Geography Essay Format

Graphic Organizer to Write Essays
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Step 1: Weight of essay questions on Paper 1, 2 and 3

Essays or essay-like extended-responses are usually indicated by a command term such as "discuss", "to what extent", "analyze", "evaluate", "justify", "compare and contrast". Essays or essay-like "extended responses" are expected on the following components:
  • Paper 1: section B requires an essay-like "extended response" which accounts for 15 marks out of 60. Use approximately 20-25 minutes on section B, and include annotated maps/diagrams where appropriate.
  • Paper 2: each one of the Document-Based Questionnaire (DBQ) on Paper 2 accounts for 20 marks. The last question on each DBQ is always longer and requires an essay-like "extended-response" which accounts for half the marks. Use approximately 20 minutes for each essay-like question and include annotated maps/diagrams where appropriate.
  • Paper 3 (HL only): you have one hour to answer a 2-part essay question. Use approximately 25 minutes for part A (=10 marks) and 35 minutes for part B (=15 marks), and include annotated maps/diagrams where appropriate for both part A and part B.
Essays therefore represent a significant portion of the external assessment:
  • SL: essays = 41% of the written exam (15 marks for p1 + 2x10 marks for p2)
  • HL: essays = 54% of the written exam (15 marks for p1 + 3x10 marks for p2 + 25 marks for p3)

Step 2: Expectations for top marks

According to the IB markbands, essays or extended-responses MUST display the following six elements to achieve the top marks:
  1. Well-developed answer to all or most aspects of the question (see step 3-4 below)
  2. Detailed references to a variety of specific case-studies and named examples to support the answer
  3. Appropriate and frequent use of the terminology (e.g. "carrying capacity", "time-space convergence", "distance-decay principle")
  4. Clear and well-articulated structure (see step 6 below)
  5. Well-balanced attempt at evaluation or synthesis (e.g. pros and cons, limitations, exceptions)
  6. Clear and relevant annotated maps and diagrams as often as is appropriate (see step 7)

Step 3: Understanding the keywords in the essay question

Step 6: Common essay structures in Geography

You essay must follow the structure found on the left. You can also download and use the graphic organizer found at the top of this page to help guide you in this process.

It is CRITICAL to skip lines to clearly indicate to the reader that you have an organized structure and that you are separating each part of your argument:
  • After the introduction: skip 3-4 lines
  • Between each topic: skip 1 full line
  • Before the conclusion: skip 3-4 lines
You can usually adapt one of the following structures to most essay questions. The best plan -and also the most elaborate- is often the "typological plan" since it leads to a spatial differentiation and is usually supplemented by a map which illustrates the 3rd section of the essay (geography is all about maps!). It is also a good idea to change scales (local/regional/global) and use as many diverse and specific examples as possible.

Step 7: Annotated Maps & Diagrams

Students are expected to include well‑drawn, large, relevant maps, sketches, and diagrams as often as applicable (metric scales only for maps).
  • Click here to see the list of command terms
  • Referring to: using, mentioning explicitely
  • Outcome: consequence, result
  • Benefits/costs: positive/negative outcomes
  • Pressures/conflicts: undesirable competition
  • Challenges: difficulties which may be overcome
  • Social: relates to human welfare (e.g. housing, health)
  • Cultural: relates to languages, customs, religions, moral codes
  • Political: relates to government actions
  • Demographic: relates to populations (e.g. fertility)
  • Environmental: relates to the physical environment
  • Issues: important and controversial results
  • Trend: change over time (usually on a graph)
  • Pattern: distribution in space (ie: can be mapped)
  • Process: actions or changes which occur between two parts/stages
  • Relationship: two-way interactions
  • Global scale: the entire world
  • Regional scale: large regions (e.g. Europe, Asia Pacific)
  • National scale: within one country
  • Local scale: immediate district or state

Note: "DESCRIBE" (=what?) is different from "EXPLAIN" (=why or how?)

Step 4: Interpreting the essay title

Look carefully at the essay title and carry out the following:
  1. Underline the key words in the title
  2. Use the L.I.S.T. checklist below to ensure that you give the essay title its broadest interpretation:
  • L – LOCATION (spatial context): poor/rich countries; rural/urban areas;
  • tropical/temperate; land/air/sea; marine/terrestrial/atmospheric
  • I – ISSUES (factors): positive/negative, advantages/disadvantages, costs/benefits,
  • human/physical, environmental, social, cultural, demographic, political,
  • economic, geographic
  • S – SCALE: global, regional, international, national, sub-national, local
  • T – TIME: long-term/medium-term/short-term; past/present/future; contemporary/recent/current
(note that some of the items in the L.I.S.T. may not be relevant to the essay)

Step 5: Brief introduction (3-5 lines)

A good introduction must be brief and include the following 3 elements:
  1. Define the key words of the title (e.g. "globalization", "information technology", "megacity")
  2. Formulate the question: use or rephrase the essay title, suggest possible sub-questions which may be relevant to the essay
  3. Announce the structure/plan that will be used to answer the question: however do NOT "conclude" by giving away your key arguments in the introduction. Rather, indicate the path you'll follow (e.g. "we will first examine this aspect, then evaluate this this aspect, and finally look into this aspect")
Skip 3-4 lines after the introduction so that there is no doubt for the reader that you are know beginning the body of the essay.
Assessment Plan
  1. Thesis (pros)
  2. Antithesis (cons)
  3. Synthesis (conclusion)
Thematic Plan
  1. Aspect / Theme #1
  2. Aspect / Theme #2
  3. Aspect / Theme #3
Comparative Plan
  1. Similarities
  2. Differences
  3. Correlation / Interaction
Analytical Plan
  1. Causes
  2. Consequences / Impact
  3. Limits
Typological Plan
  1. Description
  2. Factors of change
  3. Spatial typology (different types of regions, with a map if possible)
Annotated maps and diagrams are expected for any essay-like or extended response and in the Fieldwork (wherever appropriate):
  • Paper 1 - Section B
  • Paper 2 - Last question of each of the exercises
  • Paper 3 - Part A and part B
  • Fieldwork - Section 3 (analysis and treatment of data)
Annnotated maps and diagramsMUST feature the following elements:
  • Title
  • Key
  • Annotations explaining, elaborating or emphasizing particular features
  • Scale and orientation (for maps, particularly in the Fieldwork)
  • Clarity + legibility

Content of this article

  1. Outline sample
  2. Introduction writing
  3. Body writing
  4. Conclusion writing
  5. Topic List

How To Write Essay About Geography

A geography essay is an article that explains the appearance and existence of phenomena like physical features and some human-made features. It tries to explain how natural resources like rivers, mountains, and valleys came into existence. It also explains their significance. Most students have a difficult time writing papers on geography due to its complexity. This article is meant to improve your essay on geography writing skills. As most students do not know how to start a geography essay, below is a geography essay outline.  This paper is a guide on how to write a geography essay.

Geography essay structure and outlining

Outline Sample


The study of geography is far and wide.  There two broad areas; natural and human-made. This essay on geography will focus on how human activities like industrialization and farming have affected nature.

Thesis statement

Over the years, climate change has been a topic of discussion as a bomb waiting to explode.  Industrialization has led to a shift in climate due to the emission of CFOs that have resulted in global warming. The effects of climate change can be felt in its different capacities. By 2020, the effects of global warming will be so severe that the earth will almost be inhabitable.

  1. Global warming has led to the expansion of deserts. Deserts such as the Sahara and the Kalahari have become drier and expanded due to lack of rain in the surrounding areas.
  2. Melting of glaciers- the Arctic and the Antarctic have experienced a reduction in their ice mass due to global warming. The ice is gradually melting.
  3. Mutations of animals- due to the effects of global warming, animals have begun mutating, therefore, becoming more resistant.


Human beings have contributed to the change in climate, yet the more technology moves forward, the more the damage is likely to be in future. We need to derive a method of keeping the air, water, and soil pollution free.

With this outline for a geography essay, it is easier to see the essay tackles.

Tips concerning introduction writing

There are many tips on geography essay writing to guide you through your paper. This section highlights some of the simple tips for introduction writing that one can use.

  • First, you need to know the geography essay outline before you start writing the essay. Consider the geography essay topics of choice. It is important in developing a geography essay draft that guides you into the kind of research to carry out. Ensure that the topic is one that you understand fully for easy geography essay writing.
  • In a geography essay introduction, explain the phenomena you are writing about in details stating its exact location.

Tips on body (paragraphs, length, and transition)

  • The body of a geography essay includes both theory and specific real life cases. It answers the what, where and the why questions. Geography essay prompts you to have a relevant case study about the phenomena.
  • It should be factual. Mention specific names and location and ensure they are accurate.
  • Ensure that diagrams used are well drawn and labeled.
  • Ensure that what you write relates to the thesis.
  • Keep it as objective as possible for example do not say the Big Bang Theory is a lie.
  • It has to be well organized into categories, discussing different factors in well thought out paragraphs.
  • The transitions should blend well in cases where one paragraph is not enough to explain the phenomena and its implications.

Writing the conclusion

How to conclude a geography essay is a challenge for many students. In the geography essay conclusion, give a general outlook of the phenomena of study and your opinion based on the case study done. The conclusion for a geography essay should state the recommendations and solutions that you think should be put in place to bring changes. It explains the significance of your findings. Do not introduce new information in the conclusion, but ensure that it matches the argument presented in the introduction.

Sources for geography essay choice

The geography essay topic chosen will guide you into finding out the best source to use. There are very many sources of geographical data. Find a source that is accessible such as libraries and the Internet.  Papers on geography can also be used as a reference.

Students can use the internet, topographical maps, Atlas, Globe, literature review and observation as their sources. Observation, however, requires you to dedicate a lot of time for field work. Books in the libraries are very helpful especially when you need diagrammatic representation.

The atlas is convenient for finding the accurate location.

Finalizing the essay

A geography essay is not complete without a glossary that explains the definition of technical terms used in the essay. A glossary is a requirement in all papers on geography.

  • Ensure that the diagrams (if used) are clear and well labeled. State the sources of these charts and provide links for further reading. These pictures act as a geography essay writing guide for the readers.
  • Proofread the essay for accuracy. Ensure that the argument proposed does not deviate from the topic. This makes sure that your geography papers writing can be defended as true.
  • Check for punctuation, correct referencing for content and spelling.

Geography essay tips for topic choice

These tips are important for students that want to learn how to write a geography essay.

  • The choice of topic is the first step to passing papers on geography. Choose a topic that you are conversant with. This makes it easier to write without too much geography essay writing help.
  • The topic should be catchy and precise to capture the attention of the reader.
  • The topic should not be overly broad. It allows you to defend your argument.

Top 20 geography essay topics

  • How do volcanic activities occur?
  • Discuss the Supernova theory
  • The effects of the rising climate change
  • What is a human-wildlife conflict?
  • How does climate affect vegetation?
  • Discuss the ocean topography
  • How does the principle of relativism relate to geography
  • Explain how currents have affected fishing in Japan
  • Discuss longitudes and latitudes and the concept of time
  • How does the moon affect tides?
  • Discuss the earth and solar system
  • What causes tsunamis and hurricanes?
  • Explain what causes the occurrence of rocks
  • Statistical Geographical data
  • Elaborate the significance of faulting
  • Explore the effects of the Himalayas and its surrounding
  • Determine how sextants identifies position in the sea
  • Identify how do physical features affect human activities?
  • Explore the implications of farming on soil pollution
  • Why do deserts occur?
  • Discuss how water bodies affect the rain cycle


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