Step 1 is to understand the assignment.
• One of the biggest mistakes students make is not understanding assignment requirements. Each requirement will show you how to write your essay and what to write about.
• For example, a 5-page essay should be written on a relatively narrow topic. You would need to select a broader topic for a 100-page thesis.
• Most instructors will give you an option to select an essay prompt, or a question to write about. Pay attention to the VERBS in the prompt. For example, if your instructor asks you to compare and contrast, you need to discuss similarities and differences.
Step 2 is to brainstorm and select your topic.
• If you are not sure exactly what you want to write about, take time to brainstorm. Brainstorming is when you come up with words and phrases related to the topic or writing assignment that might give you ideas of what to write.
Step 3 is to perform preliminary research.
• A narrow, focused thesis statement is the starting point for your preliminary research. At this point, do not worry about saving specific articles and websites. The idea is to learn more about your topic in general.
Step 4 is to adjust your topic if necessary, and then perform focused research using a variety of sources.
• Once you have performed basic research, you may want to adjust your thesis statement. It is natural to change your mind and get new ideas as you read and learn more about your topic!
• After you have decided on a thesis statement, you can perform more focused research. The goal of this research is to provide your readers with background on your topic and give supporting evidence that will defend your thesis statement.
• It is a good idea to do research with a variety of sources depending on your topic. Potential sources include books, journal articles, newspapers, and websites. If you are writing on a literary topic, for example, you might use more books. Writing on a scientific topic that requires current information might require more journals articles and websites.
Step 5 is to write a first draft.
• Now that you have brainstormed, chosen a topic, and performed research, it is time to write your first draft!
• It is a good idea to write your basic ideas, arguments, and supporting evidence in outline form before writing in complete sentences. This will make it easier to examine the flow of your ideas and reposition facts and sources where they make the most sense.
Step 6 is to revise, format, and submit your final essay.
• The final step is to revise, format, and submit your essay. Just because you have written a first draft that answers the assignment question and meets the word or page number limit does not mean that you have achieved your best writing!
• To revise your paper, make sure all your arguments make sense. Also check your grammar, spelling, and punctuation for correctness. Go through your sources and make sure that every quote or paraphrase has a correct in-text citation and full citation in a works cited page.