Easy Steps to Follow when Planning and Structuring your Essay

Picture this. You just got married to your dream partner, and you are about to build the most beautiful house where you will raise happy and beautiful children. Everything’s all set up. You have enough money in the bank to pay for everything, even the most expensive architect. However, on the first day of construction, the architect comes up to you, shows you an awful drawing that looks like it was scribbled by a toddler, and said, “This is my plan for your house.” Argh! You pull your hair in disbelief. You thought all your dreams and money will go to waste only because one man did not plan well.

This story happens all the time, for real. But, oh no, not with architects, but with writers. Students, amateur writers, and English learners are eager to write their essay and composition without planning first. Here are easy steps to follow when planning and structuring your essay.

Be clear in yourself about what you are setting up to do. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I understand what my essay, concern, question, or writing assignment is all about?
  • What is my immediate natural response to the issue or question at hand?
  • What do I already know that is relevant to the assignment?
  • What additional information do I need to know?
  • What have other people or experts written on this topic? Do I agree/disagree with them?
  • What is the main point I want to say in my paper?
  • What reasons do I have to support my argument, or how can I back up my own message?
  • Why should people read or believe what I say?

Create a mind map.

Addressing the questions above, in a way, clears the cobwebs of doubts or misunderstandings of the topic at hand. Now, it’s time to examine what’s in your mind’s “library” and take stock. What do you know about the subject matter? A mind map will lay down everything you already know about the topic. Try to identify what your immediate

response to the essay question would be using only what you already know. Write them down. This way, you could also determine what you don’t know and what you need to research. Identify some research questions to guide you.

Follow the “Rule of Three” structure.

There are always just three parts in an essay: introduction, body, and conclusion. This should always be your structure; nothing more, nothing less. Simply put, the introduction gives a hint on what you are going to say, the body says it, and the conclusion repeats what you just said. Essays are always structured this way—no need to reinvent the wheel.

To better visualize this structure, you can use a diagram or template like this one:

I. Introduction:

a. Introductory paragraph

b. The secondary introductory paragraph, if necessary

Reminder: Mention here the context and aim of your essay. State your argument and how you will respond to the question at hand.

II. Body:

a. First main point

1) First supporting point or subpoint

2) Second supporting point or subpoint

(Additional subpoints, if necessary)

b. Second main point

1) First supporting point or subpoint

2) Second supporting point or subpoint

(Additional subpoints, if necessary)

c. Third main point

1) First supporting point or subpoint

2) Second supporting point or subpoint

(Additional subpoints, if necessary)

Additional main points and subpoints, if necessary

Reminder: Develop your argument point by point. Lay down the reasons that support your argument and what you said in the introduction.

III. Conclusion:

Concluding paragraph

Reminder: Summarize the reasons that support your argument. Don’t insert new information here. The goal is to simply remind your readers what you have just said.

Paragraph structure.

When writing your paragraphs, keep in mind that the first and last sentences are essential. The first is your topic sentence, and it should clearly and specifically tell the readers about the arguments and points you are about to discuss within the paragraph. The last sentence, on the other hand, should make the relevance of the topic totally clear. Think of a paragraph as a mini-essay.

How long should your paragraphs be, and how many paragraphs should you write to make a point clear? There are no magic numbers here. The actual number of words and paragraphs in the main body text depends on your topic and the argument you are making. Perhaps there are two rules of thumb you can be aware of here: one, longer doesn’t mean better, and two, each paragraph should contain only one main idea.

Refine to improve.

Going back to the story of the unprepared architect, wouldn’t you love to pay top dollars to a thorough, competent, and high-quality architect. Do the same with your essay structure. Review the structure or outline that you have prepared and imagine what kind of essay you can build using it. Seek advice from experts. For instance, you can get in touch with LingualBox for comments on how to structure your essay.


I am Edwin Estioko and I have years of experience in writing and editing for international audience. With a bachelor's degree in English and master's degree in Ministry, I am a published author of children's books and an elementary English textbook.