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Step 4: Organise data and ideas, revise thesis statement

Now that you have analysed the essay brief, formulated a provisional thesis statement, and read and made notes, the next step is to organise the information that you have gathered. Your objective here is to transform this information into the basis of clear, logical paragraphs that convincingly support or argue the validity of your thesis statement. One approach to this task is a visual approach – a concept map. A concept map has the advantage of allowing you to see small details and the big picture all at the same time. Applied to essay writing, concept mapping is very useful because you can map out all the information that you have and you can link pieces of information together and to see how each of these relates to the thesis statement, that is, to the main message of the essay.

When you have gathered your data/made your notes (see Notes on the right-hand side of this page), you must organise them to answer the essay brief with your provisional thesis statement in mind. Following are some suggestions for organising your data, using Model Essay One and Model Essay Two as examples.

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In organising your notes and ideas, you might find that a visual approach can help you to categorise, connect, and develop your data. Many students find concept mapping useful.

The advantage of a visual approach over a linear approach is that it allows you to see in one view the whole picture as well as the individual points. By making associations and connections between individual points and seeing how they relate to the provisional thesis statement, you can develop a conceptual structure for your essay.

The following concept maps, applied to the two model essay briefs, are intended to give you an idea of visual planning techniques. Your own maps will be more complicated and messy as you cover them with scribbled notes, references, connecting lines, and crossings-out in the process of organising and manipulating your data. Remember they are for your eyes only and can take any form you personally find useful.

Model Essay One – provisional thesis statement

A successful essay has three key elements: A, B, and C.

In your reading, you will find more than three characteristics of an effective essay. Using a concept map that displays all the characteristics you have found helps you to evaluate each characteristic in relation to the others, and to select the most significant for your list of three. Alternatively, you might group a number of related individual characteristics under three larger general characteristics.

Re-ordering points

A further revision might be made when you consider the order in which to present your points of support. In Model Essay One, the three points of support are of equal importance; however, in some descriptive essays there is a hierarchy of importance. That is, you want to present some points as being more important than others.

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