Skills Hub

Drafting

Drafting: Stage 1

Follow your plan

Write your first draft using the plan and argument you have already prepared. If you stick to your plan, your first draft should be quite quick to write.

If new ideas occur to you, make notes in a separate document and insert them later, making sure they fit with your plan.

One point per paragraph

Focus on making sure each paragraph contains a point that elaborates on a different aspect of your argument. You will usually make your point in the first sentence of a paragraph. This is often called the topic sentence.

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

Signposting

As you draft, you might like to include section headings to help keep you on track. You can take them out later. Provide your reader with signposts so they can follow your line of argument without the headings.

At the end of a paragraph, indicate how your point leads on to the next one. Alternatively, use the first few words of the new paragraph to show how it links to the previous one.

Milan

Second Year History and Film Studies student

View Milan's student perspective

Transcript

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? 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.

 

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

Check your argument

Now, check what you've written: your argument and how it is structured. Have you answered the question, and all parts of the question? Are the main points clear?

Check that your sections are in the best order for the argument to flow well. You can read through your topic sentences to see this.

You may need to expand one area and reduce another, and substitute quotes or references. But make sure you stick to roughly the right word count.

Keep track of changes by renaming your document as Draft 2. You could put the parts you take out in a ‘spare text' document in case you realise later that you need any of them. 

Introduction and conclusion

Once you are happy with the main body of the essay, check that your introduction and conclusion reflect what you have written.

 

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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