Early on in the essay process you will find it helpful to create a map of the key concepts you are working with. This will help you in framing your essay topic, documenting your research, developing your main argument, and planning the structure of the essay. See here for more information on different methods for mapping ideas.
As you go through the research process, continuously add to your concept map: add detail to the existing elements, add new concepts, and put in subheadings that have branched off from the main themes.
As your map grows it will become unwieldy. At this point it is a good idea to produce a skeleton version, keeping only the basic elements. Ensure that each of these elements is contributing to the main argument of your essay.
Towards the end of the research stage, try to turn your concept map into a linear essay plan. Make sure your ideas are arranged in a logical order that will be accessible to your reader. This isn’t always easy: deciding what content to put under what heading, and then what order to communicate them in, can be the most difficult aspect of writing a good essay. It will help if you start thinking about it whilst you are still doing the research.
Next page: writing your essay