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Improving Your Writing Process

In this Section

Working on your written projects with a writing tutor can be an efficient method of improving effectiveness. Tutors help writers to identify their unique strengths and areas for improvement in both academic tasks or personal projects.

To produce a effective paper, report or lab, writers should

  • understand the recursive nature of the writing process and the value of writing multiple drafts.
  • understand the necessity of analyzing their audience and purpose for each communication project.

Many writers use the writing process as a way to understand course material and/or come to inclusions about a topic. Effective writers plan for multiple drafts by which they refine their content and organization. They also reserve time for thoroughly editing the final draft. Writing is a complex process, but tackling the project stage by stage can reduce the pressure.

The writing process involves several stages:

  • invention,
  • drafting,
  • revising and
  • editing

If your writing process hasn't been effective, consider changing your process. Consider each of the stages below and adjust your own process.

Invention or Discovery
During the invention or discovery stage, the writer first analyzes the reader's needs and the purpose of the task. Writers gather ideas and data by reviewing course notes, texts, outside sources like journals and Web sites, discussions with colleagues or peers, and/or experimental results.

Writing a rough, first draft from a simple outline allows the writer to think on paper. By not worrying about a formal outline or editing errors at the initial drafting stage, writers can focus on making meaning of their notes. (In effect, the writer talks to him/herself.) After drafting the essay or lab, the writer may see that ideas in skimpy paragraphs may need more support. This draft may lead more work on discovery.

Check your structure. Highlight the main ideas or points and use the highlights to test the logic of your organization. For labs and reports, writers can highlight the main points in each section and check that a paragraph supports the main point.

Revision involves making substantial changes to your project's development and organization. Revision does not focus on correcting grammar errors.

Your work must satisfy the expectations of the reader and meet the conventions of the discipline. Be sure to ask the readers of your paper, report or lab to explain their expectations for organization, evidence, and style. To revise a draft, critique your draft from the reader's perspective and adjust your structure and evidence. Writers should also check for organizing features like headings, paragraph topic sentences, adequate evidence, cohesive paragraphs or sections, and transitions.

The editing stage is essential, but does not guarantee success. Every effective written project is correct, but not every correct paper, report or lab is effective. Correct grammar and punctuation are pre-requisites for success. Writing Center tutors will be glad to help you edit your papers, letters, labs and reports.

For long projects, edit first for sentence style:

  • concise language
  • consistent person
  • logical tenses
  • specific vocabulary
  • active verbs
  • appropriate tone
  • sentence variety
  • citation format

Sentence variety (simple, complex and compound) engages the reader but does not sacrifice clarity for sentence variety. Always check that sources cited in-text and in the list of references follow the format preferred by the discipline or reader.

Lastly, edit the final draft for correctness. See the " Common Errors" for some general help. Please visit the Writing Center to work on your particular concerns with a writing tutor.

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