The Writing Process

In academic writing, there are many different phases of the writing process: Prewriting, Drafting, Feedback, Revising, Editing, and Proofreading. Many students worry about making their academic essays perfect the first time they are working on their papers, and this can often cause issues like writer's block. By following these stages, students can have a better outcome through the writing process.


Prewriting is the method of moving ideas from your brain to your paper. Sometimes, it can be difficult to get those creative juices going. That's where prewriting is beneficial.

There are many different techniques for prewriting. What might work for one individual may not work for another. The importance of this stage is finding something that works for you. Some common prewriting techniques include:

  • Freewriting
  • Listing
  • Clustering or Webbing
  • Looping
  • Timeline
  • Venn Diagram
  • Outline

First Draft

The first draft is the stage where writers work to assemble the pieces of their prewriting into some semblance of an order. Remember, first drafts are supposed to be terrible. If a writer focuses too much on perfecting the first draft, they can often become stuck. Here are some strategies for overcoming writing anxiety when working on a first draft:

  • Let yourself off the hook: first drafts are supposed to be poorly written.
  • Use talk-to-text technology on MS Word or Google Translate. Sometimes "talking it through" can help get the information out of your head and onto the page.
  • If you're having difficulty writing the beginning of the draft, skip it and come back to it later. Start in the middle and then add the introduction and conclusion later.
  • Handwrite your draft. The act of writing a draft by hand may encourage creativity.


Feedback is essential for great essays. It allows writers to see their draft through another person's perspective. Because writers spend a lot of time on their drafts, they might overlook where a sentence isn't clear, or where an argument may need to be strengthened.

  • Receiving feedback from multiple sources might help you decide what changes you'd like to make to your draft.
  • Not all feedback is equal. It's up to the writer what to do with the feedback that is given to them.

Next Drafts

Drafting is the process between the beginning of a written document and the final draft. Some essays may have two drafts, others may have fifty. Each draft should narrow the focus of the topic.

  • Make big changes first, like organizing information, and adding or deleting large amounts of detail.
  • Focus on transitions. How are the topics in each paragraph related to each other?
  • Focus on word choice. Are you using the best possible words to describe your situation? Phrases like very cold can be replaced with frigid or freezing.
  • Each draft is a messy process with lots of scribbles, marked out words and sentences, and added information.
  • Each draft is also better than the previous draft. Don't be afraid to improve your writing!

With each draft, we encourage you to make use of our Submit A Paper option or come by the Writing Center for a face-to-face writing coaching session because it never hurts to have another person read your draft to help find issues.

Editing and Proofreading

Editing and Proofreading is part of the last stages of the writing process.

Editing is the process of correcting wordiness and focuses on word choice.

Proofreading focuses on correctness. It's also known as GUMP (Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, and Punctuation). This stage is where writers check for run-on sentences, spelling, and making sure commas are in the correct places.

Final Draft

This is the completed, polished, best version of your essay.

If you look back at your prewriting and first draft, you should see a significant difference between what you started with and your final draft.