Organising and Planning an Essay

You can find Previous Year Argumentative Essay Topics asked in ICSE board exams.

Organising and Planning an Essay

As stated earlier, listing out ideas is the first step in writing a good composition. The more original the idea, the more different and interesting would be your composition, from the general run of the mill stuff. This however requires extensive reading of books and newspapers. You should inculcate this good habit of reading, for it would enable you to put across new ideas and also enhance your power of expression.

How to generate ideas?
To help you generate new ideas you can fall back on few basic techniques enumerated below. The appropriate technique to use would depend on the type of composition you are going to write.

1. Six question technique
Here you ask yourself a series of questions like WHO, WHY, WHEN, WHERE, HOW, and WHAT related to the title of the composition. These questions will generate ideas, that can be used by you in your composition. Thus, for example, if you were to write an essay on a ‘Journey by train’ you could build your composition by answering the following questions.

Who Who was travelling?
Why Why are you travelling? To attend a wedding, or going on vacation
When The time of journey: morning, evening, during summer or winter vacations
Where Where are you going? The town and stations en route. The lush green countryside contrasted with the slums and the filth in the cities
How How you spent the time in the train? The type of co-passengers, their dress, behaviour.
What What happened in the course of the journey? Relate any interesting incident like surprise ticket checking, passengers caught without ticket, snatching of chain, purse etc.

2. Five senses technique
Here we use some or all our five senses. We should however ensure that the particular sense can be applied to the subject of our composition. This technique is especially useful in a descriptive composition. Thus, in the above composition, ‘Journey by train’ we can also use this technique in the body of the composition to make it more appealing and different.

Sight The beauty of the meadows and fields. Different type of people, their language, dress etc
Hearing The rabble of noise on the platform, shouting hawkers, hooting, whistle blowing of the guard. Contrast this with the calm and quiet of the countryside.
Smell The foul smell on the railway platforms, contrasted with the refreshing breeze in the countryside , smell of flowers etc.
Taste The invigorating taste of the coffee served in the station contrasted with the insipid tea served by the vendor in the train.
Touch The starched sheets, coarse blankets given for bedding

The above two techniques can be very useful for generating ideas for a narrative or descriptive composition.

3. Knowledge technique
This is especially useful in argumentative or topical / reflective composition. Here we use our knowledge on various aspects of the subject, to produce ideas which can be developed further. For example if you have to write an essay entitled ‘Prohibition’, you can use this approach by dwelling on the following aspects.

1. Define the topic What is prohibition?
2. Social view Different attitude of people in different societies towards drinking alcohol. Alcoholics a threat to society?
3. Religion Some religions support prohibition while others are indifferent.
4. Economic Alcoholics ruin themselves and their family economically.
5. Psychological Adversely affects the psyche of the person mentally and physically.
6. Physical Adversely affects a person’s health making him/her prone to critical diseases of the liver and kidney leading to death.
7 Historical Positive effect of prohibition in countries where it has been in force. Quote a few examples.
8 Political Does involve curtailment of individual freedom. A small price to be paid for the benefit of the family and society.
9 Personal Your own personal opinion should be put forth in such a way that readers who lack awareness could make informed choices.

Organising your composition
Having listed down all the ideas that come to mind based on the above technique, the next step is to organise them in a proper sequence. In this process some ideas may have to be discarded, as they do not fit in the sequence. In order to enable you to organise them, you can use any of the following sequences, depending on the subject of the composition. Let us again take the above topic ‘Journey by train’. You can use any one of the first two sequences given below or a combination of them, for this is a narrative composition.

1. Time span related sequence of events
By dwelling on the sequence of events in a chronological order, you can begin the composition, from the time you boarded the train, till the end of your journey. You can also write about what you saw and did in the course of your journey.

2. People related sequence
Here your approach would be in describing the various type of people you came in contact with, during the course of your journey. The co-passengers, hawkers, beggars etc. Their dress, behaviour, attitude, language and anything that caught your attention.

3. Logic related sequence
This is appropriate for an argumentative and a topical composition where you are required to state your ideas in a logical sequence. This ensures that you put across your views clearly and forcefully. Suppose you are to write an essay on ‘Prohibition’. Since this is a topical composition, you can use the knowledge-technique to list out the ideas on the subject. Thereafter, you can arrange the ideas in a logical sequence as given in knowledge- technique.

Planning your composition
After organising your ideas you now need to plan your composition so as to make it appealing and forceful.

1. In Narrative or Descriptive compositions you can arrange the ideas in a time span sequence, or a people sequence or a combination of both. You should however bear the following in mind.

  • In describing a person first dwell on his unique features, then his appearance, dress, his style or character etc.
  • In describing a place or a scene start from the perimeter to the centre or from the most prominent part to the least prominent.
  • Conclude by summing up your experience.

2. In Argumentative or a Topical compositions dwell first on the strong aspects and counter the weak aspects with logical arguments in support of your stand.

Different types of composition and their organising style

Type of Composition Organising style
Narrative Time span related sequence of events, people related sequence
Descriptive General to specific description
Compare and contrast Compare one thing with another
Cause and effect Identify the cause and then explore its effect
Reflective Logic related sequence starting with most important to less important with a balanced conclusion
Argumentative Logic related with assertion of important ideas backed with convincing arguments. Counter opposing views; Conclude by reasserting your position.