How to organize material for your essay

By now you should have all the material you need to write your essay, but it is a good idea to go back to the question to check that you have covered every key aspect of it before you begin to plan your essay and how to incorporate your research into it.

As you were carrying out your research, you will have been evaluating the issues and arguments involved. You should now think carefully about your approach to the essay question, the main theme or themes that are emerging, what arguments you will use, and the evidence you need to support them.

Outlining the essay

You will doubtless know that essays should have an introductory paragraph, a main section, and a conclusion. You now need to expand this basic format into a specific essay plan. Here is a suggested approach:

  • Identify the main theme or themes of the essay and the key points that you want to make.
  • Use these themes and points as headings in your plan and write brief notes as to what you want to include under each heading. These headings will help you plan out the paragraphs in the main body of the essay.
  • Think about how your material relates to these points and organize your notes and other reference sources accordingly.
  • You might find it helpful to use colour coding or different folders to categorize your notes, and relate these to the headings and points in your essay plan.
  • Once you have drafted an outline or plan, check it again to confirm that you have covered the key points raised by the question, then critically reassess the order in which you have developed your arguments.

Remember that the most effective essays are those which enable the reader to trace your reasoning through structured arguments to the conclusion:

  • The introduction should set out your approach to the question and the key points that you will be considering.
  • The main section should present your arguments and evidence in a rational order.
  • The conclusion should follow logically from the main section.


Read more about essay preparation in:

How to plan time for essay writing

How to understand the essay question

How to do research for an essay


Back to Writing essays.

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