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Developing a provisional plan

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Along with thinking about the topic, it is useful at this pre-reading stage, to try sketching out a rough provisional plan for the essay. This will be based on your analysis of the topic.

As any guide to essay writing will tell you, all essays begin with an introduction and end with a conclusion. The middle sections are where you can do some of this planning.

Based on Student 3's interpretation of the essay topic, draw up a provisional plan for the middle sections of the essay. Use the template below.

Display Student 3's interpretation

Provisional essay plan




Essay topic:

In the last 20 years, rates of divorce have risen significantly in Western countries. Critically analyse some of the different explanations given for this phenomenon. In your discussion you should consider what implications these explanations might have for social policy.

Student 3's interpretation of the essay topic:

This topic states that divorce has risen in Western countries. First I would want to find out if this is the case by looking at statistics from a number of countries. Assuming that the proposition is true, I would then look at a variety of accounts given by sociologists for this increase. For each of these, I would consider how adequate an explanation it is. The topic seems to imply that rising divorce is a phenomenon that needs to be addressed by policy makers. I would then think about what sort of social policy positions might follow on from each explanation.


Student 3 is proposing to comment on the adequacy of a range of sociological explanations for divorce (critical analysis) and then to consider what types of social policy would follow on from her explanations (implications).

Developing a plan

The following is a good plan that one student devised.

Does this plan look anything like yours?

Essay Plan


- Problem of rising divorce

Explanation 1 (Type?)

- Summarise

- Evaluate

Explanation 2 (Type?)

- Summarise

- Evaluate

Explanation 3

- Summarise

- Evaluate

Implications of explanations.

(What types of solutions do they suggest?)

Implications of explanation 1

Implications of explanation 2

Implications of explanation 3

Conclusion: Which explanation is most helpful?

Note that there are probably a number of other equally plausible ways this essay could be structured.

It is important to think of any provisional plan you devise as just that - provisional. As you do your reading, and as your thinking about the topic becomes clearer, you should consult your original plan and work out what modifications need to be made to it. You should also look to filling out details in the plan as you go along.

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