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Writing - Writing & Citing Workshop: The Writing Process

Writing Your Paper

  1. Develop your research question
    • Be interested!
    • Make your question specific enough
    • "Question your topic"
    • "Question your question"
  2. Develop answers to your question
    • Choose an answer, or hypothesis, that can mature into your thesis statement
    • Brainstorming hypotheses helps you determine what kind of evidence you need and what resources will be most helpful to you
  3. Create an outline or storyboard
    • Create a framework that will allow you to fill in with the evidence you discover during your research
    • Your outline or storyboard is in flux as you gather evidence, develop your strong arguments, and identify your weakest points
  4. Research your topic in primary, secondary, and tertiary resources
    • Start with broad searches and then work to narrow your results
    • Start with what is familiar to you to discover the unfamiliar
    • Evaluate the credibility and scholarly content of your resources
      • Ask these questions: Who is the author? The publisher? Is the publication popular or scholarly?  Does the resource have a bibliography? When was this created? Are there any glaring biases?
    • Engage with your sources, taking careful notes and adding your evidence to your storyboard or outline
  5. Verify your thesis, or argument
    • What is your claim? SO WHAT?
    • What reasons support your claim?
    • What evidence supports those reasons?
    • How do you respond to objections and alternate views?
  1. Determine a vocabulary of keywords you will use throughout your paper
    • Don't use several terms interchangeably to describe the same concept, unless it contributes to your argument
  2. Draw from your outline or storyboard
    • Use this tool from your research stage as a roadmap for your writing
    • Put your points in order for effectiveness
    • Weave your evidence into your argument
  3. Write a Working Introduction and Conclusion
    • These can be scrapped and rewritten later
  1. Write Today, Revise Tomorrow!
    • Always step away from your draft for a period of time before revising
  2. Fix big, glaring holes in your argument
    • Do you have the required evidence to fill this hole?
  3. Body
    • Is your vocabulary of keywords consistent?
    • Are your sections identifiable?
    • Are your sections relevant?
    • Are your sections in the right order for effectiveness?
    • Are the paragraphs within your sections relevant and in the right order for effectiveness?
  4. Introduction and Conclusion
    • Re-writing your working introduction and conclusion
      • Introduction
        • Provide opening context or background for your topic
        • State your question (question mark not required!)
        • State the significance of your question (the SO WHAT? factor)
        • State your claim
        • Outline the reasons that support your claim
        • ADVICE: avoid overly cliche or snappy opening statements
      • Conclusion
        • Restate your claim
        • Summarize the reasons that support  your claim
        • State the significance of your claim, including new significance or a practical application of your claim
    • Is your thesis and reasoning identifiable?
    • Are the paragraphs themselves identifiable?
      • Headings aren't necessarily required, but the paragraphs making up your introduction and conclusion should be easily identified

When Researching:

  1. Take good notes
    • Content: take good notes on the content of what you read so you don't have to re-read over and over
    • Sources: take good notes on the sources you consult so you can easily cite them and refer back to them if necessary

When Writing:

  1. Don't use overly sophisticated language when it is unnecessary.
  2. Avoid long-winded phrases that could be rewritten with greater clarity or brevity
  3. When appropriate, prefer action verbs over being verbs or helper verbs
  4. While variety in your sentence structure can help the flow of your paper, don't force it.  Placing your subjects first, followed by the action (verb), makes a sentence easy to follow for your reader.
  5. Know when to quote and when to paraphrase
    • This idea can't be said any better? Quote it.
    • A summary of a thought in your own words will suffice?  Paraphrase it.
  6. Cite as you write!
    • Using a tool like Zotero makes it easy to cite while you write, and saves you the big headache of citing at the end of your writing process.

When Revising:

  1. Ask a classmate, peer, instructor, or friendly librarian to look over your writing and provide you with feedback.  Make sure you provide them with ample time before your due date.
  2. Always allow some time to pass between your drafting stage and revising stage.  In allowing time to pass, you are more likely to notice weaknesses in your writing.
  3. Read your introduction and the topic sentences of each section and/or paragraph.  You should be able to accurately paraphrase the paper with that information. (These elements of your paper should directly correlate to your preliminary outline.)  If not, make sure you revise these elements to effectively express your ideas and lead the reader through your argument.
  4. Start at the end of your paper and read it backwards, sentence by sentence.  This will help you notice grammatical or spelling errors, as you are not interested in the flow or development of your argument.
  5. Use a grammar guide (online or in print) to ensure you are using appropriate grammar.

"Saint Paul Writing His Epistles" by Valentin de Boulogne


The content on this page is adapted from Kate L. Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 8th edition.