Writing an Essay (1):
Planning (page 1)
Before you start to write an essay, read my web page on Research Skills.
There are some examples of good essays on the model essays page of this site.
NEW! Video presentations on writing an academic paper.
This page deals with essay planning. For other essay-writing topics, please click on the following:
Writing an Essay (2) Paraphrasing, Summarising and Quoting
Writing an Essay (3) Notes, References and Bibliography
Writing an Essay (4) Style
Writing Literature Essays
For more information on writing introductions, CLICK HERE
1. Title and Introduction
A well-planned essay has a title and begins with an introduction. The title sums up the topic, and the introduction should tell the reader what you are going to write about in your essay.
Imagine, for example, that you are going to write about the 1990s crash of the so-called 'tiger' economies of Southeast Asia. In your research of the topic you found out that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) played an important part in the crash. You could give your work a title like this: "The International Monetary Fund and the 'Tiger' Economies of Southeast Asia." Then you need to start thinking in detail about the contents of your essay.
You may decide that you need to explain what the IMF is. Then you might want to say a little bit about the history of the Southeast Asian economies, followed by an account of the economic crash. Then you would perhaps want to show what part the IMF has played, and finish up with some predictions for the future.
This basic outline of the contents of the paper should be given in your introduction. For example:
This paper examines the recent economic crash in Southeast Asia and enquires into the role of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) before, during and after the crash. First I will explain the people and the politics behind the IMF, and give some background information about the economies of Thailand, Korea, and Indonesia. Then I will present evidence to show that the IMF could have acted to avoid the crash and make recommendations for how the IMF should help to bring about a recovery in the region. At the same time, I will highlight weaknesses in the economic systems of the countries concerned. My main conclusion is that, while reforms are necessary in many of the Southeast Asian countries (especially Thailand), the main responsibility for keeping the area economically stable lies with the IMF, which needs to make basic changes in its approach.
Notice how an introduction outlines the basic position taken in the paper. Japanese students very often write an introduction in the form of a problem ("This paper will discuss whether the IMF could have avoided the crash, and consider whether it needs to make changes in its approach.") Do not keep the reader guessing in this way; state your basic position from the beginning. For example, if you are writing about the death penalty, make it plain in your introduction whether you agree with it (and, if so, in what circumstances) or not.
Of course, this is just an example. Suppose, in your research, you had found out that the crash in Southeast Asia could affect Japan. What sort of title would you give your work? What would your introduction look like? Or suppose you had read about the relationship between democracy and the Southeast Asian economies. How would you begin an essay on that topic?
Here are some more topics you can practise with:
- The Israeli/Palestinian conflict
- The El Nino effect
- Japanese Pop: Dreams Come True
- Prime Minister Abe
In each case, research the topic, then think of a suitable title. Decide what the content of the paper should be, and write an introduction. If you don't like these topics, choose some topics of your own!
As well as writing your own practice introductions it will be useful to read some published papers and see how their authors introduce their topic. (Note: In academic papers this type of introduction is sometimes called an 'abstract'.)
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