The Writing Process

It is 2 a.m. and you still have not finished your paper that is due at 10:50 a.m. Frustration is mounting. You know what you want to write, but you can't get the information organized. If you're stuck in this situation, you may want to try my method for organizing a paper.

1) You must start at the beginning with the introductory paragraph. WRONG!

If you're like me, the most difficult part of the paper is the introductory paragraph. Why is the introduction so difficult? It is so difficult because a lot of times we have no idea exactly where the paper is going. If and when I start with the introductory paragraph, I reread my paper and realize that my body paragraphs do not match my introductory paragraph. Then, I am stuck rewriting my introduction.

2) Even though you don't start at the beginning, it is a good idea to come up with a thesis statement. A thesis statement will give your paper some direction. The thesis should be a broad (but not too broad) statement as to what your paper is about.

For more information about thesis statements, see the section on Free Association under Choosing a Subject.

Here is my thesis for a paper on TV shows that reflect minorities accurately or in a more positive light than most shows. (Note - All the examples will be in reference to this paper.)

Ex. In examining the TV shows I have watched in recent years, I believe there are some TV shows that do not cater to the commonly held stereotypes of minorities.

3) After coming up with a thesis, make a list of all the ideas that would support the thesis.

Here are some other links that may help you start your paper:

Ex.
Native Americans
The Young Riders
African Americans
The Cosby Show
Working Class
Women
Grace Under Fire
Roseanne

The list will probably not make much sense to anyone but you at this point. The list does not need to be in any particular order, yet.

4) Next, group the similar ideas in separate lists. (Some of the groups will have more terms than others. Some may only have one term/idea, at this point.)

Ex.
Native Americans
The Young Riders

African Americans
The Cosby Show

Working Class
Roseanne
Grace Under Fire

Women
Roseanne
Grace Under Fire

5) Give each list a heading or main idea and form separate lists. Under each of the lists, provide key words about examples that support your point.

Organize your lists like this:

Main Point
supporting details

Main Point
supporting details

Main Point
suporting details

Ex. The lists for my paper on minority TV programs looked something like this:

Native Americans
portrayed as savage
scalping settlers
raping women
The Young Riders
Buck
loyalty to Indian heritage
Kiowa Indians attacking riders
carry white man's word
Buck harassed
friends as defenders

African-Americans
portrayed as poor, uneducated, criminals
The Cosby Show
father-doctor
mother-lawyer
affluent professionals
more shows
today's sitcoms

Blue-collar working class
most focus on professionals
working class dull
Roseanne
struggle to pay bills
show about women
Grace Under Fire
single mother
oil refinery
abusive husband

6) Most of the time, these lists can be developed into paragraphs. Each list can be formed into one or more paragraphs.

7) Decide what order you want to present your material. Put a one by the first list, two by the second, and so on. Also, you should number your supporting details in the way that you want them. For more details on formal outlining see Using Outlines to Organize.

8) Now, you are ready to write. Remember each paragraph should have a main idea or topic sentence (which you should develop from the list heading.) The supporting details are the ideas under each heading. Start with the first list and begin writing a paragraph. Continue this until you have completed all of your body paragraphs.

9) After completing your body paragraphs, go back and read them. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What have I said?
  • What is the main point or argument I have made?
  • What have these paragraphs accomplished?

The answers to these questions should be relatively similar. These answers should also be similar to your thesis statement. (If they are not, revise your thesis so that it will match your body paragraphs.) Using these answers, write your introductory paragraph.

10) What else should be included in the introductory paragraph?

  • Thesis statement
  • Brief overview of the ideas you will address

11) Now, you are ready to write the concluding paragraph. The concluding paragraph should include a restatement of your thesis and a summary of your main points. Remember, this is the last part of your paper. What final impression do you want to leave with the reader?

12) After you've finished writing the paper, it is time to proofread and revise.

13) To see how I incorporated this idea, you can read my paper.

Created by Sheri Baber