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Produce your own plan for the following question using one or more of the suggested techniques. Don't spend longer than 5-10 minutes on this. You need to get used to producing a plan in 5 minutes for a 40-60 minute essay.

How is the structure of DNA related to its cellular function?

Compare your plan with the following examples. Remember that we all plan and write in different ways, so there is no 'correct' model. If your plan contains lots of questions, or you are unsure if it is comprehensive, then this is your opportunity to bring yourself up to speed by looking in your lecture notes and or/text books. Without such an overview of the topic you will find it difficult to decide which aspects to emphasise. If necessary, ask your supervisor for advice.


Freewriting I feel like diving straight into describing the structure of DNA but the question is asking how it relates to function. How am I going to organise my essay to make sure that I don’t drift back to description? Should I link each structural feature with its function as I go along or will that make the essay too laboured? On a basic level, I can’t think of much content at this point. I seriously need to look back over my notes for this one. Not even sure whether I can refer to one lecture. I remember a supervision discussion that touched on this, but was it relevant to this particular question? How am I going to make sure that I have included everything?

This student's initial response indicates that they have many questions about the content and organisation of their essay. Further reading is definitely necessary before they begin, following which a mindmap could be useful as it would emphasise the associations between structure and function. This initial response does, however, show that this student has learned to analyse the wording of the question, which should ensure that the essay actually answers the question as long as they are not taken off track by irrelevant material. Asking yourself questions is a useful start if you feel you are not at the planning stage yet.

Bullet list

A recorded supervision discussion is available here, divided into three sections:

All files in mp3 format.