The Writing Process: Steps & Examples

Effective planning plays a vital role in achieving success in academic writing. By breaking down the writing process into steps, you can enhance your ability to compose essays and research papers with confidence.

In this comprehensive guide, we will outline the essential steps that you should incorporate to craft a well-structured paper. 

Quick summary

Step 1: Prewriting

At first look, academic writing may sound too hard. But writing down your thoughts will save you from looking at a blank paper for hours and thinking what to write. 

But even before prewriting, you better find a topic to focus on. 

Find a topic

Start by fully understanding what your assignment requires. If you are asked to come up with a unique topic, try to remember what interests you a lot in general. 

Now let’s follow the “narrowing down technique.”

The Narrowing Down Example

First decide on a “broad topic”,  but consider the type of paper you are assigned to write. The type is really critical. For example, a perfect research paper topic might be the worst idea for an essay, because essays are way shorter than a research paper.

After deciding on the type of writing and the broad topic, now narrow down a bit more until you finally create an argument or a question. And here’s your topic.


Do your research

It’s time to do your research now that you’ve found your topic. Although the process is somewhat different for different types of writing, it usually includes:
While researching, a considerable part of the process should involve note-taking the information regarding your sources (i.e., author, publication, date, important quotations from the source, your analysis, and your impression) .

Step 2: Outlining

So we found a topic and did research. It’s time to plan then write. But still, before writing, you should create a logical structure, as it would be hard to establish a structure once you start writing.

One way to map your writing out is to create an outline. An outline organizes your thoughts and how you’ll place them in a logical order in your paper.

Here is an example outline for an essay:

Example of an essay outline

  1. Introduction
    1. Describe first-wave feminism
    2. Outline the timeline of feminism in the 20th-century and the influential characters.
    3. Present your research question: How did first-wave feminism influence US politics in the 20th-century?

  2. The birth of first-wave feminism in the US
    1. Discuss how first-wave emerged
    2. Discuss the challenges women faced under patriarchal oppression

  3. The rise of first-wave feminism in the US
    1. Explain the areas women had to fight
    2. List emerging organizations and explain the most influential characters

  4. First-wave to second-wave
    1. Discuss how first-wave feminism influenced second-wave feminism
    2. Compare the two waves and highlight the legacy of first-wave

  5. Conclusion
    1. Summarize the three paragraphs: the birth, the rise, the demise of first-wave feminism
    2. Answer the research question
    3. Refer to other fields for further research

Step 3: Drafting

It’s time to slowly start writing process. Your outline will come in handy in this step for you to just focus on what you want to tell in each paragraph.

Still, you can’t write your paper in one take and expect it to be perfect. First, write a complete draft, it can be a random one, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

For example, start with body paragraphs and save your introduction for later once you fully establish what you’ll talk about throughout your paper.

Here is an example of a paragraph:

Richard is an ambitious character who cannot stand people that give up, which causes his family to be dysfunctional throughout the movie. Topic sentence: In this part, present your topic sentence (what you’ll focus on in this paragraph). During the dinner scene in which every member of the family is together, Richard talks about his “Refuse to Lose” program and repeatedly says, “there are two types of people in this world, winners and losers” (01:24-01:29). Evidence: Support your topic sentence with evidence. This is the part where you can cite your primary source. The quote comes up more throughout their journey to the beauty pageant, creating unrest among the family, which is further proof of how Richard’s toxicity negatively influences the family. Explanation: Explain or interpret your evidence in-depth to make your point. From the beginning of the movie, it becomes clear that the family is disconnected, as they act like a dysfunctional machine-like unit instead of having a loving bond. Conclusion: Summarize your take on the paragraph and add the central meaning of the paragraph.

Once you draft, follow our paragraph writing guide to write all paragraphs at once. This way will be easier for you to come back and see where the improvements are needed.

Step 4: Revising the draft

After you finish your first draft, inspect it closely and find the parts that need extra work. This part is known as redrafting and revising.

At this step of your writing, you have to look for structural issues and other problems (capitalization, English consistency, word selection, verb tenses, etc.) as you can change the draft quickly. Specifically, look for:

Usually, you might get feedback for your draft from your supervisor. Use this feedback to improve your writing.

As you find out what changes your paper needs, start with significant ones, for these will affect your whole paper. In this part, you might have to:

Play with your draft as much as needed for a perfect reading. If your deadline is close, be realistic about what you can change in a limited time. Don’t forget to prioritize the adjustments according to your deadline.

Step 5: Proofreading and editing

This final step is essential to make sure your paper is grammatically and structurally correct. At this point, your paper should have a straightforward thesis statement, research question, or argument that is followed by body paragraphs and a conclusion that sums it all up.

Make sure that you don’t have:

In this step, it is vital to check your paper for any repetitions or abundance that could have been changed to be more effective and straightforward.

Here is an example of a structural mistake that is caused by a fragmented sentence:

The second sentence is incomplete. This issue can be fixed by joining the two sentences with a comma:

Although you can find many mistakes with a tool like GrammarCheck or QuillBot, it is better to check your paper manually to spot unnoticed typos and other errors such as: 

You should also check for stylistic consistency. Be careful in your consistency regarding:

The choice between these styles can differ according to your assignment and its requirements. Whatever style you choose, the most important thing is to use it consistently throughout your paper.  

After all, the academic writing process is a journey that requires careful planning, research, organization, and revision. By understanding and implementing the steps outlined in this article, you can enhance your writing skills and produce high-quality academic work.

Deniz Akcaoglu
Deniz Akcaoglu
Content editor and writer. Probably out there trying to get into an obscure band she actually hates the sound of.