Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Download this course

Share this free course

English: skills for learning
English: skills for learning

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

4.8 Using diagrams to plan a science assignment

Sometimes just reading an assignment question is not sufficient to write a draft plan. You will now look at a science assignment that requires students to describe and explain but provides no information that could help them to write a plan.

The assignment title is:

Describe and explain the greenhouse effect.

Just reading this title is insufficient to outline a text easily because the title does not contain helpful key words such as cause, effect or similarities. Before planning it is therefore necessary to read about this effect. Having done this, information needs to be arranged into steps as this will help to plan the text.

The following activity provides a useful visual technique for planning the essay.

Activity 12

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

Watch the following video in which Open University science tutor Phil explains to Zorica how to plan the assignment by using a diagram to visualise the information she needs to include.

Download this video clip.Video player: swe_1_wk3_vid_phil.mp4
Copy this transcript to the clipboard
Print this transcript
Show transcript|Hide transcript
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Now put the following steps into order described by Phil and Zorica.

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. Infrared radiation emitted from the Sun.

  2. Absorption of infrared by the Earth.

  3. Re-emission of infrared to the atmosphere.

  4. Infrared absorbed by CO2 and H2O.

  • a.Step 2

  • b.Step 4

  • c.Step 1

  • d.Step 3

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = c
  • 2 = a
  • 3 = d
  • 4 = b


This activity shows the how diagrams can be used to both identify and present the steps of a process at the pre-writing stage. Depending on the number of words the student is required to write, they can then write either a paragraph or a longer text outlining each of the stages of the process.