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The Writing Process

Thanks to ever emerging new technologies, writers can collaborate in exciting new ways. Using tools such as Google Docs, writers can work on texts synchronously even when they are separated by continents and oceans. Using discussion forums, musicians can exchange and remix chords with other artists from around the world. Via Skype, writers can talk with one another as they collaborate in a shared white space. Not to mention Wikipedia. Clearly, good collaboration skills are more important now than ever before.

Follow these tips for nurturing teamwork in group situations.

Business leaders commonly complain that college graduate students have not learned how to work productively in groups. In American classrooms, we tend to prize individual accomplishment, yet in professional careers we need to work well with others.Unfortunately, the terms "group work," "team work," or "committee work" can appear to be oxymorons--like the terms "honest politician" or "criminal justice."

If you have the opportunity to choose collaborators, consider this:

The whole truly can be larger than the sum of its parts. Through collaboration, we can produce documents that we alone could not imagine.  Collaborators can inspire us, keep us on task, and help us overcome blind spots.

At the same time, collaborators can become obstacles, requiring constant supervision. In group situations, other students can fail to attend classes or out-of-class meetings; they can ignore your efforts and just focus on their own missions or visions about ways documents should be written.

Use talk-and-then-write strategies to jump-start writing projects.

Dialoguing, dictating, and group brainstorming all rely on talking to generate writing. Many people get their best ideas discussing issues and ideas with people.

Lawyers, doctors, and business leaders have frequently used dictation to draft documents.

At first glance, academic and reflection can sound like contradictory concepts.

Writing an academic reflection essay often involves striking a balance

between a traditional, academic paper and a reflective essay. In order to find

this balance, consider the terms that encompass the title of the assignment.

The term “academic” suggests that the writer will be expected to observe

conventions for academic writing, such as using a professional tone and

crafting a thesis statement. On the other hand, the term “reflection” implies

that the writer should critically reflect on his or her work, project, or writing

process, depending on the assignment, and draw conclusions based on

these observations.

In general, an academic reflection essay is a combination of these two ideas:

writers should observe conventions for academic writing while critically

reflecting on their experience or project. Note that the term “critically”

suggests that the writing should not merely tell the reader what happened,

what you did, or what you learned. Critical reflection takes the writing one

step further and entails making an evaluative claim about the experience

or project under discussion. Beyond telling readers what happened, critical

reflection tends to discuss why it matters and how it contributed to the

effectiveness of the project.

Striking the proper balance between critical reflection and academic essay

is always determined by the demands of the particular writing situation,

so writers should first consider their purpose for writing, their audience,

and the project guidelines. While the subject matter of academic reflections

is not always “academic,” the writer will usually still be expected to adapt

their arguments and points to academic conventions for thesis statements,

evidence, organization, style, and formatting.

Several strategies for crafting an academic reflection essay are outlined

below based on three important areas: focus, evidence, and organization.

Focus

A thesis statement for an academic reflection essay is often an evaluative

claim about your experiences with a process or assignment. Several

strategies to consider for a thesis statement in an academic reflection essay

include:

Being Critical: It is important to ensure that the evaluative claim does

not simply state the obvious, such as that you completed the assignment,

or that you did or did not like it. Instead, make a critical claim about

whether or not the project was effective in fulfilling its purpose, or

whether the project raised new questions for you to consider and

somehow changed your perspective on your topic.

Placement: For some academic reflection essays, the thesis may not

come in the introduction but at the end of the paper, once the writer has

fully explained his or her experiences with the project. Think about where

the placement of your thesis will be most effective based on your ideas

and how your claim relates to them.

Consider the following example of a thesis statement in an academic

reflection essay:

By changing my medium from a picture to a pop song, my message that domestic

violence disproportionately affects women was more effectively communicated

to an audience of my classmates because they found the message to be more

memorable when it was accompanied by music.

This thesis makes a critical evaluative claim (that the change of medium

was effective) about the project, and is thus a strong thesis for an academic

reflection paper.

Evidence

Evidence for academic reflection essays may include outside sources, but

writers are also asked to support their claims by including observations

from their own experience. Writers might effectively support their claims by

considering the following strategies:

Incorporating examples: What examples might help support the claims

that you make? How might you expand on your points using these

examples, and how might you develop this evidence in relation to your

thesis?

Personal anecdotes or observations: How might you choose relevant

personal anecdotes/observations to illustrate your points and support

your thesis?

Logical explanations: How might you explain the logic behind a specific

point you are making in order to make it more credible to readers?

Consider the following example for incorporating evidence in an academic

reflection essay:

Claim: Changing the medium for my project from a picture to a pop

song appealed to my audience of fellow classmates.

Evidence: When I performed my pop song remediation for my

classmates, they paid attention to me and said that the message, once

transformed into song lyrics, was very catchy and memorable. By the

end of the presentation, some of them were even singing along.

In this example, the claim (that the change of medium was effective in

appealing to the new audience of fellow classmates) is supported because

the writer reveals his or her observation of the audience’s reaction.

(For more about using examples and anecdotes as examples, see

“Nontraditional Types of Evidence.”)

Organization

For academic reflection essays, the organizational structure may differ from

traditional academic or narrative essays because you are reflecting on your

own experiences or observations. Consider the following organizational

structures for academic reflection essays:

Chronological Progression: The progression of points will reflect the

order of events/insights as they occurred temporally in the project.

Sample Chronological Organization for a Remediation Reflection:

Paragraph 1: Beginning of the project

Paragraph 2: Progression of the remediation process

Paragraph 3: Progression of the remediation process

Paragraph 4: Progression of the remediation process

Paragraph 5: Progression of the remediation process

Paragraph 6: Conclusion—Was the project effective. How and why?

How did the process end?

By Main Idea/Theme: The progression of points will centralize on main

ideas or themes of the project.

Sample Organization By Main Idea/Theme for a Remediation

Reflection:

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Paragraph 2: Discuss the message being translated

Paragraph 3: Discuss the change of medium

Paragraph 4: Discuss the change of audience

Paragraph 5: Was the change effective? Explain.

Paragraph 6: Conclusion

Remember that while these strategies are intended to help you approach

an academic reflection paper with confidence, they are not meant to be

prescriptive. Academic reflection essays are often unique to the writer

because they ask the writer to consider his or her own observations or

reactions to an experience or project. You have distinctive ideas and

observations to discuss, so it is likely that your paper will reflect this

distinctiveness. With this in mind, consider how to most effectively compose

your paper based on your specific project guidelines, instructor suggestions,

and your experiences with the project.


 By: Kristen Gay

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.

Related Resources at Writing Commons:

Add supporting details to back this claim

Avoid unnecessary repetition of supporting details

Distinguish your ideas from your source's

 

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.

The focus refers to the main idea of the text. One way to determine this main idea is to figure out the purpose of your essay. An essay should do more than give you a grade; for example, it can persuade an audience, argue a point, or inform a reader. The assignment sheet is a great place to look for the purpose of the essay. What is your instructor asking you to do? The topic, length, variety and amount of research, audience, etc., all coincide with what the assignment requires.

 There are times when writers may be asked to take an essay they wrote and turn it into a speech: perhaps they will give a talk at a conference, stand in front of a class for an oral presentation, or be asked to create a YouTube video. The assignment—the task of revising a paper into something that will be performed (read aloud or otherwise “given” live)—does not simply mean using the paper that exists on the computer screen. Altering a paper to a speech challenges the writer to engage with the audience and revise the piece into one that is easy to follow and interesting to listen to.

Design pages to facilitate scanning by using headings, subheadings, columns; learn special page design considerations for the Web.

You can enhance readability by giving some thought to the design of your documents. By using headers, lists, bullets, and other design elements, you can reveal your organization to the reader and emphasize key points. Below are page design guidelines you should consider when writing print or online documents. Your design can underscore your message. Be sure to consider these guidelines in the context of design principles.

Understand the role of revision in the lives of successful writers.

Our fast-paced, consumer-driven society is geared to offer a remarkable number of choices in nanoseconds. If the fast-food chain doesn't deliver lunch within sixty seconds, it's free. With a push of a button, people who live in large metropolitan areas can run through as many as 100 different channels on cable television.

Format describes how we set up everything from the page margins to pictures to the works cited list. Adhering to format guidelines allows our reader to easily follow along with the paper and understand where outside sources were found.

Knowing how to use formatting, whether it is MLA or APA, is a key step in the development of an academic writer. Properly formatting papers ensures that sources are cited and used fairly, that the reader can find the sources easily, and that the paper is taken seriously in academic communities.

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

"Design is a fun word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works."
-Steve Jobs

We live in a culture where images and document design are used aggressively to convey meaning.

Style is not what we write but how we write it. For our purposes, style includes:

  • grammar (the rules that govern standard American English)
  • punctuation
  • point of view
  • syntax (how we arrange our sentences)
  • word choice/vocabulary
  • figurative language (metaphors, narratives, similies, etc.)

In order to be convincing, a writer needs evidence for her claims. Evidence includes traditional sources such as books and journal articles but may also include anecdotes, photographs, web sources and videos. The kinds of evidence that are appropriate in a particular context depend on the writer's purpose.

Academic culture is an evidence-based culture. Good scholarship requires claims supported by facts, theories, and research. Finding the evidence is not enough, though, as it needs to be successfully integrated into texts.

Learn strategies for organizing documents effectively. Learn how readers respond to deductive, inductive, and analytical paragraphs. Make effective transitions and learn how format creates belief.

Your brilliant insights are likely to be overlooked unless you learn to organize your ideas for readers. This section provides advice on structuring and organizing information for readers, regardless of the communication situation you are addressing.

The organization of a paper matters at the level of the whole essay as well as within each paragraph. The organization of sentences matters within paragraphs, as writers choose which sentences to put in what order and how to create a smooth sense of connection between each sentence. But organization also matters between paragraphs, as writers choose when to present their ideas to their readers for the best effect.

The organization of texts is based upon conventions of particular genres. The ways in which texts are organized, are structured, and flow is determined largely by audience expectations.

  • Where is the paper’s title?
  • Choose an original title for the paper
  • Center the title
  • Present the title in plain type
  • Use standard capitalization in the title
  • Use Times New Roman font, 12 pt.
  • Double-space the document throughout
  • Set the margins at 1” on all four sides
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph
  • Remove unnecessary extra space(s) here
  • Where is your conclusion?
  • Reiterate your paper’s thesis in your conclusion
  • Summarize your paper’s main ideas in your conclusion
  • Include fresh ideas in your conclusion