Essay Diagrams

Key words: tables, figures (e.g. graphs, diagrams, photographs, graphics), adapted, caption

At times, it may be permissible and appropriate to insert tables, figures and other graphics in your essay. These graphics may have been copied, adapted from sources of information or may be from your own research. They need to be relevant, correctly labelled and referenced—unless they are entirely your own work.

Please note that the APA referencing style is used in this workshop.

About tables and figures in your writing 

Tables and figures (e.g. diagrams, graphs, photographs, maps) may be used as evidence to support academic argument. They are mostly used in report writing. It is important that tables and figures are used purposefully (i.e. with good reason) and referenced correctly.

Exercise 1: Inserting a figure into your writing

Click on ‘Start analysis’ to see how figures can be used in your academic writing.

For ALL tables and figures:

  • Labelling—put the label ABOVE for tables and BELOW for figures (e.g. diagrams, graphs, photographs, maps)
  • Numbering—make sure that tables and figures (e.g. diagrams, graphs, photographs, maps) are numbered sequentially. There should be two numbering series: one for tables and one for figures (e.g. Table 1., Table 2. AND Figure 1., Figure 2.)
  • Positioning—place tables and figures immediately below the paragraph/relevant text
  • In-text referencing—refer to the table or figure by number in your writing (e.g. Table 6 shows that …)
  • Diagram referencing—provide a reference to an authority if the table or figure is from or adapted from an outside source. If you have created the table or image yourself from your own data collection, you must still use a number and label, but no reference is required
  • Larger tables and figures—place large (one page and over) tables or figures in the appendices (see ASO Factsheet: Appendices )

Don’t do this! 

  • Don’t restructure data from an information source into another format (e.g. a graph, a flowchart) without referencing the author of your information. You may structure the graph, but the author still ‘owns’ the research!
  • Don’t just ‘plonk’ a table or figure into your writing. You need to refer to its existence and relevance to your argument in the preceding text.
  • Don’t give extensive descriptions in your writing of the contents of a table or diagram. The information in a table or diagram tells its own story—it’s your job to point out its significance to your argument.
Note: Guide the reader to the point you are making by including the figure or table in your writing, What does the figure show that is relevant to your argument?

You may have read my approach to the Task 1 essay for graphs and charts. The process/diagram essay should also have 4 consistent paragraphs.

Once you’ve practiced this approach, you should feel much more confident in how to tackle  a diagram. You can use this strategy every time.

Here we go:

  1. Look at the diagram carefully. Make sure you understand the process and all the labels.
  2. Identify the different main stages of the process. If there are lots of steps, can you group them into stages from the beginning to end?

Once you’re clear on the stages and steps (mark them out on the paper so you can easily see it), plan on writing 4 paragraphs:

  1. Introduction. This is actually one sentence which paraphrases the explanation of the process in the task question.
  2. Overview of the process by stating the main stages from the beginning to the end. Don’t mention the individual steps (save those for paragraphs 3 & 4). You can state what happens at the very beginning and the end result.
  3. (Divide the stages in two). Start describing the first steps in the first stages.
  4. Describe the steps in the later stages, ending with the final result.

Here’s a recent example from’s sample Task 1.

The diagram below shows the process by which bricks are manufactured for the building industry.



Here’s the essay organization:

  1. Introduction. Paraphrase the task question – The diagram illustrates how bricks are made in the construction industry.
  2. Describe the overview of the process. It’s divided into 4 stages: digging for clay & filtering it;  making mixture & forming bricks; drying/baking/cooling;  packaging & delivery. I divided it this way so it’s easy to divide into 2 paragraphs.
  3. First 2 stages: digging for clay & filtering it; making mixture & forming bricks.
  4. Last 2 stages: drying/baking/cooling; packaging & delivery.

Remember, no conclusion is needed for Task 1. You are only describing a process.

* For my full sample essay for this task, see here.

I will post more examples later. If you have any questions, please ask!

Posted in IELTS Writing, Writing Task 1 Tagged with: IELTS Writing, Writing Task 1


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