The Research to Writing Process

In this video we’re going to look at how following a writing process helps you to write efficiently and meet the requirements of your task. There are six stages in the writing process: task analysis; brainstorming; research; planning; writing; and editing and proofreading. Each stage generally informs the next, although it may not be an entirely linear process as you might have to repeat certain steps as you refine your work. Taking a process approach gives you a set of steps follow every time you write, helping you to break tasks down into manageable chunks and allocate your time accordingly. You might notice that there’s a lot of work to do before you begin writing. In fact, around 70 percent of the total time it takes to complete the paper might be spent before you write. We recommend using an assignment planner to map out the process and measure your progress. You can download this one from our website. Let’s take a look at each of the six stages in more detail The first step is analyzing the task or working out exactly what you’re expected to do. First, identify the genre. Although essays are a common form of assessment you may also need to produce reports, case studies, policy documents, literature reviews, or poster presentations depending on your discipline. Each genre has its own organisation, structure, style expectations and language conventions that must be followed. You also need to think about your aim. Putting aside the fact that you’re writing because it’s a compulsory assignment, think about why these genres are written in a real-life context. What do you need your reader to know do or understand? Are you trying to present an argument, inform, recommend, or inspire action? In most cases we write for an audience, not just for ourselves, so you need to consider who will read your paper and what their expectations are Think about what readers need from the paper, or why they’re reading it, their level of knowledge, and how they will read. Will they scan and jump between sections, or read in detail from start to finish? Considering genre, aim, and audience will help you to work out what and how much content to include, how to structure your paper, and the required writing style. Once you’ve analysed the task, you need to look at the question to identify any content, direction, and limiting words. Content words deal with topics or subtopics and identify the subject material you should focus on. Direction words are usually verbs that tell you what you have to do, for example, discuss or compare. Each of these words has a different focus so make sure you understand exactly what each requires you to do. Limiting words limit the scope of the topic to a particular area, for example, all, some, the majority of, or references to time, place, and/or specific groups. Pause the video, take a look at this example and see if you can identify the content, limiting, and direction words. In this example the direction word is “discuss”, the topic is “the impact of stress” and the analysis is limited to “the immune system” only. Spend time on this stage. A paper which directly answers the question and uses appropriate structure and style for the genre will get better marks than one that doesn’t. Stage 2 is brainstorming. Write down any and all ideas that you have without worrying about structure. This helps you to work out what you already know, connect ideas, and notice emerging themes, and identify what you need to find out. Then, refine your brainstorm: decide on your focus, identify relevant ideas, and key search terms and organize them in an initial plan to guide your research. The purpose of the third stage – research and reading – is to gather the information you need to help you reach your own conclusions. It’s best considered as a cycle that involves developing a research strategy using the keywords from your brainstorm, finding information, reading critically to evaluate that information and identify themes, and synthesizing or drawing together these main themes to help you form your own ideas. Again, this isn’t a linear process and you might need to adjust your strategy and refine your plan as you progress through your research. This can be a challenging stage of the writing process but developing your critical thinking, reading, and note-taking skills will help you to navigate this stage efficiently and effectively. Although you may feel under pressure to start writing, once you’ve gathered enough research to draw conclusions it’s important to take time to think and organize your ideas. Planning helps you to stay on topic, achieve coherence and cohesion, meet the expectations of your audience, and write according to genre. It’s important to consider genre, aim, and audience at this stage as different types of tasks require a different structure and approach There are different ways of organizing your ideas. If you like to see the whole picture and how ideas connect you might like to try a mind map. We often recommend transformative reading. As you read, transfer ideas directly into your plan. Fill in the plan with bullet point information, including reference details, author’s name, page number, or URL. You can then add your critical response to the information. Once you have the main ideas you can then plan your introduction and conclusion. The introduction needs to outline the argument, the main points and the structure of the paper, so it’s often easier to plan this once you’ve outlined the body. Planning helps you to present a logical, carefully considered, and well supported argument. Academic writing generally, and essays in particular, require you to present an argument, which is a claim or proposition supported by reasoning and evidence. This argument is your response to the task based on a thorough evaluation of the research you conducted. Mapping out your argument helps to see the connections between ideas. You can see in this example we begin with the overall contention “argument mapping has many benefits” then we have the support or reasoning, as well as the counter-argument. The next step would be to add in the evidence we’d use to support each claim. Thorough planning allows you to progress to the next stage – writing – with a clear focus, helping you to avoid writer’s block. Using your plan as a guide, start writing. You’ll need to do a few drafts to get it right. Your first draft is about getting your ideas flowing. Don’t worry about the word count or making things perfect.Take a break before your second draft. During the second draft, reread your paper. You may find that you need to remove repetitive or irrelevant sections, or shift things around. Take another break before you move on to the third draft. This is where the writing stage moves into the editing and proofreading stage. In your third draft, focus on content, structure, style, and clarity and logic of argument. You may want to edit several times, each time focusing on a different aspect, such as expression and clarity, or referencing. Try to leave a few days between editing and proofreading your final draft to see your text with a clear mind. Read for spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors. It’s often easier to do this with a hard copy. It’s really important to leave time for these final stages, as readers make judgments on both the content and the quality of presentation of your work. Poor presentation will give the impression that your paper was rushed. Now that we’ve worked through each of the six stages of the writing process, hopefully you can see how a process approach helps you to break your assignment down into a series of manageable tasks. Take time to complete each stage. Using the planner will help you to map out what you need to do. And remember that up to 70% of your time might be spent before you even begin writing. If you would like more detailed information or to practice any of the skills discussed in this video take a look at the research to writing module of the Academic Skills Hub. You can work through these modules in order as you progress through your assignments, or you can dip into each section as you need. You can access the hub from your LMS. Good luck writing your assignments! For more tips and advice, to register for workshops or events, or to find out what’s happening in Academic Skills, visit our website.

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