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How to plan out a fantastic high school essay!

Updated on July 8, 2012


So you have a paper due tomorrow and haven't even started yet? Not to fear! in high school I always completed my essays right before they were due and usually walked away with a great grade. That being said it is usually better to write your first draft weeks in advance in order to give yourself time to research and edit. Here's a breakdown of what we will be discussing...

We will start by brainstorming what we will be writing about.

Then we will "Map Out" our essay to make it easy and quick to write the paper.

After "Mapping Out" or essay we must then look up relevant sources to give the paper some oomph!

Next we must filter our sources and information into the different bodies of the paper in order for everything to run smoothly.

Lastly we begin writing and let the information flow out without hesitation!


Brainstorming Essay topic

So what do you have to write about? Is it a report on a book you read in English? A theory of what happened at some point in History? Or a theory you have about the best way to ride a bicycle? Whatever your topic is you will be able to organize your ideas, your essay, and your mind. For the purposes of this Hub we will use an example:

Lets say you were given the task of writing about the book Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Now the paper can be written a variety of ways so lets look at a few:

A reflective essay : How does the creation of the monster in Frankenstein reflect the creation of Man?

A comparative essay : How is the Monster in the book Frankenstein similar to the monster Grendel in Beowulf?

Thematic essay : identify 3 themes that are at work in the book Frankenstein.

Review essay : Summarize the book Frankenstein while highlighting the important lessons the book attempts to teach the reader.

For the purposes of this example we will focus on the Thematic Essay but any of these could become a great paper. In a later Hub I will discuss the best way to write a comparative essay.

"Mapping Out"

So we have or topic : the book Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

And we have our essay goal : discuss 3 themes used in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Now we must map out how we will structure this essay. Most essays follow a simple structure that is easy to follow...

Paragraph 1

- Introduction

- Hook Sentance

- Explain purpose of essay

- 1 sentence each to explain each body paragraph

- Thesis sentence

- closing sentence

Paragraph 2-4

- Body Paragraphs

- each paragraph is used as evidence for what the thesis is stating

Paragraph 5

- Closing paragraph

- Summarize everything in the body paragraphs and connect them to the point trying to be expressed by the thesis

This is the most common set up for an essay in middle school or high school and it is easy to see how our essay will look. Below is a picture of the paper mapped out and should give you a good idea of where the paper will go.

The Planned out Essay

This is our skeleton, the whole essence of the paper boiled down to one page. When we get sources and add our insight we will grow this skeleton to a rich and vibrant paper.
This is our skeleton, the whole essence of the paper boiled down to one page. When we get sources and add our insight we will grow this skeleton to a rich and vibrant paper.

REMEMBER!!! Always keep track of where you got your quote or information, this will help you when you have to write the bibliography!


The last step is to familiarize yourself with important sources. For the purposes of this paper we will rely on quotes and information in the book. However, if you need quotes or information outside of the material your best friend is google.

Be sure to never take sources from sites that anyone can edit (like Wikipedia). For information on how to source your paper in the text and in the bibliography section click here.

Once you start finding sources be sure to know where you will talk about them. If you find a quote that reflects the monstrousity of Dr. Frankenstein and the Monster make sure that goes in the second body paragraph, and so on. A good rule of thumb is three sources per body paragraph.

Ready to go!

You're done! ...well almost. It may seem like you've only scratched the surface and you still have a lot to write about, but you really have done all the hard work. As long as you know your topic, know how to relate your paragraphs back to the thesis, and understand the importance of planning out your essay you will do fine! The rest is just tying all your information together so it flows out. I find its better to get completely familiar with exactly what the paper will say and try to prove, and then writing it all out in one shot. If you know your stuff this will probably only take about an hour.

Good luck and I hope you found this article helpful! Please comment if you have any questions or concerns.


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