FAQ: Outlining, Drafting, and Editing

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1 Question 1: What criteria are important for deciding the positioning of topic sentences? Answer 1: Usually, the topic sentence is the first sentence in a paragraph. By placing the topic sentence in the beginning, your audience is introduced to the topic you are discussing and the position you are taking. There are times, however, when authors decide on alternative placement of the topic sentence. Authors who select the middle position typically write attentiongetting sentences that logically link to the topic prior to the topic sentence itself. This should be a conscious and informed choice that may be appropriately used to draw an audience into a topic that, at first glance, may not be enticing. The supporting sentences then follow the topic sentence. Authors may additionally decide to place the topic sentence at the end of a paragraph. Authors may choose to place this statement last to unveil and arouse interest in the topic prior to the introduction of the statement by creating an extended experience of the subject for the reader. Finally, authors can introduce a topic sentence by implication rather than exposition. In these cases, the writer relies on precise explanations, details, and descriptions to overtly reveal the central point of the paragraph. Question 2: What is paragraph coherence? Answer 2: Coherence refers to the connection of ideas within a paragraph that helps to create a discussion rather than simply listing ideas. The reader is able to see the relationship of one sentence to the preceding sentence or see the connection between one paragraph and another in coherent writings. Without coherence, writing appears to be disjointed, which may confuse the reader about the relevance of some sentences, or worse, about the central idea itself. Question 3: What determines the order of paragraphs? Answer 3: The purpose of your writing determines which organizational structure is appropriate. Some writing purposes dictate that sentences and paragraphs follow a time sequence. Narration, for example, often requires a written account of an occurrence in the order in which events or actions actually unfolded. In this case, a chronological organizational format is the logical choice for paragraph and essay structure. Other writing tasks dictate that sentences and paragraphs follow a spatial ordering of details. For example, the logical organizational format of a text written to describe the migratory patterns of North American birds is one that allows the writer to 1

2 proceed from a starting point (north) to an ending location (south). There are times when the purpose of the text is to examine the cause-and-effect relationship between two variables. Again, the purpose of the essay drives the author's choice for organization. In this case, the paragraph and essay structure should be a cause-and-effect format. In all cases, however, it is the purpose of your writing that should dictate the organizational structure you employ. Question 4: How do writers decide on a point of view, and why is it important? Answer 4: Similar to selecting an organizational format, choosing a point of view depends on the reason you are writing your text. A text intended to be a selfnarrative seems to automatically imply the use of a first-person point of view. As usual, there are exceptions to the rule. Some fiction writers, for example, write in third person even when the text is about the narrative voice. Professional writers, however, are not making seemingly discrepant choices out of hand. The decision to formalize an interior voice is a conscious decision to set the tone and mindset of the character (i.e., a self-analytical, reserved, or self-removed character). The second principle for selecting a point of view is to consider your relationship as the writer to your intended audience or reader. The firstperson point of view is appropriate when illustrating self-referent examples for your reader. Consistent use of self-experience as evidence, however, assumes a familiarity with the audience that may not be appropriate or subtly implies to your audience that you analyze all situations or events from an ego-based position. The writer that uses a second-person point of view has made two basic assumptions about his or her purpose in writing: the writer has the same level of familiarity with the target audience that he or she does with a personal friend, and the writer and the audience have some kind of mutual understanding. The third-person point of view is more commonly used by scholars, journalists, businesspeople, and politicians. Writers who use this point of view place distance between their feelings and the subjects they are writing about. The writer is, in some implied way, an observer or recorder of facts. In the 2

3 Western social, political, and economical culture, the third-person point of view is a privileged and preferred point of view. As a writer, when you want to persuade an audience, third person is likely to be your best choice. Question 5: What is freewriting? Answer 5: Freewriting is writing whatever comes to mind about a subject without worrying about grammar, punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, and other conventions. Freewriting is a strategy to generate ideas for a writing assignment; the whole point is to tap into what you already know about a topic or to discover your attitude toward the subject. Freewriting is, in essence, a way to engage the process of invention. It is not the end result of the writing process. The finalized text should usually conform to writing conventions. Question 6: Is there a difference between revising and rewriting? Answer 6: There are considerable similarities between revising and rewriting, but there are also significant differences between the practice of revision and rewriting procedures. Most writers make some revisions as they write. For example, a writer may write a word, scratch it out or delete it, and replace it with a different word, or may make other minor revisions while writing the original text. During drafting, you place ideas and supporting details down and may choose to change, revise, or make minor alterations to your prose. There is another step in the writing process; however, that can only be described as rewriting. During the rewriting stage, you attempt to review what you have written. Based upon a comprehensive evaluation of your work, you may discover that minor revisions are required or that you may need to rewrite half of the text (Leesther, Bailey, Rauls, Sawh, & Williams, 1998). Question 7: What are the important steps in revision work? Answer 7: The most important thing to remember in revision work is that revisions should focus on content and development issues; surface issues will be assessed in the editing phase of the writing process. There are five general steps in revision; however, the ability to effectively engage the last four steps is entirely dependent on how well you perform the first step of the process. 3

4 The five steps are as follows: 1. Perform a comprehensive evaluation of higher order considerations. 2. Add sentences, words, or evidence where your paper lacks coherence, unity, clarity, or adequate support. 3. Cut redundancies, wordiness, or tangential prose. 4. Replace words or sentences with finer prose in the areas you deleted. 5. Move material around if necessary to present your information in a logical sequence. Question 8: Is there a difference between revising and editing? Answer 8: Revising is a function of evaluating the higher order concerns, and editing is a function of evaluating the lower order concerns. Revision deals with underlying issues and content, and editing focuses on surface issues and polish. Typically, editing involves assessing how well the prose conforms to the standards of language usage. When editing your text, you want to concern yourself with grammar, style, and observance of conventions. Question 9: How can I use peer evaluation when finalizing my research paper? Answer 9: A peer evaluation is very useful when finalizing your research paper. Your peer's comments and suggestions should have some influence over how you compile your final draft. If your evaluation did not improve your paper in any way, it was unsuccessful, and you may want to consider getting a second opinion. Obviously, any grammatical or mechanical issues are straightforward, but if you are unsure, look them up yourself. Do not assume your peer is a grammar expert. Take responsibility for polishing your own work. Part of the peer evaluation is opinion, so take it as such. Be open to new approaches and ideas, but at the same time, do not allow your evaluator to alter your paper so much that it strays from your main ideas. Be yourself; the unique ideas that are presented in your work are what help you stand out. 4

5 Pick and choose your evaluator's ideas to best suit what you are trying to convey throughout your research paper. Question 10: What can I do to polish my final draft? Answer 10: There are some general practices you can follow to help ensure that you are turning in your absolute best work. Here are some helpful tips: Make sure you have covered all bases. Did you meet all of your instructor's criteria? Try reading your paper backward for grammar and mechanics. Read it by paragraph (or by line) starting with the last paragraph (or last line) first. The content will make no sense, and this will allow you to take a more technical approach. Edit for style. Look for repetitive or awkward words; do not hesitate to use a thesaurus. Double-check your sources, and make sure you have included all necessary components in your reference list, bibliography, and so forth. Check your spelling. Reference Leesther, T., Bailey, S. D., Rauls, M., Sawh, R., & Williams, W. T. (1998). Writing from the ground up (2nd ed.). Boston: Simon Schuster. 5

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