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Online Guide to Writing and Research

The Writing Process


Every writer, whether inexperienced or seasoned, knows that the process can be overwhelming. Whether you are analyzing, reporting, or composing a poem for your creative writing class, writing demands that you expose your innermost thoughts to the scrutiny of others. While you write, concentrating on the writing process, rather than what others will think, can give you the confidence to focus on the task at hand. Although every writer’s process is unique, it usually involves a combination of 1) planning and prewriting, 2) writing, and 3) rewriting/revising.

The Big Picture

Your position + formal research = powerful combination

The prewriting and planning phase begins with an understanding of the big picture. If you are new to academic writing, it might be helpful to think about academic writing in a simple way; there are usually three parts:

1) Your position on the topic (prior, current, and future knowledge on the topic)

2) Expert ideas (formal research)

3) A union of those two 

Why this balance?

Neither excessive emphasis on your own ideas nor too much information from outside research will lead to well-balanced writing. While expectations are different in every discipline and class, and you should always ask your professor what is preferred, your writing should include mostly your ideas, in a formal tone, with scholarly research that supports and supplements your argument. In other words, your voice carries the argument and flow of any written piece.  

Keeping the big picture in mind as you dive into the phases ahead will result in a smoother writing process, while hopefully reaching the main goals of any writing assignment: engaging meaningfully with your topic, demonstrating your knowledge, and educating your audience.

Planning and Prewriting

The purpose of the planning and prewriting phase is to explore your topic from different angles, connect to your own thoughts about the topic, come upon new ideas, and identify new relationships between concepts. When planning and prewriting, you will (click on the arrows):

Writing and Rewriting

Writing and rewriting phases allow you to implement your planning and the results of your experimentation while prewriting. You implement your strategy, working out the details and fine-tuning your thoughts. In the rewriting, or revising, phase, you review what you have written and consider how and where your writing can be improved.

It’s important to remember that there is no such thing as a perfect writing process, and you can always edit and polish your thoughts later. Being passionate about your chosen topic can also help motivate you to get started. Write. Generate ideas. Revise later. Try to have fun with it!

Key Takeaways

  • Planning/prewriting, writing, and revising help organize and guide your writing process.

  • Academic writing consists of 1) your ideas 2) expert ideas 3) connections between the two.

  • The writing process is unique to each individual and need not necessarily follow a strict order.

  • The overall goal in writing is to engage in the pursuit of knowledge so you can share it with others.

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Table of Contents: Online Guide to Writing