Chapter 8: Writing in University: It’s All About the Process!

8.1 Steps in the Research and Writing Process

There have been many scholarly works published on the research and writing process, and while no two writing studies experts explain this process in the same way, there are some common themes and approaches. The truth is that good researchers and writers have their own variations on a good writing process: some will prefer to talk out their ideas with another person before outlining while others like to work alone; some will print out their drafts before proofreading while others prefer to do it on the screen; and some will work for hours at a time drafting while others will draft in short bursts.

Despite this variation, the research and writing process can be broken down in to a few essential steps. For this course, we’ll define them as the following: prewriting, drafting, editing, and proofreading. Important note: in reality, the research and writing process is iterative (i.e., it involves repeating steps and processes), and does not divide neatly into three, so please take these categories as a general guide.

In scheduling this process, devote roughly a third of your time to prewriting activities, a third to drafting, and a third to editing and proofreading (see Figure 8.2). Don’t leave the editing and proofreading to the day before you hand something in. It usually takes longer than you think it will.

Figure 8.2: Basic Steps in the Writing Process. Permission: Granted by Liv Marken.

In moving from one stage to the next, remember that the research and writing process is also iterative; you will sometimes have to go back to repeat parts of certain stages before moving ahead again. For example, you may be halfway through the drafting stage only to find that you need another article from the library, so you’re back doing a “prewriting” activity. Or you may finish your editing process only to realize that you need to draft a bit more to meet the length requirement.

This moving back and forth is typical; don’t become frustrated when it happens. Have you heard the catchphrase, “Two steps forward, one step back is still progress”? Keep it in mind as you head back to the library databases for another article!

The Research Paper Planner

The University of Saskatchewan Library created this handy online assignment planner for organizing your time. It contains many useful resources, some of which are identified throughout this chapter.

The planner breaks the research and writing process down into steps and provides a goal date for completion of each stage of the process. Each step includes links to advice and tips.


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