Pre-Writing is all of the work you do for a paper, before you actually sit down and begin writing it. Some of the most important work of the writing process takes place in this step, as this is where you’ll be developing all of your big ideas for your paper. Basically, “pre-writing” is the blueprint you’re going to give yourself in order to construct your written piece; if you have a well laid out blueprint, you’ll have a much easier time actually building a paper.
Sometimes just figuring out what you want to write about can be challenging in its own right: This awesome resource from the OWL Purdue (A favorite of the Writing Center) and this useful video from an online English teacher can set you up right for your topic selection.
Writing an Outline
Now that you have your topic picked, the next step will be to organize your thoughts. The easiest way to do this will be in an outline. I know, I know! You’re having horrible flashbacks to required outlines in high school, and asking whether or not you really need to do an outline. Well, you certainly don’t need to, but it will make the writing process much easier for you.
So, you’ve got an outline, you’re putting some arguments together and you realize- Oh no! I have nothing to back up my claims. Well, luckily, Kutztown has a ton of databases that can help you get good, scholarly research on whatever topic you may have picked to write about. This website has a list of all of our databases, with the most helpful being, arguably, Academic Search Complete and JSTOR. (You will be required to log in with your KU ID and password).
A tip: The more specific you can be in your searches, the better. Many of these sites let you pick what “field of study” you’d like to search for, so make sure to narrow everything down as much as you can, in order to find the writing that will be most useful and relevant to your specific interests.
Getting Over Writer’s Block
While it’s not a specific step in the writing process, we all feel writer’s block every once in a while. Whether it is a transition that just isn’t working, a point that you don’t feel like you’re hitting home well, or simply lacking motivation in grinding out the next part of your paper, here, here, and here are some helpful ways to get past your writer’s block.
Okay, so, you’ve picked a topic, your research is done, you have a clear outline, now it’s time to get into the meat and potatoes of things- actually writing the paper. The links in this section should help you with some of the trickiest steps of the writing process itself.
Writing a Thesis
Writing a thesis can be a very hard thing to do. You may know exactly what you want to write about, or what you want to argue, but actually putting that into one or two simple, strong sentences can be a daunting task. Here’s a few of the most useful exercises and worksheets we’ve found on writing strong theses.
The Owl Purdue again has a great, mechanical explanation of the thesis writing process; Ashford Writing has an actual thesis statement generator (which is a good starting point, but which you will most likely want to refine; and this short, instructional video offers some useful tips.
Topic sentences can serve as mini-thesis statements for each one of your body paragraphs. They help set you up for an organized, effective writing style: Make sure each of your topic sentences is building towards proving your thesis, and that each of your paragraphs proves its respective topic sentence. This step-by-step guide is a good starting point, with this YouTube video offering some great examples you can follow along with.
Sometimes moving from one point to another can be very difficult. You know your writing about related ideas, but it just comes out on the page as choppy and awkward. Transition phrases and words are the way to correct this issue. This list of words broken down into useful categories should give you ideas as to how to start your transitions, and this page from the Purdue OWL has great examples and revisions of transition sentences.
As you grapple with your topics, you may find that some of your explanatory sentences just aren’t really working for you. Writing in clear, concise language is a challenge when your working with heady, difficult topics. This link has a ton of great tips on how to write in a clearer fashion, and this video, though a little over the top at times, gives great examples of how to fix an unclear sentence.
This is where most students begin to come to the Writing Center; after they’ve already written their papers, and are looking for help in editing, citing, and proofreading. The biggest thing to remember here is that editing for grammar is the least important part of the writing process: it is much more important to make sure you have a well organized, thought out paper that is meeting all of the requirements of the assignment and making strong, reasonable points. Once that part is done, though, it’s always useful to go through your writing to find any errors you can spot. Here are some links that will help you out:
MLA and APA citations
We’ve used them before, and we’ll use them again, but the Writing Center really cannot recommend any website beyond the OWL Purdue’s fantastic resource on APA (located here) and MLA (located here). These sites are up-to-date, easy to understand, and full of all of the information you could ever want on these citation styles.
It’s hard to make a category dedicated to the huge topic of grammar, so while we won’t be able to address everything here, it should be a good start. This list has some of the most common mistakes, which is a good companion for this monstrous list of grammatical rules. After you’ve perused those for some basic information, this step-by-step guide and handout should get you on the path to proofreading your own writing.
And, just for fun, here’s a link of the most common typos made in the English language.
Still Need Help?
If there’s anything unclear on this website, or a topic you’d like to know more about, please feel free to Contact Us to set up a Writing Center appointment at the time most convenient for you!