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Planning a Writing Assignment

Good essays, research papers, and articles require planning and organizing. They are not dashed off in a burst of inspiration the night before the paper is due. Whenever a person boasts that they created a first-rate paper in an hour or so, you can almost guarantee that it is not a very good paper. Writing is a process that takes time and work. The best writers are not born with their gift, they learn by practicing how to incorporate their ideas into a paper. They plan each step to ensure the finished document conveys their intent.

Writing is altogether a very flexible process. No one way can guarantee success for any one person. Some writers establish their purpose and create a plan to achieve it. Others start writing and discover their final direction as they write. The writer is likely to jump back and forth as information is found that supports their topic. Partway through the essay, a writer may think of a new point or details may be discovered that support the key idea.

There are, however, several stages in writing that slowly unfold as the document is prepared. Proceeding through each stage will ensure that you include a logical flow in your paper. If you have no set plan, or if you hit a snag somewhere, recognizing the stages and returning to them will get you back on track. You can combine or rearrange them as needed to fit your particular subject matter.

Understanding the Purpose
Understanding the purpose for writing is crucial to the creation of your document. You will probably have a list of all the criteria required for your particular assignment. Make sure you understand exactly what is on the list. Leaving off one of the criteria will result in negative feedback even if everything else is perfect. Following directions is essential to earning the highest return on your efforts. If you have questions, ask them at the beginning. Don’t go off on the wrong tangent and have to redo your work at a later time. Then, once you understand the assignment, start working on your document as soon as you can. Don’t wait until the last day. Ask yourself what the assignment allows you to accomplish and assign a topic. What can you learn? What do you already know?

Zeroing in on a Topic
Once you have your topic, try to narrow it down to a manageable essay. It must be narrow enough to allow you to plan it properly within any length limitations. Hopefully, your topic will be one that is familiar to you so that it will be easier to work on. If the topic is unfamiliar or foreign, ask yourself what you can benefit from it. Either way, select a topic that lets you draw upon your unique experiences and insights and offer a fresh perspective to your reader.

Gathering Information
Gathering information on your chosen topic can seem daunting to first time writers. There are, however, many ways to accumulate enough material to enable you to write your document. This information supports your thesis and leads to your conclusion. It can include whatever is necessary so as not to confuse the reader. The more support information you can gather, the more effective your first draft will be. You can mix and match the material in the body of your document and lead the reader to your ending statements. Time spent gathering this information is never wasted.

Organizing the Information
Organizing the information you have gathered highlights your ideas and helps communicate your message. It is a matter of following a logical pathway by placing each idea in its proper order. If you have used note cards, you can simply lay them out on a table or desk and arrange them as needed. If you used a computer, you can cut and paste in whatever order you want. It is important that you follow an orderly plan throughout the document so that the reader can follow your line of thinking.

Developing a Thesis Statement
Developing your thesis statement presents the main idea of the piece you are writing. It is best to keep the statement contained in one sentence. It not only helps the reader understand what you are trying to say, but it also helps you stay on topic. Using words from your topic, convert it to a question. In answering the question, you have created a thesis statement which is derived from the information you unearthed while doing your research.

Writing the First Draft
You are now ready to write your first draft. This part should go rather quickly if you have completed the previous steps. Don’t worry whether or not it makes sense or contains incorrect grammar at this point. It is only the first writing. Just get all the facts and ideas down so that you will have a document to proofread later on. Be sure to include all the supporting information you have collected. If necessary, skip the introduction and work on the main body of the paper. The introduction and conclusion can be written later. 

Revising and editing your paper are the next steps that will turn it into a document you can be proud to submit.