Steps of academic writing process

wooden-block

Planning has a crucial role in succeeding in academic writing, even for experienced writers. By separating your work into planned steps, you can write your essay or research paper effectively and successfully.

This guide will show you the most essential steps you should take to write a proper paper and help you excel at writing process.

Step 1: Prewriting, brainstorming

You may think this step is not as important as the rest. However, this step will save you from looking at a blank page for hours and thinking what to write.

Finding a topic

Begin by fully understanding what your assignment requires and narrowing down your essay topic. If you are asked to come up with a unique topic, try to remember what caught your attention the most in the class.

Consider the type of paper you are assigned to write (e.g. research paper, literature review, essay, thesis, etc.) to determine the length of the paper. For example, a broad topic you can explore in-depth might be too much for an essay but could be the perfect fit for a thesis.

Forming an argument or a question should be your primary goal in finding your topic. From the general to the specific, follow these steps:

The Narrowing Down Example

Step 2: Researching, planning, outlining

Researching for sources

One of the most critical steps, your sources determine the quality of your writing. Researching may include:

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) .

Planning and outlining

Before writing, you should also create a logical structure, as it would be hard to establish a structure once you start your process. 

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

You can’t write your paper in one take and expect it to be perfect. First, you should write a complete draft. You don’t have to write your draft in order, as you’ll keep it to yourself.

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

Your outline will come in handy in this step for you to just focus on what you want to tell in each paragraph. 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.

Step 4: Revising

After you finish your first draft, you should inspect it closely and detect the parts that need extra work. This part is known as redrafting, and it will mean either removing or adding new content to your paper.

Wait a couple of days before redrafting your paper. It will help you look at it from a different perspective, detect unnoticed things, and decrease your bias.

At this stage of your process, you have to look for structural 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:

Change your draft as much as you need. In case your deadline is close, be realistic about what you can change in a limited time. 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 your software’s built-in system, it is recommended that you check your paper manually to spot unnoticed typos and other errors. For example:

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. For instance, you can’t mix US and UK English in one paper.

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

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