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How to plan an essay

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 4 Sep 2014, 12:02


Fig.1 A mindmap using the App 'SimpleMinds'

You try all kinds of different approaches, software and apps. You can any of this on paper (I often do), even working on a mindmap on a whiteboard. Practice, and pain, taught me the way that works for me. Ahead of the deadline with the bulk of the reading done I assemble and sort 'the facts' and 'issues'; I'd liken this to taking a large bundle autumn leaves and sorted them out by colour and leaf type. Then I create a mindmap.

SimpleMinds is free - the basic version does more than enough.

My habit is to keep it under 12 'themes' so the 'clock face' is a starting point for the mindmap, not best practice according to mindmap aficienados but what works for me. Six to eight 'tendrils' is probably about right. If I can be bothered to so so that I'll re-order all of this to that in chronological order I have the topics to write about. Any set of these links can be 'closed', which in effect means that you are looking at the introduction. It is no more than a doodle so few of my mindmaps are finished: the above is enough to work from, it's not going to illustrate the essay.

Of course, talking about 'how to write an essay' is one thing: sitting down and getting on with it is quite another.

The first draft is always the hardest. Get them out of the way and hopefully it's then just a case of editing. It takes far longer than you could imagine. I repeatedly used to run out of time and wished I'd got down to it earlier. If you're really brave you might write a version under 'examination conditions' - you, three hours and a blank sheet of paper. You can be surprised at how much 'the Muse' will deliver to your fingertips and there'll be little else that you write that will be so fluid.

Bonne chance.

Various tips, hints and guides on this kind of stuff are hereabouts on the brilliant OU Student platform

Yes, it does help to read the thing out loud! The pain is to listen back and realise that at times you're not making sense sad Re-writing is pain, pain, pain. 

The final thing (click the link for a larger version)

From E-Learning V


This can also be exported as a wordfile with the sub-menus creating a set of logical sub-headings. Depending on the density of the mindmap you may end up with too much, or too little information on which to build an essay. It also rather depends on the length of the assignment.

The other thing I do is to TAG content here from a module that could be used in a pending TMA. When you select that tag you may then export the assembled notes and entries you've gathered over a few weeks - with comments too. Again, you can end up with 8000 loose notes for a 4000 word assignment, but its a start.

Any kind of engagement with the content is better than none?

Permalink 7 comments (latest comment by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 4 Sep 2014, 15:25)
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