Article of the Week

Run-On Sentences

Run-on sentences occur when writers try to combine more than one idea into a single sentence. They cause confusion because readers are not sure when one idea ends and the next one begins. Read our entry and test your knowledge with our quiz!

The Writing Process - A Quick Guide

You've finished the class readings and done the necessary research. Now it's time to actually write your paper. This process can feel like a journey into the unknown, but the following steps will help you map this terrain and navigate it smoothly.

  1. Planning 
  2. Prewriting
  3. Developing Your Argument
  4. Building Your Outline
  5. Writing a First Draft
  6. Revising and Editing


1. Break the paper-writing process into small steps, and schedule them on your calendar.

A confident, careful paper is the product of several smaller tasks. Plan your time effectively to get the most out of them. Schedule backwards from your paper’s due date. For example, you should start your revisions by the half-way point.  


2. Use a prewriting method that works for you.

You may have been given a topic to write about, or you may have chosen one yourself. Either way, you can use brainstorming to sort out your thoughts, discovering which ideas are related and (just as importantly) which ideas will not fit. There is no best way to brainstorm, so choose a method that compensates for your weaknesses as a writer. Some writers choose to freewrite, writing whatever comes into their heads when they think of a subject. This can be useful for people who procrastinate or need motivation. But if you already have a lot to say, you’ll want a method that helps you organize and edit your thoughts. Clustering is the process of linking together different ideas. Write down each idea as a short phrase, and link them by drawing lines. The more potent ideas will have a greater number of connections. This can help writers who have a lot of ideas, but do not know how to organize them.


3. Develop your argument.

Most essays must convince readers that a particular idea is true. This is the case whether you are writing about literature or public policy. Distill your argument to one main idea: what you believe and why you believe it. Write this idea as a sentence, and you have a thesis statement. In order for your thesis to be true, you will need to prove it in the paper. Figure out what ideas will support your thesis. You’re not married to this thesis—it represents a starting point for your paper, but the process of writing the paper may suggest new ideas to you.  


4. Build your outline.

Your outline is the skeleton of your paper. It is a list of the sections of your paper, and what each section will contain. The brainstorming and argument activities should help you fill in the outline. Your argument will determine the major parts of your paper, and what order they should appear in.  If you did a clustering exercise, you will know which items support your claims. Provide a combination of objective data and subjective examples to support your ideas.


5. Write your first draft by filling in the outline.

You can assemble your first draft by taking the brief phrases contained in your outline and expanding them into complete sentences. Focus on introducing and analyzing each new piece of information, and writing transitions from one idea to the next. You’ll also have to write your introduction and conclusion to the paper as a whole. Your introduction must present the problem under discussion to an audience who may not be familiar with it, while your conclusion will re-state and synthesize the main points of your argument. It’s hard to write your introduction before you have written the rest of your paper, so you may want to save it for last. Now is the time to also consider your audience. You can tailor your papers to match the beliefs, attitudes, and experiences of your readers. Think about what your readers would already know about the subject, and what opinions they might already have.  Anticipate their objections to your ideas, and defuse them.


6. After a break, begin revising and editing your paper.

Most papers will need two types of revisions: corrections of grammatical mistakes, and revisions to the content and flow of the paper. Both are important to ensure clarity and establish a powerful voice. There are several useful techniques for revising a paper, including reading it out loud or constructing a reverse outline to check your work. Your paper will also benefit from being read by others, including your family and friends, or one of our professional tutors in the Writing Center.