Thoughts From a Writing Specialist: Prewriting
Wednesday, September 30, 2009 Expert Advice
by Brian Timmerman, Senior Writing Specialist
For me, writing is really all about prep work. In fact, I’m guessing that I’ve spent more time preparing to write than I actually have writing. Have a look at my prewriting rituals below and give ‘em a shot. I think they’ll save you some time and anguish.
Take Careful Notes
While reading, make sure that you’re taking copious notes on what interests you. I find it helpful to group these notes by subject as well. This way, I’ll be able to physically see the connections I’m making between the materials I’ve read.
I’d also suggest that you provide a citation (author, year, page number) for every note that you take. This way, returning to the text won’t entirely interrupt the writing process.
Next, you’ll want to synthesize all the literature you’ve read. If you grouped your notes together, this should be easy. What does each individual grouping suggest? Write down a sentence for each. You’ll then want to synthesize again. What is the collective suggestion once you’ve combined all the grouped sentences? Remember too that you don’t have to include everything you’ve learned during this process. There’s nothing wrong with abandoning some of your reading if you find that it doesn’t contribute to a collective whole.
Construct a Thesis
Once you have a good idea of what the literature says (you should have discovered this during the synthesis process), you should be able to construct a thesis, essentially an argument that’s grounded in literature.
Organize the Paper
You’re almost there. To ensure that you’ll have a tightly focused paper, go ahead and outline it before you begin writing it. Start with the thesis in the first paragraph (Point A), the conclusion (Point B) in the last, and then organize your grouped notes to most logically get from Point A to Point B.