Paragraph structure/planning

Topic statement (State in one sentence somewhere in your paragraph what the intent of your paragraph is. What is its point? How does it help your answer?)

It is easiest for the topic statement to go at the beginning of the paragraph and then it will direct the rest of the paragraph; however, it doesn't need to go first. You could come to it at the end or have it in the middle.

Supporting details
There are several kinds: explanation, examples, stories, facts, a combination of these things. Use your supporting details to develop your topic statement and show your idea. It is good to use more than one kind in a paragraph and not to use exactly the same ones in each paragraph (mix it up a little!)

You need to wrap the paragraph up. You could come to a conclusion about that point. Another way is to make a link to the next point. If your ideas are in a logical order it will be fairly easy to find a connection. (See Planning below.)

Planning (making an outline)
So, you have all of these ideas, you kind of know what to say, you know the basic structure of an essay.... so.... what do you do now? You need to work out what goes where.
First, look at all your ideas and look for logical sequence. What is the first part of the answer that a reader should know? Sometimes this is obvious and sometimes it isn't. If all of the ideas look equally relevant, choose the one you feel will immediately hook the reader Don't choose the most dramatic one - build up to that. Choose one that will pull the reader in and orient them to your thinking and answer.
Then, which one should go second? Which one would come naturally? Is there an idea which is really a partner to or extension of that first one?
Do you have any ideas that are so closely linked that they need to go next to each other? Where in the overall scheme could they go?
Do you have one big idea that can't be understood until other things are explained? It is probably best to save that until last.
If you don't have a big dramatic idea like that, choose the one that is the last, logical part that the reader should know. What part of the argument do you want to leave them with?

Making the actual plan
Write down in a list the order you have chosen. It doesn't have to be elaborate. Use one word for each idea.
Look at it - does there seem to be a flow to the ideas?
If not - try another order. Play with it until you have a plan that you like.
Double check that there are enough ideas written down to fully answer the question.

Making a more detailed plan
By each idea (sub-topic/heading) write the smaller ideas you'll use to flesh it out Write the examples you may want to use.
Write the other sub-topics/ideas that this paragraph may link to so you'll remember to make that connection for the reader.

A sample of a simple planA sample of a more detailed plan