The Academic Writting Process
A well written essay involves more than just a pen and paper to get you started, you need a writing process. Though what you are writing about or to may change the structure there is a process you can follow to write a good essay. The most important step would be to identify your audience, know who will be reading your paper and start planning it to cater to them. After you identify your audience, the next step seems fairly simple but can be the hardest; writing the essay.
After you write the essay it will most likely be a little crude, so it is important to read over your paper again and fine tuning your message out of it. In fact all of the steps I have listed in this opening paragraph for you are the same exact steps I have taken to write this paper you hold now. As I have previously stated, knowing the audience isn’t always as simple as knowing the group of people you are writing for. Everyone is their own person; even in groups of doctors some are old and have 30 years experience while some are fresh out of medical school.
So just because you write a letter to doctors you cannot assume that all of their knowledge is 100% the same. Linda Flower gives 3 good criteria to take into account when scoping out your audience, knowledge, needs, and attitude. Don’t assume your audience knows everything you are going to talk about; you need to be able meet their needs and take any big ideas or lingo you use and bring it to their level. You also need to remember their attitude; certain words make people think a certain way. The word tropical for instance probably brings thoughts of palm trees, fruit drinks, and a beach to mind.
Some people will view this as vacation while others will have distaste for sand and sunburn that may follow. Using these words may help you but you could also end up turning off readers so you should use them sparingly. Now that you know what you are writing about and who you are writing for the next step is a toughie, actually writing the paper. When I sat down to write this paper I was nervous, I wrote the first sentence 6 times before turning off my computer. I took a breath, calmed down and came back and started writing.
Anne Lamott gives some great advice for both professional writers ike herself and begging writers like me: just write! Sit down and write whatever is on your mind, even if it seems silly or unneeded at the time. This is your first draft, your chance to give it everything; you and only you will read this version so have fun with it. Russell Baker gives similar advice in writing about something that gives you emotion. When you care about a subject the emotion flows through your paper and the audience will pick up on that. Once you have your completed “Shitty First Draft” in hand it’s time to sit down with pen and your paper and start reading through it trying to find your meaning and bringing that out.
Donald Murray suggests starting with paragraphs, then lines and then words and weeding out ideas that don’t work. You may need to rewrite sentences that don’t fit the way you thought they did. Now is your chance to take the time to fix them up. Once you feel your words say what you want to get across is the time to stop fixing. Most authors could revise a single paper for the rest of their lives if they didn’t have cut off dates. It is important to feel good about your work, but also remember that nothing will ever be perfect for you so you don’t need to obsess.
So though it may seem like a daunting task at first writing a good well thought out academic paper is a simple process to follow. Remember to keep the paper tailored to your audience so that they understand your work and keep it as open and informative as possible. Then just write your essay, your mind is the biggest problem to overcome and once you do the words will just flow. Finally go over your work until you are satisfied with the results and feel it is ready for your audience and gets your message across properly. Following the academic writing process will lead to a well written paper every time.