Remembering the power of the ‘6 Ps’ will remind you why you must plan:

Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Poor Performance

The benefits of rehearsing our arguments in a detailed plan:

  • We can check that all the elements of our argument are relevant to the question.
  • We can see that the essay is clearly and consistently argued.
  • We can ensure that we have sufficient evidence to support the argument.
  • We can follow a logical ‘road map’ of the argument when writing, while still able to restructure the essay if necessary later on.
  • We can avoid doing the two most difficult things in writing at the same time: pinning down our ideas clearly and communicating them accurately, concisely and in a manner that is interesting to the reader.
  • It makes us look interesting and slightly mysterious in the café. This is always a good thing. Unless you’re a spy or something, but we haven’t got time to go into all that here.



Introduction: overall position/topic.

Here you usually indicate how you will approach the question, and provide a statement of the main argument (thesis statement/point of argument/view).

Body: sub-arguments and supporting evidence.

Here you put forward sub-arguments, with each one linking (explicitly or implicitly) to your overall position. Evidence to support main and sub-arguments is presented and evaluated. Further arguments and evidence may then be presented and evaluated. Counter-evidence may be presented and evaluated, usually negatively. This process continues until the case for your main argument is strong.

Conclusion: reinforcement of overall position/argument.

Here you provide an overall summary of the arguments and evidence together with a final evaluation. This reinforces the position you took in the introduction. Do not introduce any new material or sub- arguments in the conclusion.


List the works you have mentioned in the text, carefully following the referencing system stipulated by your department.

laptop notes

(Outline adapted from Coffin, Caroline et al, Teaching Academic Writing: A toolkit for higher education. London: Routledge, 2003.)

Use this outline structure to build your essay quickly by sketching the main points and sub-points. It’s the beginning of a map that will help you to reach your destination faster, or at least stop you racing off in the wrong direction.


In the next post, we’ll consider academic writing and argument.