Writing Process description that can be applied to any writing assignment
Step 1. Divide a sheet of paper into three sections. Then:
- Prewrite for 20 minutes on the prompt. The prewriting section must be elaborate and extensive. Use any prewriting technique that suits you (freewriting, creating a web, brainstorming, outlining).
- Come up with a preliminary thesis statement that should include at least three points that you may want to develop into paragraphs. These three points should reflect the three points you are going to develop in the three body paragraphs.
- If you’re working on an analytical essay or a research paper, compile a list of 10-20 quotations that you may want to use later on supporting the position you want to take.
Step 2. Write three paragraphs elaborating on your preliminary thesis. You are developing your initial ideas here, therefore you should not be concerned about the technical aspects of your writing (paragraph unity and coherence, grammar, etc.). You can revise these aspects later on if necessary. These paragraphs can be handwritten and each should be at least a page long as you are going to “trim” them down later on.
Step 3. Completely rewrite the three paragraphs integrating the appropriate quotations into the text and using proper citations; consult your teacher about the format of the citations. Each paragraph should include at least three quotations (short phrases or complete sentences).
Step 4. Revise the three body paragraphs for unity. Find the topic sentence in each paragraph and circle it. Check that all other sentences in the paragraph relate to the SAME idea that is contained in the topic sentence. If a sentence does not reflect that idea, edit it out. Avoid repetition—each sentence must move your argument one step further!
Revise the three paragraphs for coherence.
A. Make sure there are at least 2-3 transitions between sentences in each paragraph. See the provided list of possible transitions.
B. Make sure to vary sentence structure (avoid all sentences looking the same, that is beginning with the subject and following the same patters). Avoid: “Confucius is one of the greatest Chinese philosophers. Confucius lived in the 6th century B.C. Confucius never cared to write down his philosophical ideas. Confucius’ philosophical ideas were recorded by his disciples.” Better: “One of the greatest Chinese philosophers from the 6th century B.C., Confucius never cared to record his philosophical ideas. Instead, these were recorded much later by his disciples.”
C. Avoid repetitions (“Confucius, Confucius…”—use “he” or “the great Chinese philosopher” instead)
D. Vary the length of individual sentences. Avoid monotony—you should strike a nice balance between simple (short), compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences (medium length and long). The example about Confucius illustrates that point as well, because four short sentences have been replaced by two sentences (one long, another medium length) that re connected with a transition (“instead”).
E. Make sure there are transitions between paragraphs, either in the form of individual transitional words and phrases, or whole sentences that connect the idea of the paragraph you work on with the previous paragraph.
Step 5. Review the paragraphs and come up with an appropriate “final” thesis statement (of course, you may further change the thesis later on). You may want to change your preliminary thesis somewhat or considerably. Make sure that the statement reflects the main points you want to make and that those points are summarized through key terms. If the paragraphs you already wrote do not reflect these points, rewrite them and adjust them to the thesis. The final thesis statement must be absolutely SPECIFIC. In other words, it must precisely summarize the idea you want to develop in the essay. It must contain key terms, i.e., the words and phrases that clearly point at the idea(s) that will be developed in the body paragraphs. Naturally, these key terms should reappear later on in the essay, as constant reminders to the reader of what the paper is actually about. This is what you may want to do:
A. Go over each of your body paragraphs from Step 4 and circle all key terms in it.
B. List all key terms from each body paragraph in a separate column.
C. Based on the key terms, summarize the main idea of each paragraph; you may want to use the most prominent key terms.
D. Combine the summaries in an effective thesis statement. The statement must include all crucial key terms that define the main ideas discussed in the body paragraphs. In other words, the same key terms that appear in the body must appear in the thesis statement as well. Your thesis statement should be one or two sentences long.
Step 6. Write an appropriate introduction to your paper, making sure that it does not contain only the thesis statement. The introduction must be interesting and grab the reader’s attention. Do not announce your intentions (avoid, “In this paper, I am going to discuss…). You may imagine the introductory paragraph to look like an upside-down pyramid, consisting of 5-7 “layers” (paragraph sentences). The thesis statement should be placed at the end of the introductory paragraph. The first sentence should be of the most general nature (“broadest”), so you can work your way down towards the thesis, which is the “narrowest” and most specific part of the introduction.
Step 7. Write a conclusion to your paper, wrapping everything up and summing up the main points. Think of it now as a real pyramid and work your way in the opposite direction, from specific to general. Consider some of the following hints
1. 5-7 sentences.
2. No new ideas.
3. Compare the concluding paragraph sentence by sentence to the opening paragraph. It should “frame” the essay.
4. Are the “key terms” repeated in the last paragraph?
5. How do this repetition and other aspects of the “framing” assist the reader?
6. Does the concluding paragraph simply repeat the ideas in the opening paragraph?
7. Ideally, the last paragraph should add something new to the argument—not a new idea (see no. 2), but something to illustrate a higher level of understanding of the problem you’re writing about.
Step 8. Put everything together (introduction, body, conclusion), type and bring copies to class for peer editing.
Step 9. Peer edit your peers’ papers using the following aspects:
1. Does the essay fully address the topic suggested in the prompt?
2. Clearly formulated thesis statement with key terms; circle all the key terms in the thesis and then check (and circle) if they reappear in the body paragraphs
3. Appropriate introduction that fully accommodates the thesis statement
4. Paragraph unity (reviewers should identify and underline the topic sentence in each paragraph; then, they should check if the paragraph deals with only ONE idea—the one stated in the topic sentence)
5. Quotations and their integration; pay special attention to complete sentence quotations
6. Paragraph coherence—circle transitions between individual sentences as well as transitions between paragraphs; make sure there are at least 3-4 transitions per paragraph
7. Sentence fragments and run-on sentences
8. Logically developed argument that reflects all the points stressed in the thesis statement—logical connection between the paragraphs emphasized through transitions
10. Grammar, spelling, mechanics usage
Step 10. Refine the final draft, perfect it with regard to any editors’ comments