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Steps in the Writing Process

Steps in the Writing Process

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Steps in the Writing Process

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Tutorial

what's covered
This lesson takes a broad look at the writing process, exploring its different stages and how they work together to produce essays. The specific areas of focus include:
  1. Writing as a Process
  2. Stages of the Writing Process
    1. Prewriting
    2. Drafting
    3. Revising
    4. Editing
    5. Proofreading

  1. Writing as a Process
The skills you use to write well-crafted sentences and paragraphs can in turn be used to develop essays. An essay is a short piece of writing on a particular subject. That means that essays are made up of paragraphs; turning those paragraphs into essays means going through the writing process, which is a series of steps that go into writing a successful essay or other writing project.

It’s important to remember that writing is a process, not a product, and you won’t necessarily move in a line.

Instead, you’ll start and stop, move forward and back, finish and begin all over again. That’s part of what writing is about and learning these steps will help you embrace the recursive nature of writing.

terms to know
Essay A short piece of writing on a particular subject. Writing Process A series of steps that go into writing a successful essay or other writing project.

2. Stages of the Writing Process

what's covered
The series of steps that make up the writing process is going to be a little different for every writer. However, the overall process will follow the same pattern and go through the same overall progression of steps: Prewriting Drafting Revising Editing Proofreading

2a. Prewriting Prewriting is a stage in the writing process during which the writer brainstorms on the topic and generates ideas prior to composing a first draft. In other words, this is the stage where you use your innovation skill to let your mind do its work, generating and organizing a whole host of ideas about your topic.

Letting yourself spend some time thinking through your opinions and interests in a topic is key not just to developing interesting essays, but also to slaying the dragon of writer’s block. There are a few prewriting games that you can play with yourself, such as: Listing - writing down any ideas as they come Clustering - creating a map connecting your ideas and support Free-writing - writing down fully-formed thoughts about the topic

IN CONTEXT Imagine your essay topic is the effect of pets on psychological well being, and you decide to do some free-writing. You might start with your initial thoughts on the topic: The Effect of Pets on Psychological Well-Being Pets make people happy, even though they are a big responsibility. They provide love and companionship. Then you might move through a series of connecting thoughts about how this topic could come together: The Effect of Pets on Psychological Well-Being Pets make people happy, even though they are a big responsibility. They provide love and companionship. Why don't they make people stressed? Do they make people stressed? Is that different from psychological well-being? What is psychological well-being? Is there a definition? Is there psych research on love and companionship and well-being? Doing this kind of brainstorming can lead to an outline, which is a crucial element of the prewriting stage. Outlining is like drawing a sketch of your essay where you plot out the images you’re going to draw on. You’ll have your main idea, usually in the form of a thesis statement, and then section summaries of what will become the body paragraphs of your essay.

term to know
Prewriting A stage in the writing process during which the writer brainstorms on the topic and generates ideas prior to composing a first draft.

2b. Drafting Once you’ve generated your ideas and outline in the prewriting stage, you’re ready to start drafting. Drafting is the act of composing a piece of writing; it’s where you get to take your sketch and fill in the details.

Remember, just as it might take multiple layers of paint and many tries to get a picture perfect, so too will it likely take multiple drafts before your ideas are ready. This is ultimately a good thing because every draft you build makes the final draft that much better.

term to know
Drafting The act of composing a piece of writing.

2c. Revising Revision is the process of re-envisioning an essay or other writing project; it’s the stage where you look at the big picture of the whole essay. That means you’re re-seeing: Your ideas What kind of evidence and support you use The overall organization of your text You’re then evaluating how well each of those things is working, and incorporating changes to form a new draft. This might happen several times as you go back around again and again to get the image perfect. This is because you are rethinking the thoughts that you’ve already put on paper, reorganizing and reconsidering what you want to say and how you want to say it, and rewriting and refining your words so that the text matches the overall big picture of your piece.

think about it
Take a moment to read through this short representation of an essay draft, and think about where you should start if you were going to revise it. Why should we keep pets? Pets positively affect the psychological well-being of their owners through companionship and love. What is psychological well-being? It is different than just being happy, and includes a person's sense if self-acceptance and growth as an individual. Pets offer companionship and love to their owners, which positively affects psychological well-being. Being loved helps people develop greater self-acceptance. Owning a pet can be stressful, as pets come with a lot of responsibilities. This stress does not counteract the positive elements of pet ownership. Having and meeting responsibilities shows personal growth, which is an element of well-being. So the potential stress can actually lead to more well-being. Because they provide love and companionship to their owners, pets positively affect the psychological well-being of their owners. You should always start at the thesis statement and ask whether it still matches the direction that the essay has taken. This thesis statement specifically references companionship, but there aren’t any specific examples or evidence about companionship in the actual essay. Why should we keep pets? Pets positively affect the psychological well-being of their owners through companionship and love. What is psychological well-being? It is different than just being happy, and includes a person's sense if self-acceptance and growth as an individual. Pets offer companionship and love to their owners, which positively affects psychological well-being. Being loved helps people develop greater self-acceptance. Owning a pet can be stressful, as pets come with a lot of responsibilities. This stress does not counteract the positive elements of pet ownership. Having and meeting responsibilities shows personal growth, which is an element of well-being. So the potential stress can actually lead to more well-being. Because they provide love and companionship to their owners, pets positively affect the psychological well-being of their owners. That means that the essay has taken a different direction than the thesis statement thought it would. Therefore, you’d either need to revise the thesis statement to reflect what’s been written, or add in a paragraph about companionship: Why should we keep pets? Pets positively affect the psychological well-being of their owners through companionship and love. What is psychological well-being? It is different than just being happy, and includes a person's sense if self-acceptance and growth as an individual. Pets offer companionship and love to their owners, which positively affects psychological well-being. Being loved helps people develop greater self-acceptance. Companionship, too, helps self-acceptance. Owning a pet can be stressful, as pets come with a lot of responsibilities. This stress does not counteract the positive elements of pet ownership. Having and meeting responsibilities shows personal growth, which is an element of well-being. So the potential stress can actually lead to more well-being. Because they provide love and companionship to their owners, pets positively affect the psychological well-being of their owners. Either way, you want to make sure that the thesis and the examples reflect one another accurately, and either option will lead to a more successful essay. In other words, the revision stage involves starting at the thesis statement, and then looking at each individual paragraph’s examples to assess their connection to the main idea.

term to know
Revision The process of re-envisioning an essay or other writing project.

2d. Editing After you’ve revised and generated a draft that you think has all the information it needs, it’s time for editing. Editing is improving the sentences, word choices, and overall style of an essay or other piece of writing. In your last step, you looked at the big picture; here you’re zeroing in on the brush strokes that make up that picture. You’re going to look really closely at the language you use and how clear it is, so you should have already completed the revision of the big picture. When you edit, you’re looking for: How well each piece of language is working How clear your ideas are How precise your language is How effective your choice of words is How much variety you have in sentence length and structure Whether your sentences are all complete

try it
Look at the following paragraph taken from the revised draft in the previous example. Use the above criteria to do some editing. Owning a pet can be stressful, as pets come with a lot of responsibilities. This stress does not counteract the positive elements of pet ownership. Having and meeting responsibilities shows personal growth, which is an element of well-being. So the potential stress can actually lead to more well-being. In this paragraph, how precise is the language? Just looking at that first sentence, you can see some of it is pretty vague. Owning a pet can be stressful, as pets come with a lot of responsibilities. This stress does not counteract the positive elements of pet ownership. Having and meeting responsibilities shows personal growth, which is an element of well-being. So the potential stress can actually lead to more well-being. What exactly does it mean to “come with a lot of responsibilities?” That’s a pretty broad, imprecise concept that could be made more specific and direct. During the editing process, this might be changed to say: Owning a pet can cause stress because it requires owners to be responsible for performing many tasks each day, such as walking and feeding their pet, that are necessary for keeping the pet healthy. This stress does not counteract the positive elements of pet ownership. Having and meeting responsibilities shows personal growth, which is an element of well-being. So the potential stress can actually lead to more well-being. What about sentence variety? This paragraph has four pretty simple sentences, and they don’t use clear transitions to connect each idea to the one that came before. To make this paragraph more interesting, itcould be changed to say: Owning a pet can cause stress because it requires owners to be responsible for performing many tasks each day, such as walking and feeding their pet, that are necessary for keeping the pet healthy. However, this stress does not counteract the positive elements of pet ownership. Having and meeting responsibilities shows personal growth, which is an element of well-being. Therefore, the potential stress can actually lead to more well-being. Now the movement is a little more lively.

term to know
Editing The process of improving the sentences, word choices, and overall style of an essay or other piece of writing.

2e. Proofreading Once you have a draft that you’ve revised and edited so that its language and ideas are the best they can be, it’s time for proofreading. Proofreading means fixing errors in grammar, mechanics, spelling, capitalization, punctuation, commonly confused words, and formatting in an essay or other piece of writing. This is the step where you clean up your work and make sure that it’s ready to be seen by its audience without any smudges or messes left over from when you were creating.

try it
Take a look at the revised and edited paragraph below, and see if you can spot the errors. Owning a pet can cause stress because it requires owners to be responsible for performing many tasks each day, such as to walk and to feed their pet, that are necessary for keeping the pet healthy. However this stress does not counteract the positive elements of pet ownership. Having and meeting responsibilities shows personal growth, which is wan element of well-being. Therefore, the potential stress can actually lead to more well-being. When writing, adding to, and changing a paragraph, you may hit the wrong key and make a typo: Owning a pet can cause stress because it requires owners to be responsible for performing many tasks each day, such as to walk and to feed their pet, that are necessary for keeping the pet healthy. However this stress does not counteract the positive elements of pet ownership. Having and meeting responsibilities shows personal growth, which is wan element of well-being. Therefore, the potential stress can actually lead to more well-being. You might also spot a missing piece of punctuation from where you added a transition word: Owning a pet can cause stress because it requires owners to be responsible for performing many tasks each day, such as to walk and to feed their pet, that are necessary for keeping the pet healthy. However this stress does not counteract the positive elements of pet ownership. Having and meeting responsibilities shows personal growth, which is an element of well-being. Therefore, the potential stress can actually lead to more well-being. Verb errors are also important to spot during this stage: Owning a pet can cause stress because it requires owners to be responsible for performing many tasks each day, such as to walk and to feed their pet, that are necessary for keeping the pet healthy. However, this stress does not counteract the positive elements of pet ownership. Having and meeting responsibilities shows personal growth, which is an element of well-being. Therefore, the potential stress can actually lead to more well-being. This should read "walking and feeding their pet." Owning a pet can cause stress because it requires owners to be responsible for performing many tasks each day, such as walking and feeding their pet, that are necessary for keeping the pet healthy. However, this stress does not counteract the positive elements of pet ownership. Having and meeting responsibilities shows personal growth, which is an element of well-being. Therefore, the potential stress can actually lead to more well-being. Proofreading helps you catch these last little errors before you’re ready to show your masterpiece to the world.

term to know
Proofreading The process of fixing errors in grammar, mechanics, spelling, capitalization, punctuation, commonly confused words, and formatting in an essay or other piece of writing.

1.3.2 Choosing a Topic

what's covered
This tutorial covers essay topics—figuring out which essay topics are too broad, which are too narrow, and which ones are just right. Discussion includes: 1. Defining Topic Scope a. Overly Broad Topics b. Overly Narrow Topics 2. Determining a Topic from a Prompt

1. Defining Topic Scope Have you ever sat down to write an assignment, but then realized you had no clue what to focus on? Today’s lesson is going to help you practice selecting appropriate topics that meet your needs for any assignment.

First, it’s important to know that a topic is the controlling idea or focus of an essay or other writing project. A great topic will set you up for a strong essay by being focused and rich, falling in the sweet spot between broad and narrow.

Broad simply means too big; narrow means too small. The specifics of those sizes will depend somewhat on the assignment’s parameters, its length, its focus, its purpose, et cetera. However, if you can spot broad and narrow topics, you can find your place between the two poles. Before you commit to a topic, do some prewriting to see how much content you generate about a proposed topic. If you don’t have much to say, you might have a topic that’s too narrow. If you have too much, then you might have a topic that’s too broad.

Either way, you can expand or contract that topic as needed before you begin writing your essay.

term to know
Topic The controlling idea or focus of an essay or other writing project.

1a. Overly Broad Topics A topic that is too broad will feature too much content, so much that you couldn’t hope to possibly fit it all into one paper. You’ll notice that broad topics lack specifics and won’t immediately present the reader with useful information.

try it
Look at the following essay topic, and see if you can decide where it falls on the spectrum. A good clue is that it seems like the title of a really long reference book; you can tell that it’s just too broad. Think about what this topic demands. You’d need to start with the prehistory of dogs, when they were still wolves. Then you’d need to explain how wolves were domesticated to become early dogs. Would you be looking at that from a biological perspective or an anthropological one? The topic doesn’t say, so you’d have to assume both. Then you’d need to discuss how dogs ended up all over the world and in hundreds of different breeds in different sizes. Which breeds would you focus on? Where would you end this history? What kinds of roles and jobs of dogs would you look at? This topic is just too broad. But if you wanted to narrow it down, it might be wise to pick one of these questions and focus in on it more specifically. You could go from the history of dogs, to dog breeds, to dogs as pets, to the difference between working dogs and pets. That’s still a big topic, but it’s much more focused than the whole history.

1b. Overly Narrow Topics Conversely, a topic that is too narrow won’t feature enough content; you’ll be finished covering the whole topic way too soon. You’ll notice that narrow topics are so specific that you really don’t have enough to say to fill in a whole essay.

try it
Look at the following essay topic, and see if you can decide where it falls on the spectrum. This is at the other end. When you narrowed down from the history of dogs, you stopped before you got to a topic this specific. That’s one clue that this might be too narrow. But how else might you know? Imagine doing a quick free-write of what you’d need to discuss in this essay. You'd need to consider what the AKC is, what these recent additions are that this topic is discussing, and which ones have become popular in North America. That’s just three little points; there’s not too much to say. This shows not only how narrow this topic is, but how free-writing or brainstorming about a topic can help you find out if it’s too narrow. If you were going to broaden this topic, you could ask what the controversy or point-of-interest is. Why did you start with this topic in the first place? Maybe you’re interested in how the AKC decides which breeds constitute a new addition. That might be a more interesting question that could point you towards a more appropriate topic. Maybe there’s some debate over whether the AKC’s rules are fair and inclusive. That might be a good point of contact that could broaden this to debates about AKC policies for admitting new breeds. Or you could go another route. If this is too narrowly focused on North America, you could broaden the scope to the whole world and think about an international perspective. Maybe there is an international counterpart to the AKC. This topic could then be international kennel club regulations and how they compare to the AKC. Either way, you’d be keeping the core interests the same, but expanding the focus to include more issues.

2. Determining a Topic from a Prompt In those two cases, the author got to choose a topic based solely on personal interest. But in many classes, you will get an assignment and have to work from that prompt. There are thus some specific steps you can take to ensure you still pick an appropriate topic when given a prompt.

step by step
1. When choosing a topic from an instructor’s prompt, the first and possibly most important thing to do is to carefully read the assignment and ask any questions you might have. 2. Once you know what you’re meant to write—all the assignments, expectations, and requirements—then you can start from a strong place. You might take the prompt and do some prewriting, using a method such as clustering, listing, or free-writing about the prompt to see if you find anything compelling or anything that sparks your interest. 3. After that, you’re ready to work through the stages of the writing process. As you draft, revise, and edit, think often about the connections to the prompt in order to catch yourself if you’re veering off topic.

Sometimes, the prompt will be a question. In those cases, the prewriting stage would be a good time to try answering it in a few ways and seeing what happens. Other times, the prompt will be a broader topic, so you can practice narrowing it to a precise one. Once you have an idea about how your beliefs and opinions fit within this topic, you can work on drafting a thesis statement. This should not merely restate the assignment’s prompts in your own words. If you’ve done your work brainstorming, you should have a unique approach to the topic that reflects your interest. Consider the following prompt:

To decide on a topic, you’d first check the assignment parameters, as those will tell you how to craft your topic. How long is this meant to be? One page. That says that this will be pretty brief, and thus you’ll want a fairly narrow topic. This prompt also specifically instructs you to think about a skill that will help ensure college success. Therefore, you know that this assignment will be descriptive and informative.

try it
Read the following prompt: Here are a few options for topics based on that prompt. Read them and decide which one you think is best. Based on what you’ve learned so far, you can probably tell that this is the best choice: This topic is sufficiently focused on one element of writing, so the author of this paper will have enough detail to give, but not too much ground to cover. This one is too narrow: There’s only one thing to explain—the difference between a comma splice and the correct use of a comma. That’s not a lot of material to work with. Lastly, this one is way too broad: Writing is a huge subject. Does this author mean the physical act of forming words with a pencil, or something more specific? You just don’t know; this is too vague and unfocused to give you a clear path to a one-page paper.

summary
In this tutorial, you learned about the importance of defining the scope of an essay topic. When you’re writing, you want to make sure that your topic is neither too broad nor too narrow. You then learned how to narrow down overly broad topics by choosing a specific question to focus on, as well as how to broaden overly narrow topics by considering other related aspects that might interest you. Finally, you learned how to determine a topic from a prompt, which is a specific assignment that your instructor may give you. It’s important to return to the prompt throughout the writing process to ensure that you are meeting the parameters of the assignment. Good luck!

1.3.3 Plagiarism

what's covered
In this lesson we will cover concepts of academic dishonesty and plagiarism. It’s important to understand plagiarism, which is presenting someone else’s ideas or writing as your own, whether intentionally or unintentionally. This can be deliberate cheating when it’s intentional, or just a careless author forgetting to give credit to the person who came up with an idea or quote when it’s unintentional. Either way, plagiarism is a serious problem that you want to be careful to avoid because not only is this an ethical issue, but it can also lead to serious consequences.

EXAMPLE

Within academia, plagiarism may cause you to fail a course or an assignment, and outside of the academic community, plagiarism might be considered copyright violation, which is a crime that can lead to a legal challenge. You want to avoid these consequences at all costs, so the best thing to do is to carefully and consistently give credit where credit is due.

term to know
Plagiarism Presenting someone else’s ideas or writing as your own, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

summary
In this tutorial, you learned that writing should be thought of as a process, not a product. Thus, there are several stages of the writing process that are important in creating a successful essay. Finally, you learned that plagiarism is the intentional or unintentional presentation of another’s ideas as your own. Plagiarism has serious consequences, so you should always make sure to credit your sources in any piece of writing. Good luck!

1.3.4 Developing a Writing Plan

what's covered
In this lesson, you’ll discover how you can tune into your innovation skill to harness the creative ideas inside you. You will complete your first assignment, a writing plan in which you select an environmentally-friendly workplace innovation to write about for the rest of the course and apply the skill of communication as you do this. You will also learn some of the foundational concepts of research, which you will start to apply in the next week.

1. Getting Started with a Plan

Kate and Rayensh are prepared to make a plan, but they don’t know where to start. They begin to get nervous about the timeline and hope they can come up with at least one idea that will help their department. They ask Leah for her advice, and she suggests that they brainstorm different ideas, choose one, and make an outline.

Rayensh remembers completing prewriting activities like this in his college English class and that it was helpful (even though he initially thought it would be extra work). Kate considers the word innovation. She plans to take notes in a technology tool, likely Word or Excel, and use this to move their plan forward.

They want their innovation to highlight a clear purpose and solve a problem; they don’t want to innovate just for the sake of innovation. They start to brainstorm challenges in their department, as well as opportunities to try new things. They then think of the skill of communication. They will need to communicate their ideas, and they will need to consider the best format for this.

“Your mind is your greatest power. Use it well.” – Aneta Cruz, Author

The Writing Plan

Skill Tip - Productivity A master chef does not create an impressive meal without first making a plan for preparing the ingredients and estimating the amount of time until the meal is ready to serve. The same is true for writing.


Even the most talented writer cannot “serve up” a masterpiece without having a plan in place.


Having a plan before you start writing will ensure your writing is clear, concise, thoughtful, and logical. Planning will also save you embarrassment or misunderstandings, and it will keep you from scrambling at the last minute to meet deadlines. Planning will not only make you a more productive writer; it will actually improve your writing and help you communicate your best throughout this course and your career.

For the first assignment in this course, you will make a plan! You will do this by creating a writing plan to prepare for the Unit 3 assignments, an informative report and a pitch email. You will begin the first stage of writing, the prewriting stage, and consider audience and purpose. You will find that you use all four skills discussed in this course as you complete this assignment: communication, productivity, technology, and innovation.

For all the assignments in this course, consider this scenario: Your workplace has experienced significant change recently, and your department is expected to respond to change with innovation. Your direct leader has asked you to determine one specific innovation for your department; you will be responsible for the implementation of this innovation. Your direct leader has asked you to first create an informative report in which you present the benefits and risks around your suggested innovation. Once they approve or provide feedback on this, they would like you to create a recommendation report for you immediate manager. Finally, you will need to create a pitch email to communicate the final changes to your entire department. For these assignments, you should consider an innovation in a workplace within your discipline. You can consider your current job or a job you aspire to in the future.

Instructions Decide what innovation you will use, and then select the technology tool that you will use to create your plan, such as Word, Excel, or another digital tool. Whatever you select, the output must be in a format that you are able to attach in the submission area for your instructor to access. Then, create a 1–2 page writing plan that addresses the following: Describe the selected audience. Identify and explain who your audience is. How will you address their needs in each writing project? Apply the prewriting stage of writing. Do this as you outline your plans for each of the two writing projects—the informative report, and the email correspondence, or pitch email. For your writing plan, you can use one of the prewriting tools, such as brainstorming, suggested by the Writing Center. You can include this anywhere in the document. Explain the purpose. The purpose will be to inform and recommend, but you should also cover the purpose of the innovation or change itself. Discuss the selected innovation. Write coherently with correct grammar, usage, and mechanics.

Additional Requirements Written communication: Written communication should be free of errors that detract from the overall message. Formatting: The writing plan is organized and formatted in a way that enhances comprehension and keeps the reader interested. References: Any references used should be clearly cited and credited. Length: 1–2 pages of text, in addition to the cover sheet.

summary
In this lesson, you learned the basics of creating a writing plan to harness your creativity and productively organize your ideas for best effect.