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.