The foundations of a well-structured essay lie in the initial stages of interpreting the essay title. Without a clear understanding of the question, and an idea of the kind of answer that will ultimately be reached, there will be little direction to an essay. Without a sense of where the argument will be going, there will be no opportunity to create a structured route for your reader between your question and its answer in your conclusion. Moreover, there is a possibility that the essay could become simply a list of unconnected descriptive points, rather than an analytical, critical text which presents an argument. Your direction may change as you work through your ideas in more depth, but it is helpful to have an argument or answer in mind provisionally. 'Free writing' can be a very helpful strategy in finding this direction and working out your ideas, but the text you create is for your own benefit; it is not the same as the draft you produce for your reader.
The following pages will help you to establish a clear basis for developing a structure within your planning and writing. It might then be useful to also look at the other two sections of this resource, on planning strategies and writing techniques to enhance structure. There is also relevant material in the resource How might I interpret an essay title?