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Helping Students One Paper at a Time

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The Writing Process

Having a Plan of Action

Pre-Writing

Writing is a complex process that requires multiple drafts to achieve a finished, polished product. Prewriting is the first step of the writing process. During this process, ideas related to your topic are explored, noted, and organized.

First, examine your writing assignment instructions carefully. What is the topic? What are your first thoughts about the topic? Brainstorm ideas. What do you already know about the topic? Discuss the topic with your classmates. Ideas come from a variety of sources.

Exploration

Read scholarly sources from the online library. Assess multiple perspectives related to your topic, collect facts, and summarize passages. noting ideas for possible future use is important. Using your course assignment and the grading rubric as a guide, focus your collection of ideas on those that meet the assignment criteria.

Noting Ideas

Consider strategies for noting ideas—journals, mind maps, graphic organizers, and outlines. Choose one or more that suit your learning style. Outlines are an effective way to begin the organization process.

Organizing Ideas

Once your ideas are noted, revisit your topic, focus your ideas, and begin to organize the presentation of your ideas. At this point, do not worry about grammar and punctuation. Work with your ideas to establish a focused flow.

Writing a First Draft and Topic Sentences

After you complete the planning and prewriting steps, create a first draft of your paper or essay. Drafting begins with a first draft, and a first draft is rarely a finished product. The idea of writing the draft is to write down many ideas quickly, referring to the information that was gathered and is available in your outline or however you organized your material.

Effective writing requires that each paragraph fully support your point. You make your point in your topic sentence. Your topic sentence includes two parts–the actual topic, and the words that express your opinion or attitude about the topic. For example, “In the 21st century, mobile, nontraditional learners abound at our institutions of higher learning” (Andrews & Davis, 2015, Abstract). The main topic of this sentence is “nontraditional learners,” and the writer’s opinion is that they “abound at our institutions of learning.” Now you can go on to state the “who, what, when, where, and why” by adding the evidence gathered.

Drafting

Organization is the focus of writing a first draft. Organize the information you find like pieces of a puzzle–by themes, positions taken, authors, historical timeline, or in chronological order. Begin to format your thoughts into paragraphs.

Spelling and grammar may not be perfect at this point; however, complete sentences and paragraphs should be in place. The formatting of your paper depends on your assignment, your school requirements, and your instructor. Formatting includes spacing, margins, indents, title page, headers, citations, and References pages.

After you complete a first draft, you will edit it and determine where you can improve the draft. After several drafts and edits, you will have produced a much better document.

Writing Complete Sentences

Academic writing requires you to use complete sentences. A complete sentence has, at a minimum, a complete subject (italicized below) and a complete verb ( boldfaced below). You know that a sentence is complete because it does not require any additional words. It is a complete thought.

IBM developed the basic format in the 1990s.
The factors affecting this problem were discovered in the 1990s.
A well-developed theory should explain many different phenomena.

The subject of the sentence is what the sentence is about (the verb is like an “=” sign), does what the sentence is about (active voice), or has something done to it by someone or something else (passive voice). The verb is what the subject is, does, or has done to it.

“Architecture is the study of enclosed spaces.” (Architecture = the study)
“Rising temperatures force architects to rethink building designs.” (Active voice)
“Modern buildings are designed with enhanced air filtration as a primary concern.” (Passive voice)

A thought that is not complete means you have some sort of incomplete sentence or sentence fragment. Either the subject is not complete, the main verb is not complete (or missing), or the verb requires something after it to complete the thought.

“Societal cause gaps in critical infrastructure.” (The subject was meant to be something like “Societal inequities”)
“Frequent users are accustom to concierge service.” (The complete verb would be “are accustomed to”)
“The root cause of the building’s collapse under investigation.” (The verb would be “is” (under investigation))
“Her mentor advised.” (The verb “to advise” must have an object after it: “advised caution.” or “advised her to enroll in the seminar.”)

There are many other ways in which a thought may be incomplete (examples below):

A prepositional phrase cannot be the subject of a sentence:

“With the worldwide use of computers created a need for compatible connectivity.”
“Worldwide use of computers created a need for compatible connectivity.”

A dependent clause is not a complete sentence because it must be attached to an independent clause”

“Since a shortage of medical supplies will increase hardship in the region.”
“Since a shortage of medical supplies will increase hardship in the region, the WHO has created an emergency supply chain.”

The main verb may be missing in a complex sentence structure:

“The agency that was responsible for disseminating the information to the general public not accountable for errors in the original research.”
“The agency that was responsible for disseminating the information to the general public was found to be not accountable for errors in the original research.”

Read each of your sentences carefully. If a person reading what you thought was a complete sentence might conclude that some information is missing and/or that you did not complete the thought, you may have written an incomplete sentence.

Editing

Editing is a process frequently overlooked by students.. The following editing strategies may help you improve your work:

Print out your draft. Having the paper in a different medium makes certain errors easier to see and correct. This strategy saves time, as you can carry the paper version with you and edit it when time allows.

Wait a day or more to look at the paper again. Rested eyes and a fresh perspective help catch grammatical, spelling, and possibly stray thought errors. Undoubtedly, you have already spell-checked your assignment; however, this process does not catch all errors.

Read your paper aloud. Writing and reading use different parts of the brain. When reading silently, the brain may automatically “fix” errors it encounters. Reading aloud requires the visual and speech portions of the brain to work together; therefore, the brain cannot automatically “fix” the errors. The errors become more apparent.

Using the Microsoft “Editor” Function

The Microsoft “Editor” function can be used by clicking on the “Editor” button on the “Home ribbon. The “Editor” will alert you to errors in spelling (red), grammar (green), style (green) and provide a possible spelling alternative . Subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, wordiness, colloquialisms, split infinitives, active and passive voices, and spacing between sentences are among the errors that will be underlined.

The program will also offer suggestions to correct these issues. Please do not ignore the squiggly lines under words and sentences. Right-click over a word or sentence underlined with green, red, or blue lines. Suggested corrections will appear. You have the option to correct the error using the suggestion or to ignore the suggested correction. However, do not assume the suggestions offered are always correct. Change your text only when you understand that an indication of an error is valid.