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The University Writing Center University of Alabama at Birmingham

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1 The University Writing Center University of Alabama at Birmingham
The Writing Process The University Writing Center At the University of Alabama at Birmingham

2 Overview of the Writing Process
Pre-writing strategies General strategies Using requirements as a guide Solidifying the plan for the paper Writing the paper Keeping your focus Adjusting your plan Revision and finishing strategies Reading for content Editing techniques This slide previews the presentation with a general idea of topic order. Pre-writing takes place before the paper begins, and includes not only understanding the purpose and audience, but also includes organizational strategies. Writing includes the actual crafting of the paper, with a focus in this presentation on keeping on topic and not being afraid to adjust topics if necessary. Finishing the paper is the editing process, including revision (re-vision) of the paper for logical flow and content. This section will be wrapping up the concepts of earlier process focuses of keeping on topic and making sure the writing does what the writer actually intended for it to do. Editing techniques will also be discussed.

3 What is the writing process?
The writing process covers the generation of the entire paper. The main parts of the process are: Pre-writing Writing Post-writing The process is highly customizable, but the general logic of the process always applies. The writing process is a highly customizable and adjustable process of simply getting from an idea to a finished product. This presentation will give an overview of the general areas of planning (pre-writing), generation (writing), and polishing (post-writing). As long as there is a process and a method of logical thought in tackling the paper, the writer may choose different methods within these three sections as she prefers. The idea is that everyone thinks differently, but as long as we think about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, we’ll create a better final product.

4 Pre-writing The planning stage
Pre-writing can have very little “actual” writing depending on the writer. Some writers will find that keeping extensive notes and a system of sources will help, while others can keep everything in mind and write more “organically.” For academic and publishable papers, a strong, logical flow of information is necessary, no matter how it is achieved. Good pre-writing can ease this difficulty and can dramatically reduce the time spent actually writing and revising. Contained within the pre-writing section is an overview supplemented by methods and tips. Individual students will find the process that works best for them. Remember! The process leads up to the final product, and until the final product, generally no one cares how a writer reaches the conclusion. The caveat being that for some classes, there may be requirements throughout the semester calling for outlines, an introduction, and different stages of writing. These should be met, of course, though modification throughout the process is often allowed with instructor permission. Always ask the instructor.

5 Pre-writing: General Strategies
Purpose Understand why you are writing. Are you informing, describing, advocating, observing, or proposing? Some other purpose? Audience For whom are you writing? Understand the expectations of your audience and any format or research requirements necessary. Organization Prepare a flexible writing/researching schedule and decide upon the organizational method that will work best for the project.

6 Pre-writing: Purpose and Audience
Your reason Why are you writing? Why is this topic important? What are you trying to accomplish? What requirements do you need to meet? Find a starting point for your research. Your audience Understand your audience’s expectations. Consider what your audience already knows, and what your it will need to know in order to understand your paper’s content. Purpose and audience can be fairly solid at this point, especially for assignments, but a general purpose can be narrowed or changed as the writing process continues. Basically the writer needs a reason that is narrow enough to begin and focus initial research. For instance, “academic paper that describes research about eye surgery” is fine. Paper assignments may give the obvious reason, but truly understanding an assignment and its purpose are vital steps in beginning the writing process. A writer should start out with a clear idea of what she wants to accomplish. The content and how to accomplish these goals come as research is found and selected, and a thesis is generated. These are things to start with, understandings necessary for the rest of the paper to keep on track with point and purpose. There is nothing worse than writing an entire paper and realizing you haven’t actually answered the assignment’s prompt.

7 Pre-writing: Brainstorming
Idea and topic generation Generate ideas and start to think about addressing the requirements, purpose, and audience. Topic can often be dictated by an assignment, but many times the writer has freedom to pick a specific angle or subtopic to expand upon. Brainstorming in other stages briefly covered on next slide.

8 Pre-writing: Brainstorming
Brainstorming outside of pre-writing Sometimes, an unfamiliarity with the subject means that picking the topic takes place during the research process. During the actual writing stage or when reviewing the paper, the writer may find a logical hole or misstep, or might find that a subtopic or point requires more support. Transition to next: “So how do we go about brainstorming?”

9 Pre-writing: Brainstorming
Many methods for many minds Jotting down ideas An outline Diagrams of order Topics and things of interest within the subject Talking about the subject or topic

10 Pre-writing: Organization
Planning Create a tentative schedule. Include time for stages of generation, research, organization of materials, actual writing, and revision. Research Stages If specific topic is undecided or unknown, survey the general subject. Try to formulate a plan when researching, and understand that information desired is not necessarily information available. Be able to adjust. Pick sources that fit the topic—or modify the topic to fit chosen research. Be cohesive. Planning—a schedule makes things feel more real, even if it’s never put to paper. Writers must understand the amount of work they will have to put in, and spreading that work out makes things go easier. Don’t forget that when the paper is typed, it isn’t finished, however. Time for revision is necessary, and so is time for unexpected events. Researching—We won’t cover topic-specific research in this presentation. Writers must know, however, that it is okay to research and then change topics. If there isn’t enough information on what a writer wanted to cover, then the writer must decide whether she wants to continue scrounging for research or picking a topic that is more manageable. The answer to this question depends solely on the writer and her purpose for writing. Finally, pick sources. It may be tempting to write about everything interesting, but the paper is a cohesive entity meant to fulfill a purpose. If something is interesting and off topic, the writer must examine how necessary that something actually is. Depending on the format, these “asides” may be able to be put into footnotes. Often, they may also be simply left out of the paper completely. To note—sometimes a topic may be modified in order to fit sources that were of most interest to the writer. This is fine, and will in fact be preferable for some writers. Make sure, though, that the new topic still fulfills the purpose of the project or paper.

11 Pre-writing: Organization
Keep research organized. Note and/or bibliography cards Sticky notes Traditional notes Annotated outline Coding Using section headers as organizational aids Tracking sources early assists in later stages of writing, when creating accurate in-text citations and the bibliography. This is a quick overview of how to keep organized in researching, which will make citations (in text, footnoted, endnoted, or otherwise) easier. Keep track of what information to preserve academic honesty and avoid plagiarism (via lack of citation). Makes sure EVERYTHING from another source is well documented in your notes or organization of research. Notes and/or bib cards: Index cards with each source, or each packet of information that can be ordered and/or numbered as a short hand way of organizing the paper’s content. Sticky notes: Work well for printed articles or books with many specifically cited pieces of information. Labeling the note by possible place or subtopic within the paper will help the writer find sources more easily when writing. Traditional notes—self explanatory Annotated outline—keep track not only of the general order (which is changeable in pre-writing, by the way), but also track sources. Coding sources, such as by last name or by an abbreviation can make keeping track of sources easier. Organizing sources by the subtopics or points they address can make formulating the paper easier.

12 Pre-writing: Thesis Thesis: The main idea of the written work stated in a declarative sentence. When is the thesis written? Traditionally, writers are taught to generate a thesis in the pre-writing stage. Some writers find it helpful to start with a tentative thesis. They then modify that thesis to match what they have written. As long as the paper has a single cohesive point, this method is perfectly acceptable.

13 Using Requirements as a Guide
In pre-writing, make sure your plan and topic match and fulfill the given requirements. Make a check list, and keep it handy throughout the formulation of the paper. If organizing by research, notate what information fulfills requirements. Consider section headers that specifically cover requirements (i.e. “Rational,” “Research Design,” “Literature Review”) for organizational purposes. Headers may be omitted or left in the final paper, depending on formatting guidelines or requirements. If asked for specific coverage of a topic or a demonstration of certain considerations, then be sure in the pre-writing stage that these things will be covered. When organizing, be sure that requirements are being specifically covered to satisfy the reader’s expectations. When revising and writing the paper, make sure that if some information is omitted, other information covers the requirements instead.

14 Pre-writing: Solidify the Plan
Before leaving the pre-writing stage, the writer should have: A focus: thesis or tentative thesis A logical flow of information Research foreseeably complete Sources organized Time spent planning and organizing often dramatically reduces the time spent actually writing, minimizes structural revision, and avoids mid-paper research crises. Basically, pre-writing makes the writing part of the process easier. By going into the writing with an organized, focused plan, the writer should hopefully avoid waffling for the first few pages of the paper and get down to business more quickly. With some pre-writing, the only part of actual writing left is actually connecting the notes and research into the paper with some level of grammatical proficiency. Some people will find this method of writing preferable, while others will shy away from spending a lot of time thinking and less time “working.” This thought process is faulty, because without a plan, revision and restructuring will often occur during the actual writing and during the revision stage that could be avoided.

15 Getting started, staying on track, and knowing when to adjust
Writing the Paper Getting started, staying on track, and knowing when to adjust

16 Starting to Write Establish that the paper is worth reading.
Why does the topic matter? What is the paper about? What is the thesis and how will it be supported? Why is the thesis/focus of the paper relevant and important enough to spend time discussing? What is the context of the paper’s focus? Literary review Field situation Some writers outline these points and revise after the body of the paper is complete. It is better to start writing and revise a subpar introduction than to procrastinate. Essentially, the readers need to know why what they are reading matters. For a research paper, why is the topic important? What will be talked about in the paper? How will we go about addressing the points and support for the writer’s thesis? Is there a field situation or literature review that is necessary? Some formats or style guides have differing opinions about how much “introduction” is really necessary. For instance, literature papers tend to want and idea of how the thesis will be supported, with points listed in order. Other types of writing may require a less specific approach, with either a brief, unspecific overview, or even none. The context section is important if the subject genre, style, or format requires it. For instance, critical papers may review what others have said about a particular topic. A scientific paper may briefly state what other researchers have done, perhaps focusing on what hasn’t been done as a result, or an angle previously unexplored.

17 Keep Focused Follow the plan. But . . .
Do not be afraid to delete, reword, or adjust. Keep a “scratch” file if necessary so that writing is not lost during rewriting or deleting work If something does not add to the paper’s point, then it distracts from the point. Never have the reader wonder why a topic is being covered. Clarify logical connections and demonstrate importance to the topic. Essentially, don’t forget why and what you are writing. Specifics on wording and paragraph issues can be deffered to the revision section

18 Changing Focus? Some writers think through their topic as they write. In these cases, sometimes a writer finds a consistent deviation from the initial writing plan. This requires the writer to “go back” and revise throughout the paper to make sure that the new or developed focus is consistent. Often, the introduction and transition elements of the paper will require the most revision. These revisions can take place during the writing process, during the finishing process, or both. Basically, some students will find out that they hate writing about their topic. As long as their new thesis/topic matches and fulfills their requirements, then they have the freedom to switch. Remember: The final product is what everyone will read, and getting to that product is individualized to the writer.

19 Writing When writing, try to complete a set amount of work per writing session. Periodically refer back to the paper’s requirements. Consider using headers for organization, even if the headers will be deleted in the final product. Make sure all sources are given due credit. It should be clear what thought or material does not originate from the writer. Don’t procrastinate, and keep to a schedule if possible. Make sure that the paper’s requirements are being fulfilled, and that the paper is sticking to the plan. If adjustments have been made, be certain that requirements are still being covered. Headers, especially in long papers, can help the writer keep track of where she is and what will be coming next. Don’t be academically dishonest! Make sure that all sources are credited, and the reader can tell when the writer is pulling info from another source.

20 Between Writing and Revising
The line between revising and writing can be blurred for some writers. Some writers prefer to finish all writing before beginning the revision process. Others prefer to revise and edit as they write. At some point, however, the writing is “done.” This does not mean that the paper is actually complete. This is a transition between writing and revising. Some students like to revise everything when the paper’s content is jammed onto their screen, while others will read and reread as they write and change things as they go along. Both work, but at some point the generation of the paper will end and the revision process will more formally begin. Just because a paper is written out does not mean that it is complete.

21 Revision, Editing, and polishing
Post-writing Revision, Editing, and polishing Revision is not editing, and editing is not polishing. Writers must check not only content clarity, but also grammar. Finally, writers must be sure of the final product, to recheck and reread to find small errors.

22 Revision: Logic Have a reason for everything.
Of the whole paper’s logical flow Of each paragraph’s topic and cohesion Of every sentence’s necessity Of every word choice and inclusion Examine the logic of the paper, from organizational flow to paragraph cohesion and placement down to the sentence and word level. Everything in the paper must serve the paper’s purpose. Nothing should be extraneous or unnecessary. Revision can be brutal and difficult, but the writer must remain objective. Just because a large amount of time was spent on something does not mean that the something is actually necessary to the paper.

23 Revision: Content Try to be objective and look at the paper as a first-time reader. The writer must examine the paper and constantly ask, “Why is this here?” If the answer is not obvious or not demonstrated, then make the connection clear. If the reason is tenuous, delete. Eliminate redundancies.

24 Editing Clarity and proper grammar allow the reader to focus on the content of what is said instead of how it is stated. Be concise in word choice.

25 Editing Know your weaknesses. Search for them within the paper.
Grammatical issues such as: Comma usage, word choice, word repetition, redundancy, subject/verb agreement, pronoun/antecedent usage, etc. Take breaks. Tired writers may find themselves skimming instead of closely examining the paper. Even when you consider yourself “done,” edit once more. Tips are next.

26 Editing Tips Read the paper aloud, exactly as it is written.
Mimics the “first look” aspect that a reader will experience. Separates what the writer thinks the paper says from what is actually written. Allows for many writers to listen for word order, awkwardness, and comma errors. Read the paper backwards, sentence by sentence, to isolate grammar from its contextual meaning. Print the paper, and edit the printout. Edit in stages to avoid fatigue. Editing can be a tedious activity, but it is absolutely necessary. Therefore, allow for some time to actually go through the paper properly. Transition: Conclusion is next, beginning with customizing the writing process.

27 Customization of the Writing Process
The process is intended to provide planning and divide the whole writing task into manageable sections. Every person thinks differently. Similarly, every person will find the writing process different. Review/overview is next.

28 Review Pre-writing Have a focus. Have support for the focus.
Prepare research necessary for that support. Be sure the focus, supporting points, and research fits any and all requirements Be ready so that when actual writing begins, all information is prepared to minimize time spent writing

29 Review Writing Post-writing Use the plan developed in pre-writing.
If modifying the plan, be sure to continue to fulfill necessary requirements. Make or note all sources when they are used to avoid later confusion. Post-writing Check the logic of the paper. Be sure everything stated is necessary, and everything necessary is stated. Edit closely.

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