Essay plan

When writing an essay, it’s important to first spend some time planning out what you are going to include in your response. The benefits to planning mean that:

  • you won’t have to keep stopping to work out the details once you start writing.
  • you will keep more focused on the question and not wander off track.
  • you can organise what evidence from the text you will need.
  • you pace yourself better and stand less chance of running out of time through forgetting important things.

In an essay response for poetry, your plan is likely to contain the elements you see in this table:

Essay sectionWhat to includeNotes
Introduction: one paragraph Brief outline of what you intend to include. Overview of the poem(s) which are specific to the question being asked. Pay attention to key words and to any bullet points in the question.Introductions should be short and to-the-point. Don’t repeat the question. Show that you understand the meaning of the question and indicate how you will answer it. If comparing poems, make it clear which ones you are writing about.
Body of essay: a series of paragraphs Paragraphs covering: themes/ideas/attitudes, form and structure, rhythm, rhyme, language and contexts (if it's a part of the question). Relate each of these to the essay title. Use the key words you’ve spotted. Back up the points you make with details or quotations from the poem. You may have more to say about one part of the question than another, but make sure you cover all the parts asked and refer to themes/ideas and content, as well as form, structure and language.
Conclusion: one paragraph Refer back to the essay title. Sum up what you have said in your essay to address that title. Again, mention key words. Make sure your personal response to the poem has come across. This paragraph may be quite short, but it is your chance to show that you have answered the question fully and that you have been able to offer your own personal response.