MTM Writing Clinic
MLK 252 
Phone: 713-313-7981
Email: owl@tsu.edu


writing process

Writing a well-constructed essay is a process. It can be broken into five major stages. By completing each stage, you will ensure that your final essay is organized and error free!

  • Stage One: Selecting a Topic
  • Stage Two: Researching a Topic
  • Stage Three: Organizing Your Essay
  • Stage Four: Writing / Composing the Essay
  • Stage Five: Revising & Editing

 

Stage One: Selecting a Topic

When the instructor assigns your topic, take notes! Your instructor will set parameters for your essay such as type of topic, type of essay (descriptive, explanatory, argumentative, summary, etc.), audience, length, and documentation.


Topics may come in one of two types:


1. Expository and Factual or
2. Interpretative


Expository and Factual Topics

  • Explains or describes something, such as an event, person, book, etc.
  • Requires fact finding and research.
  • Opinions are not allowed.


Interpretative Topics

  • Embodies feelings or interpretation.
  • Evidence is provided by personal opinion.

An instructor may define the topic for you, such as 


There are several characteristics that define a tragic hero. Support or refute the character of Othello as a tragic hero. Be sure to identify a minimum of three traits that label a hero as tragic, and discuss how you perceive Othello to fit into that mold.


If the instructor does not define the topic, or places broad parameters for the topic (such as African American literature) you will need to choose your own topic. Perhaps the most important consideration when choosing a topic is whether sufficient resources are available on your topic.


Your topic should be limited and well-defined. It is better to select a simple topic, with diverse resources, than a complex topic with limited resources. Keep the parameters set by your instructor when selecting your own topic. For example, you might choose "Dreams" by Paul Laurence Dunbar for an African American literary topic.

Once you have selected a topic, it is time to explore your topic.

Stage Two: Researching a Topic

Once you have identified that topic of your essay, you can begin to define your research needs by performing a freewriting, brainstorming, or cluster activity. These activities can help you identify what you know, what you don't, and where you think you might find the information you need.

Once you have identified the scope and content of your essay, it's time to get organized.

Pre-writing Techniques

Stage Three: Organizing Your Essay

The most effective way to organize your essay is to write an outline. Many instructors will require an outline as part of the writing process, because it provides a roadmap of your essay. It is much easier to locate and correct problems with organization and evidence in this stage than once you have begun to write.


An outline is a diagram of your paper that identifies your thesis, conclusion, and supporting evidence. Creating an outline can be a beneficial part of the writing process by providing a preview of your final product. An outline ensures the structure, layout, and organization of your paper will lead to a great essay.


Outlines can be used to map out everything from a paragraph to a book! Every outline/writing assignment should include these components:

Title of Paper

Your title is the topic of your paper. Avoid titles like:

My Essay, Shakespeare's Othello

Effective titles:

The Relationship of Desdamona and Othello in Shakespeare's Othello, The Making of an American Car: The Founding of the Ford Motor Company


Thesis Statement
The thesis statement is a one-sentence summary of the purpose of the paper. It should notify readers about the topic of the paper and your views/conclusions about the topic.


For more information about writing a thesis statement, visit Tiger OWL: Academic Writing.


Assertion / Argument / Main Point
This is a supporting statement that reinforces your thesis statement. You will support this statement with your supporting evidence.


Supporting Evidence
You should provide at least 3 specific details which support your assertion. If your essay is Expository and Factual, these will include facts which you source. If interpretative, these will include examples that support your interpretation.


Conclusion
The conclusion should restate your thesis. Depending on the type of essay (argumentative, persuasive, etc.) your conclusion should also include a call to action, or explain why your topic is important.


Conclusion Examples


Sample Outline
Title
I. Thesis Statement
a. Main Point #1
b. Main Point #2
c. Main point #3
II. Main Point #1
a. Evidence
b. Evidence
c. Evidence
III. Main Point #2
a. Evidence
b. Evidence
c. Evidence
IV. Main Point #3
a. Evidence
b. Evidence
c. Evidence
V. Conclusion
a. Call to action / topic relevance
b. Restate main points
c. Restate thesis

Stage Four: Writing / Composing the Essay

Now that you've completed your outline, it is time to write your essay.

  1. If you did not write complete sentences for your outline, now is the time to do so.
  2. Add transitional sentences at the end of the end of your paragraphs to connect the ideas in your essay into a coherent whole.
  3. Read your essay. What information do readers need to improve their understanding of your topic? Provide a few sentences before your thesis statement introducing your topic to readers.
  4. Read each paragraph in your essay. Do your ideas flow smoothly from one point to the next? Are all of your points clear? You may need to provide supporting sentences within your paragraphs to connect your evidence clearly.
  5. Visit the Tiger OWL: Academic Writing for help with formatting and paragraph/essay construction for college essays.

Once your essay has been constructed, it is time for a final review and edit.

Stage Five: Revising & Editing

The final stage of completing your essay involves proofreading your essay. When proofreading, there are two areas you want to focus on: revising and editing. Before you begin the revising and editing process, take a break. Give yourself at least fifteen minutes, and preferably a day between writing the completed essay and proofreading your essay. 

Revising

The revision process involves the flow of your writing. During this process, you will want to ensure that your ideas are clearly stated and that your essay conveys a unified message about your topic. Remove idioms and colloquial language to ensure clarity of ideas. Ensure that your evidence is clearly supported by examples and research evidence. Finally, read your essay aloud to hear and correct any awkward-sounding sentences. Key areas to focus on during the revision process:

  • Coherence
  • Unity
  • Language
  • Support
  • Sentences

Editing
The editing process involves the precision of your writing. You will not want to begin this process until you have revised your essay to avoid extra work! To avoid scanning the text, print a copy of your work and use a black sheet of paper to cover lines below the one you are reading. Key areas to focus on during the editing process:

  • Capitalization
  • Omissions
  • Punctuation
  • Spelling

Although technology can assist in our efforts to proofread and correct errors with sentence structure and grammar it cannot replace the proofreading process. A computer program review will not ensure that your argument is clear and well-defined, nor correct spelling mistakes from misused words.


Always proofread your own documents before the final turn-in!