Sussex Centre for Language Studies

About us
Writing a Draft
Stage 3 Part 1

Welcome to Stage 3 Part 1 of the Academic Writing Guide.
Writing a Draft

You can work through the pages in this Stage at your own pace, taking a break whenever you need to. It is not a good idea to try and complete a whole Stage in one go, however, so always follow the advice to Take A Break half way through. In this stage of the AWG you will be working towards the following aims and objectives:

1) To complete a first draft of your essay, making sure you incorporate lessons learned from previous stages in the Academic Writing Guide about good academic practice, research and writing style

2) To reflect on your learning, to support the continued development of your academic skills

1) To show that you have made efforts to:

• produce a clear and logical argument in your essay that fits the context of the essay question and allows your voice to be heard

• support your argument(s) with appropriate academic sources

• present your ideas and arguments in a clear, accurate, well-structured and concise style that suits the essay conventions of your discipline

• ensure that your in-text citations and bibliographic entries are accurately written using your School's chosen referencing system

2) To learn how to interpret a Turnitin report and consider how you might need to act on the information it contains about your essay.

3) To reflect on what you have learned about academic writing from this stage of the Guide.

1) Produce a draft essay of up to 1,500 words. Write as close to 1,500 words as possible.

2) Write a short reflection on what you have learned about academic writing from completing this stage of the guide, how you have acted on feedback received at previous stages in the writing process, and what specific feedback you would like to receive from your tutor on your draft essay.

3) Put your draft essay through the Turnitin for Students site to receive an Originality Report/Similarity Index, which should then be submitted together with your draft essay.

N.B. As with previous Stages you will be given activities and quizzes to help you learn and practice the outcomes. At 3 points you will be asked to complete an assessed task. Make sure you open a Word document and record your answers to these assessed tasks onto it and save it/them to your computer.

The First Draft

The first draft of your essay is informed by the detailed sentence outline and argument you have already prepared. If you keep to these, the first draft should be relatively quick to write.
Keep your writing style simple. If other ideas crop up while you’re writing make notes in a separate document and insert them later. You are writing for someone who is familiar with the subject and interested in what you have to say. Make your writing clear, knowledgeable, persuasive and enjoyable.
Provide your reader with signposts. If your plan is detailed, you have already decided what information is going where. Concentrate on making sure each paragraph contains an idea that elaborates a different aspect of your argument. Start each paragraph with a topic sentence that sums up what you’re going to argue. As you write, include section headings as signposts. You can take them out later, but they help keep you focussed.
The most important point to remember about this stage of the process is that it is the first draft! Try to resist revising and editing at this point. It is an unnecessary distraction and may result in you losing the structure and flow of your writing. Once you have got the first draft down on paper you will be in a better position to identify what needs to be changed, developed and improved.

Skills hub logo
Open this link to the University of Sussex Skills Hub to find out more about drafting.
Look at the tips in the boxes on the right-hand side of the page and decide if one or more of them is important to bear in mind when drafting your essay.
You will write a least one draft and may edit it several times before you are satisfied that it is ready for submission.

Sue: So what was it like drafting an essay for the first time?
James: It was unusual because like the plans I’d never really drafted before. But trying to constantly remind myself not to make it perfect; to give myself that sort of okay-that-it's-not-okay. So I'm writing and I think ‘oh that sentence is a bit clunky, but it's fine just get on with it, just keep going’ you know and it takes a lot of self-control to finish an essay and submit it thinking there was loads that I’m not happy with. But forcing yourself to think of it as a whole before you start to think of the nuances, I think was really important for me.
Sue: Yes. So you don't start editing work until the whole thing is on the page.
James: Yeah.
Sue: Good. If you start editing too soon, and you have more experience of this now, what happens?
James: I get lost. I find myself doing this sometimes now and I really have to stop myself, but I just get all muddled. Yeah, I start trying to piece things together and then you know I'm 50 words from the word count and I'm thinking I’ve got no idea where this essay has gone – there's no thread through this’! And I just, and I almost have to start again! Yeah and it's really frustrating when that happens because you think you're putting lots of effort in, but you just get yourself muddled.
Sue: Yeah. So it's actually that holding back, isn't it, from the trying to polish before the ideas are fully developed?
James: Yes.
First draft
Watch the interview with James, one of our former Foundation Year students, who worked through the AWG and is reflecting on the fact that he had never planned an essay in any detail before.
As you listen, notice the benefit he outlines of keeping an overview of the essay in mind at first draft stage.
Access the pdf transcript here.
James Bartoli-Edwards
Now studying BA (Hons) Philosophy, Politics and Economics at University of Sussex
Paragraphing and Topic Sentences

You’ve looked at ways of making sure you have a clear line of argument in your essay and that your introduction and conclusion are connected. Now that you are ready to start writing the first draft of your essay you need to think about the sequence of ideas in the main body and how they fit together to create a coherent and cohesive essay. Paragraphs are the building blocks of your essay and effective paragraphing is a key skill in academic writing. Think of them as bite-sized chunks into which you break your argument to help your reader. Paragraphs can be structured in many different ways and there are no hard and fast rules about how to do this. What matters is that you convey your idea clearly to your reader. Understanding some of the features of a good paragraph can provide you with a good foundation, however.

An essay paragraph often has four main elements that can mirror the overall essay structure: the topic sentence and development of the point; supporting evidence or quotations; analysis and explanation of the evidence; and a conclusion. The idea in the topic sentence is the controlling idea, and everything else in the paragraph will relate to it, in the same way that the thesis statement is the controlling idea in the essay, and every paragraph relates to it.

Using the acronym PEEL can a useful way to prompt yourself to include these elements, which in turn can help keep your paragraphs focussed on your argument.


• Introduce the main point/idea of this paragraph
• make an assertion that’s part of your larger claim
• Use a topic sentence to help your reader know what they are about to read


• Support your point with evidence and examples
• Don’t make any unsubstantiated claims


• Explain how the evidence you have provided supports the point you are making and shows the reader that it is a plausible one
• Don’t just add a quote or cite a source without an explanation as your reader may interpret it differently than you intended, and your point won’t be evidenced in the way you intended


• Make a link to your argument and show how this point and the supporting evidence you have provided help establish your argument. You don’t need to say ‘this idea is important to my claim because…’ but your reader needs to gain a sense of how the paragraph fits with your overall argument
• Make links across paragraphs to establish your line of argument

Look at the paragraph below on the left and the commentary on the right. The paragraph is from a book chapter entitled ‘Our Eugenics Past’ and examines the history of eugenics in order to contextualise contemporary debates about reproductive technologies.

Daar, J. (2017) ‘Our Eugenics Past.’ In The New Eugenics: Selective Breeding in an Era of Reproductive Technologies, pp. 28-53. NEW HAVEN; LONDON: Yale University Press. Retrieved August 22, 2020, from
Should a despised and discredited movement that gained momentum a century ago and faltered after World War II play any role in the discussion of technologies invented long after historians declared the movement “a permanent stain on the national record”? (Lombardo, 2010). While advocacy abounds urging burial and non-resurrection of the shameful period in U.S. history known as the American eugenics movement (circa 1890s to 1940s), equally compelling arguments suggest that only through contemporary reflection on the factors that enabled the movement’s flourishing will we be prepared to guard against history repeating itself (Wilkinson and Gerrard, 2013). The notion of a 1900s-style eugenics revival is not presented as a concern in any literal sense; few worry that modern-day Americans would respond favorably to scientific assertions about improving the human condition by organizing a web of state- sponsored programs that assess, suppress, deprive, and encourage re-production according to one’s expressed and inherited characteristics. The goal of revisiting our eugenics past is to plumb this half-century period for the motivations, patterns, strategies, and language that drew in so many, so that we might recognize our current selves in the ghosts of our past.   Introduces the main idea in the paragraph to signal the purpose to the reader (inviting the reader to consider why we might want to revisit a painful past)

Presents evidence to support her view (that it is essential that we do reflect on the past)

Explains the idea in more detail
(summarising the divided views on the topic)

Comments on this evidence, showing how it links to the main idea (the question she posed at the start)

Concludes the paragraph (by stating that reflecting will help us see that we are still capable of similar thinking. The reader will anticipate how this applies to current debates about reproductive technology)

There are 3 transitional devices in the paragraph: while; equally; The notion

Lombardo, P. A. (2010) Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck v. Bell.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Wilkinson, S. and Gerrard, E. (2013) ‘Eugenics and the Ethics of Selective Reproductions’. Staffordshire: Keele University. pp5-8. Available at: (Accessed 1.8.2020)

Simple task icon
Follow the 3 links below and complete the activities on each page that offer practice in three of the features of a well-written paragraph (with answers at the bottom of each page)

Topic sentences Relevance of ideas Order of ideas

Idea logo
One way of creating coherence in your essay is to use words and phrases that show your reader not only how the various ideas in your essay fit together, but also make it clear when you are moving from one idea to the next. Writers use transitional devices within paragraphs or between paragraphs so that ideas flow smoothly between sentences and between paragraphs. A transitional device is like a bridge between parts of your paper. Open this link to see a list of transitional devices that you could use in your own essay.

Idea logo
Transitional devices, or referring words or phrases, can help link your paragraphs together, making it easier for your reader to follow your line of argument. Open this link to the Manchester Academic Phrasebank to find academic phrases which signal transition that you can use in your own essay.

Academic Style and Academic Voice

A writer's voice - or argument - is evident in the way they introduce and interpret the evidence that supports their points. Paraphrased material shouldn’t dominate the paragraph. If a writer overuses their sources it may read as a string of quotes, without a ‘voice’ to tie them together or turn them into an argument. Instead, it becomes a description of what other people have said. When incorporating the ideas and/or words of others into your writing you must incorporate those ideas and words into your argument. Rather than describing, you need to interpret and give an indication of why others’ words or ideas are significant to your argument (the ‘evaluation’ part to PEEL).

Adapted from: Uni Learning (2000) University of Wollongong.

pencil icon
Click on this Author Voice document and print it if necessary. Read the two original paragraphs in the left-hand column. Decide:

• is it easy to identify the author’s voice?
• is the writer’s position clear?
• is the text cohesive?
• is it easy to understand the relationship between the ideas?
• are the ideas linked to show the reader why the sources are relevant?

Read the two revised paragraphs in the right-hand column and notice the evidence of author voice or opinion in red. Think about how each of the revised paragraphs presents the content material in a smoother, more cohesive way. Rather than focusing on the sources, what do they focus on instead?

Stop and Reflect logo
Stop and reflect
Reflect on what you have learned so far in this Stage. How will what you have learned support your continued essay writing development? Are there any skills you have identified at this stage that you can do well or need to improve on? Remember to consider the answers to these questions when writing assessment 3 (reflection) later on in this Stage.

Two Features of Academic Writing to Enhance Author Voice

1. Reporting verbs
As you have seen a writer's academic voice, or argument, is made evident in the way they introduce and interpret the evidence that supports their points. One way you can enhance your voice is by selecting the verbs you use to introduce your sources with care. ‘Reporting’ verbs differ in terms of their strength. For example, introducing your source by saying ‘author x suggests that…' is much weaker and more tentative than if you say ‘author x argues that…' The two verbs convey a very different picture of how your chosen author sees his/her materials and research.

Simple task icon
Reporting verbs are a way for you to show your attitude towards the source of information you are citing. Making such an assessment of your sources is a vital academic skill which not only helps you develop your author ‘voice,’ but also develops your critical thinking skills.
Open this pdf and look at the range of often-used reporting verbs that you can use to introduce your sources in your own essay.
Think about your sources you have chosen for your own essay. How will you introduce them?

• With a verb that does not indicate any value judgement on your part?
• With a verb that shows you have an inclination to believe something but still wish to be hesitant?
• With a verb that shows you have strong arguments to put forward and are absolutely sure of your ground?

Idea logo
Access the Manchester Academic Phrasebank for suggestions as to how to introduce the work of others. Scroll down to find sections on:

• Reference to another writer’s ideas or position (author as subject)
• Some ways of introducing quotations

2. Cautious or mitigating language (hedging)
A second way to enhance your voice in your academic writing is to use hedging. Hedging is a type of language use which 'protects' your claims. Using language with a suitable amount of caution can protect your claims from being easily dismissed. It also helps to indicate the level of certainty you have in relation to your supporting evidence.

Simple task icon
Think about this statement, and the questions that follow:
Extensive reading helps students to improve their vocabulary.
• Do you think this is always true?
• Do you think age, gender, learning background, etc. influence students’ acquisition of vocabulary?
• How big a statistical sample would you need to be able to reliably draw this conclusion?
• How easy do you think it is to accurately establish the link between reading and vocabulary?
• Can you think of other factors that might influence students’ vocabulary?

Open this link and read the Text Comparison section.

• How many differences do you see between the first and the second text?
• What is the function/effect/purpose of each difference?
• Does the language used reflect some of the answers that you gave above?

Idea logo
Using the same link above as look at the list of phrases that can help you to ‘hedge’ your claims, and decide if it would be useful to download the list to your own computer. This Manchester Academic Phrasebank also has a good set of resources to help you introduce cautious language into your writing.

Drafting and Editing

Drafting and editing are two different activities, and it is helpful to keep them separate. For your AD assessed essay you will write at least one draft, and then revise and edit it. Academic writers often produce very many drafts, revising and editing each one as they proceed.

Drafting Stage 1

When you write your first draft, finding a way to get your ideas onto paper in an order that is logical to both you and your reader can be quite difficult, so it’s important not to make the process more difficult by worrying about finding the right word or worrying about the small details. It can be better to leave a gap, which you can fill in later, instead of getting stuck. Be sure to remind yourself to go back and fill in the gap later, perhaps by putting a note in square brackets [find the word] or highlighting the section.

Simple task icon
Work closely from the sentence outline you submitted in Stage 2 and use the structure to write a draft of your essay. Your draft will allow you to test whether your plan works in practice. Don't rush the draft or allow it to become untidy and unfocused. This simply makes more work for you later. Make sure the reader knows why you are including pieces of information.
Don't be afraid to leave something out if it doesn't fit. Make sure everything you write is accurate and relevant to the question.

Sue: You wrote your first draft, Chloé, working/sort of building on the work that you'd done with your annotated bibliography and your mind map; submitted it and got tutor feedback on that draft, and from there went on to write your final essay. Talk to me a bit about the process of drafting, feedback, and then revising.
Chloé: Drafting the essay was really hard because it was a 2000-word essay so it seemed like a lot. And when I saw my annotated bibliography, my mind map, I just thought I would never get to the 2000 words. I did, then I went over it, so I had to rework it, and in the end I thought ‘it's just a draft so they would not mind having a bit more words’. So that's why the feedback was really helpful because they told me where I could potentially delete some of the sentences, get rid of them and not work on it because it's not really important, and then start focussing on my thesis statement.
Sue: So when you completed your draft did you feel that that was a final product in a sense?
Chloé: I felt like it was, but it also felt like it was missing a lot of things, that I didn't talk about everything because I already went over the limit of the words so I just thought I would stop there. The fact that I got all the feedback helped me to delete some of the parts and just focus on my main argument and develop it and work more on it, so my final draft felt much better, better to read, easier to read than my first draft.
Sue: So about readability. About taking your reader into account and about helping your reader follow that argument all the way through. Is that the kind of feedback you got?
Chloé: I got this feedback, and I also got about my thesis statement – because it wasn't really clear where I was going, so I needed to make that clear. And when I read over it on my draft and on my final essay I could see the differences; how the stage 3 essay was a bit messy because you kept telling us ‘it's just a draft, don't stress too much about it’ and the fact that you told me ‘you need to make your thesis statement clear’ and you would give me ideas of how to do it, or help/where I could get help. I immediately tried to do all of that and at the end when I came up with a thesis statement it helped me to develop my essay and actually delete a lot of things and develop more on some of the arguments.
Sue: So actually even though you'd already gone through quite a long stage of the preparation process that thesis statement still benefited from being tightened up a little bit more.
Chloé: Definitely.
First draft and feedback
Watch the interview with Chloé, one of our former Foundation Year students, who worked through the AWG and is reflecting on the way the feedback she received on her draft helped her improve it.
Access the pdf transcript here.
Chloé Vanrapenbusch
Now studying BA English Language and Linguistics at University of Sussex

Drafting Stage 2

Idea logo
When the draft is complete put it to one side. Leave the assignment for one or two days and then read it through. Approach this stage with a critical mind – think of yourself as the first person to read the assignment. Ask yourself whether the assignment:
• follows a logical structure
• offers a clear and fully developed understanding of the issues
• contains only relevant information
• is properly cited and fully referenced

These questions can help you:

1. Have I answered the question?
2. Have I done what I said I would do in the introduction?
3. Is the logical progression of the argument clear for the reader?
4. Is there a good balance between factual detail and analysis?
5. Are my arguments supported by evidence?
6. Are there any errors of grammar and spelling?
7. Is the writing style formal?
8. Has anything important been left out?
9. Does the Conclusion show how I have answered the question?
10. Have I filled in any gaps that I left?
11. Have I included all the references I need (and not left any unattributed)?

Skills hub logo
Open this link to the University of Sussex Skills Hub. Scroll down the page to read about the second stage of the drafting process and use it as a basis to make any necessary changes to your own draft. Remember, you can always go back to your draft and add or remove information depending on your own reflections or based on any feedback you receive.

Stop and Reflect logo
Stop and reflect
Reflect on what you have learned so far in this Stage. How will what you have learned support your continued essay writing development? Are there any skills you have identified at this stage that you can do well or need to improve on? Remember to consider the answers to these questions when writing assessment 3 (reflection) later on in this Stage.

Idea logo
Study Tip
Save each draft separately, so that if you make changes you are unhappy with you can return to an earlier draft and start again.

Using the Turnitin Report to Improve Your Work

Turnitin is the name of the software used at the University of Sussex for providing marks and feedback and checking for originality on text-based assessments. In Stage 2, Part 2 of the AWG you looked at the Turnitin Draft Check site in Canvas and submitted your Stage 2 assessment to the site to see what useful information the Similarity Report might give you.

Idea logo
You need to use the Turnitin Draft Check site again now and submit the draft of your essay as part of the Stage 3 assessments. When you have submitted your draft to the Turnitin Draft Check site (on your Canvas dashboard) and waited for the Similarity Report to be generated download and save the report to your computer so that you can submit both the report and the essay together. Your AD tutor will show you how to do this in your AD seminar.
N.B. It can take anywhere from a few seconds to a whole day for your similarity report to be generated, depending on how busy the Turnitin site is. You need to plan ahead, so that you don't miss the deadline for submitting your assessed work.
You can find out more about submitting work to Turnitin and Canvas on the Student Hub.

pencil icon
This is the first of three assessed tasks for this stage of the AWG.
Open a word document and write a draft essay of up to 1,500 words (write as close to the upper word limit as possible) for the title that your AD tutor has given you.

Before you submit use this checklist to make sure you have presented your essay in an appropriate format:

• 12-point font size
• Clear font (e.g. Arial, Calibri)
• Correct spacing (i.e. 1.5 or double-spaced)
• Margins of 25 mm at top and bottom, 40 mm on left
• Page numbers (bottom right-hand corner) • Spelling and grammar check
• A full list of references on a separate page
• Well-balanced paragraphs (not too short/long, approximately 3 per page

Once you have finished your draft, save it to your computer.

All Sussex students have 1 Terabyte (1TB) of secure file storage with OneDrive. Find out How to install OneDrive on your computer or device here.

Help icon
If you need any help with any aspect of the Academic Writing Guide, or have any questions about this assessment, call in to one of the voluntary drop-in sessions. You can find information about the drop-ins on your Canvas site.
An Academic Development tutor will be able to offer you one-to-one support and advice (you can see the drop-in sessions in your timetable).

Assessment 2 (Reflecting on Stage 3)
pencil icon
This is the second of three assessed tasks for this Stage.
Reflecting is an important feature of the AD module and it will help you to understand more about your own strengths and how you can develop your academic skills. Use some of the following prompts to help you write a paragraph of about 100 words that reflects on your learning in this Stage of the AWG.

• Feedback that I received at earlier stages in the writing process includes... and I have actioned it in my draft in the following ways...

• Specific feedback I would like to receive on my draft essay is... because...

You can write your reflective paragraph at the end of your draft essay.
Assessment 3 (Turnitin report)
pencil icon
This is the third (and final) assessed task for this Stage.
Having a copy of the similarity report will help you see if you need to re-work any part of your draft before you submit it. For instance, you may see that Turnitin has highlighted parts of your essay as they are too similar to the original source, which would tell you that you need to paraphrase that part of your essay better. This is an opportunity to correct anything that could be construed as academic misconduct. Completing this task will also help you to become more familiar with the practice Turnitin site and will allow you to have a useful conversation with your AD tutor about interpreting similarity reports in the next, and final, Stage of the AWG.

• Once you have finished your draft essay, upload the document to the Turnitin Draft Check Site on your Canvas Dashboard.

• You will have to revisit this site later to download your Turnitin Similarity Report.

• Save this report to your computer and upload it along with the draft essay to the ‘Assignments’ section of your Canvas site. Your AD tutor will help you interpret the report in the feedback tutorial in semester two.

N.B. It can take anywhere from a few seconds to a whole day for your similarity report to be returned, depending on how busy the Turnitin site is. You need to plan ahead, so that you don't miss the deadline for submitting your assessed work.

Submitting Stage 3 Assessed Tasks

Here is a reminder of all of the assessed tasks that you should already have completed in this stage:
Pencil icon
Assessment 1
Produce a draft essay of up to 1,500 words. Write as close to the upper word limit as possible.

Pencil icon
Assessment 2
Write a short reflection on what you have learned about academic writing from completing this stage of the AWG, and how you can continue developing relevant academic skills to suit your context.
Pencil icon
Assessment 3
Put your draft essay through the Turnitin Draft Check site to receive a Turnitin Similarity Report which should then be submitted together with your draft essay.

Simple task icon
Present your draft essay as a Word document with your name and the essay title at the top of the page. Write your reflection at the end of your draft essay, after the bibliography, and submit the Word document to the Turnitin Draft Check site to create a similarity report. Once you have received the Turnitin similarity report you should submit both the report and the Word document (i.e. 2 files) to the 'Assignments' section on Canvas.

Notes on Submissions
You are responsible for submitting your work on time and will receive a penalty if you do not. Work submitted more than 7 days late will not be marked. This will have an impact on the final mark for your assessed portfolio. Please note that you are required to submit to the published submission point, and we cannot accept submissions by email or by hand.

Help icon
If you need any help with any aspect of the Academic Writing Guide, or have any questions about this assessment, call in to one of the voluntary drop-in sessions. You can find information about the drop-ins on your Canvas site.
An Academic Development tutor will be able to offer you one-to-one support and advice (you can see the drop-in sessions in your timetable).

Coffee mug icon

Now have a BREAK
Well done for submitting all of the assessed tasks for this Stage. Take a break and put your essay away for a while.

Once you have received feedback on your draft essay from your Academic Development tutor complete the activities in the final part of this Stage in order to polish the draft before submitting the completed essay.

What Next?

Back Back Now you have completed the first part of Stage 3
move on to final part Stage 3 Part 2
Next Next

About us