Stages of Writing an Essay

Stages of Writing an Essay
Stages of Writing an Essay
There are three stages to completing an essay: researching, writing, and editing. For some,
these three stages are done progressively, one after another. Other people prefer to write and
edit while also doing research. You should use whatever process works best for you. We suggest
the first, step-by-step process. With this process, writing an essay occurs over a three-week
period. Note: It does not take the entire three weeks but is written over the course of three
weeks. Stretching the three stages over three weeks allows you to complete all the other
regularly-scheduled work and not get behind.
Week #1: Research
Researching for an essay is the most time-consuming process. It should take you 10-15
hours of research time to write a 2,000-3,000 word essay.
Step 1: Make sure you understand the question. Ask your tutor for clarification if it’s not
entirely clear.
Step 2: Gather 2-4 books from the recommended reading list and begin by reading what
they have to say on the topic. You might want to compare and contrast the authors and
their perspectives on the topic. Spend 3-4 hours getting a general sense of the topic.
Step 3: Force yourself to create a thesis. The number-one time-wasting mistake students
make is delaying the formation of a thesis (answer to the question). Your thesis will
direct your research and will be shaped by your research. But a thesis can’t be shaped by
research if it doesn’t already exist.
Step 4: Based on that thesis, create a method, i.e. how you’re going to prove the thesis.
Then draft an outline (see ‘Structuring an Essay’). Like your thesis, this outline/plan will
direct your research and will be shaped by your research.
Step 5: Do 7-12 hours of research based on that plan. Now when you do research, you
are looking for specific topics/issues/ideas according to your method, rather than
reading widely and taking notes on seemingly everything (most of which you never use).
And as you do this research, you might discover that one or two of your sub-points
should be replaced with something else. Go ahead and replace them. This is how
research shapes a plan.
At the end of the ‘Research’ stage, you should have notes organised according to the
topics you have designed in the method. Your notes should reflect the shape the essay
will take in its final form.
This information is based on student experiences, assisting students, and common knowledge.
How toof
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Week #2: Writing
There are two stages of writing during week two.
Stage One: Write your first draft. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar too much at
this stage, but focus on making sure each paragraph has one main point, and that each
paragraph transitions smoothly from the previous paragraph and to the next paragraph.
Writing this draft should take you 3-5 hours.
Stage Two: Either rewrite entirely the first draft or spend time editing the first draft. In
this stage you might add, replace, or remove entire paragraphs from the first draft. You
might rearrange paragraphs/ideas. You want to make sure that your ideas are coming
through clearly, that the logical structure of the essay flows well, that your transition
sentences work well, etc. Creating this second draft should take you 2-3 hours.
Week #3: Editing
In week three you will edit the second draft of the essay. There are two stages in week
Stage One: Edit the second draft primarily for transitions/signposts, main ideas,
grammar, and citations/references. At this stage you want to make sure that your
sources are properly documented and formatted appropriately, that your sentences
makes sense, and that your paragraphs flow from one to the next. This should take you
2-3 hours, depending.
Note: Try to do this at least three days after you complete the second draft.
Creating space between the times you work on the essay allows you to return to
it with fresh eyes.
Stage Two: The day before submitting the essay, do a final check for grammar, spelling,
punctuation, citation formatting, etc. If necessary, check online for rules on using
commas, semi-colons, etc.
Then submit your essay with total confidence that you’ve done your best work!
This information is based on student experiences, assisting students, and common knowledge.
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