Writing a draft

How to draft an essay
 

Drafts can be messy. That's the nature of a draft. They are not the final product. The one time a draft should not be messy is if you are submitting it for feedback or approval. It would be extremely discourteous to submit a draft knowing it is full of errors or text you intend to change anyway.

You have a plan, you have some ideas and you are ready to start writing. But maybe you get stuck. The ideas are not flowing onto the page as you thought they would. You can't find the right words. Your ideas are not as clear as you thought they were. Your thought don't seem to connect.

So what do you do? Maybe you're tempted to rethink everything, start from scratch, or do some more reading. Well don't. Just write. Write! The words will come. They may not be the right ones but that doesn't matter. You can change them later. A draft is just a draft. It's getting ideas down on paper (or on the screen) so that you can work on them later. A draft is a working document - work in progress. You can't improve your writing unless you have something written to improve. Incomplete writing is better than no writing.

Writing is an iterative processSomething you do in cycles, again and again, changing with each cycle.. Few accomplished writers write a text, even a short one, just once. Or if they do, they probably went over it in their minds many times before they wrote it. Once you think you have a draft which you can work on and improve, you need to prepare it for review. Even if you don't intend to submit anything for review, it's always a good plan to work as if you were.

Whether your draft is just for yourself, or whether you will submit it to your peers or an instructor for review, make sure you can answer yes to all of these checklist questions before you move on to the next stage or submit for review.

  • Do you have a clear idea about what you want to say in this essay/report/research paper?
  • Is your idea clearly and concisely stated in your introduction, preferably in a clearly identifiable thesis statement?
  • Do you have an introduction, body, and conclusion?
  • Does each paragraph have one topic identifiable in a topic sentence?
  • Do your topic sentences link back to your thesis statement?
  • Do you have good supporting sentences for your topic sentence in each paragraph?
  • Do your arguments have a coherent logical flow?
  • If you are writing a persuasive essay or a research paper, have you used appropriate hedging devices??
  • Where necessary, have you used appropriate linking words (adverbials) to signal relationships between sentences and paragraphs?
  • Does your conclusion reflect the thesis statement and summarise the main points?
  • If you have cited any sources, are the citations correctly formatted according to the style required (ASA, MLA, etc.) and have you included a correctly formatted bibliography?
  • If your work is in response to a given assignment, have you fully answered all aspects of the question?
  • Did you check your spelling and grammar?
  • Did you abide by any given formatting guidelines?

You will get much more useful feedback from your reviewer (whether that is your instructor or a peer) if you have prepared a good draft.

Once you get your feedback, make sure that you deal with it in a positive manner. Your reviewer took time and thought to prepare your feedback, so make sure that you read it carefully. If there is anything you don't understand, don't be afraid to ask for clarification. Before you submit a final draft make sure that you have made any suggested corrections or amendments.

Before you submit a final draft, make sure you use any checklists supplied to you by your instructor. If you don't have such a checklist, you can use the editing checklist, the customizable checklist, or the quick final checklist.

Some instructors or institutions also provide you with a rubric which shows how your work will be assessed. If you have access to such a document it's a useful tool to use as a checklist before you submit.