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Essay plans

What can an essay plan assess?

Much of what an essay could without the detail and extended timeframe. The plan could be in written form, or diagrammatic as in a simple concept map / spider diagram

The value of essay plans over essays is that we could require more plans than essays during a module and so cover a wider range of the curriculum. We noted above that one disadvantage of essays is that the strategic (or lazy) students only selecting the classes that cover ‘their chosen topic’. Not so easy to do if they have to plan for several topics ….


The Study Gurus (2018) provide an ‘different’ approach to structuring an essay plan


Every essay needs an introduction (3-5 sentences), so at the top of your essay plan just jot down introduction or intro, so you remember to write one.


Every essay must be written in paragraphs. Each paragraph should explain one main idea, and needs to have the SEXI structure:

S: A Topic Sentence. This tells the reader what the paragraph is going to be about. You only need to write down the jist of the topic sentence for each paragraph in your essay plan.

E: A full Explanation of the point you’re making in this paragraph. This should make up the bulk of your paragraph. In your essay plan jot down what you’re going to explain.

X: eXamples or justifications that back up what you’ve said in that paragraph. Jot down what examples you’re going to include in your essay plan so you don’t forget to include them in your essay!

I: Why is this point Important? A really amazing essay would also explain why this point is important to the essay as a whole. What’s the significance of this point to the essay topic?


Every essay needs a conclusion that briefly summarises what’s been said in the essay. You can just write down conclusion in your plan to make sure you write one.”

This is simply used as an example here; you will be advising your students about essays in your discipline and how they should be structured and planned. Once you have established the planning process with them then it can become the assessment task.

Perhaps the strategy could be several plans are submitted and receive feedback and then students select one or more to complete for further grading.

Diversity & inclusion

Little different to full essays.

Academic integrity

Plans, like full essays, can be run through plagiarism checkers like Turnitin. By seeing the plan you can generally assume that it is the student’s own work (Click here for further guidance on plagiarism .)

Useful resources

Richardson, J.T.E. (2015) Coursework versus examinations in end-of-module assessment: a literature review, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. 40 (3), 439-455.

A Political Science guide

Advice about writing research proposals

From the University of Birmingham

From the University of Nottingham

Healey, M. and Jenkins, A. (2009) Developing undergraduate research and inquiry.

Advice on essay planning

From the University of Sheffield

From the University of Reading

From the University of Leicester