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Use the essay title to plan your essay

1 Dissect the essay title

To make sure you’ve completely understood what’s being asked of you, dissect the title into:

  • instruction (e.g. analyse, compare and contrast, discuss)
  • topic
  • aspect of the topic (the particular angle)
  • boundaries (the limits of your essay).


A. Compare the treatment of the theme of song in the poetry of Kei Miller and Gwendolyn Brooks.

Compare (instruction) the treatment of (aspect) the theme of song (topic) in the poetry of Kei Miller and Gwendolyn Brooks (boundaries).

B. How does the behaviour of green caterpillars differ from the behaviour of red caterpillars?

Image credit: Pixabay

How does/differ’(instruction); behaviour (aspect); caterpillars (topic); green and red (boundaries—don’t discuss brown or yellow caterpillars).

2 Make decisions

If your question is open, or you’re creating it yourself, decide what you’re taking as the topic and what will be the aspect. Make your decision clear in the introduction.


Is it ever morally acceptable to lie?

Your topic could be moral acceptability – how we define it and what it means – and you could use lying as the aspect. Alternatively, your topic could be lying—and you’d explore the moral acceptability of different types of lie. What you decide will impact on your essay planning.

3 Stick to the question

Type (don’t cut and paste) the essay question at the top of each page of your notes as you research, to make sure you’re reading relevant material. When you start drafting, at the end of every paragraph re-read the essay title. Are you answering it? Be honest!

Katie Grant
3 February 2022

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