• 3-minute read
  • 15th January 2016

How the Drafting Process Can Improve Your Academic Writing

Writing a good paper is not simply about sitting down, starting at the beginning and typing until you reach the end. Rather, it’s a process of drafting and re-drafting until you’re happy with your paper, each time trying to improve upon the last draft.

How long you spend redrafting will depend on what you’re working on – a lengthy PhD dissertation will require more attention than a shorter paper. Nevertheless, whatever you’re writing, using a step-by-step drafting process will benefit your work.

Step 1: The First Draft

The first draft is an initial attempt to turn your notes and paper outline into full paragraphs. This, therefore, is where you set out the basic argument and structure of your paper, though you can make changes to these in subsequent drafts if necessary.

The most important thing to do during the first draft is get something written, even if it isn’t perfect (that’s why we re-draft). Once you have something down, you can re-read it to see what could be improved, or even ask your advisor and friends for feedback.

Step 2: The Second Draft

It’s very rare for the first draft to be perfect. As such, you need to re-read it to get a sense of what could be improved. This may be as simple as looking for factual, spelling and grammatical mistakes. But it may also involve clarifying aspects of your argument or revising your ideas.

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There are a few tips which can help with re-drafting your work at this stage:

  • Try to be concise as possible, eliminating all unnecessary repetition
  • Make sure your argument flows smoothly, with each point leading clearly to the next
  • Check that each of your points contributes something to your overall hypothesis
  • Keep an eye out for formatting inconsistencies, as well as errors

It’s also a good idea to save each draft of your paper as a separate file. This allows you to check older versions once changes have been made.

Step 3: The Third Draft (And Beyond)

Here, we again go over our paper and try to find things we can improve. With each draft you should find less and less that needs doing. Eventually, after a few passes, you’ll be ready for the final step.

Step 4: The Final Draft

The final draft is the version of your paper you’ll submit to be marked. You’ll therefore need to proofread your paper carefully, checking for any remaining errors. It can help to print out your work and read it on paper, as you might spot things you missed when reading it on screen.

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