A good plan will not only help you to make decisions about what material to include and in what order, but will also aid in developing the logical links that form your argument. Once you have assembled your material, this technique provides a way of thinking about the logical order in a way that you can then articulate clearly in your writing. Unless the links are clear to you as writer, and to your reader, the essay will not 'flow' - that is, it might appear as a loose collection of points, among which the reader 'jumps about' randomly.
Step one: Assemble your material
The first step, assembling your material, can be done however best suits your working preferences, whether you prefer to use mindmaps, bulletpoints or quotations from primary material. This technique is best used at a later stage of the essay writing process, and can be combined with one of the other strategies for earlier stages of developing your points.
As you will be working with the order of your ideas, it might be helpful, when collating your material, to do so in a flexible format, whether using a word processor, small whiteboard, post-it notes or postcards.
Step two: Using connectives
Once you have assembled your points, try and arrange them in an order which feels that it makes sense to you. Once you have done so, experiment with connective words and phrases to express the logical relationship between the points. There are different types of relationship between points that combine to make up an argument, and various synonyms for expressing them, for example:
Adding similar points or going into more detail:
- also, moreover, in addition, furthermore, similarly, additionally, likewise, for instance, this
- firstly, secondly, thirdly, initially, finally, next
- however, yet, in contrast, but, although, alternatively, on the other hand, conversely, despite
Giving causes, reasons or results:
- accordingly, thus, therefore, as a result, because, due to, consequently, hence
If you find that you are using connective words and phrases that predominantly express the relationship of addition (and, moreover, in addition etc) then it may be that your argument is not as complex or well-developed as it could be.
You could also use this technique when editing a draft for structure - check each paragraph (especially the first couple of sentences) and experiment with different connective phrases to see what the link between them is, and then whether your writing reflects this. Ultimately, the connective words will become embedded in your writing to signal your structure. See the later section on Communicating your structure effectively for more guidance.