CRITICAL WRITING STRATEGIES
Once you're confident that you fully comprehend the sources you'll use to write your paper, you will now move into the writing stages:
UNDERSTAND THE ASSIGNMENT
Be sure you have read the assignment instructions in detail and understand fully what is expected of you. Take note of page or word limit expectations, numbers of resources you must incorporate, writing and assignment rubrics your instructor will use to assess your work, and so forth. Don't hesitate to reach out to your instructor if you need additional clarification.
CREATE AN OUTLINE
Remember, before you create an outline, you must have followed the critical reading steps above. To create your outline, first take out the notes that you took while reading, and then:
- Narrow your topic to a specific topic sentence and/or thesis statement. This statement should clearly and concisely convey to your reader the paper’s purpose and serve as a basis for the argument you will make.
- Create a list of main ideas or themes that you identified in your note-taking process. If you were thorough in your note-taking, this step will likely be very easy. If not, you might need to spend some additional time brainstorming and reviewing your sources. Be critical of the ideas you plan to include. Do they advance your argument? Do they offer a counter-argument? Do they aid in understanding?
- Organized the main ideas in your list into a logical order. This means following a logical progression of idea development. Or, more simply, building a clear argument. Decide what you need to say and in what order makes the most sense to say it.
- Add in sub-points and specific evidence to the main ideas.
- Review and adjust the outline once more to make sure it responds to the assignment guidelines
DRAFT THE PAPER
The most important thing to remember when drafting a paper is that it is OK to have a "crummy first draft." In fact, writing without fear of making mistakes or sounding perfect is really the only way you're going to create continuity and logical presentation of ideas. You need to let your ideas flow out onto the page, and worry about revision, proofreading, and formatting at a later stage. We recommend you:
- Turn off MS Word Spelling and Grammar check while you write your first draft
- Turn off your internal editor; do not allow yourself to edit as you write (i.e., no deleting words or sentences to rewrite them - just move forward)
- Allow space between drafting and revision (i.e., put the manuscript away for a period of time--preferably more than a day--before coming back to begin revising).
REVISE THE PAPER
Good writing happens during revision, not during writing. Sounds strange, right? Even the best writers (think Stephen King) admit that they would never show their first drafts to a critical reader. First drafts should be for our own eyes only; this means you will need to allow yourself enough time to draft, revise, and proof the paper before turning it in. Consider creating a timeline for yourself for each assignment due date, allowing a day for each stage of the writing process. The revision stage is also a GREAT time to submit your paper to the LSH for a consultation!
Many writers also find it helpful to create a check list to follow during the revision process. Some items on your check list might include:
- The paper aligns with the outline
- The paper responds to all aspects of the assignment guidelines
- Logical development of ideas
- Logical, clear paragraph structure
- Paragraphs have a main idea, evidence, analysis, and transitions, as needed
- A clear introduction with a thesis
- A clear conclusion that summarizes the main ideas, offers a closing thought, and does not introduce any new information
PROOFREAD THE PAPER
Proofreading the paper should always be your last step, and often it's the hardest step for writers to complete in their own writing. Our eyes can trick us by skimming over simple typos and spelling and grammatical errors. The first step in proofreading should be to turn back "ON" your MS Word Spelling and Grammar checker and/or to utilize a grammar check software, such as Grammarly. Next, consider having a second set of eyes on your paper (a friend, classmate, or family who you trust and who has a keen attention to detail). Proofreading entails checking for:
- APA compliance
- Spelling errors
- Grammar errors
- Formatting (margins, headings, etc.)