How to Use Graphic Organizers to Write Better Essays | Lucidchart Blog
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If you’re a student, there’s no way around the inevitable: You’re going to have to write essays. Lots of essays. In fact, the five-paragraph essay is so fundamental to the high school curriculum that it’s still used on the ACTs, and knowing how to recognize the organizational structure of essays will help you score higher on the SATs.

Even though it seems like a chore, knowing how to organize and write an essay can have a lasting effect on your life, from getting into a better college to scoring a better job to performing better in that job long after your high school days are over.

Here’s a secret: Using graphic organizers for writing essays can help you write better essays faster. (And don’t count yourself out if you’re an educator—you can offer these tools to help your students succeed.) We’ll show you exactly how to do it.

Why use graphic organizers

When ACT graders or teachers are looking your essay, they’re looking for very specific criteria; essentially, they’re looking at how well you’ve organized your thoughts. Many students don’t take the time to outline their essay structure before writing, and that always means a lower score on a test and a lower grade on the essay in class.

Using a writing template can feel like an unnecessary step in an already complicated process. If you need extra motivation to implement these organizers into your writing routine, consider all of their benefits. Graphic organizers can help you:

  • Save time by showing you where each piece of the essay “lives.”
  • Have more productive brainstorming sessions, either by yourself or with a group.
  • Make connections between ideas and create a more cohesive argument.
  • Pinpoint holes in your arguments and either adjust the thesis or find supporting statements.
  • Keep track of your research.
  • Organize your thoughts and come to interesting, more compelling conclusions.
  • Stay in the right direction when you feel lost in a sea of words.
  • Manage anxiety by converting the fear of a blank assignment into an action plan with a clear map.

With all those benefits, it’s hard to ignore how useful and vital graphic organizers are to writing. And once you’ve become adept at organizing your thoughts for something like a school essay, you’ll find that skill carries with you throughout your life, whether you’re trying to become a more intelligent debater to negotiate prices. It goes beyond just the essay to becoming a better thinker. And it starts with a simple template.

We’ll walk you through several use cases for graphic organizers and provide templates for you to download and fill in when you’re ready to write.

Brainstorming graphic organizers

Brainstorming is important, not only to come up with ideas for topics but to determine what information you need to include in the essay once you’ve determined your topic. Though many think of brainstorming as just freeflow thinking, brainstorming is most productive when you work within specific parameters.

That’s why essay brainstorming graphic organizers are useful, whether you’re using one to brainstorm on your own or you’re working with a group.

brainstorming mind map template
Brainstorming Mind Map Template (Click on image to modify online)

In Lucidchart, our mind map shapes and templates double as brainstorming graphic organizers. Start with an essay prompt as your central shape and then fill in the shapes that branch off your prompt with topic ideas. Alternatively, you can add your selected topic to the center and start brainstorming the different ideas you need to cover in your paper.

When the template is filled in, you’ll have a clear starting point for your essay or research paper.

Research paper graphic organizers

Nothing paralyzes students with fear quite like a research paper. These long-form papers require—as the name implies—quite a bit of research, and their purpose is to teach students how to look for valid sources to support their arguments.

But keeping track of all those sources and tying them into your argument can be tricky. That’s where a research paper graphic organizer can be a student’s greatest ally.

research paper graphic organizer
Research Paper Graphic Organizer (Click on image to modify online)

This template lays out the writing process itself. After you come up with a general topic, like “the disappearance of honey bees,” fill in the “Research Paper Topic” box.

Then, start looking for reputable sources (Wikipedia doesn’t count) and use the five sources boxes to hold the most relevant quotes and statistics you find. Using those quotes and statistics, you can then fill out a thesis statement that is supported by the research.

Then, you’ll be able to focus your paragraphs on a single topic each that supports the thesis statement and your overarching argument. After you’ve filled out the template, the backbone of the research paper is complete: All that’s left to do is fill in the spaces between sources and arguments.

5-paragraph essay graphic organizer

When it comes to writing the five-paragraph essay, writing diagrams are key. By using graphic organizers for writing, you’re no longer staring at a giant blank piece of paper with no idea how or where to begin. Your graphic organizer is your map.

Although using writing diagrams may seem time-consuming, the fact is that taking the time to fill a graphic organizer in before writing actually saves time. If there’s a problem with the argument, it will show up on the diagram, or if there’s not enough evidence to support your argument, you’ll know before you’ve wasted time writing the paper. And, as we said before, even if your writing is terrible, if your argument is sound, you’ll still score a decent grade.

Try this free 5-paragraph essay template to get you started.

essay planning and writing
Essay Planning and Writing (Click on image to modify online)

Don’t feel pressured to come up with a compelling title right away. Instead, it’s more important that you come up with a thesis statement that can be supported by three solid arguments. Fill in that thesis statement and your arguments. Then, for each argument, figure out three supporting details to support your case.

That’s it! You’ve got the most essential parts of your 5-paragraph essay completed.

Now, come up with an introduction that sets the stage for your argument and a conclusion that wraps up and restates your thesis and supporting arguments in a compelling way. Now you have a solid plan for your paper and can approach it with confidence.

If you’d like a more linear graphic that exactly follows the structure of the 5-paragraph, use the writing template below and follow the same process.

essay sequence plan
Essay Sequence Plan (Click on image to modify online)

Visuals, such as graphic organizers for writing, can help you better understand concepts, think creatively, and collaborate with your classmates—and there are plenty of other templates where these came from.

Lucidchart offers hundreds of templates to help you through your studies, including timelines, Venn diagrams, word maps, and more. Sign up for Lucidchart and upgrade to an Educational account for free.

Resources for teachers

Providing graphic resources to students is essential; after all, many of your students will be visual learners, so while you may beautifully explain how the process works, there will be some who won’t understand until they see a template of the essay itself.

Lucidchart has many resources for teachers, from lesson plans to writing templates. While you’re teaching your students how to write essays or research papers, it’s useful to print out the templates and fill them out together (even using a completed template as a separate assignment with a separate grade) so that your students can get a feel for properly filling out graphic organizers before attempting it on their own.