Planning an essay

How might you plan your essay in response to this question?

Photo of British troops going over the top of the trenches during the Battle of the Somme, 1916
World War One is a key theme of 'Exposure'

Read the poem, Exposure by Wilfred Owen. Write about the ways in which Owen presents the realities of war in this poem.

You could approach your plan by:

  • re-reading the poem, thinking about the effect it has on you and what effect it might have on other readers
  • highlighting the key words in the question
  • creating a draft of your plan

Example plan

What to include Textual reference/ quotations to includeNotes
IntroductionPoem about horrors of war - direct and hard hitting. Surprising as it's about waiting and effects of cold, not fighting itself. Title can be read in different ways - exposure to cold, to terrifying war situation for soldiers or exposing truth to people at home. Keep it short, show overall understanding and direction of essay. Owen is showing horror of war not glory.
Paragraph oneContent and detail - mention of cold, feelings of men, how all hope has left them, they feel they are 'merciless iced east winds’, ‘mad gusts’, ‘nervous’, ‘is it that we are dying?’Focusing on content of poem shows overall understanding of poem’s message.
Paragraph two Strong, insistent language throughout. eg repetition of ‘But nothing happens’ and ‘dying’. Negative language - ‘agonies’, ‘melancholy’, ‘cringe’.Focus on specific powerful language and overall effect.
Paragraph threeUse of figurative language to convey horrors, use of different similes ‘like twitching agonies’, ‘like a dull rumour’.Link to effect, eg similes convey horror - helps reader to feel this.
Paragraph fourStructure and rhyme/sounds. eg regular stanzas and repetition, hard-hitting monosyllables, short final lines in each stanza.Link structure to effect - reality of war is stark and unrelenting.
Conclusion Many realities of war shown, some are surprising - nothing happens but still mem feel they are dying.May not need more references in conclusion. Refer back to key words in question - realities of war. Shows understanding of the poem and of it being hard-hitting.


The plan above has a very clear structure which addresses different aspects of the poem in a logical sequence. It has a wide range of short textual references to back up the points made. It clearly links all comment on form, structure and language to the effect they have in the poem. In addition to this, all the points are linked back to the original question – this demonstrates a clear understanding of what is being asked.

Explore the study guide for 'Exposure'.