ideas and get rid of the useless material. 

Watch this short video for a student's perspective on 'mind mapping': 

    2. Using Diagrams: Spider-grams or idea-maps

    • The main topic goes in the middle of the picture.
    • Branches, or legs, go to the topics that need to be included.
    • All ideas relating to each topic are drawn in.
    • Each of the branches is a different section or paragraph in the  essay.

    When you draw a spider-gram, keep your essay structure in mind so you can plan out the different sections or paragraphs of your essay.

    Spider-gram practice
    Draw a spider-gram of ideas on the following topic: Evaluate the effect of human activity on the environment'.

    • split the topic into different main ideas
    • use the spider-gram to help you see how you could divide this topic into sections or paragraphs
    Spider-grams examples (PDF opens in new window)
    Spider diagram sample (PDF opens in new window)

    3. Flow charts

    The flow chart below shows how the ideas follow from each other. This is a very straight-forward, linear set of ideas.

    flow diagram

    Figure 2: Example flow chart

    Flow chart practice
    Draw a flow-chart of ideas on the following topic:'Evaluate the effect of human activity on the environment'.

    Flow chart examples (PDF opens in new window)
    Flow chart Sample (PDF opens in new window)

    4. Formulating Lists

    Linear notes: Ideas are presented in a logical sequence under headings.Ideas are grouped according to where they fit in the structure of the essay.

    no bullets

    Figure 3: Linear notes

    Example notes (PDF opens in new window)

    Bullet-point lists: Main ideas are categorised, followed by bulleted supporting ideas.

    5. Sticky notes

    The advantage of sticky notes is that you can move the papers around.Group ideas in different ways, and experiment with how different ideas fit into the structure of the essay.

    Sticky notes (PDF opens in new window)