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Drafting & Refining an Essay: Writing Tips

An essay draft refers to an early version or preliminary writing of an essay before it is finalized and submitted as a completed piece. It is a rough or incomplete version of the essay that allows the writer to organize their thoughts, develop their ideas, and structure their arguments before producing the final version.

How to Draft a College Essay

Drafting a college essay involves several key steps to ensure a well-organized and coherent piece of writing. Here is a general guide on how to draft a college essay:

  1. Understand the Prompt:
    • Carefully read and understand the essay prompt or question. Identify the main topic, any specific requirements, and the purpose of the essay.
    • This will help you stay focused and develop a clear thesis statement.
  2. Brainstorm Ideas:
    • Spend some time brainstorming ideas related to the essay prompt. Jot down any thoughts, experiences, or examples that come to mind.
    • Consider your personal experiences, academic achievements, extracurricular activities, or any other relevant aspects that can support your essay. Review these suitable topics for college-level essays.
  3. Create an Outline:
    • Organize your thoughts and ideas by creating an outline. This will serve as a roadmap for your essay and help you structure your arguments and paragraphs.
    • Include an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion in your outline, and decide on the main points you want to address.
  4. Write the Introduction:
    • Begin your essay with an engaging hook that grabs the reader’s attention.
    • Provide some background information, context, or a compelling anecdote to set the stage for your essay.
    • End the introduction with a clear thesis statement that states the main argument or purpose of your essay.
  5. Develop Body Paragraphs:
    • In the body paragraphs, present your main points, arguments, and supporting evidence.
    • Each paragraph should focus on a single idea or argument and provide evidence or examples to support it.
    • Start each paragraph with a topic sentence that introduces the main point, followed by supporting details and analysis.
  6. Revise and Refine:
    • Review your draft critically and make revisions as necessary. Check for clarity, coherence, and logical flow.
    • Ensure that your ideas are well-developed, and your paragraphs are effectively connected.
    • Eliminate any unnecessary repetition, tighten your language, and refine your arguments.
  7. Write the Conclusion:
    • End your essay with a strong and concise conclusion that summarizes your main points and reinforces your thesis statement.
    • Avoid introducing new information in the conclusion and instead focus on leaving a lasting impression on the reader.
  8. Proofread and Edit:
    • Carefully proofread your draft for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure errors.
    • Pay attention to formatting and citation guidelines if applicable.
    • Consider seeking feedback from others, such as teachers, mentors, or peers, to get additional perspectives and suggestions for improvement.
  9. Revise and Polish:
    • Based on the feedback received, revise and polish your draft further.
    • Make necessary changes, clarify any unclear or confusing parts, and ensure that your essay is well-polished and error-free.
  • Remember that drafting is an iterative process, and it is common to go through multiple drafts before reaching the final version. Take your time, seek feedback, and be open to revising and improving your essay throughout the drafting process.
  • When writing an essay draft, the primary focus is on generating content and ideas rather than perfecting grammar, spelling, or formatting. It serves as a starting point for the writing process, providing an opportunity for brainstorming, outlining, and experimenting with different approaches.

What to Include in a Rough Draft Essay

When creating a rough draft of an essay, it’s important to include the following components:

  1. Introduction:
    • Attention-grabbing opening sentence or hook.
    • Background information or context related to the topic.
    • Thesis statement that presents the main argument or purpose of the essay.
  2. Body Paragraphs:
    • Each paragraph should focus on a single main point or argument.
    • Begin each paragraph with a clear topic sentence that introduces the main point.
    • Provide evidence, examples, or supporting details to support each main point.
    • Analyze and explain the significance of the evidence or examples in relation to your argument.
    • Use transition words and phrases to ensure smooth transitions between paragraphs.
  3. Conclusion:
    • Summarize the main points or arguments discussed in the essay.
    • Restate the thesis statement, reinforcing the main argument or purpose.
    • Provide a closing statement that leaves a final impression on the reader.
  4. Tips:
    • Focus on content and ideas rather than perfecting grammar, spelling, or formatting.
    • Write freely without excessive self-editing or self-censorship.
    • Include any relevant quotes, statistics, or references that support your argument (properly cited or noted for later citation).
    • Leave spaces or placeholders for any information or details that you plan to add later.
    • Be open to exploring different perspectives or approaches within your rough draft.
  • Typically, an essay draft includes the main components of an essay, such as an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. However, the draft may not have a polished thesis statement, well-developed arguments, or fully refined language. It is common for writers to make revisions and improvements during subsequent drafts based on feedback and self-evaluation.
  • Remember, a rough draft serves as a starting point for your essay. It provides a foundation for further revision and refinement in subsequent drafts, where you can polish your language, clarify your arguments, and enhance the overall quality of your writing.

Refining an Essay: Key Areas to Check and Revise

Refining a rough draft involves several steps, including revising the content, refining the structure, enhancing the clarity and coherence of the ideas, and polishing the language and style.Here are some tips to help you enhance your essay and make it more effective:

  1. Review the essay prompt: Make sure you have a clear understanding of the topic or question you are addressing. Ensure that your essay directly addresses the prompt and stays focused on the main theme.
  2. Revise the content: Take a critical look at the content of your essay. Evaluate the strength and relevance of your arguments, evidence, and examples. Make sure each paragraph contributes to your main thesis and supports your overall argument.
  3. Refine the structure: Check the organization and flow of your essay. Ensure that your ideas progress logically from one paragraph to the next. Use topic sentences and transitional phrases to create smooth transitions between different sections of your essay.
  4. Strengthen your thesis statement: Your thesis statement should clearly state your main argument or position. Make sure it is specific, concise, and supported by the evidence you provide throughout the essay. Consider refining or rewording your thesis statement if necessary.
  5. Tone: Consider the tone of your essay and ensure it aligns with the purpose and audience. If it’s an academic essay, strive for a formal and objective tone. Avoid overly casual or colloquial language unless it serves a specific purpose. Use a tone that is appropriate for the subject matter and maintains a consistent level of professionalism throughout the essay.
  6. First-person vs third-person: Decide whether you will write the essay in first-person (“I,” “me”) or third-person (“he,” “she,” “they”). In most academic essays, a third-person perspective is preferred as it lends a sense of objectivity. However, there may be instances where first-person is appropriate, such as when sharing personal experiences or reflecting on your own research or analysis. Just be sure to maintain consistency throughout the essay.
  7. Improve coherence: Check the coherence and logical progression of your ideas. Each paragraph should have a clear focus, and the ideas within the paragraph should be connected and relevant. Use appropriate transitions to guide the reader through your essay.
  8. Clarify your arguments: Ensure that your arguments are clear and well-supported. Provide sufficient evidence, examples, and reasoning to back up your claims. Eliminate any vague or ambiguous statements and strive for precision in your language.
  9. Polish the language and style: Pay attention to the clarity and conciseness of your writing. Use precise vocabulary, avoid repetition, and eliminate unnecessary or redundant words. Check for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors, and ensure consistency in verb tenses and pronoun usage.
  10. Seek feedback: Consider sharing your essay with someone else, such as a peer, teacher, or tutor, and ask for their feedback. Another person’s perspective can often provide valuable insights and suggestions for improvement.
  11. In-text citations: If you are referencing external sources or using research in your essay, it’s essential to include in-text citations to give credit to the original authors and provide evidence for your claims. Follow the appropriate citation style guide (such as APA, MLA, or Chicago) and ensure that your citations are accurate and formatted correctly. Include the author’s name, year of publication, and page number (if applicable) within parentheses or as a superscript number. Double-check your citations against the reference list or bibliography to ensure they are complete and match the formatting guidelines.
  12. Paraphrasing and quoting: When incorporating information from external sources, it’s important to strike a balance between paraphrasing and quoting. Paraphrase when you want to convey the information in your own words, ensuring that you maintain the original meaning and properly attribute the source. Use quotation marks when directly quoting a source word for word. However, be mindful not to overuse quotations and ensure that the majority of the essay reflects your own analysis and understanding.
  13. Reference list or bibliography: In addition to in-text citations, include a reference list or bibliography at the end of your essay. This section should provide full bibliographic details of all the sources you cited or consulted during your research. Follow the specific formatting guidelines for the citation style you are using and ensure consistency in formatting, including spacing, indentation, and punctuation.
  14. Academic integrity: When using external sources, make sure to properly credit the authors and avoid plagiarism. Cite all direct quotes, paraphrased information, and ideas that are not your own. Familiarize yourself with your institution’s academic integrity policies and guidelines to ensure you are adhering to proper citation practices.
  15. Take a break and revise: After completing the initial draft, step away from your essay for a while. Clearing your mind and returning to it with fresh eyes will allow you to identify areas that need improvement more effectively. Revise your essay multiple times, making revisions and edits as needed.
  16. Proofread carefully: Before submitting your final essay, carefully proofread it to catch any lingering errors or mistakes. Read it aloud or have someone else read it to ensure it flows smoothly and makes sense.
  • Remember that improving an essay is an iterative process. It may require multiple revisions and refinements to achieve the desired outcome. Take your time, be open to feedback, and continuously strive to enhance your writing.
  • By following these steps and dedicating time to each aspect of your essay, you can significantly improve its overall quality and effectiveness. Remember, revision is an essential part of the writing process, so don’t be afraid to make substantial changes to your work in order to enhance its clarity and impact.

Checklist: Final Draft

A final draft essay should reflect the culmination of your writing process and should be a polished, refined, and cohesive piece of work. Here’s a checklist for what to include in a final essay, along with mistakes to avoid and tips:

Aspect To Include Mistakes to Avoid Tips for Improvement
Introduction – Clear thesis statement – Vague or unclear thesis – Revise and refine the thesis for clarity
– Hook to engage the reader – Generic or clich├ęd opening – Craft an original and compelling hook
– Background information/context – Excessive background information – Provide only essential context
Body Paragraphs – Topic sentences for each paragraph – Lack of clear topic sentences – Clearly state the main idea of each paragraph
– Evidence and examples supporting the thesis – Insufficient or unrelated evidence – Ensure evidence directly supports the thesis
– Analysis and interpretation of evidence – Overuse of summary without analysis – Analyze the significance of the evidence
– Smooth transitions between paragraphs – Abrupt or illogical transitions – Use transitional phrases for smooth flow
Conclusion – Restatement of the thesis in a new way – Introducing new ideas in the conclusion – Summarize main points and restate thesis without new information
– Summary of key points – Repetition of ideas – Summarize without duplicating content
– Thought-provoking closing remarks – Weak or uninspiring conclusion – End with a strong and memorable statement
Organization – Logical flow and order of ideas – Disorganized or haphazard structure – Outline and plan the essay’s structure beforehand
– Consistent and clear paragraph structure – Inconsistent paragraph lengths – Maintain a uniform structure throughout
Clarity and Cohesion – Clear and concise language – Overly complex or convoluted sentences – Simplify sentences without sacrificing meaning
– Consistent use of language and terminology – Inconsistent terminology use – Ensure uniformity in language and terms throughout
Grammar and Mechanics – Proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling – Typos, grammatical errors, and misspellings – Proofread meticulously for errors
Language & Style – Varied sentence structure and lengths – Monotonous or repetitive language – Incorporate variety in sentence structure and lengths
– Appropriate tone and formality – Inconsistent or inappropriate tone – Adapt the tone to match the audience and purpose
Vivid and descriptive language – Lack of descriptive elements – Integrate vivid language to enhance the essay’s imagery
Formatting and Citations – Correct formatting (font, spacing, margins) – Incorrect citation format – Follow the specified citation style consistently
– Proper citations for sources – Lack of in-text citations or improper referencing – Cite all sources used and adhere to citation guidelines
  • The final draft should be a polished, well-organized, and coherent essay that effectively communicates your ideas and arguments to the reader. It should demonstrate critical thinking, evidence-based reasoning, and a command of the subject matter.
  • Remember to allow yourself enough time to revise and edit your essay thoroughly before submitting the final draft.

Importance of an Essay Draft

Drafting an essay is an essential step in the writing process, and its importance cannot be overstated. Here are some reasons why drafting an essay is crucial:

  1. Organization and Structure: Drafting helps you organize your thoughts and ideas in a logical and coherent manner. It allows you to outline the main points, establish a clear structure, and ensure smooth transitions between paragraphs. By creating an initial framework, you can see how your ideas flow and identify any gaps or areas that require further development.
  2. Idea Generation and Exploration: Writing a draft allows you to explore different ideas, perspectives, and arguments related to your topic. It gives you the freedom to brainstorm, experiment with various approaches, and test out different concepts without the pressure of producing a final product. Drafting encourages creative thinking and can lead to the discovery of new insights and connections.
  3. Clarity and Precision: Drafting gives you the opportunity to refine your language, clarify your thoughts, and express your ideas more effectively. As you review your draft, you can identify areas where your writing may be unclear, repetitive, or lacking in supporting evidence. This process enables you to revise and improve your content, ensuring that your message is communicated with precision and coherence.
  4. Revision and Editing: Drafting provides a foundation for revision and editing. It allows you to critically evaluate your essay’s content, structure, and overall effectiveness. You can identify weak arguments, inconsistencies, or gaps in your reasoning and make the necessary revisions. Additionally, drafting allows you to focus on grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting in subsequent revisions, ensuring that your final essay is polished and error-free.
  5. Time Management: Writing a draft helps you manage your time effectively. Breaking the writing process into stages allows you to allocate time for each step, from brainstorming and drafting to revising and editing. By completing a draft early on, you can ensure that you have sufficient time for revisions and improvements before the final submission.

Essay drafts are valuable tools for writers as they allow for exploration and refinement of ideas, identification of potential weaknesses, and the opportunity to strengthen the overall structure and coherence of the essay. They provide a framework that can be revised and expanded upon to create a final version that meets the desired objectives and quality standards.

Overall, drafting is a crucial step that enables you to generate ideas, refine your arguments, organize your thoughts, and improve the overall quality of your essay. It plays a vital role in the writing process and contributes significantly to the final product’s clarity, coherence, and effectiveness.