Writing the Rough Draft
Writing the rough draft is a transition, one that takes you from the mental aspect of note taking, outlining and prewriting to the act of writing. Your topic is defined with a clarified and supported focus. As you incorporate all the work you have completed up to this point, keep in mind that your rough draft is just that—a rough copy of your paper that you continue to shape, edit and strengthen after it is written.
With that in mind, you can tackle your rough draft. Focus on the content and the flow of information rather than on the little details, such as detailed information and grammar –there is plenty of time to clean up and strengthen your paper between the rough draft and the final version. Your rough draft consists of writing an introduction, supporting body paragraphs and a conclusion. As you write, keep the following tips in mind:
- Maintain a logical development
- Create smooth transitions between paragraphs
- Stay in the active voice
- Vary your sentence structure by using simple, complex and compound sentences
- Avoid 1-2 sentence paragraphs
What you need to get started:
- Your notes
- Your outline
- A clear mind
- Time and room to work
While following your outline is important, putting every little detail and piece of supporting information into your paper in the rough draft is not always necessary, but do what works for you. Your notes and outline together serve as guides for what you intend to include and where you intend to include it.
Writing the introduction of your rough draft
With your outline in sight, start writing the introduction of your rough draft. The ultimate goal of a strong introduction is to get the attention and interest of your readers. In addition, your introduction should do the following:
- Include some background information on your topic
- Make the perspective and point of view clear
- Contain your thesis statement
- Provide a roadmap of how your paper is organized (broadly defined)
- Focus on the main points you make within the body of your paper
Writing the body paragraphs of your rough draft
The body paragraphs of your rough draft are the backbone of your paper; they hold the supporting information that backs up your thesis. Keep the suggestions below in mind as you write each paragraph:
- Start each paragraph with a clear topic sentence that defines what the paragraph is about
- Write smooth transitions between paragraphs using transitional words and phrases
- Avoid writing paragraphs that are too short because they show a lack of development
- Stay in the active voice to keep your paper clear and effective
- Maintain your point of view or perspective to keep the paper focused
- Avoid summarizing information you have already written about –save it for the conclusion
- Support your perspective and interpretations with data in the form of indirect and direct quotations
- Replace your keywords with synonyms periodically to avoid repetitive language
- Cite all sourced material
- Make sure the sentences of each paragraph flow to form a cohesive point
Writing the conclusion of your rough draft
The conclusion of your rough draft is where you tie everything together. Some of the information is similar to that found in the introduction, but it should not be a word-for-word copy. In the conclusion, more emphasis is placed on the results of your research or on broader implications on the subject as a whole. To write the conclusion, follow the below steps:
- Re-read your introduction while paying particular attention to the development of it and supporting body paragraphs
- Set the introduction aside
- Summarize the argument made in your introduction
- Conclude your argument(s)
Ultimately, your conclusion is your last chance to help readers truly understand what your paper is about, so it needs to show the order and importance of your main points and show how you logically conclude the paper.
Remember as you write your rough draft that it is okay to omit the more detailed information to focus on the flow and transition of each paragraph. The details obtained through your research are easily added after the first draft is complete. In fact, through the process of finalizing your paper, you are likely to edit, proofread, make corrections and change things up quite a bit.
Once the basics of your paper are in place, though, applying those finishing touches to strengthen your paper is much easier. With a rough draft completed, you should take a day or two away from the paper to provide clarity and a fresh perspective when you come back to finalizing it.
Now, we’re going to talk about the importance of creating an outline before you begin writing a paper. A number of students skip this step – mostly because they want to get the hard process of writing a rough draft out of the way. Don’t make this mistake. Once you start writing proper essay outlines, you’ll never go back.
There are a variety of reasons why outlines are not only useful, but necessary in writing a great paper. First of all, an outline makes the writing process run smoothly. You already know what you want to say, and how you want to say it. You already know what points you want to hit. You already know where your important quotes go. Plenty of students simply build on their outline and call it a rough draft. Once you take away the numbers and letters, you’re left with a workable paper.
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Outlines also give you an idea of where to go next. Since you know what point you’re building toward, you can aim your writing in that direction. For example, if I want to use Barrack Obama to navigate toward a conversation about medical insurance, I’m going to cater my quotes and information to hit that point. I’m getting from Point A to Point B. This makes my writing clear and direct. I’m not scrambling to make a relevant point.
In addition, for those of you who hate sitting down and writing for three or four hours, creating an outline breaks your writing up into bite-sized chunks. You can sit down, elaborate on a few important points, then take a break. When you come back, you’ll still be in the exact same place you were before. You won’t need to get your mind back in the game. Your writing will already be there. You won’t have to think of somewhere to go next. You’ve already done that. Your writing will be anything but sporadic, and you won’t be able to tell when you took a break or lost your sense of motivation.
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Finally, in the long run, having an outline saves you time. Your paper will be clean, precise, and straightforward. Your professor will appreciate the amount of thought you put into the structure of your essay. And, in addition to everything we just said, you won’t feel the constant pressure to come up with useful ideas. Everything will be done already. You just have to write.
Writing is much easier when you know where you’re going with it.
Before we move on and talk about actually writing your rough draft, we’re going to give you a quick step-by-step guide to creating an outline. If you’ve chosen a topic (or, if you’re using the topic we provided), make an outline. You don’t have to write a rough draft or look for resources. Just see what you can create based on your subject. Chances are, you’ll find that writing an outline helps you formulate and connect ideas and stay on track.
1. Organize your paper in a stepping-stone fashion with both numerals and letters from the alphabet. For example –
1. Hillary Clinton
2. Barrack Obama
3. John McCain
B. Hillary Clinton
1. Health Care
2. Prison Reform
2. Once you’re organized, add a sentence or two for each subsection. What point are you trying to make in this section? What are you trying to say?
3. When you’re formatting your outline, only add a subsection if you have more than one thing to talk about. If you only need to make a singular point, don’t bother with a subsection. For example –
A. Hillary Clinton
1. Prison Reform
B. Barrack Obama
This outline doesn’t make sense. If you want to talk about prison reform and Hillary Clinton, but the whole subject in the same line. There’s no sense in creating a subtopic when it’s actually the main essay topic. It should become –
A. Hillary Clinton and Prison Reform
B. Barrack Obama
It just makes your outline neater and easier to understand.
4. Add to your outline as you come up with more ideas.
5. Add quotes from your research to your outline. If there’s something you want to quote in your paper, it should already be included in the outline. That way, you don’t have to worry about quote placement after you’ve written your essay.
Again, outlines are a huge part of the essay writing process. They help you stay organized and keep your thoughts collected. Getting into the habit of making a proper outline for your essays will ensure that you inch closer and closer to that “A” paper.