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.

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371