It can be helpful for anybody who needs to write at university to
think about the writing process. If you find writing essays difficult,
or you have had disappointing grades, or even if you are doing well,
but want to do even better, then thinking about the various stages in
successfully completing a written assignment can help you achieve your
goals. This is because, as you come to better understand your own
writing process, you can see which areas can be improved. This Learning
Object hopes to help you reflect on your own writing process and will
suggest sources of help if problems are discovered along the way.
Before starting the activities, you can obtain an overview of how best to use this Learning Object, using a Screencast (with audio), by following this link Overview
· To encourage you to think about your writing process, with a view
to improving it
· To suggest techniques you can use at the prewriting stage: to better access, record and organise your own ideas on a topic
· To help you benefit from peer and tutor feedback that you receive on your work
· To encourage more efficient proof-reading of work before submission
To help you in analysing the process you usually use to write
essays, it might be helpful for you to try to answer some questions.
Irene Clark (2006) in her book "Writing The Successful Thesis And
Dissertation: Entering The Conversation" asks the following questions:
"How much do you plan ahead before you begin to write? When you write, do you revise immediately, piece by piece before you write additional text? Do you save revision until all the text in a particular section has been written? Do you revise at all? What sort of revision do you do? What aspects of writing do you find most difficult? Generating ideas? Developing a main idea or position? Doing research? Beginning the paper? Organizing the paper? Providing transitions? Are you happy with your writing process? Do you find it effective? Is there some aspect of it you would like to change?"
Firstly, think about your answers to the questions above, then we suggest you write your answers in the box below. You can write single word answers or phrases or sentences. You will be the audience (target reader), so you do not need to worry about mistakes with spelling or grammar.
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but we hope that this Learning Object will help you by describing to you a typical process used by many successful writers. Do not worry if you do things in a different order; the most important thing is to find a process that works for you. Follow this link to see a diagram that shows the different stages that you can go through when writing an assignment at university The Writing Process. Then follow this link, to check you have understood what each stage consists of Essay Stages and follow this link An Essay Production Process to check you can remember the order suggested. For this last activity, do you agree that this is the best order? Perhaps you might suggest a different order, if so, what would you change and why?
Now, thinking about the prewriting and planning stages of writing an essay: what techniques do you currently use to generate and organise ideas? Is this a stage that you find easy or difficult? What do you understand by the terms: mindmapping, freewriting and clustering? Write your answers in the box below.
According to some writers, the prewriting stage should account for 70% of the writing time (Murray 1982). It is hoped that this Learning Object will help you by suggesting techniques you can use at these prewriting and planning stages. Follow this link to read about ways you can collect your ideas and move on to organise them, before you begin your first draft. It also explains the meaning of the words: mindmapping, freewriting and clustering Prewriting and Planning You can also follow this link Online Freewriting Tool if you want to practise freewriting online.
Thinking now about the feedback you receive on your first draft, how much do you revise your work in light of comments from other students and your tutor? It is a good idea to form a study group and read each other's first drafts and make comments on what you read. What attitude should you have when doing this? Can you think of any things you should or shouldn't do? What will you be looking for in the introduction? In the main body? In the conclusion? Overall? Write your answers in the box below.
Follow this link Peer
and Questions to read some advice about what
you should be looking for when you do this and what the attitude to the
work you are reading should be.
You want to transform feedback into 'feed-forward' by using the guidance you receive through discussion with your lecturers and teachers in the Language and Learning unit. Follow this link Making Sense of Feedback for some advice about what makes the difference between a low and high grade.
Although the most important aspect of your work is its content and structure, it is also important to pay attention to the surface features of your work. Follow this link The Elements of an Essay to view a visual representaion of the different elements of an essay. Clearly, it is desirable to try to ensure that the surface features of your essay are as accurate as possible in terms of: grammar, vocabulary selection, spelling and punctuation. In the activities that follow you will practise looking for mistakes and correcting them.
Put a tick next to the sentences below that you think are correct. Alternatively, put a cross if you think there is a mistake in the sentence.
1.) In view of the above statement, it is pertinent to mention here that trade is basically necessity for every country.
2.) As we know that trade liberalisation refers to dismantling of tariff and non-tariff barriers.
3.) Through my point of view, the “American dream” is a hard-working person who earns much money, has a beautiful house, a happy, healthy family and gains respect from his friends.
4.) Studies have shown that a manager’s culture strongly influences his/her attitude and behaviour (Mason and Spich,1987).
5.) In this essay, I will describe the Internet’s power, advantages and disadvantages in relation to the global marketplace.
6.) For example, through information obtained from the internet, companies can know about their competitors directly.
7.) Beyond the question what is eaten, driven in all over the world, ıt would also seem that we are moving toward a single worldview.
8.) It is our duty as individuals to ensure that food is not wasted and that donations are always made to those in need.
9.) The government should really get a closer look at this situation.
10.) Nowadays, there is a well developed financial system, well developed information and a well city planning over the world.
11.) Firstly, I will demonstrate the drastic situation of famine and hunger in the world and will provide the supporting evidence how people are suffering starvation.
12.) Firstly, there is another problem that causing in the world, which is climate change.
The following sentences contain no errors and do not require any
correction: 4, 5, 6 and 8.
The other sentences (numbers 1, 2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11 and 12) all have errors and require correction.
Write corrected versions of the sentences above that contained mistakes in the text entry box, then check your answers against the suggested corrections.
The suggested corrections for these sentences are given below:
1.) In view of the above statement, it is pertinent to mention here that trade is basically a necessity for every country.
2.) As we know trade liberalisation refers to the dismantling of tariff and non-tariff barriers.
3.) In my point of view, the “American dream” is a hard-working person who earns a lot of money, has a beautiful house, a happy, healthy family and gains respect from his friends.
7.) Beyond the question of what is eaten and driven all over the world, ıt would also seem that we are moving toward a single worldview.
9.) The government should really take a closer look at this situation.
10.) Nowadays, there is a well developed financial system, well developed information and well planned cities all over the world.
11.) Firstly, I will describe the drastic situation of famine and hunger in the world and will provide the supporting evidence of how people are suffering starvation.
12.) Firstly, there is another problem that is being caused in the world, which is climate change.
Hopefully, this Learning Object will have encouraged you to reflect
on your own writing process and think about any stages in that process
that could be improved. It has made the point that the process of
prewriting is very important and has suggested techniques you can use
to generate ideas (such as freewriting and mindmapping)
list and cluster these ideas before you move on to
writing your thesis statement and your plan.
It has suggested that forming a study group with fellow students to evaluate each other's essays and suggest revisions to content and structure can be very helpful. At the earliest stages, you will need to find and narrow your topic (if you have not been given a specific title). If you do, try to find an area you care passionately about, because if it bores you, it will definitely bore your reader. You will then need to gather ideas and information, identify your purpose in writing (whether this is to explain or to persuade, for example) and to think about your audience (usually your lecturer). Finally, you need to put your ideas in the most logical sequence. Proof-reading for minor mistakes with grammar, vocabulary, spelling and punctuation is also an important step, as it is usually the essays with the highest degree of accuracy that will be rewarded with the highest marks.
For more help and advice with writing different genres in academia (reports, case studies, research proposals etc.) follow this link Academic Writing: Genres If you are writing a discursive essay and need more help with writing a thesis statement, follow this link Uni Learning Thesis Point.
Remember the best way to use feedback is for it to become 'feed-forward'; that is, for it to motivate and guide you to do better in your next assigned piece of writing. Good luck with your assignments!
Clark, I. (2006) . "Writing the Successful Thesis and Dissertation: Entering the Conversation" New Jersey: Prentice Hall PTR
Coffin, C. et al. (2003) . "Teaching Academic Writing" London: Routledge
Cottrell, S. (1999) . "The Study Skills Handbook" Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan
Murray, D. H. (1982) . "Learning by Teaching" Montclair, NJ: Boynton/Cook
Rae, A..and Cochrane D. "Listening to students: How to make written assessment feedback useful" in Active Learning in Higher Education 2008; 9; 217
© William Tweddle, Queen Mary, University of London, 2010, image generated online by the author using Wordle.com