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2 Tutorials that teach The Writing Process
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The Writing Process

The Writing Process

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Author: Martina Shabram
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In this lesson, students will learn about the different stages of the writing process.

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Tutorial

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Hello students. My name is Dr. Martina Shabram and I will be your instructor for today's lesson. I'm genuinely excited to teach you these concepts. So, let's get started.

So what's today's lesson? Well we're going to take a broad look at the writing process, exploring the different stages of the writing process and how they work together to produce essays, and finally, we'll think about plagiarism.

In this unit we're going to take what we practiced in unit one about sentences and paragraphs and use those skills to develop our own essays. An essay is a short piece of writing on a particular subject. That means that essays are made up of paragraphs, which you've already become an expert at in unit one.

So how do we get from those paragraphs and into whole essays? Well we use the writing process. Which is a series of steps that go into writing a successful essay or other writing project. Those series of steps are going to be a little different for every writer. But the overall process will follow the same pattern and go through the same overall progression of steps which are prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and proofing.

So 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. So, let's embrace the recursive nature of writing and learn more about each of these steps.

Prewriting is a stage in the writing process during which the writer brainstorms the topic and generates ideas preparatory to composing a first draft. So this the stage where you get 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, clustering, and free writing.

Let's practice. We're going to do some free writing on an essay topic. Let's select as our topic the effect of pets on psychological well being. So if I were going to be free writing I might start with my initial thoughts on the topic. And then I might move through a series of connecting thoughts about how this topic might come together. 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. So 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.

So 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. So here's where you get to take your sketch and fill in the details. And now 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. And that is a good thing. Every draft you build makes the final draft that much better.

OK, you've written your draft. What now? Revision. Revision is a process of re-visioning an essay or other writing project. So this where you look at the big picture of the whole essay. And that means that you're re-seeing your ideas. What kind of evidence and support you use. And the overall organization of your text. Evaluating how well each of those things are 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.

Let's see what that will look like. Take a moment to pause and read through this really short essay and then press play when you're ready to discuss.

So you see here that we have a short representation of what a draft of an essay might look like. If I was going to revise, where should I start? I always start at the thesis statement and I ask does it still match the direction that the essay is taken? In this thesis statement, for example, we specifically reference companionship. But I don't see any specific examples or evidence about companionship in the actual essay. That means that the essay has taken a different direction than the thesis statement thought it would. And therefore in this draft perhaps we need to either revise the thesis statement to reflect what we've written or add in a paragraph about companionship.

Either way, we want to make sure that the thesis and the examples reflect one another accurately. And either option will lead to a more successful essay. So when we revise we want to maybe start at the thesis statement and then look at each individual paragraphs examples to assess their connection to the main idea.

So after you've revised and generated a draft that you think has all the information it needs, it's time to edit. 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. So you're going to look really closely at the language you use and how clear it is. And therefore 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. So look to the clarity of your ideas, how precise your language is, how effective your choice of words is, how much variety you have in the sentence lengths and structures, and whether your sentences are all complete. Let's take a specific paragraph from our revised draft and do some editing.

In this paragraph, how precise is the language? Well if we just look at that first sentence I think we can see some pretty vague language. 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. So what if instead we edited it to say-- see how now we have a clear example of what the responsibilities of pet ownership are?

OK, what about sentence variety. Here we have four sentences, and they're each pretty simple, and they don't use clear transitions to connect each idea to the one that came before. So to make this paragraph more interesting, we could change it to-- now the movement is a little more lively, isn't it?

OK, so you have a draft that you have revised and edited so that it's the best ideas and sentences it can be. Well, what next? Now we need to proofread which is fixing grammar, mechanics, including spelling and capitalization, punctuation, and formatting errors in an essay or other piece of writing as well as correcting commonly confused words. So this is the step where we clean up our work and make sure that it's ready to be seen by its audience without any smudges or messes left over from when we were creating. Let's take a look.

Here's our revised and edited paragraph from before, but I think there might be some errors here. When we were writing, adding, and changing this paragraph, I see that we hit the wrong key here and we've got a typo. And I see that here is a missing piece of punctuation from where we added the transition word however. Oh, and I see a verb error here. This should read such as walking and feeding their pet. Proofreading helps us catch these last little errors before we're ready to show our masterpiece to the world.

So let's end by thinking about plagiarism, which is presenting someone else's ideas or writing as your own, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Now 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. But 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 series consequences.

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.

So what did we learn today? Well, this lesson introduced the five stages of the writing process. Prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading. We looked at how each stage works to build a whole essay. And then we discussed giving credit where it's due inside of our essays in order to avoid plagiarism.

Well, students, I hope you had as much fun as I did. Thank you.

Notes on "The Writing Process"

(00:00 – 00:09) Introduction

(00:10 – 00:25) What are we going to learn today?

(00:26 – 01:33) From Paragraph to Essay

(01:34 – 02:53) Prewriting

(02:54 – 03:23) Drafting

(03:24 – 05:24) Revision

(05:23 – 07:10) Editing

(07:11 – 08:20) Proofreading

(08:21 – 09:17) Plagiarism

(09:18 – 09:43) Recap and Goodbye

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Writing Process

    A series of steps that go into writing a successful essay or other writing project.

  • Prewriting

    A stage in the writing process during which the writer brainstorms the topic and generates ideas preparatory to composing a first draft.

  • Drafting

    The act of composing a piece of writing.

  • Revision

    The process of re-visioning an essay or other writing project.

  • Editing

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

  • Proofreading

    The process of fixing grammar, mechanics including spelling and capitalization, punctuation, and formatting errors in an essay or other piece of writing as well as correcting commonly confused words.

  • Plagiarism

    Presenting someone else's ideas or writing as your own, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

  • Essay

    A short piece of writing on a particular subject.