Planning is an essential part of how I go about writing a chapter and is more often than not a necessary prerequisite to any writing. My notebook is filled to the brim with various chapter plans, and, if I am struggling with any aspect of writing, I always return to them to try and get my head around exactly what it is I want my chapter to do.
I normally use plans to determine the chapter’s structure by both its subject area and the main issues that it will seek to address. Initially I form a rough first plan after conducting a significant amount of secondary reading and consulting a large swathe of primary source material. Through reading literature or examining primary sources relevant to my time period and subject matter, I normally begin to realise what the key issues and themes will be within my chapter. Having identified these topic areas or key events, I make a list of them, with each entry acting as a possible subsection of my chapter.
Having planned out the key sections of my chapter I can conduct some more focused research. After I have made notes on all the material that I plan to consult for the chapter, I organise my notes under these subheadings, altering them if necessary. The aim is to end up with a rough plan of how my chapter will be laid out.
For example, I am currently working on a chapter that seeks to examine the Monroe Doctrine during the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Having conducted both primary and secondary research, I made a plan of the key issues that my chapter would likely have to address, which came out like this:
From this point onwards, I will be able to organise my notes under these various headings, which will give the added benefit of demonstrating which topic areas are weaker in terms of source material. With my notes separated in this manner, I can tackle each section at a time, forming a rough body of unlinked prose before then deciding how convert it into one chapter. If I get stuck during the writing process, I will return to this plan and make a more detailed one, outlining the key sources or the main thrust of the argument for each section. The chapter plan thus remains an integral part of my writing process right up the very end, helping direct both my research and writing.