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1.3: The Writing Process

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    The Writing Process walks your students through the recursive process of prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing, emphasizing that the process is not a linear step-by-step process but a recursive process of revision.

    For many of your students, the idea of writing as a process may be unfamiliar because the bulk of their writing experience has been in timed situations in the classroom. Under the pressure of time, they do not think they have time for prewriting and outlining. Their first draft is their only draft, and often they have not even proofread their writing, and the idea of continually revising what they have written is foreign.

    For the first essay, it is helpful to model the process in class. Students can easily follow the example provided in the text following the writer named Mariah. For each essay assignment, it is helpful to remind your students to revisit the components of the process as they write.


    Not all of the exercises in Chapter 2 are mentioned in this chapter of the Instruction Manual. Those not mentioned are either self-explanatory or fit with another that we explain below.

    1.3.1: Prewriting: Choosing a Topic

    Whether you provide a topic or students choose their own topics, students need to be introduced to the idea of purpose and audience. The initial answer students give is that the purpose for writing is to get a grade and the audience is the instructor. Explain that in each essay, whether the purpose is to inform, explain, persuade, or another purpose, knowing why one is writing the essay is essential to being able to stay on track.

    Purpose: In the classroom setting, emphasize that purpose is not just for a grade. Help students identify times in their lives when they may be called upon to produce a written document—job, letter of justification (for insurance, etc.), police report, letter of recommendation, etc. Students often think they will only encounter writing assignments in college.

    Audience: Identifying the purposes for different types of writing should lead naturally to a discussion of target audiences beyond the instructor and classmates.

    Prewriting Techniques: Brainstorming

    Students often think they should not use prewriting techniques if they have a time limit, such as for an essay exam. Demonstrate how taking a few minutes to jot down ideas and complete rudimentary organization saves time and produces more well-organized and complete answers.

    Experience and Observations

    Presenting experience and observation as valid starting points for an essay often helps students overcome anxieties about writing that produce writer’s block.


    It is helpful to have students respond to a short reading to emphasize the importance of reading for information. Discuss how to avoid plagiarism (see chapter 1.3).

    It is helpful to have students try each of the prewriting exercises so they can both identity which works best for them individually and develop an arsenal of tools to select from depending on the writing task.

    Freewriting Example

    Remind students that experience and observation are valid topic sources for topics of freewriting. Emphasize not stopping to think hard but just writing whatever comes to mind, even an idea does not seem to fit.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Let students know they are not limited to the suggested topics. If you do limit students to the listed topics, you may do a follow-up exercise by grouping them according to the topics they chose and have them share their ideas, further discuss purpose, audience and tone.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Like the example, you can have the students use the same topic used for Exercise 1, Freewriting.

    Students will probably have had previous experience with listing, referring to it as brainstorming. Using the 5 questions can help them begin to focus their topic and their questions at issue about that topic.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Again, it is helpful to have students use the same topic used in Exercises 1 and 2. They can highlight key words in the free write and answers to questions and compare those key words to the list. Liken the list to a shopping list and “cluster” map it based on different sections in the grocery store.

    You may want the students to select a topic for an upcoming essay instead of using the same topic selected for Exercises 1 and 2. Students should complete Exercise 5: identifying the purpose and audience along with the topic selection.

    Collaboration: Group students together by topic chosen and have them compare ideas, and depending on how much time you have, work together to choose one of those ideas and make it narrow enough to be addressed fully in a three-page paper.

    1.3.2: Outlining

    Students often state that they cannot write an outline before they write the essay. Help them understand the importance of using even a simple outline to assist with organization. It is good to model the outline format, using s sample from the previous exercises for each type of outline. If they are still struggling, introduce them to the idea of the “reverse outline,” which is where someone writes a messy / freewriting draft, then writes down, in outline form, the topic sentence of each paragraph. They then evaluate that outline for organization and order, deciding whether sentences or sections should me moved, deleted, or re-ordered. Then they write a new outline with the new structure.


    Do not be surprised if students are unfamiliar with Roman numerals. It is helpful to show students how to format the outline in Microsoft Word. Walk through the paragraph samples, explaining each level. Show students a completed paragraph and how it relates to the outline.

    If you require a formal outline for each essay or for a final research essay, present the outline as more than a prewriting technique, explaining whether a macro (topic) or micro (full sentence) outline will be required and how many levels must be included.

    Overview: The YouTube video link is especially helpful for students with little experience in creating outlines.

    Overview: The YouTube video link is especially helpful for students with little experience in creating outlines.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Students can be placed in pairs to create a sentence outline of the paragraph here about knitting. Then the pairs can share their outlines on the board or in the LMS discussion and you can have a short discussion on the differences between the outlines.

    1.3.3: Drafting

    Goals and Strategies for Drafting:
    Emphasize that the first draft should come from the prewriting or the outline developed earlier but that variations that occur as the student writes are acceptable. Continue to stress the recursive nature of writing. Emphasize that at this stage, they need to keep writing, even if it's messy.

    Making the Writing Process Work for You
    The ideas given in this section are unfamiliar to students who are accustomed to writing a single draft and submitting it as a completed document. For many students, the idea of not beginning with the introduction is helpful in overcoming writer’s block. Taking short breaks punctuates writing an essay as more than a “one-and-done” endeavor.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Students can use their chosen freewriting topic for this. Reaffirm that it is acceptable to move back and forth in the “process,” including revising the thesis statement and revisiting purpose and audience. Reviewing their own prewriting is helpful here.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Challenge the students to relate Mariah’s outline for the body paragraphs to her prewriting, thesis statement and outline. Have write down and share their reasons for their entries for sub-points 1 and 2.

    As the students move through this part of the chapter, here are a couple of notes:

    Writing a Title
    Emphasize the title is called a “Working” title. Introduce MLA format for titles.

    Drafting Body Paragraphs
    Take time to review each of the types of evidence effective for providing support.
    Review the sample thesis statement, topic sentence and body paragraph.

    If you prefer the topic sentence for each body paragraph to be directly stated and/or positioned as the first sentence in a body paragraph, explain that the variations listed in the class are not acceptable in your class.

    Have the students select either one of Mariah’s body paragraphs and/or one of their own body paragraphs and apply the information contained in this section.

    It is helpful to review the suggested techniques that can be used in an introduction with students, as many struggle with developing an introduction. This is also an opportunity to introduce diction.

    Reviewing the "Key Takeaways" list at the end of the "Primary Support" page of 2.3 would be a good way to see whether anyone has questions or needs clarifications.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    This can be done individually and then traded with a partner or put up on the board or the screen for the class to help evaluate.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    You can do this in class or you could make it into a low-stakes assignment that students turn in for the next class session.

    **While there isn't a formal exercise included in this section on introduction and conclusion paragraphs, you could ask students to trade these paragraphs from their own papers either before or after the full-paper peer review (described below).

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{9}\)

    Note on Peer Review: the included peer review worksheet here is one suggestion. You do not have to use this one if you have one that you like better. If you are part of the GSU Perimeter College English department, you may have access to a resource library which contains examples of peer reviews.

    Consider modeling the first peer review using a sample essay from a previous class (or from a departmental publication such as Perimeter's The Polishing Cloth).

    For the first peer review, early in the semester, it may be helpful for students to work in groups of three and collectively review portions of each student’s essay (introduction, a single body paragraph, conclusion) or the full draft.

    Pair students to review each other’s draft or have students individually review drafts of two or three students.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{10}\): Understanding the Purpose of Revising and Editing

    It is important to distinguish between revising and editing, a distinction many students have never been taught.You could run this as a large-group (whole class) discussion, or have smaller groups of 3-5 students discuss it and post their notes to the board or the screen (through your LMS discussion feature) and then have the class discuss as a whole.

    Finally, reviewing the "Key Takeaways" list at the end of the "Revising and Editing" page of 2.4 would be a good way to see whether anyone has questions or needs clarifications. Students will likely have a hard time giving up the writing process they came in with (even if they discover that it is an inefficient or dysfunctional process), so this point in the semester would be a good time for reaffirming this process and its recursive nature.

    1.3: The Writing Process is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by .

    1.3: The Writing Process is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Lynne Bost, Barbara Hall, Michelle Kassorla, Karen McKinney-Holley, Kirk Swenson, and Rebecca Weaver (Managing Editor).

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