Skills Hub


Drafting: Stage 1

Your first draft is informed by the detailed plan 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 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 on track.


Second Year History and Film Studies student

View Milan's student perspective


How do you approach writing your essays?
For preparing my essays, I have to know that I understand the question first. I look at the question, highlight the key words; so what is it asking me? what is the context ? and I highlight keywords, expand on them a little bit with a little mind map, writing the first things that come into my head in terms of word associations, and then, using that mind map, I come up with a structure. Structure is the most important thing, well before getting stuck into the essay.
I have to know where I'm going, where the direction is taking me first, so I make sure I have a good introduction. I tell the reader of the essay what I will be looking at and what questions I hope to have answered by the end of the essay. I then go into the main body of the argument where I split it into three or four major paragraphs, think of my topic sentences to help me get into the flow of the essay, then pick out the right evidence I need to back up my points and end with a good conclusion sentence which should automatically lead into the next body of the argument. You need to make sure that the essay is constantly in flow so that it's easy to read and it's easy to understand the argument. I then come up with a conclusion where you're not regurgitating any of the main points that you've said, you are basically summarising your findings out.

Often when you start to write, other ideas emerge. If your argument is sound you can adapt it.

Keep referring back to your title to check every point is relevant.

You have calculated how many words you need for each section but for draft 1 it’s better to be over the word limit than under because it is easier to cut words out than add more.

Drafting: Stage 2

Read your work out loud before you start making changes. Hearing it will help you identify grammatical problems, over-long sentences, paragraphs that don’t make sense and illogical connections.

Copy editing is time consuming but in your second and later drafts you can refine your style, incorporate ideas that came up as you began to write, re-structure sentences and paragraphs. You may decide to substitute a quote or reference, expand one area and reduce another.

You will inevitably go back to your introduction and conclusion as you draft, but leave major changes to these two sections until you are happy with the body of the essay.

Keep track of changes by saving and renaming your documents Draft 2 and so on, but when you are ready for a final edit, print your assignment out and mark up changes on paper. It is much easier to see mistakes in a print-out than on screen.

Read each new draft aloud and set it aside so you can go back to it with a fresh perspective.

More information on the use of paragraphs (Royal Literary Fund)

Good critical writing shows good critical thinking. Learning and applying critical thinking skills to your writing takes time and practice.

If a paragraph is too long, it probably contains more than one idea and could be divided.

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