When I’m planning my paper I like to treat it similar to how I put together a puzzle. Just like how I establish the frame of the puzzle first, I create an outline for my paper to work within. Once I’ve built my frame I then organize the remaining pieces together based on thematic commonalities (in the puzzles case, by color) and then start putting them together. Once I’ve got the large sections built I then start to fill in all the empty spaces until finally everything has come together.
I find that by putting together the major points in the paper first and then worrying about transitions later on I am able to write clearly and consistently without having to stop and brainstorm things such as how to keep the flow as natural as possible.
Once I have the actual outline figured out I try to break down my sources as much as possible by close reading the supplies I’ve been given to gather my evidence.
Initially when I’m laying out my plan I work on the points I want my paper to focus on and work on them individually before putting everything together later. To make sure I don’t accidentally leave anything out I like to make checklists to ensure that I cover everything necessary for a successful paper. First I create my thesis statement, written on a sticky note that I will keep posted to my computer screen so that I’m able to constantly refer back to it in my writing process. After I establish my argument and brief explanation as to how I came up with it, I look through my sources and research to find as many pieces of evidence I can find to back up my argument.
Once I’ve found substantial evidence I like to categorize everything based on commonality. With each “category” created I then focus on making my arguments while inputting the evidence I’ve found. After each point is made I go re-read my thesis statement and then go back to the point to ensure I haven’t veered off topic or started rambling.
After finalizing my body paragraphs (however many there are- I try to avoid the high school standard of three) I then look at my conclusion. I often find that having a checklist helps with my conclusion, so that I’m able to ensure that I’ve successfully reiterated the points made in the paper, reminded the reader of what they have read and hopefully clarify why they should care.
It’s not until after I’ve written the first draft of my thesis statement, argument and conclusion that I then start writing my introduction. I do this because I find it very hard to write an introduction to something when I’m not entirely sure what that something is just yet. Although I have a general idea of what my paper is going to cover and what I’m going to use for my arguments I often find that once the paper has actually been written it can be quite different than it was in the planning stages. Hence, I avoid establishing the “formula” for my paper until it’s actually complete.
Once I have completed my paper with a thesis statement, beginning, middle, end and transitions I then begin editing for grammar and spelling. I prefer to have a peer read my work, since they are more likely to notice mistakes with a fresh mind and no preconceived ideas of the paper, however, reading in reverse is a close second. A trick I learned in high school in terms of catching spelling errors that Word may have missed is to read my entire paper backwards. I’ve realized that after writing a paper (especially multiple drafts) your brain almost has everything memorized, making you more likely to miss something like the repeated word or lack of capitalization.
Finally, once I’ve finished editing everything in its entirety I will print out my paper and go through it with a highlighter and go over every piece of evidence I provided to ensure that it coincides with my thesis statement. Once I’m satisfied with the spacing, frequency and efficiency of my paper I print the final copy or submit it for grading.