Essay Writing

Part 2: Essay Writing Process

Understanding the Writing Process
Dr. Mary Deane

Welcome to the second part of the ‘Understanding the Writing Process’, this article will look at the final parts of the five-stage process, Practicing, Peer Review and Polishing. It you haven’t already, check out Part 1: Essay Writing Process.

3. Practicing
The most time-consuming part of the writing process is when you really get down to drafting. Personally, I am most effective at drafting in the morning, and I cannot concentrate for longer than an hour at a time. I NEED to have coffee, and I like to have music that puts me in a good mood. When you’re drafting, stick to your plan to an extent, but be prepared to re-work the plan if you get a brainwave!

Keep an eye on your impending deadline. Drafting should be done well before you need to submit. SO many people submit a draft for assessment. If you take time to get feedback first and revise your work, you will obtain a higher grade than your initial draft could ever merit.

4. Peer review
Once you have a draft, you need to seek some feedback to support your revising work. It’s best to line up a friend, partner, colleague, or ANYone, in advance, and ask him or her to protect time to read your work and speak with you about it.  This will also help you produce the draft early, giving you time to get the distance you need on your work that will help you see it more clearly, and enable you to see the weaknesses for yourself.

When you respond to feedback from someone else, you don’t need to follow all the advice. The work is your own, and you must feel confidence and confident about both the content and the organisation of ideas.

Here are some tips to help your focus your revising work:

  1. What was your assignment brief? Has this been fulfilled?
  2. What is your main argument? Is this crystal clear?
  3. What is your evidence supporting your argument? Is this convincing, and documented using the recommended referencing style?
  4. How have you organised your ideas? Could your reader follow the line of argument easily?

5. Polishing
The final phase of the writing process is editing.  This involves either reading your own work aloud, and listening to the flow (or lack of this), or, ask a friend to proofread your essay and let you know where it is expressed awkwardly.

At this late stage, you should only be making small changes, checking the font, pagination, presentation, and other minor issues that contribute to an impression of professionalism.

Aim to have your essay ready to submit in advance of the deadline. This gives you a ‘buffer zone’ in case you are ill, lacking motivation, or enjoying yourself too much to stick to the timeframe of production you had planned.

I believe that the key to success in academic writing is the way you feel about it. I recommend the process approach to you because in my experience, it enhances writers’ motivation to get down to work, stay focused, and finish with the least possible stress.

The process should not end with an exhausted handing in or online submission, and a feeling of flatness – but with happy relief that you have managed the process in the best way you can, and that you have a moment of freedom – before the next deadline looms.

So, enjoy the feeling of being in control of your writing, and enjoy yourself, when you come gracefully to the end of the writing road for a particular piece of work.

Part 1: Essay Writing Process

Understanding the Writing Process
Dr. Mary Deane

Welcome to part one of the ‘Understanding the Writing Process’, this article will look at the first two parts of the five-stage process, Preparing and Planning.

My favorite way to tackle the challenge of essay writing is to ‘chunk it’. This means to chop up the tasks involved in writing into a process.

Taking a process approach to writing means that we can concentrate on one task at a time. It also lets us manage our time by scheduling in ‘chunks’ of activity at the times we are free, and most on the ball.

1. Preparing

This opening phase is the MOST important. It is also the easiest!

In the preparatory stage, we start mulling over ideas. The most relaxing way to get ourselves thinking is to have a chat with a friend or colleague over a cuppa, and just share the gems of ideas we have about the task in hand.

A key part of preparation is to find out what we need to produce. This means gathering the assignment brief, marking criteria, guidelines, referencing requirements, recommended reading list, notes from classes, etc!

It takes time to sift through this mass of information. Do it with some music on, in a nice cafe, or with friends. Ease yourself into thinking about your essay by reviewing the material you already have to hand.

2. Planning

Find yourself a strategy for planning essays. There are lots of different approaches you can try, and keep experimenting until you crack it! For instance, you may enjoy mind mapping [see article on mind mapping].

You may prefer to give yourself sub-headers and then jot down ideas for each section using bullet points. Or, you may like to chat about your ideas with a friend, and record the conversation, then listen back and organise the ideas using whatever form of words or images that comes naturally to you.

Most essays have these key elements:

Introduction: Main argument, structure of the essay, context of the topic, key literature on the topic

Main body: Divided into sections (depending on the task you have been set), with well-organised paragraphs that make a clear point, supply evidence or an example (cited using the recommended referencing style), and an explanation that unpacks your point, critiques the evidence if relevant, and conveys your own critical thinking.

Conclusion: Summary of main points in essay, clear statement of position in relation to the question or task you have been set.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2, covering Practicing, Peer Review and Polishing.