Process of Writing
As explained by the Rio Salado College Online, the real art of writing is rewriting. To write effectively, you must think about what you want to write about and what you want to say prior to putting anything on paper. Then, you begin the cyclical writing process.
- Set your purpose for writing (show cause/effect, compare/contrast, etc.).
- Identify your audience.
- Limit your topic.
- Draft a thesis statement that contains the topic and controlling idea.
- Brainstorm ideas/details that support the thesis statement.
- Select two to four main ideas to use to support the thesis statement
- Draft a preliminary outline or map that logically organizes the main ideas.
- Gather any information you need to begin to write (document sources).
Write Draft #1
- Put your thoughts on paper.
- Use the logical structure you determined in the outlining process.
- Make certain the thesis statement is clear and that you have clear topic sentences.
- Rethink and rearrange ideas, sentences, and paragraphs to best support thesis.
- Check for unity and coherence.
- Be sure each paragraph provides good details and well-chosen examples.
- Gather additional information needed to support your thesis (document sources)
Write Draft #2, #3, #4 as needed
- Incorporate revision changes.
- Check each section of draft with the thesis and outline.
- Rethink/rearrange ideas, sentences, and paragraphs.
- Check for plagiarism.
- Check for unity and coherence.
- Shorten/remove unnecessary words, sentences, and paragraphs.
- Make certain the essay concludes and doesn't just stop.
- Check grammar and punctuation.
- Match language level and tone to audience.
- Make certain the language is exact, concise, and fresh.
- Proofread for errors in punctuation, spelling, and mechanics.
Identify Purpose, Audience & Topic
The list of topics for a paper is limited only by your ingenuity; however, identifying a topic is only the start of writing a paper. The key to a good topic is one which fits the assignment you need to complete as well as your audience.
Draft Thesis, Brainstorm, & Outline
Once you have identified your topic, draft a thesis statement that clearly states the main idea of the entire essay. Next, brainstorm ideas/details that support your thesis. Then select two to four main ideas to use and jot an outline that includes all these points in a logical order.
Organize & Begin to Gather Information
There isn't one best way for everyone to organize and get started, but there is a best way for you. Whatever your style, consider these three basics:
- get all materials together in one place,
- identify what you will need to do/get to complete your essay, and
- make a task list and timeline.
Write Draft #1
Put Your Thoughts On Paper
As you gather your information be sure to carefully document the sources you are using for your "Works Cited" page. When you complete your research, you're ready to begin writing. A paper doesn't have to have any certain number of sections, but it does have to have a logical structure that enables the content to flow smoothly with each part leading solidly into the next.
Use a Logical Structure
an introduction to your subject and a clear statement of your thesis: the main idea of the entire essay,
depending on the complexity of the subject, the body will vary in length from several paragraphs to several pages -includes your details, quotes, and anecdotes to explain/support your thesis,
states your conclusion and/or underscores your thesis.
Writing a paper for a college class, like any good writing, is a process, not a product; the real art of writing is rewriting and more rewriting. Two distinct aspects of rewriting are revising and editing.
Revise actually means a Re-vision-seeing the topic, your purpose, and audience again. Revising is what turns your second draft into your third draft into your fourth draft into your.....
Rethink and Rearrange
Is your thesis statement clear? Have you adequately supported your thesis? Have you included everything from your outline? Is your organization and structure logical? Does the article have unity, coherence? Does your paper communicate your message precisely and logically?
Cut, Cut, Cut
This is also the time to shorten or remove anything that doesn't move the article forward. Don't be mesmerized by sparkling prose; every word, every punctuation mark must make a positive contribution to the whole paper.
Write & Revise Cycle
Now, try another draft and incorporate your revisions. Continue this writing and revising cycle at least two or three times until you have a paper that clearly communicates your message. Each time you revise, carefully review what you've written to make sure you have all ideas in your own words and have not copied or plagiarized from your reference material.
Edit and Fine Tune
Editing most often takes place on what you hope will be your final draft. You have completed the major revising and now you fine-tune your writing for clarity of content and accuracy of presentation. You will make certain the language is exact, concise, and fresh and that the language level and tone match the audience.
Write Final Draft
Double check all your facts, names and dates. Finally, carefully proofread for errors in punctuation, spelling, and mechanics.
For a closer look at the writing process, watch the video "Revision." Scroll down to the selected video title and click on the VoD icon to view.
Editing & Revising
When reviewing and editing your work, it is important to prioritize your revisions and concerns. Higher-order concerns (HOCs) focus on content issues; lower-order concerns (LOCs) emphasize format issues such as sentence structure, spelling, punctuation and grammar. Prior to correcting or addressing the lower-order concerns, you must first deal with the "big picture" issues presented by the content of your paper. For a discussion of HOCs and LOCs, see the OWL at Purdue University.
Reviewing and editing your paper begins the ongoing, cyclical process of revisions. Adapted from Kent State University's Writing Center, the following describes the revision process.
What is Revision? Revision = Re + Vision
Revision is the act of RE-envisioning a body of text that you have already produced. It entails stepping back from a text and looking at it through new eyes. When you think about it, as you go through the writing process, you look at and think about your text differently at each stage. It's like you put on several different pairs of glassesas you write, seeing the text differently with each pair. There are at least two distinct kinds of lenses we need to address here: your Writer's glasses and your Reader's glasses:
Step One: Seeing through your Writer's glasses
When you see as a writer, you are primarily trying to envision and capture the ideas in your head. According to composition theorist Linda Flower, you are writing writer-based prose, which means that your writing will tend to have the following characteristics:
- It will be more associative and narrative. Your writing will tend to be stream of consciousness, moving from thought to thought, as ideas occur to you.
- Your writing will be elliptical; it will leap from idea to idea, often leaving out information or failing to establish clear connections.
- You will use private language, words and phrases that are very familiar to you, but may not be clear to a reader.
Be aware that there is nothing wrong with writing writer-based prose! It is a necessary stage in the writing process. Writer Anne Lamont calls this the down draft stage: you have to get your ideas down before you can develop and more clearly organize them.
Step Two: Seeing through your Writer's glasses
Once you've finished your down draft, you will need to put on a second pair of glasses, however. You need to start looking at your text through the eyes of a READER. What changes will readers need you to make to your text in order for them to fully understand it? Once you start thinking this way, you are REVISING. This is what Lamont calls the up draft stage. Having gotten your ideas down, it's time to fix them up. In order to turn your writer-based prose into reader-based prose, then, consider the reader's needs:
- Readers need to be able to spot and understand your central idea(s), and see clearly how your various points and pieces of evidence develop and support your central idea.
- Readers need texts that are linear, that move logically from point to point with clear connections between each.
- Readers need you to use language that is familiar to them and that means exactly what you intended it to mean.
Remember, frustrated readers will quit! Be sure you have given full consideration to their needs before you decide you're done with revision. Some suggestions:
- Revising is not simply editing or proofreading; rather, it is a time when you reread, rethink, and repackage your ideas.
- Revision is a full stage of the writing process. Taking the time to revise always means that your work improves and grows stronger.
- Revising requires a different perspective than writing. Give yourself time between the drafting and the revising stages, even if it's only a few hours.
- Get out the assignment sheet and make a revision checklist before you revise. Use it to make sure you've completed every part of the assignment.
- Individualize your revision checklist. Add your problem areas to your checklist and look for them each time.
A General Revision Checklist
- Is my main point clear? Do I have a thesis or controlling idea? Where is it in the paper exactly?
- Is the paper unified? Does every paragraph in the draft develop and support my central idea?
- Is there a clear and logical progression from point to point, from paragraph to paragraph in the paper?
- Do I develop my ideas fully with both sound reasoning and persuasive evidence? Are there any gaps that
need filling? Is all my evidence relevant and reliable?
- Have I provided my reader with an inviting introduction and a satisfying conclusion?
- Are my sentences and word choices fluent and clear?
For tips and advice on editing, view the videos "Editing: Sentences," "Editing: Word Usage," and "Editing: Mechanics." Scroll down to the selected video titles and click on the VoD icon to view.
Transitions provide a "road map" to your paper for readers; most importantly, your transitions tell the reader why you have organized the paper as you have, the logic behind your choices, etc.
The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill describes transitions like this: The organization of your written work includes two elements: (1) the order in which you have chosen to present the different parts of your discussion or argument, and (2) the relationships you construct between these parts. Transitions cannot substitute for good organization, but they can make this organization clearer and easier to follow.
Adapted from the Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill, the following distinction highlights the types of transitions available to you. Transitions are as diverse as the circumstances in which you need to use them. A transition can be a single word, a phrase, a sentence, or an entire paragraph. In each case it functions the same way: first, the transition either directly summarizes the content of a preceding sentence, paragraph, or section, or it implies that summary. Then it helps the reader anticipate or comprehend the new information that you wish to present.
- Transitions between Sections--Particularly in longer works, it may be necessary to include transitional paragraphs that summarize for the reader the information just covered and specify the relevance of this information to the discussion in the following section.
- Transitions between Paragraphs--If you have done a good job of arranging paragraphs so that the content of one leads logically to the next, the transition will highlight a relationship that already exists by summarizing the previous paragraph and suggesting something of the content of the paragraph that follows. A transition between paragraphs can be a word or two (however, for example, similarly), a phrase, or a sentence.
- Transitions within Paragraphs--As with transitions between sections and paragraphs, transitions within paragraphs act as cues by helping readers to anticipate what is coming before they read it. Within paragraphs, transitions tend to be single words or short phrases.
- Transitional Phrases--Effectively constructing each transition often depends upon your ability to identify words or phrases that will indicate for the reader the kind of logical relationships you want to convey. The table below should make it easier for you to find these words or phrases. Whenever you have trouble finding a word, phrase, or sentence to serve as an effective transition, refer to the information in the table for assistance. Look in the left column of the table for the kind of logical relationship you are trying to express. Then look in the right column of the table for examples of words or phrases that express this logical relationship.
also, in the same way, just as ... so too, likewise, similarly
but, however, in spite of, on the one hand ... on the other hand, nevertheless, nonetheless, notwithstanding, in contrast, on the contrary, still, yet
first, second, third, ... next, then, finally
after, afterward, at last, before, currently, during, earlier, immediately, later, meanwhile, now, recently, simultaneously, subsequently, then
for example, for instance, namely, specifically, to illustrate
even, indeed, in fact, of course, truly
above, adjacent, below, beyond, here, in front, in back, nearby, there
Cause and Effect
accordingly, consequently, hence, so, therefore, thus
Additional Support or Evidence
additionally, again, also, and, as well, besides, equally important, further, furthermore, in addition, moreover, then
finally, in a word, in brief, in conclusion, in the end, in the final analysis, on the whole, thus, to conclude, to summarize, in sum, in summary
As discussed by Emily Donnelli, Assistant Professor of English at Park University, the coaching model of peer review involves a three-stage process:
- Verify the requirement or purpose.
- Assess the work.
- Offer specific counsel.
1) Verify the requirement. What is the purpose of the document? Who is the audience? What is the intent of the initiator of the document? What has she or he told the writer? Is the assignment clear? Does the writer know the standards? Are there any required formats? When and where is it due?
- On purpose: Is the writer able to focus on a single question? The answer should be yes. Is the writer able to articulate the desired result of the document?
- On audience: Who, specifically, is the intended audience for the document? What do they already know about the subject? What attitudes do they have about the subject?
2) Assess the work. There are two basic procedures you can follow. The first, and better, is to look at the project at each stage of the project. The second is to infer, through the finished product, how well the writer performed each step from research, planning, drafting, and revising through proofing. If this is an extensive document, you'll save time and effort by checking each step. Decide which of these procedures you'll use and tell the writer when you assign the project. Then you may proceed with:
- Assessing research (examples of products: notes, mind-maps, idea-trees, sketches). The writer must gather facts, opinion, theory, doctrine, in effect anything which seems to relate to the central question. Look for energy. Look for quantity as well as quality of SUBSTANCE: information. Research on the audience and the purpose should continue concurrent with research on the question. Does the writer have a technique for notetaking that's comfortable? If not, discuss mindmapping and idea trees along with traditional use of linear notes and note cards.
- Assessing planning (example of product: outline). The writer needs to analyze what he or she has gathered during research and derive a controlling idea, a bottom line. Usually, this marks the main decision-making point in the writing process. You should find the major premises clearly supporting the controlling idea. Those main premises should be supported by evidence and further analysis. Look for focus and development in ORGANIZATION. The extravert may find the introspection inherent in outlining a stressful experience.
- Assessing drafting and revising (example of product: a first or subsequent draft in proper general format, using developed paragraphs). Now you get to the easier, but possibly more time-consuming aspect of checking for other aspects of ORGANIZATION (such as the organization of the introduction, and the use of transitional elements) and for STYLE, especially for clarity.
- Assessing proofing (example of product: finished memo, decision paper, or essay) for CORRECTNESS. This is where most assessments begin and end, yet in effect is a less significant (though important!) part of the process. Use authoritative sources for all conventions. The key here is to prevent readers' "speed-bumps".
3) Offer Specific Counsel. In providing feedback, proceed inductively. First, read through for an overall impression and to locate the controlling idea and major premises. Then follow the checklist in order of priority: substance, organization, style, correctness. Don't guess at the meanings of the words on the list; use a standard college composition text. Although they may seem familiar to you, and to your worker, your definitions may be very different. Use words (yes/no) or symbols (+/-) for strengths and shortcomings.
- Write a nice summary comment. Be sure offer praise (every paper -- repeat, every paper -- has some praiseworthy trait) as well as critique. It is usually inappropriate for a coach or mentor to critique without telling or showing the worker how to improve. Strive to learn techniques for good research, sound analysis, rapid and efficient drafting, better proofreading.
- Don't mark a correctness error at this stage unless you have been specifically asked to by the writer.
- Take into account that the standard can be met, and clear communication sent and received, through a variety of preferred ways of working. Perfection is not the goal; constant improvement is better than perfection.
View the video "Peer Feedback" for a closer look at peer review. Scroll down to the selected video title and click on the VoD icon to view.