Let's talk about rough drafts. Now I know that sometimes it's hard because you do your outline, you prep your thesis statement, you've done all this thinking that goes into it, and then your teacher probably just says right.
There are some things I tell my students to keep in mind, when they sit down to actually draft. The first is, don't worry about length, at least not too much. Of course, you don't want to write a 20 page rough draft, if your page limit is three pages. So keep that in mind a little bit. But if your page limit is three pages and your rough draft is four, let it go. You can go back to it and you can pair things back later.
The other thing I have remind my students is, remember your outline. You won't believe how many students do their outline, they plan everything out and then they sit down at their computer and say, "I don't know what to write here." And then I have to remind them, "Get out that outline." That is all the thinking that goes into your essay. So writing it shouldn't be the hard work.
If you get stuck, move on and come back later, and this is really important. When it comes to drafting, I definitely advise sitting down more than the night before papers do, because sometimes you will get stuck on your hook for your introduction, or maybe how to analyze a particular quote. And sometimes the best thing to do, is to just skip over it, keep going with something else and then come back to it with some fresh eye. So give yourself sometime.
That brings me to getting a different set of eyes on your papers. So, in the drafting process, and hopefully you'll have multiple draft, it's always good to get multiple different people to look at it. Not just your teacher, not just you, but asking a friend, asking a parent, asking a different teacher who didn't assign it, to look at it. It's going to give you an idea of what it is that you're communicating. Often times we get so in our papers that we think we're being clear. When somebody else reads it and it's not very clear at all. So it's always nice to get that feedback.
My other advise is take breaks and that's another reason why I say give yourself some time in the drafting process. It's amazing what it'll do for you to take maybe a day away from a paper, and then sit down, go back to it and look at it with fresh eyes. And then finally, welcome the feedback from everybody but remember, you're the writer. So, welcome feedback, ask people to look at it, but don't get angry if they say things that you don't agree with. Ultimately, you make the final choices when it comes to your writing. So don't get too frustrated. Really open your ears to what they are saying.
So hopefully all of these things will help you in that drafting process and get you to that final draft a little bit easier.
Writing essay drafts
Writing the first draft
Write a ﬁrst, rough draft of your essay, using the points made in your plan as the basis for paragraphs or sections.
- Always try to keep to one main point per paragraph: make the point at the outset, then support it with arguments, evidence, or discussion.
- You may not keep strictly to your original plan since your thoughts will develop as your writing proceeds, but make sure that you have an introduction, a main section (or body), and conclusion.
- Once you have written a ﬁrst draft, you might ﬁnd it helpful to read it through quickly to check that you have addressed all the points raised by the question and that you have not wandered off the subject.
- Do not worry about grammar, punctuation, and spelling at this stage: these are matters to be addressed at the end of the essay-writing process.
- Put your ﬁrst draft aside for a day or so (if you’ve planned enough time to do so). This will give your mind a rest and allow you to look at the essay with a fresh eye later on.
Preparing the final draft
This is essentially an assessment, redrafting, and checking process.
- Look at your ﬁrst draft critically: think of your reader, and rewrite or sharpen up passages that seem unclear, rambling, or badly worded. For guidance on language and choosing the right word, read our top tips for word choice.
- Assess the essay’s structure for logical order and coherence. Make sure your sentences and paragraphs are linked and make sense.
- You may wish to reconsider the beginning and end of the essay in the light of what you have written or revised in the main body of it: does the introduction still clearly state your approach and does the ﬁnal conclusion incorporate and sum up your key arguments?
- Check your facts and evidence. Have you provided all the relevant supporting data and referenced all your sources in a consistent and accurate way?
- Write a Bibliography or References section.
- If you have been asked to keep to a particular word count for the essay, then now is the time to count the words and reduce or expand your text as necessary.
When you have ﬁnished writing and reﬁning it, read the whole essay once more for clarity, logical structure, and relevance to the question.
The ﬁnal stage of the essay-writing process should be a thorough proofread.
- This is the point at which you must check your grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting very carefully.
- You should read the essay more than once for such mistakes, and might ﬁnd it useful to ask a friend to proofread your essay as well if they have time: another person can often spot errors that you might have missed.
- Lastly, check that you have attached any supplementary or supporting material, such as graphs, tables, or diagrams, and that you have put your name, the date, the essay question or title, and any other necessary information (such as a module or course title) at the top.
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