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Writing Processes

Based on scholarship and research in the field of Writing Studies, the term "writing process" refers to a suite of attitudes about composition and literacy practices. Based on this body of work, faculty assume writing processes may differ from person to person and that different projects may affect which composing strategies are employed. Since the early 1980s, writing instructors have tended to restructure their courses so that students have greater opportunities to revise their work in response to instructor and/or peer feedback. Despite this emphasis on "process writing," research in Writing Studies suggests students often submit early drafts for grading.

Use the Weekly Progress Report to keep your instructor apprised of your efforts and to help you focus on completing a project in a timely manner.

Writers often find it useful to log their work and to provide regular progress reports to themselves and those they are accountable to--such as supervisors or editors or teachers (see Log Your Work).

As much as any of the above guidelines, you should consider the media and genre where your text will appear. For as much as paragraphs are shaped by the ideas being expressed, they are also influenced by the genre of the discourse. For instance, newspapers and magazines produced for high-school educated readers tend to require much shorter paragraphs than those published in academic journals.

Below is an aggregated listed of undergraduate publishing websites (open article to view the full list):

Consider the Document Planner to be a living document. It's a snapshot of a fluid process. As you write, your ideas about audience, purpose, media, context, voice, tone, and persona will change, becoming clarified.

1 . Context
Beyond fulfilling a course requirement, what motivates you to explore this project? What are the unique elements of this writing situation? Is your context formal, semiformal, informal? Is this a class assignment; a Web site; a workplace document; an online communication; a text for a community, service, or special interest group; an essay for a magazine, newspaper, or journal; a letter to family and friends? How does the context influence what you need to do next?

Readers also expect paragraphs to relate to each other as well as to the overall purpose of a text. Establishing transitional sentences for paragraphs can be one of the most difficult challenges you face as a writer because you need to guide the reader with a light hand. When you are too blatant about your transitions, your readers may feel patronized.

To highlight the connections between your ideas, you can provide transitional sentences at the end of each paragraph that look forward to the substance of the next paragraph.

What is a thesis?

A thesis consists of one or two sentences that clearly and concisely summarize the main point, purpose, and/or argument of an academic document. The thesis serves as the foundation—or heartbeat—of a paper; without a thesis, a paper is incomplete and lifeless. Ideally, a well-crafted thesis increases the likelihood that the target audience will engage with the writer’s discussion.

Use a writer's journal to organize your work, develop new projects, and nurture and sustain existing projects.

Consider using these categories to help organize your journal, whether you publish it online (with or without security) or keep it in a three-ring binder.

The writer's journal can help you to write more efficiently and more originally. Your journal provides a place to organize your work, develop new projects, nurture and sustain existing projects, and provide links to completed projects.

Why is it important to pay close attention to assignment requirements?

When a writing project is assigned, the instructor (or the department) will usually spell out specific assignment requirements; these expectations are often communicated verbally, inscribed on a white board, or made available through an electronic or paper document.

Understand the fundamentals of page and Web design; use visual language to convey meaning; use design to assert authority and organize work for readers.

Writers use critical questions to find cracks and crannies, places where they need to develop or clarify their thinking. In their relentless pursuit of clearly expressed, well-developed ideas, they find soft spots—that is, passages that need to be developed or discarded and sections that just don't feel right—that feel mushy like cereal that has been sitting for too long in sour milk.

Why is it important to conclude a paragraph with the writer’s voice rather than a quote or paraphrase?

Although quotations or paraphrased material from reliable sources are often used to add credibility and to support a writer’s ideas, the focus of the paper should remain on the writer’s voice and his or her own agency as a writer.

Credible evidence should be provided to support the points a writer makes, but source material should not overshadow the writer’s voice. Each paragraph’s conversation should be directed by and concluded with the writer’s own voice, not by another author’s words.

Give yourself positive messages when revising, understanding it's easier to critique than to invent.

Understandably, you can become discouraged during writing, particularly when undertaking a challenging project. Even so, you cannot give in to negative thinking.

Why is it valuable for writers to read their own work aloud?

Reading their own work aloud gives writers the opportunity to take on the role of the reader. When “writers as readers” add hearing to seeing, another of the five senses is put to work in the critical evaluation process. Words and ideas that seemed to flow smoothly and connect logically inside the writer’s head often do not reflect the same sense of cohesiveness when heard in spoken form. Writers who hear their work read aloud are better equipped to evaluate the paper’s flow of ideas at the global level and to discover grammatical, punctuation, and word choice errors at the surface level.

Why should each paragraph make a point?

In an essay, a paragraph is not just a careless group of sentences about a common topic; a thoughtfully constructed paragraph builds upon the foundation laid by the essay’s thesis and works in harmony with the other paragraphs. Each paragraph should serve a specific purpose related to the thesis—to explain a relevant idea, provide background information, argue a supporting point, or offer a counterargument. A paragraph that does not serve any of these purposes may be unnecessary.


Determine the questions typically addressed in the document you are writing.

questionWriting and thinking involve asking and answering questions. The term heuristic is derived from the Greek word heuresis, which means to discover or invent. Heuristic questions refer to the questions both writers and readers commonly ask of documents.

Note: The heuristics discussed here can help you develop any of the writing assignments provided in theProjects section. These questioning strategies can help you develop an idea.

Journalistic Questions: Use the journalist's questions to probe your subject matter.

The Common Topoi and Tagmemic Questions: Use this online tool to systematically explore a topic.

Burke's Pentad: Use Burke's Pentad (a series of questions designed to generate insights) to interpret human events, stories, and movies.

Rather than waiting for that illusive large block of time and rather than procrastinating until the last minute to begin researching and writing, you can ensure your success by using small blocks of time to accomplish your research and writing goals.

There are serious disadvantages to binge writing as opposed to regular writing as research has demonstrated. First, binge writing tends to stimulate manic-depressive behavior (Boice).

Why is it important to conclude a paragraph with the writer’s voice rather than a quote?*

Though quotations from reliable sources are often used to add credibility and support to a writer’s ideas, the focus of the paper should remain on the writer’s voice and his or her own agency as a writer. Credentialed evidence should be provided to support the points a writer makes, but not at the expense of diluting the writer’s voice with overdependence on quotations.