Planning your work

This post was originally added to Learnhigher on: 9th Jan, 2012
Activity time: 20 minutes
Types of media: Handout/s, Webpage, Helpsheet, PDF file
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This resource highlights the importance of planning work, and how this may improve essay coherence and structure. According to personal preference, the resource offers the linear, cornell or mindmapping approach to planning as guidance for achieving higher grades.
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(This resource can be freely repurposed and reused)

Academic Writing

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Planning your work is important in order that you are able to produce a coherent and well structured piece of writing. This information sheet demonstrates how writing a plan can help you to get your ideas down on paper and to structure your thoughts. The process may feel a little uncomfortable initially, because you may be unclear about what you actually think at this stage, but remember that the longer you spend planning and thinking about your written assignment, the better your final draft will be.

For Example

The following table will give you an idea of how you should go about dividing up the task according to the assessment criteria: 

Section Marks Words
Whole Assignment 100% 2000
Introduction 10% 200
Main Body 80% 1600
Conclusion 10% 200

You should ensure that you have attended all of the lectures, prepared full notes on the topic and completed relevant reading.

Below is a sample essay title with brief examples of how you may start to plan your essay:

Assignment Title

Critically evaluate the use of rats as a solution to landmine detection


Linear Notes

Critically evaluate the use of rats as a solution to landmine detection

Subheading 1
Benefits of using rats to detect landmines

Subheading 2
Disadvantages of using rats

Subheading 3
Other methods of landmine detection – comparison to rats


Cornell Notes

Assignment aims Notes
Identify problems associated with landmines

Innocent victims

Loss of limbs


Identify possible solutions including use of rats

Use of:

  • Elephants
  • Dogs
  • Cats
Identify pros and cons of use of rats


  • Sense of smell
  • Cheap
  • Easy to train


  • Not 100% reliable


Mind mapping

Training Rats –

Apopo HeroRats [1]

Mine detection



Mine Detection

Rats – Why use rats?

‹——- Operations in Mozambique – evidence

 Idea 2


 Idea 1


 Idea 3


The planning layout that you use is very much dependent on personal preference; however, effective planning will help you to produce a coherent and well structured argument or case.

Common mistakes

Failure to plan your work effectively may result in a weak structure or poor line of argument.


Now you’ve read the guide, we suggest that you have a go at the Planning your Work worksheet.

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