The Writing Process

Here are some helpful tips for writing academic papers from the Center for Teaching Effectiveness at the University of Texas at Austin (my alma mater)

1.GETTING STARTED: Brainstorm on problems and issues you would like to examine that might fit the assignment.

2.EXPLORATION AND REHEARSAL: Talk about your ideas in small groups: read as believers and doubters. Use expressive writing (idea log, freewriting, idea-mapping) to plan your ideas.

3.DISCOVERY DRAFT: Write like the wind, focusing on getting your ideas clear on paper. Forget about grammar and mechanics for now.

4.REVISION OR "SEEING AGAIN": Look with fresh eyes on your draft, focusing on the organization, unity, anD coherence of your arguments. This is a good time for seeking outside advice, such as through peer critiques or consultations at the Writing Lab.

5.EDITING: Polish your draft by scrutinizing the content, clarity, and precision of your prose. This is also the time to focus on surface features, such as grammar, spelling, punctuation, format.

Click on the topics below for more helps:

[Brainstorming] [Getting Started] [Writing the draft] [Organization] [Continuity] [Content] [Writing Style] [home]




1.What type of paper has your instructor asked you to write? Describe the assignment in your own words:

2.Did your instructor emphasize any additional specific requirements for this paper?

3.As spontaneously as you can, try listing below some topics that you might be interested in writing about (you need not use complete sentences or even complete ideas).

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1.Write down as much information and as many questions as you can about your subject. Don't worry about how the ideas sound or look.

2.Look for (circle) main ideas or sentences which contain main ideas.

3.Make a list, grouping ideas that you think go together. Try several different arrangements of your ideas.

4.Read through your information and questions, looking for ideas and sentences that will support the main ideas. Mark main ideas that need examples or further support.

5.Write a preliminary statement which explains what you are trying to accomplish in the paper. This will become your thesis or claim, although it may not fully take shape until you have written some of your paper.

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1.Using the information and questions you have from step one and other ideas you have had, start filling in the sections of your outline. Focus on getting your ideas on the paper in some sort of order rather than making each sentence sound good. Continue until you have written down some ideas for each section.

2.Read over what you have written so far. Is your outline working? If not, try rearranging sections or ideas.

3.Look at each of your sections. Separate each larger idea in each section into paragraphs.

4.Mark paragraphs that you think are underdeveloped or overdeveloped. Can the overdeveloped ones be separate into two separate points? Can the underdeveloped ones be combined or expanded? Can you tell from the length of each paragraph which ideas are most important or central to your claim?

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Read through only the topic sentences in your paper, or assemble these into a second document on your word processor.

Does each sentence follow logically the one proceeding it?

Do they form a reasonable mini-essay in themselves?

Do you like the sequence of ideas?

Are similar ideas grouped together?

If necessary, move ideas -- whole paragraphs, sentences, part of text -- around like blocks to improve organization.

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Ask yourself whether sentences and paragraphs flow smoothly and logically. If necessary, tell your reader what point you're discussing, what you'll talk about next. You may need to write some new sections, transition sentences or whole paragraphs.

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When your instructor comments on the organization of your writing, here are some things to consider as possible sources of problems:

There are many other possibilities. Just be sure your writing has some order to the sequence of points.

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When your instructor comments on the writing style of your paper, here are some things to consider as possible sources of problems:




a. Start writing early enough to give yourself time for proofreading

b. Get a good grammar handbook and dictionary and use them

c. Stick to words you know and sentence structures you can punctuate

d. Be patient and persistent

e. If you don't know, ask someone

Remember that the way you present information has as much to do with the impression it makes as the information itself. Don't let your message be overcome by the medium.

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