• PRO Courses Guides New Tech Help Pro Expert Videos About wikiHow Pro Upgrade Sign In
  • EDIT Edit this Article
  • EXPLORE Tech Help Pro About Us Random Article Quizzes Request a New Article Community Dashboard This Or That Game Popular Categories Arts and Entertainment Artwork Books Movies Computers and Electronics Computers Phone Skills Technology Hacks Health Men's Health Mental Health Women's Health Relationships Dating Love Relationship Issues Hobbies and Crafts Crafts Drawing Games Education & Communication Communication Skills Personal Development Studying Personal Care and Style Fashion Hair Care Personal Hygiene Youth Personal Care School Stuff Dating All Categories Arts and Entertainment Finance and Business Home and Garden Relationship Quizzes Cars & Other Vehicles Food and Entertaining Personal Care and Style Sports and Fitness Computers and Electronics Health Pets and Animals Travel Education & Communication Hobbies and Crafts Philosophy and Religion Work World Family Life Holidays and Traditions Relationships Youth
  • Browse Articles
  • Learn Something New
  • Quizzes Hot
  • This Or That Game New
  • Train Your Brain
  • Explore More
  • Support wikiHow
  • About wikiHow
  • Log in / Sign up
  • Education and Communications
  • Fiction Writing
  • Writing Novels

How to Write a Rough Draft

Last Updated: February 6, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Michelle Golden, PhD . Michelle Golden is an English teacher in Athens, Georgia. She received her MA in Language Arts Teacher Education in 2008 and received her PhD in English from Georgia State University in 2015. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 292,863 times.

Writing a rough draft is an essential part of the writing process, an opportunity to get your initial ideas and thoughts down on paper. It might be difficult to dive right into a rough draft of an essay or a creative piece, such as a novel or a short story. You should start by brainstorming ideas for the draft to get your creative juices flowing and take the time to outline your draft. You will then be better prepared to sit down and write your rough draft.

Brainstorming Ideas for the Draft

Step 1 Do a freewrite...

  • Freewrites often work best if you give yourself a time limit, such as five minutes or ten minutes. You should then try to not take your pen off the page as you write so you are forced to keep writing about the subject or topic for the set period of time.
  • For example, if you were writing an essay about the death penalty, you may use the prompt: “What are the possible issues or problems with the death penalty?” and write about it freely for ten minutes.
  • Often, freewrites are also a good way to generate content that you can use later in your rough draft. You may surprised at what you realize as you write freely about the topic.

Step 2 Make a cluster map about the topic or subject.

  • To use the clustering method, you will place a word that describes your topic or subject in the center of your paper. You will then write keywords and thoughts around the center word. Circle the center word and draw lines away from the center to other keywords and ideas. Then, circle each word as you group them around the central word.
  • For example, if you were trying to write a short story around a theme like “anger”, you will write “anger” in the middle of the page. You may then write keywords around “anger”, like “volcano”, “heat”, “my mother”, and “rage”.

Step 3 Read writing about the topic or subject.

  • If you are writing a creative piece, you may look for texts written about a certain idea or theme that you want to explore in your own writing. You could look up texts by subject matter and read through several texts to get ideas for your story.
  • You might have favorite writers that you return to often for inspiration or search for new writers who are doing interesting things with the topic. You could then borrow elements of the writer’s approach and use it in your own rough draft.
  • You can find additional resources and texts online and at your local library. Speak to the reference librarian at your local library for more information on resources and texts.

Outlining Your Draft

Step 1 Make a plot outline

  • You may use the snowflake method to create the plot outline. In this method, you will write a one line summary of your story, followed by a one paragraph summary, and then character synopses. You will also create a spreadsheet of scenes.
  • Alternatively, you can use a plot diagram. In this method, you will have six sections: the set up, the inciting incident, the rising action, the climax, the falling action, and the resolution.
  • No matter which option you chose, you should make sure your outline contains at least the inciting incident, the climax, and the resolution. Having these three elements set in your mind will make writing your rough draft much easier.

Step 2 Try the three act structure.

  • Act 1: In Act 1, your protagonist meets the other characters in the story. The central conflict of the story is also revealed. Your protagonist should also have a specific goal that will cause them to make a decision. For example, in Act 1, you may have your main character get bitten by a vampire after a one night stand. She may then go into hiding once she discovers she has become a vampire.
  • Act 2: In Act 2, you introduce a complication that makes the central conflict even more of an issue. The complication can also make it more difficult for your protagonist to achieve their goal. For example, in Act 2, you may have your main character realize she has a wedding to go to next week for her best friend, despite the fact she has now become a vampire. The best friend may also call to confirm she is coming, making it more difficult for your protagonist to stay in hiding.
  • Act 3: In Act 3, you present a resolution to the central conflict of the story. The resolution may have your protagonist achieve their goal or fail to achieve their goal. For example, in Act 3, you may have your protagonist show up to the wedding and try to pretend to not be a vampire. The best friend may then find out and accept your protagonist anyway. You may end your story by having your protagonist bite the groom, turning him into her vampire lover.

Step 3 Create an essay outline.

  • Section 1: Introduction, including a hook opening line, a thesis statement , and three main discussion points. Most academic essays contain at least three key discussion points.
  • Section 2: Body paragraphs, including a discussion of your three main points. You should also have supporting evidence for each main point, from outside sources and your own perspective.
  • Section 3: Conclusion, including a summary of your three main points, a restatement of your thesis, and concluding statements or thoughts.

Step 4 Have a thesis statement.

  • For example, maybe you are creating a rough draft for a paper on gluten-intolerance. A weak thesis statement for this paper would be, “There are some positives and negatives to gluten, and some people develop gluten-intolerance.” This thesis statement is vague and does not assert an argument for the paper.
  • A stronger thesis statement for the paper would be, “Due to the use of GMO wheat in food sold in North America, a rising number of Americans are experiencing gluten-intolerance and gluten-related issues.” This thesis statement is specific and presents an argument that will be discussed in the paper.

Step 5 Include a list of sources.

  • Your professor or teacher may require you to create a bibliography using MLA style or APA style. You will need to organize your sources based on either style.

Writing the Rough Draft

Step 1 Find a quiet, focused environment for writing.

  • You may also make sure the room is set to an ideal temperature for sitting down and writing. You may also put on some classical or jazz music in the background to set the scene and bring a snack to your writing area so you have something to munch on as you write.

Step 2 Start in the middle.

  • You may also write the ending of the essay or story before you write the beginning. Many writing guides advise writing your introductory paragraph last, as you will then be able to create a great introduction based on the piece as a whole.

Step 3 Do not worry about making mistakes.

  • You should also try not to read over what you are writing as you get into the flow. Do not examine every word before moving on to the next word or edit as you go. Instead, focus on moving forward with the rough draft and getting your ideas down on the page.

Step 4 Use the active voice.

  • For example, rather than write, “It was decided by my mother that I would learn violin when I was two,” go for the active voice by placing the subject of the sentence in front of the verb, “My mother decided I would learn violin when I turned two.”
  • You should also avoid using the verb “to be” in your writing, as this is often a sign of passive voice. Removing “to be” and focusing on the active voice will ensure your writing is clear and effective.

Step 5 Refer to your outline when you get stuck.

  • You may also review the brainstorming materials you created before you sat down to write, such as your clustering exercise or your freewrite. Reviewing these materials could help to guide you as you write and help you focus on finishing the rough draft.
  • You may want to take breaks if you find you are getting writer’s block. Going for a walk, taking a nap, or even doing the dishes can help you focus on something else and give your brain a rest. You can then start writing again with a fresh approach after your break.

Step 6 Read over your rough draft and revise it.

  • You should also read the rough draft out loud to yourself. Listen for any sentences that sound unclear or confusing. Highlight or underline them so you know they need to be revised. Do not be afraid to revise whole sections or lines of the rough draft. It is a draft, after all, and will only improve with revision.
  • You can also read the rough draft out loud to someone else. Be willing to accept feedback and constructive criticism on the draft from the person. Getting a different perspective on your writing will often make it that much better.

Community Q&A

Community Answer

You Might Also Like

Format Dialogue in a Story

  • ↑ https://www.umgc.edu/current-students/learning-resources/writing-center/online-guide-to-writing/tutorial/chapter2/ch2-13
  • ↑ https://writing.ku.edu/prewriting-strategies
  • ↑ https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/writingprocess/outlining
  • ↑ http://www.writerswrite.com/screenwriting/cannell/lecture4/
  • ↑ https://www.grammarly.com/blog/essay-outline/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/thesis-statements/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/editing-and-proofreading/
  • ↑ https://www.grammarly.com/blog/rough-draft/
  • ↑ https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/style/ccs_activevoice/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/revising-drafts/

About This Article

Michelle Golden, PhD

To write a rough draft, don't worry if you make minor mistakes or write sentences that aren't perfect. You can revise them later! Also, try not to read over what you're writing as you go, which will slow you down and mess up your flow. Instead, focus on getting all of your thoughts and ideas down on paper, even if you're not sure you'll keep them in the final draft. If you get stuck, refer to your outline or sources to help you come up with new ideas. For tips on brainstorming and outlining for a rough draft, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

  • Send fan mail to authors

Reader Success Stories

George O.

Oct 10, 2023

Did this article help you?

rough draft in an essay

Eswaran Eswaran

Aug 24, 2016

Rishabh Nag

Rishabh Nag

Aug 21, 2016


Oct 3, 2016

Mabel McDowell

Mabel McDowell

Nov 17, 2017

Am I a Narcissist or an Empath Quiz

Featured Articles

Enjoy Your Early Teen Years

Trending Articles

What is Golden Child Syndrome? 7 Signs You Were the Golden Child

Watch Articles

Wrap a Round Gift

  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Policy
  • Do Not Sell or Share My Info
  • Not Selling Info

Get all the best how-tos!

Sign up for wikiHow's weekly email newsletter


  • Essay Guides
  • Basics of Essay Writing

Tips for Writing Strong Rough Draft

  • Speech Topics
  • Essay Topics
  • Other Essays
  • Main Academic Essays
  • Research Paper Topics
  • Basics of Research Paper Writing
  • Miscellaneous
  • Chicago/ Turabian
  • Data & Statistics
  • Methodology
  • Admission Writing Tips
  • Admission Advice
  • Other Guides
  • Student Life
  • Studying Tips
  • Understanding Plagiarism
  • Academic Writing Tips
  • Basics of Dissertation & Thesis Writing


  • Research Paper Guides
  • Formatting Guides
  • Basics of Research Process
  • Admission Guides
  • Dissertation & Thesis Guides

Tips for Writing Strong Rough Draft

Table of contents


Use our free Readability checker

A rough draft is an initial version of a piece of writing that serves as a starting point for further revision. When writing a draft, you don't need to focus too much on grammar, style, or perfect structure. The purpose of a rough draft is to get thoughts down on paper and prepare a foundation for the final version of your writing.

An excellent essay is not written in one go; it has many rough drafts behind it. What's a secret to writing a powerful sketch? In fact, there is no secret. It's just a matter of knowing how to organize your ideas correctly. Read on and you’ll find out how to sketch your perfect final piece and get essay help .

What Is Rough Draft: Meaning

The rough draft is your very first attempt to put text on paper. It is expected to be basic, imperfect, and incomplete. But at the same time, it is a piece of essential information for the final version. Don't be afraid to make grammatical mistakes, incorrect words, or confusing structure.  The idea is writing down all your thoughts in an outline. And you can correct errors at the very end.

What Is the Purpose of Rough Draft?

What is the focus and purpose of writing a rough draft? Drafts help you catch an idea and finish your essay on time. This is precisely a tool that is needed when fearing blank slate. It should not be perfect; it just should be as it is.  Its ultimate goal is getting your ideas across and giving yourself a boost to start writing. Preparing your work becomes much easier after you have your first sketch. But just writing an essay without it can take a lot of time. Using an outline, you can see what is missing and what can be changed. According to professional college essay writing service , flaws or plot holes can be avoided even before  material is written.

Rough Draft: What to Include

What should be included in your first draft? Draft helps you with an initial version of your final paper. So it should contain all sections that a usual essay has. However, this sketch is for you only, and no one will read it. Therefore, no one will mind if you modify it for yourself. You can skip some sections. But keep in mind that in your final work, everything should be according to  instructions.  If you are interested in what should be in your finished version of an essay, we suggest that you look through our article or order essay from experts.

How to Write Rough Draft: 5 Main Steps

Now let's take a look at how to write a rough draft. This is often the most extended and most laborious part of essay writing preparation.  The purpose is to complete actual content writing. We have prepared a guide, thanks to which you can organize your ideas in just 5 steps!

Step 1: Brainstorming Ideas for the Draft

Brainstorming is the beginning step in writing a draft. This is very important for identifying  ideas and content that you want to build your copy around.  Don't worry about structure or spelling. Just write whatever comes to mind. Do not neglect this step whether you are writing a thesis paper or a fiction book. Take a piece of paper or create a new word document on your computer. At the top, write your main topic. Then set a timer for 10 minutes and start writing whatever comes to mind. There is no need to reread what you have printed or to correct something. Just keep on writing. Then, underline or highlight phrases and sentences that could be used for a story. As you go through the following steps, you may have more ideas. But always start by jotting down as many ideas as possible.

Step 2: Do Prewriting

To start your rough draft essay, ask yourself six important questions. Take a new sheet of paper or create a new word document. Write the main story topic at top. Then answer 6 main questions in free-write form:

How to write rough draft: 6 main questions

Now reread your answers. Perhaps you answered some questions with several sentences and left some unanswered. That may be the basis for your essay.

Step 3: Create an Outline

After brainstorming and attempts at writing first words, here comes a rough draft outline! It helps structure your content and put all of your previous work in logical form. Consider outline as a general plan for your broad sketch. This is just a picture of how everything will develop.

Step 4: Start Where You Want

How to start a rough draft? Don't be afraid to start your draft in the middle. This is especially useful if you keep thinking of a great first paragraph. Maybe you will begin with body paragraph parts. Starting in the middle will help you find proper words. You can also write conclusions first. Complete your introductory paragraph last. Then your introduction will be based on the context of your entire composition.

Step 5: Read Over and Revise Rough Draft

The final step of an essay rough draft is editing. This phase helps to polish all shortcomings and inaccuracies that you left while writing. Next, you need to thoroughly read a text. Edit any grammatical and spelling mistakes to get a final look. Well, that's all, done! Speaking about essay revision , we have a useful blog with all the necessary tips. Follow all the steps we advise.

How Long Should a Rough Draft Be?

Rough draft length should not differ much from final work's length. You can rewrite your drafts multiple times. This will help you choose the most suitable material from all options. This process gives you the ability to select from more comfortable material. Don't be afraid to change your ideas, because, in the end, you will still only leave the most suitable option.

How to Create Rough Draft: Helpful Tips

So, you start creating your first rough draft paper. Now we'll quickly give you the most critical advice when writing draft:

  • Allow yourself to write imperfectly! As we said, your goal is to present all ideas. Don't worry about making mistakes. Don't expect perfection the first time.
  • Focus on setting your raw ideas. Follow your plan. Don't be afraid to include new ideas. Draft can be your inspiration!
  • Don't concentrate on finding the right word. Don't check your grammar for correctness. Instead, focus on the big picture.

Rough Draft Example

It is hard to provide only one essay rough draft example. Sketches can include so many different aspects. Let's quickly take a look at what they could be:

  • It can be written entirely but with confusing ideas.
  • It can be written in slang or shorthand, with hints to add content later.
  • It can be written barely, but it outlines the central vision.
  • It may be a masterpiece that looks like the final product. But some fragments of information may be irrelevant.

If you worry how your plan should look like, here is also a system called TEER:

  • Thesis Here you state the idea and get attention.
  • Example Provide life support for your view.
  • Evidence Here you scientifically prove your thesis.
  • Relevance statement Wrap up your essay with a description of why it is significant.

Rough Draft: Bottom Line

A rough draft is a sketch of your future essay.  It is critical for writing a successful paper. We've described how to write a draft in 5 steps together with tips and examples. So you are ready to try writing the best draft for your academic work. 


Yes, draft is essential in writing an essay. But you don't have to worry about it at all. Just say ‘ write my college essay ’ and order the whole academic paper from us. Our professional writers will do everything quickly and at the highest level.


Daniel Howard is an Essay Writing guru. He helps students create essays that will strike a chord with the readers.

You may also like

How to Revise an Essay

Writing Prompts

Make Writing A Habit

Putting Pen to Paper: How to Write a Rough Draft

You have done the research and written the outline of your paper. You are ahead of the deadline, and you want to stay that way. You turn on your computer, poise your fingers over the keyboard, and begin your rough draft. But what exactly is a rough draft? And just why do you need to write one in the first place?

Have you ever assembled a puzzle? Most of us begin by dumping all the puzzle pieces out of the box and then grouping the pieces by color and shape. It is likely that the jumble of puzzle pieces in no way resembles the picture on the puzzle box. But looking at the pieces, you can get an idea of how they will all fit together.

Writing a rough draft is similar to building a puzzle. Your outline and your research are a collection of ideas similar to that jumble of puzzle pieces. When you write your rough draft, you begin organizing how these ideas go together. Just as grouping similar puzzle pieces can give you an idea of what the final puzzle will look like, grouping your ideas in a rough draft gives you an idea of what your final draft will look like.

Getting a Rough Idea

You may think that rough drafts are not important. You have done the research, and you know what you want to say, so what is wrong with just writing? Nothing! In fact, that’s exactly how to write a rough draft. A rough draft is a means of getting started on your essay. When you start a rough draft, you are no longer just thinking about writing or planning on writing—you are doing it! Writing your rough draft helps you get your information and thoughts on paper. Once you have your rough draft, you can edit and polish ad nauseum until you have your wonderful final draft. But before that, you need to start somewhere.

Writing a rough draft also helps build discipline. While you may have managed to write an essay off the cuff in the past, it was bound to be a stressful experience. Who would want to do that again? Writing a rough draft helps you get your ideas on paper. You can always fix the spelling and grammar, refine your word choices, and add your own style and panache later. For now, sitting down and writing helps discipline your mind.

How to Write a Rough Draft

  • The first step in writing a rough draft is just to get started. Collect your research notes and your outline (you did do the research and prepare the outline, didn’t you?).
  • Follow your outline to help you prepare your introductory paragraph. This is where you should catch your reader’s attention with an interesting first sentence, but don’t worry if you can’t think of one yet. Inspiration may hit you at a later stage—that’s the wonder of writing a rough draft! Make sure that you introduce your topic and write your thesis statement . This will help you with the structure of your paper.
  • Write the body of your essay. Remember that you will need, at very least, three paragraphs containing evidence that supports your thesis statement. At this point, don’t worry too much about making sure you have transitions between the paragraphs. Improving flow is something you can do in a later draft.
  • Write your conclusion. This paragraph provides you with the opportunity to summarize your research and show how it supports your thesis statement. You should also restate your thesis statement.

Surviving the Rough Times

There are some things you can do to make sure that you don’t have a rough time writing your rough draft. These tips will help make the writing process a bit easier:

  • Write in the active voice.
  • Don’t stress out over every word. Just let your ideas spill onto the paper. If you can’t think of an appropriate word, just type the first word that pops into your head, and return to it later.
  • Make sure your introduction not only introduces your topic but also provides some background information on the topic.
  • Write a topic sentence for each of your body paragraphs. This sentence indicates the direction for each paragraph and will help you remain on subject.
  • If you can, write some transition ideas in each of your body paragraphs so that they link together, but don’t agonize over them. It’s okay if you can’t think of these transitions at this stage.
  • Look for any paragraphs where you feel that your proof is weak or you need more information to bolster your argument. You may need to go back and do more research to fill in any holes.
  • Once you have completed your rough draft, take a break. You deserve it!

Share this:

Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Stages of the Writing Process

OWL logo

Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

This resource provides a list of key concepts, words, and phrases that multi-lingual writers may find useful if they are new to writing in the North American educational context. It covers concepts and and key words pertaining to the stages in the writing process, style, citation and reference, and other common expressions in academic writing

Writing can’t be done without going through certain stages. All writers go through their own unique writing processes before they make their final drafts. Usually, writers start with choosing topics and brainstorming, and then they may outline their papers, and compose sentences and paragraphs to make a rough draft. After they make a rough draft, writers may begin revising their work by adding more sentences, or removing sentences. Writers may then edit their rough draft by changing words and sentences that are grammatically incorrect or inappropriate for a topic.


Before you start writing, you will think about what to write, or how to write. This is called, brainstorming . When you brainstorm for ideas, you will try to come up with as many ideas as you can. Don't worry about whether or not they are good or bad ideas. You can brainstorm by creating a list of ideas that you came up with, or drawing a map and diagram, or just writing down whatever you can think of without thinking about grammar. Think of this like the erratic thunder and lightning that comes from a thunderstorm.

Next, you may want to outline your paper based on the ideas you came up with while you were brainstorming. This means that you will think about the structure of your paper so that you can best deliver your ideas, and meet the requirements of writing assignments. You will usually outline your paper by beginning with its three major parts: introduction, body, and conclusion. The specific structure of each essay may vary from assignment to assignment. Many writers call this a skeleton unto which you develop or “flesh out” the paper. Once you have the skeleton in place, you can start thinking about how to add additional detail to it.

Rough Draft

Your professors or instructors will often require you to submit a rough draft of your paper. This usually means that your work is still in progress. In the rough draft, readers want to see if you have a clear direction in your paper. When you are required to submit a rough draft, it doesn't need to be perfect, but it does need to be complete. That means, you shouldn't be missing any of the major parts of the paper. For more information on drafting and revising your work, watch our Drafting and Revising video.

Revise and Edit your writing

What is the difference between revise and edit ?

Revision lets you look at your paper in terms of your topic, your ideas, and your audience. You may add more paragraphs or remove paragraphs to better fit into a given genre or topic. In a word, revising means that you organize your writing better in a way that your audience can understand your writing better. You may want to read our resource on basic rhetorical elements to help guide your revision.

Editing typically means that you go over your writing to make sure that you do not have any grammatical errors or strange phrases that make it difficult for your readers to understand what you are trying to say. In other words, editing means that you take care of minor errors in your writing. This is a lot like polishing your writing.

Polish your writing

We often hear professors or instructors say that you need to “ polish your writing .” What do you mean by polish ?

The word polish originally meant to make something smooth and shiny, as in “she polished her leather shoes.” In writing, polish can mean to improve or perfect, or refine a piece of writing by getting rid of minor errors. In other words, when your professors or instructors say, “polish your writing,” it means that you should go over your writing and make sure you do not have any errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and to make sure that you do not have any sentences that do not make sense.

Telephone Get help: (646) 791-3081

Find a Tutor

Rough Draft: What Is It and How to Write One

rough draft of novels

Writing a rough draft is an essential part of the writing process and is an opportunity to write your first ideas and thoughts on paper. It can be challenging to dive directly into a rough draft of an essay or creative work (such as a novel or short story). You need to start by brainstorming your ideas and letting your creative juices flow. Then you take the time to outline your draft. Once you’ve done this, you are ready to sit down and write a draft.

Writing an Initial Draft

pen and paper for writing

Every writer’s process is different, but there are several ways to reduce the difficulty of jumping into the first rough draft of a novel:

Allow Ideas to Flow Freely.

Rough drafts are where your most crazy ideas come to light. Don’t be shy about changing content or perspective, and don’t hesitate to come up with ideas worth exploring. This stage of your writing is for your eyes only, so you don’t have to feel awkward about what you’re putting on the paper.

By giving yourself a deadline to complete a particular exercise or section. You will become more ambitious about your time, and less willing to waste it around sorting out the details. Promise to complete a certain number of pages or write a certain number of hours per day. Routines keep your writing consistent, so you don’t lose momentum and lag behind.

Give an Overview

Take time before writing the rough draft to create an outline that initiates the formation of the initial structure of the scene. Placing all the pieces before assembling gives you the clearest idea of ​​how to organize your novel as well as identifying the missing (and useless) pieces.

Create in Advance

Pre-writing helps you get started and can include writing procedures and performing exercises. For example, writing freely allows the writer to write undisturbed – quickly writing down ideas without following a strict form – which allows the stimulation of creativity when suffering from the writer’s block.

Forget to Edit

When spitting out story details, you don’t have to worry about grammatical mistakes such as punctuation, passive voices, sentence completion, and inconsistent tenses. Leave the entire editing process until after your finish your rough draft. As long as you convey your thoughts in a way that you can understand, what you write in your draft lies between you and your vision. You can worry about well-written sentences in the second or third draft.

Start Wherever You Like

You want to start with the most exciting points for you. Every story starts from the beginning and doesn’t have to go step by step. If you are excited about the story’s climax before the beginning or end of the story, write it down first. You don’t want to get stuck in the details of a story that isn’t ready to be established yet. Writing a novel is a lengthy process, and you want to keep enjoying it for as long as possible.

Take a Break  

The last thing you need to do is burn out before completing your first draft. Sometimes taking a break is precisely what your writing process needs to get away from writing and come back with a fresh mind later.


Do not start the next draft until the current draft is complete. The sooner you refine it, the better. Sticking to your goals and spending time with you work will eventually produce a viable page which you can start engraving into the final draft of your novel.

How to Get T hrough the Writing Process

type writer

There are a few things you can do to avoid the hassle of writing a rough draft.  It will help in making the writing process a little easier.

  • Do not stress about the words. Put your ideas on paper. If you can’t think of a suitable word, enter the first word that comes to your mind and come back later.
  • If possible, write some migration ideas in each body paragraph to connect, but again don’t worry about them. It’s okay if you can’t think about these transitions at this stage.
  • In addition to introducing the given circumstances in the beginning chapter, be sure to provide background information about the characters and world of your novel.
  • Look for paragraphs or sections that appear to have weak imagery. Identify those that require more information to either further the plot or character development of your story. 
  • Write a topic statement or goal for each chapter of section of the novel. This sentence shows the direction of each chapter and helps you stay in line with your plot outline.
  • Write with an active voice.
  • Take a break when the rough draft is complete. You deserve it.

Written by Anonymous Gooroo Blogger.

About the Author

Lydia B.

Lydia B. is a Marketing Coordinator and Music Club Coach for Gooroo, a tutoring membership that matches students to tutors perfect for them based on their unique learning needs. Gooroo offers Math, English, SAT, Coding, Spanish tutoring, and more.

  • how to write a rough draft
  • rough draft
  • Writing desk tips

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay updated

You’ve successfully signed up for updates.

rough draft in an essay

Rough Drafting: Writing

  • Embrace the Chaos
  • Get Words Down
  • Delegate to Future You
  • Know Your Goal Style
  • Pick Your Medium
  • Set the Scene

Overview of rough drafting

The first draft of an essay or other written assessment is often referred to as the  rough draft.  We call it  rough  for a reason: it's normal for the earliest version of an essay to be disjointed, underdeveloped, or otherwise messy.

We argue that the messiness isn't just normal: it's a good thing. When you embrace the rough drafting stage as a time to explore content, test out structural options, inventory your ideas, and play  with the writing, it can lead to insights you might not discover otherwise.

Guide contents

The tabs of this guide will support you in completing rough drafts of assignments and understanding how you work best as a writer. The sections are organised as follows:

  • Get Words Down  - Explore practical methods and suggestions to begin producing content.
  • Delegate to Future You  - Learn vital strategies to maintain your momentum now and simplify your editing later.
  • Know Your Goal Style -   Discover what makes a writing goal effective and how to follow through.
  • Pick Your Medium - Reflect on the benefits and limitations of writing by hand, voice dictation, apps, and more.
  • Set the Scene - Experiment with environmental factors such as company and space for maximum drafting efficiency.

Let's get started

Embracing the chaos of an imperfect rough draft can benefit your writing. Accepting this premise in theory is a start, but putting it into practice is trickier – to help you out, in this section, we will cover practical tips and approaches to get started on a rough draft.

The priority: make words happen

Many students feel self-conscious or even ashamed when their work is in a rough state. They want their writing to be engaging, logically structured, and well-supported from the very first attempt. That's a nice fantasy, but in reality, those unrealistic expectations can lead to procrastination and writing anxiety.

'Whether it's a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like The Lord of the Rings , the work is always accomplished one word at a time.' – Stephen King ¹

To state it rather unacademically, when we produce a first draft, our goal is to  make words happen.  That's it. Our goals shift as we get deeper into the process: as we transform that first draft into a second draft or the second into a third, we begin to make structural changes, refine our arguments, incorporate additional evidence, and more.

The rough draft, though? Again, this is simply where you make words happen.

Find your bearings

For most people, the writing process begins with activities like research/reading, invention, planning, and just plain  thinking . Amidst all those activities, writers sometimes lose track of the assignment's specific aims. Therefore, when you sit down to begin your draft, carefully re-read the assignment prompt , first.

  • Do your rough plans and ideas align with the stated goals?
  • Do you understand the key content/literature well enough to begin writing? (You don't need to be 100% finished with your research – focus on whether you know enough to make a meaningful start.)

Next, study any invention or planning items you have completed (e.g. mind maps, outlines , bulleted lists, and so on). Even writers who prefer to dive right in might benefit from jotting down a few important moves they plan to make in the draft (i.e., 'Define theory of XYZ'; 'Analyse the two case studies'; 'Explain method used').

Finally, choose a general starting point for your drafting: it does not have to be the beginning! You might find it easiest to begin with the introduction , but many people prefer to draft the body of the essay first.

Draft in a natural voice

You might struggle to start drafting because you fear your words aren't good enough or 'academic' enough. It's true that academic writing should aspire to clarity, precision and accuracy; however, those qualities rarely come to fruition in the first draft. Instead, you achieve clarity, precision and accuracy as you  edit subsequent drafts of the work.

Therefore, we recommend giving yourself permission to  write in a natural voice  while producing your first draft. This frees you to focus on  what  you want to say and  why , rather than fretting over exactly  how  you will say it.

The table below identifies and illustrates some common qualities of writing in a natural voice. It then shows how the voice can be changed later with editing. [ NOTE: Some disciplines accept the use of first-person pronouns, so the first example applies only to fields where 'I', 'my', etc. are discouraged.]

If you tend to pick away at your sentences, struggling to make each one sound just right before you move to the next, you might find it challenging to adopt this freer method of drafting. We encourage you to give it a try, though. When you truly accept rough drafts as works-in-progress – subject to all manner of changes and edits, later – the focus can shift to ideas and content rather than superficial phrasing concerns.

Freewriting and freespeaking

Freewriting techniques help produce raw material for essays, and they can also kickstart your writing if the work has lost momentum. Most simply,  freewriting  refers to writing without stopping for a set period of time (often ten minutes). No pausing to think, no backspacing, no editing: you have to move forward and keep writing until the timer goes off.

Freespeaking  follows the same premise, but you speak aloud instead of writing silently. The 'Pick Your Medium' tab of this guide shares some practical techniques for using dictation/voice methods if you wish to try this.

  • Remember that the goal of drafting is to produce content, discover ideas, and make connections.
  • Before you start drafting, revisit the assignment prompt and your planning/invention materials.
  • Give yourself permission to write the first draft in your most natural voice.
  • Consider gamifying your drafting process with some freewriting or freespeaking exercises.

An overview of placeholders

A placeholder, as the name implies,  stands in place of something else  within the rough draft. Using placeholders – or related techniques such as colour-coding and notes to self – not only eases the rough drafting process, but streamlines the writing activities that follow.

How placeholders work

Simply put, you can use a placeholder when you want to keep drafting for now, but know you need to return to a specific issue, later. Using a placeholder in your rough draft can help in two main ways:

  • It encourages you to keep writing rather than going down a rabbit hole (i.e., getting distracted or diverted) every time an obstacle or question arises.
  • It makes other writing activities like research and editing easier because you can sort your placeholders, like with like, and work systematically.

In practice, this means that you avoid disruption and draft more continuously. When you would normally be tempted to stop and make something 'perfect' (no such thing), you instead deploy a placeholder technique and keep going.

Forms and categories of placeholders

We will first explore the literal forms that placeholders can take. We will then cover common categories of use (i.e., 'stuff you flag' via a placeholder). 

Typical forms

Placeholders and notes to self can take whatever form makes sense to you. Here are some good options:

  • Bracketed words or abbreviations  – As you're rough drafting, add a keyword or abbreviation in brackets [[LIKE THIS]] . Boldface helps it stand out. You can CTRL+F to find the brackets '[[' anywhere in your document, so it's easy to jump from one to the next as you edit later.
  • Colour highlighting  – You can highlight sentences/words that you definitely want to revisit. Develop a manageable coding system (i.e., yellow = 'wow that sentence is way too long,' blue = 'find a better word to use there,' etc.).
  • Comments or tags  – You can use the 'Comment' feature in Word to leave keywords or notes to self throughout the draft. Viewing all your comments together in the editing pane makes it easy to work through them systematically, later.
  • Bullet points  – You can insert a bullet point or two to mark a spot in the rough draft that needs development or additional ideas, quickly summarising what's needed alongside the bullet(s).

Common categories

As we look at some common categories of placeholders, we will use the bracketed keyword technique to illustrate them. However, you could use other methods like Word comments or highlighting to indicate the same ideas.

  • Expand/develop  – This is a good one to use if you have started to present a promising idea in your rough draft, but you need to reflect a while or do more research to fully develop it [[DEV. FURTHER]] .
  • Fact check  – A placeholder like [[FACT CHECK]] or [[ACCURATE?]] is helpful when you must return to the literature to verify something. This lets you keep drafting while guaranteeing you will remember to double-check.
  • Add evidence  – Use placeholders like this to mark claims you plan to strengthen by introducing evidence from the literature [[ADD LIT]] or a data set [[DATA NEEDED]] .
  • Citation missing  –  Don't  assume you will remember to add all your citations later. If a fact, idea, or data point in your draft requires attribution, leave a [[CITATION]] placeholder. Your future self will thank you!
  • Move 'missing'  – This one reminds you to go back and add anything you skip over in the rough draft, such as transition sentences [[MISSING transit]] , takeaway points, definitions of key terms, etc.
  • Phrasing and word choices  – Remember, your rough draft will be full of clunky, weird sentences: that's 100% okay, so don't try to mark  every  sentence with a potential issue. But if a particular sentence or word is bothering you so much that you can't move on, try adding a placeholder like [[AWK]] (for 'awkward'), [[SMOOTH]] (for 'smooth out this cumbersome phrasing'), or [[W.C.]] (for 'word choice'). Flagging it will let you feel secure enough to continue drafting.

Making it work for you

The key thing to remember is that placeholders should make your writing life easier , not harder. With that in mind, here are some questions to consider as you develop your own placeholder techniques:

Is the method logical to you ?

  • Don't work against your own instincts. For example, if using different colours to mark issues feels strange and difficult to track, that isn't your method!

Is the method manageable ?

  • Aim for clarity and simplicity. Creating twenty different keyword codes is comprehensive, sure, but that system will be tough to memorise and stick to. Keep it simple and consistent.

Can you easily see or find your placeholders?

  • You shouldn't  need to squint, zoom in, etc. Use abbreviations/punctuation you can 'find' via the CTRL+F shortcut, such as the double brackets in our earlier examples. If highlighting, colour enough text for it to stand out.
  • Don't make placeholders out of words or acronyms that you use frequently in the actual writing. That will complicate any 'find' searches you do.

Does your system let you group 'like with like' and form a game plan?

  • Make sure you can logically group your placeholders to simplify the next writing activities you do.

Editing's best friend

Let's say your first draft of an essay is complete. The rough draft is very rough, but that's okay: editing, supplementary research, and proofreading will whip the essay into shape. Great! But...where do you start? What needs to be done?

While drafting, we give our memories more credit than we should. Problems feel obvious to us in the moment , so we assume they will be just as obvious later on. (Spoiler: they won't be.)

This is where  placeholders  come to the rescue, providing a great starting point to address editorial concerns like these:

  • Which claims in your draft still require data/literature to back them up?
  • Have you incorporated any attributable information that still needs to be cited?
  • What ideas or moves are missing from the draft (e.g. definitions, transitions, topic sentences, counterarguments...)?
  • Did you feel particularly unsure about any words or phrases you used in the rough draft?

You will make changes, additions, and cuts unrelated to your placeholders, of course, but reviewing and grouping your placeholders can help you form a re-drafting and editing game plan (i.e., first, I'll do supplementary research on ABC and XYZ; next, I'll synthesize that new info into the draft; then, I'll fact-check...).

Placeholders in practice

Placeholders can be used in many writing contexts beyond academic essays: CVs, personal statements, business presentations, job performance reviews, email newsletters, wedding speeches, you name it.

In fact, we used placeholder strategies while writing the online guide you're currently reading! As shown in the below snip of the guide's overview tab, our strategies included...

  • Keywords  – We used a small selection of keyword tags including 'missing', 'image here', and 'example needed' to flag areas where copy or content still needed to be developed.
  • Emphasis  – We used brackets and caps-lock to distinguish our keyword tags from the surrounding text, with blue highlighting for further emphasis.
  • Coding  – We kept our coding simple, but with enough options to suit the project. Blue was only used to indicate gaps (e.g. missing text, examples, or images), for example, whereas yellow meant phrasing edits might be required.

These techniques allowed us to keep the rough draft of the webpage moving along. Rather than staring at a wall for 30 minutes agonising over what might make a good example of some idea, we typed ' [EXAMPLE NEEDED] ' and continued working on the next passage. When a good example dawned on us later, the placeholder made it quick and easy to pick back up in the correct spot.

Snip of guide table of contents showing some items highlighted in yellow. Other items are followed by caps-locked 'MISSING' in brackets, highlighted blue.

Same draft, two approaches

If you are having trouble picturing how placeholders can ease the drafting process, let's have a look at one writer, 'Maria,' as she works on her dissertation two different ways. Click below to expand the first scenario:

  Scenario #1  

Maria has started drafting her dissertation but isn't getting much written so far. She has two hours to write this afternoon. She types one sentence, then types another: 'I will use an intersectional and mixed-methods approach to insure the data is fair.' She re-reads it:  insure?  Is that right? She pulls up Google and searches 'insure or ensure.' The first hit adds 'assure' to the mix, too! Ugh. She reads the article and decides 'ensure' is correct – but the article is on an American site, maybe it's different in the UK? She finds a UK website and, yes, it's supposed to be 'ensure.'

But now she's worried about a bigger problem: isn't 'intersectional' related more to theories she's using, whereas 'mixed-methods approach' is about her data analysis? Is she supposed to talk about those in the same sentence? Well, last week she read a study that used mixed methods, so maybe she can read that and see how they framed it. She opens EndNote...nope, not that article...not that article...not that article...okay, there it is. Except the article doesn't say anything about theories in the introduction: is Maria doing this totally wrong?

She also wrote ' I will use,' and she can't remember if her supervisor said she  should  or  shouldn't  use the first-person for her dissertation, so she pulls up Blackboard and starts digging through folders to see if there's a handbook or something. Eventually she remembers that information was shared via email, not Blackboard, so she opens Outlook. Before she can find the email from her supervisor, Maria sees an email she sent to herself yesterday, with an article attached that she thought could be relevant to her dissertation. She opens the article and starts reading it...then keeps reading it...then remembers to search for that supervisor email...but nope, she can't find it. Forget it. She pulls up Word again and deletes the whole sentence.

At the end of Maria's two-hour 'rough drafting' session, she has written precisely... one sentence.

Maria probably doesn't feel great about that writing session. She bounced between many discrete activities in the writing process: rough drafting, proofreading, researching, analyzing assignment parameters, more researching, etc.

Some writers can get the work done while bouncing around in this way, but for many of us, it's more efficient to  identify the nature of each writing session and stick to it.  For example: 11:00-12:00 is rough drafting; 12:00-13:00 is lunch; 13:00-14:30 is research time; break; 15:00-16:00 is rough drafting.

What if Maria were to use some placeholder techniques? Click below to see how that might work.

  Scenario #2  

Maria has started drafting her dissertation but isn't getting much written so far. She has two hours to write this afternoon. She types one sentence, then types another: ' I will use an intersectional and mixed-methods approach to insure [W.C.] the data is fair.' Maria can't remember if first-person pronouns are permitted, so she highlights that phrasing. She always mixes up insure  and ensure , so she adds 'W.C.' for 'word choice.' She will check on those things later.

She knows she needs to expand on those ideas, so she continues typing, 'In terms of the project, intersectional refers to the theoretical lenses I am applying. I will analyse the interviews through not only a feminist lens [SPEC?]  but the social model of disability, too, which posits that [QUOTATION/CITATION]. ' The 'SPEC' note is a placeholder because Maria is deciding between two particular theorists: she'll get more 'SPECIFIC', later. She remembers circling a short but helpful definition of the social model of disability in an article, but she doesn't want to get distracted pawing through EndNote, so she adds a placeholder and keeps writing...and keeps writing...

At the end of Maria's two-hour rough drafting session, she has written  five paragraphs.

Maria should feel great about this writing session! She will need to revisit those five paragraphs and do considerable editing, later, but the point to remember is that  you can't improve what doesn't yet exist.

Moreover, the placeholder and colour-coding techniques that Maria has deployed will make it easier to coordinate her approach to editing. She can group related placeholders (e.g. notes to cite some literature; notes to check word choice; etc.) and focus on one similar set of actions at a time, making the process efficient.

  • Placeholders can help you push forward with a rough draft instead of letting perfectionism or worry win out.
  • There are different ways to use placeholders and notes to self: play around to build a system that works for you.
  • These techniques are valuable not only for producing the rough draft, but for the re-drafting and editing processes .

The power of mini-goals

With written assignments, don't think in terms of one big goal, i.e., 'Finish and submit essay by 15th January.' Instead, use mini-goals to ensure you are making enough progress to hit incremental or staggered deadlines.

Mini-goals when rough drafting are generally quantity-based, time-based, or content-based. On this page, we'll explore how those goal setting options work, including the potential benefits and drawbacks; then we will cover ways to hold yourself accountable to goals.

Quantity-based goals

With this approach, you aim to draft a certain number of words, lines/sentences, paragraphs, or pages per writing session or per day. If a 1,500-word essay is due in a few weeks, for example, you could research during the first week, then draft 300 words per day (Monday to Friday) in the second week. This would give you a 1,500-word rough draft, with one more week remaining to re-draft and edit.

If typing your rough draft, you can use 'word count' features to track your progress. If writing by hand, a paragraph or page target will be easier to follow.

  • PROS  – Quantity goals compel you to actually write rather than sitting there overthinking. Breaking a big project like a 10,000-word dissertation into little 'chunks' (draft two paragraphs today; draft 150 words tomorrow; etc.) keeps you on track and makes the work feel more manageable.
  • CAUTION   – Shift gears if too many writing sessions lead only  to 'fluff' or filler material while using quantity-based goals. This might signal the need to try a different goal method; it could also mean you need to engage in more invention activities or research before rough drafting.

Time-based goals

With this approach, you aim to rough draft for specific amounts of time. Plan your week in advance, setting realistic goals for each day by considering your other obligations, where you will be, anticipated energy levels, etc.

If you will be drafting for an hour or more, use a Pomodoro timer to break the time goal into shorter chunks with breaks between. For example, 'two hours of drafting' could be reframed as 'four 25-minute Pomodoro cycles.' See the quick video below for an explainer on this technique.

  • PROS  – Time-based goals help you integrate drafting practices into your daily and weekly routine, which can gradually transform writing from 'random, stress-spiking intrusion' to 'normal habit.' Scheduling the decided goal into your calendar ups the odds that you will sit down to write during the blocked-out time. 
  • CAUTION   – Shift gears if you are leaving too many so-called 'writing sessions' without having  written  (i.e., you 'wrote for two hours' yesterday and 'wrote for three hours' today, but have four sentences to show for it). Try combining a quantity-based or content-based goal with your time goal to remind yourself to make words happen .

Content-based goals

Students can use content-based goals for any assignment, but this method becomes crucial with extended writing at the postgraduate level . Why? Simply put, the bigger a writing project is, the more likely you are to stare at the blank page and say, 'I have no idea what to write today.'

It's important to develop a solid outline or mind map for this method because you build your mini-goals around achieving specific 'moves' or tackling specific content/ideas . That word 'specific' is key, as you can see in the examples below:

BAD content-based goal: In today's writing session, I will work on my literature review.

GOOD content-based goal:  In today's writing session, I will synthesize three different scholars' definitions of the term 'viral marketing.'

Just reading the first goal feels overwhelming: 'work on' is vague, and 'literature review' is far too broad to provide meaningful direction. The revised goal specifies the move the writer will make: synthesis (i.e., critically weaving together multiple sources). Additionally, it specifies the content/idea the writer will cover: the definition of 'viral marketing.'

To reiterate, content-based goals won't work unless you have some idea where the writing is headed, so invest time in invention and organisation activities.

  • PROS  – Building your mini-goals around writing moves and content/ideas helps keep your rough drafting relevant, making this a good choice for writers who tend to stray from the assessment brief. You enter each drafting session with a clear idea of what you need to accomplish.
  • CAUTION   – An overly rigid approach to content-based goals can prevent exploration of important insights that arise when you are rough drafting, so take time to reflect between each goal in case your plan needs to evolve.

But I don't wanna... (i.e., accountability)

If you are one of those magical people with a magically healthy sense of magical self-motivation...well, good for you! Skip this section. For the rest of us mere mortals, sticking to our writing goals can be a challenge. Here are some ideas to help:

Get it in your calendar as a real thing

It's easy for 'work on rough draft' to get bumped down, down, down your priority list until suddenly the essay is due...tomorrow. Drafting goals shouldn't be loose intentions that float invisibly around your head: they should be recorded and scheduled. Add your drafting sessions to the calendar you use most, and set up alarms and reminders.

Set yourself up for success

Know thyself, know thyself, know thyself: what distracts you when you're trying to draft? Identify the distractions, and do everything you can to eliminate or mitigate them. For example, if social media's siren call always gets to you, stop trying to succeed with willpower alone: leave your phone in a library locker or give it to a trusted friend until your writing session is over. See the 'Pick Your Medium' tab of this guide for more suggestions on tailoring how you write.

Lean on external accountability

In the 'Set the Scene' tab of this guide, we discuss drafting with an accountabili-buddy or writing group. It can be so helpful if you need to 'show up' not only for yourself, but for peers. For extra motivation, create a shared document where each of you log progress towards your drafting goals; this can be as basic as a table of the weekdays where you type 'Y' if you met the goal or 'N' if you didn't. Give encouragement, get encouragement: everyone wins.

Visually represent your achievements

This is a simple one, but it feels great: create a way to visually mark each goal you hit. Tap into your inner child and slap gold star stickers onto the calendar. Draw a thermometer on a piece of paper with the word-count total at the top; colour it in each day as you creep closer to the goal. Put each mini-goal in the To-Do app and relish in that 'ping' sound when you mark it complete.

Make a writing ritual

Cultivate a little ritual that tells your brain, 'It's time to write.' Buy a special tea or coffee that you only brew for writing. Or designate an ugly (but oh-so-comfy) jumper your official 'Making Words Happen Jumper.' Or do some sun salutations while singing 'Wrecking Ball' at the top of your lungs. It doesn't have to be dignified: it's your writing ritual.

Devise a reward system

Rewards that are contingent on perfection tend to be demotivating, so if you try this route, do reward yourself for a 'pretty okay' job: 100% goal-hitting is not realistic. Did you hit most your goals in a week? Perhaps you and your partner agree to binge some bad reality TV on the weekend. Complete your rough draft well ahead of the deadline? Treat yourself to an at-home spa day, or watch some rugby at the pub. For some people, it works to intersperse mini-rewards while writing, i.e., 'For every 45 minutes I draft, I'll give myself 15 minutes of TikTok.'


You can mix and match categories of rough drafting goals to create goals that are SMART: Specific, Motivating, Attainable, Relevant, and Trackable .

  • Make a goal more specific by adding a content-based detail.
  • Make a goal more  motivating by adding a reward or reflecting on the positive outcomes of achieving it.
  • Make goals  attainable by adapting them to match realities of your schedule and study/writing habits.
  • Make goals relevant by verifying that your planning materials reflect the assignment aims.
  • Make goals trackable  with quantity-based mini-deadlines.

Writers who thrive within familiar routine may benefit from finding the goal style that works for them, then sticking with it. Individuals who respond better to variety may benefit from rotating between goal styles if one approach starts to feel stale.

Drafting goals can also evolve throughout the academic year. For example, a postgraduate researcher might respond well to primarily time-based drafting goals for much of the year. However, in the two months preceding a progression review deadline, they might layer on additional elements to build SMART drafting goals tailored to the submission requirements.

  • Experiment with setting goals for your rough drafting based on quantity, time, or content written.
  • Effective rough drafting goals are specific and realistic: goals that are vague or unattainable risk demotivating you.
  • Setting mini-goals with staggered deadlines is vital when working on an extended piece like a dissertation or thesis, so use shorter assessments as opportunities to refine your goal-setting skills.

Pick your medium

When it comes to writing medium, your best bet is to experiment with various options . Most students default to typing in digital documents, but this isn't the only way to produce a rough draft.

Below, we will explore common drafting mediums and tools in terms of pros (i.e., benefits some writers will experience) and words of caution (i.e., potential 'cons,' many of which can be mitigated).

Typing (laptop/computer)

  • THE METHOD  – Log into a computer, fire up a Word doc, and get started: you know the drill!
  • It's simple to leave notes or placeholders in the text (see the 'Delegate to Future You' tab for more on this).
  • Fast typing = fast drafting.
  • Cloud storage enables access from any compatible device.
  • Copy/paste lets you easily shuffle content around while drafting.
  • You don't need to spend time typing it up later.
  • If you freeze up at the sight of a cursor blinking on a blank page, try typing 'It's okay if this draft is terrible' at the top of the document, in bold. Doing so is strangely liberating!
  • Long stints at the computer tire the eyes and body. Set a Pomodoro timer to remind yourself to take breaks.
  • The call of the internet can be very, very distracting. Explore productivity apps/extensions that limit notifications, or bar internet access altogether, while drafting.
  • Your work can be lost if you don't follow IT best practices. Never  rely exclusively on local storage, i.e., saving the file to your desktop. Back it up   via cloud storage or other options.


  • THE METHOD  – You only need a pen and a notebook for this one. Project notebooks with tabbed sections are great for staying organised. You can also keep one notebook for planning/invention (outlines, mind maps, etc.) and one for drafting, then set the plan and your draft side by side while working.
  • Writing by hand can quiet the perfectionistic inner voice that makes drafting difficult.
  • Going device-free reduces digital distractions.
  • The ritual of sitting down with a favourite notebook and pen transitions you into a writing-focused headspace.
  • You have an excuse to buy cute stationery. (Kidding...kind of.)
  • Getting hands-on with your draft can enhance your sense of ownership and engagement .
  • You can draft in laptop-unfriendly locations (e.g. beach, forest, museum bench), with no worries about battery life and WiFi.
  • If you don't make a regular habit of typing up what you have handwritten, a backlog builds up. Create a recurring 'Transcription Time' event in your calendar; use it to type up your week's writing.
  • Notebooks can be lost, damaged, or misplaced. At the end of each drafting session, take quick pictures of your handwritten pages as an extra safeguard. Return your notebook to the same spot after every use to reduce the odds of misplacing it.
  • Notebooks aren't secure. Warning: if your drafting involves confidential information or sensitive data, you must follow the university's research data management and privacy policies .


  • THE METHOD  – Many students never consider this option, but talking is, indeed, a way to write . The first variation is to record yourself talking and transcribe it later. Just use the voice memo app in your phone to record thoughts and ideas as they come to you. The second variation uses speech-to-text technology , which transcribes your words automatically as you speak. Microsoft Word has a 'Dictate' feature; other dictation software and apps are available, too.
  • Have you ever been frustrated because you can explain an idea in conversation, but you freeze or go blank when you try to write it down, later? Here's your perfect workaround: forget about big bad scary WRITING, and just...talk.
  • Voice memos let us record flashes of inspiration wherever they occur (e.g. treadmill, bathtub, an annoyingly long queue at Nando's, the New Forest).
  • You can squeeze some writing into a busy schedule by dictating during breaks at work, on your commute, etc.
  • Writing by voice gives you a break from texting, typing, and staring at a screen.
  • If using voice memos, immediately re-name your recordings (e.g. 'fallout of financial crisis' or 'Stranger Things character analysis') to avoid creating a sea of files with names like '20230713_7623.wav.'
  • Delete each voice memo once you've transcribed it to prevent confusion. Follow the recurring 'Transcription Time' guidance in the handwriting section, above.
  • Phones can be damaged, lost, or misplaced. Change your settings so recordings back up to cloud storage.
  • If it's annoying to listen to your own voice as you transcribe, put your phone on speaker and let your computer 'listen' and type it up. You can also feed your sound files to a programme that automatically transcribes speech.


Apps and software

  • Does drafting in your discipline call for mathematical formulas or other elements that a basic word processor doesn't handle well? If so, Overleaf/LaTeX  might make drafting easier.
  • Are you writing a dissertation , thesis, or other lengthy work, and finding it frustrating to manage a substantial manuscript? If so, software tailored to long-form writing, such as Scrivener, might be a fit.
  • Are you prone to digital distractions while drafting, or do wish you had a cleaner interface to work in? Search for 'focus writing apps' and see what's available.
  • Do you like to dictate a lot of your content? Word does have 'Dictate,' but dedicated voice-to-text software provides more functionality.
  • Could you benefit from assistive technology when drafting? Check the university's assistive technology software guidance for more.
  • IT solutions exist for many logistical elements of rough drafting that we find frustrating or lacking.
  • Working in apps that make sense to  you  saves time and frustration.
  • Please don't mistake 'writing apps' for generative AI such as ChatGPT!  When we refer to 'writing apps,' we mean apps that let you type, record, organise, store, and annotate  your own writing .   We are  not  endorsing AI that generates text for you (see the university's guidance on academic integrity and Artificial Intelligence Tools ).
  • Many free writing apps exist, but others require a one-off or monthly payment. Take advantage of 7-day trials and/or free versions of apps to test them out before you commit any money.
  • All software comes with a learning curve. Give yourself adequate time to learn the ins and outs of new apps (i.e., don't launch Scrivener for the first time when your thesis is due in three weeks!).
  • Make sure it's straightforward to reformat/export your writing into the file format required for submission.


Mixing and matching

Though you might settle on one preferred medium, many writers like a 'mix and match' approach. The medium that works best varies with a range of factors from day to day: how distracted you feel; your energy levels; your location; how open or busy your schedule is; your confidence in the content; the aims of the drafting at hand; whether you feel 'blocked'; and more.

If you are working on an extended piece of writing such as a thesis or dissertation , it can be especially beneficial to vary your writing medium. Approaching words in a different way can motivate or reengage us when a project starts to feel tedious.

  • Reflect on your typical writing medium and whether it lets you engage with rough drafts as you would like.
  • Consider both digital and 'old school' methods to produce content: as long as it lets you put words together, it's valid.
  • Remember that switching up your writing medium can have positive results when you're feeling stuck or demotivated.

Tailoring your writing scene

What does 'university student writing an essay' look like? Several students gathered together in the library, each working on their laptops and pausing to chat now and then? A lone student sat in a bustling café, scribbling in a notebook?

We encourage you to experiment with your writing practice when it comes to environment, from when and where you write, to whether you write alone or amidst others. T his page will help you set your scene for productive rough drafting.

Pick your company

It is surprising how influential having some company – or having no company at all! – can be on our writing activities. For example, some writers find it easiest to rough draft in a public study area alongside friends, but better to  edit  at home alone. Other writers prefer the opposite! Test out different combinations to figure out what works for you.

Flying truly solo

  • For this option, try rough drafting when you are all by yourself. This often means drafting in your bedroom or another study area at home, but it could mean being out in nature with a notebook. Up to you!

Solo-ing among fellow solos

  • For this option, try rough drafting in a space where people nearby are also working solo: for example, study pods in the library or Building 100, a work-friendly café with lots of small tables, a computer lab, etc.
  • Writers drawn to this style don't want their work interrupted with conversation, but they do feel motivated by the awareness that everyone around them is working, too.

Pairing with an accountabili-buddy

  • For this option, find one peer to join you for drafting sessions as an accountabili-buddy (i.e., an accountability buddy). Their presence helps you stay focused, and in turn, you help them stay focused.
  • This practice helps ensure you are drafting regularly rather than procrastinating, getting distracted on your phone, etc. Read up on the concept of 'body doubling' to stay focused if this sounds appealing!

Gathering the writing group

  • For this option, draft alongside a few peers on a regular basis. Writing groups vary in size, but four to six people total tends to work well.
  • Major benefits of writing groups can include increased productivity, reduced procrastination, reduced anxiety, and an enhanced sense of community .

Matching task and company

  • The company (or lack thereof) that works best for you whilst rough drafting might not suit other writing activities. For example, you might draft 'solo among fellow solos' in the library but bounce ideas off peers while editing.
  • Figuring out your preferences takes trial and error. Reflect on not only your levels of productivity and focus, but your emotional and social wellbeing: after all, a tiny boost in productivity isn't worth it if you feel overwhelmed, disconnected, etc.


Reflect on environment

Environment goes hand in hand with company. You want to feel physically comfortable , but not so comfortable you fall asleep; you want to feel mentally stimulated , but not to the point of distraction. Here, we consider how factors in the environment influence your senses of focus and inspiration.

Vast rooms, great heights, and cozy nooks

  • Compare how it feels to draft in a large, airy space with how it feels to draft in a cozier, den-like space.
  • Try drafting with visual stimuli minimised: for example, at a desk facing a wall. Then, try drafting somewhere with more action or a view: for example, sat near a window on a building's 6th floor.

Noise levels and types

  • Fewer writers thrive in absolute silence than you might imagine.
  • When it comes to noise, think not only about volume levels, but the qualities  of what you are hearing: is the soundscape consistent or unpredictable; ambient or self-curated; musical or music-free; etc.?
  • For a quick experiment, try drafting in one of the library's designated 'quiet zones,' then try drafting on a floor that allows talking: which worked better for you?
  • A decent pair of headphones can be a great investment in your writing. Explore online options for 'white noise,' 'focus music,' 'study soundtracks,' etc.
  • Cue up recordings of actual cafes, train stations, rainforests, zoos, laundromats, and other spaces if the ambient vibe helps you concentrate.

Public vs. private

  • Public spaces tend to spark a greater sense of accountability. No one in the library will come over and chastise you if you stop working, but...it kind of feels like they will, doesn't it? Likewise, when you leave the house specifically to go somewhere and write, you feel more driven to follow through.
  • Private spaces have benefits, too. You can stretch, pace around, and talk to yourself. You can create as much writing mess as needed. No one will judge you for wearing a dragon onesie while drafting (you do you, friend). Plus, the coffee is much cheaper!

Night owls, early birds, and...midday geese?

  • Experiment with what time of day you write: again, the results may surprise you.
  • Some writers swear by drafting first thing in the morning because their minds feel clear and undistracted.
  • Other writers let their ideas incubate throughout the day and draft best at night.
  • Others, still, experience an energy spike in the afternoon that lets them focus well on drafting.
  • There is no right or wrong in terms of  productivity 'sweet spots' in the day: there is only what works best for you .

Customising environments

Small adjustments can make any environment work better for you if you take time to reflect on which factors are making the drafting feel easier and which factors are hampering you. For example...

  • If seeing people walking around, gesturing, etc. is nice but the noise is too much, try silencing headphones.
  • If the sounds of everyone typing and chattering in the library are great but you feel exposed or visually distracted, use a jacket to turn a study pod into your own little 'writing cave.'
  • If your writing group meets in a private house for the cheap snacks and 'yay we can wear onesies' factor, but the house is too quiet, take turns picking ambient soundtracks or instrumental playlists for background noise.


  • Rough drafting doesn't need to be a solo activity: consider whether some company is a good fit.
  • Experiment with environmental variables – space, privacy, sound, time of day, etc. – to discover your individual blends for inspiration and focus.
  • Remember that different writing activities may call for different combinations of company and environment: don't be afraid to mix things up and see what works.


  • Last Updated: Dec 14, 2023 2:51 PM
  • URL: https://library.soton.ac.uk/rough_drafting

Rasmussen University: FAQS banner

What is a rough draft?

A rough draft is a version of your paper that is complete but not polished . It's a good idea to write an outline before starting your rough draft, to help organize your ideas and arguments.

Here are the steps you can take to write your  rough draft :

  • Choose a topic
  • Identify the issues related to your topic
  • Locate books, articles, and reports that give you background information and more
  • Create and state your  thesis
  • Organize your thoughts and  notes
  • Make an  outline
  • Find more information , this time find content that supports your points
  • Write your  introduction
  • Write the body of the paper
  • Write the  conclusion  of the paper

The purpose of a rough draft is to allow you to write your paper in the form described above and then edit it or revise it to improve your work. Getting feedback on your draft allows you to create a better paper and to become a stronger writer.

  • Reading and Writing
  • Tutoring and Learning Services
  • Weekly Written Assignments
  • Discussion Posts
  • Research Papers
  • Last Updated Dec 20, 2023
  • Views 130628
  • Answered By Kerry Louvier

FAQ Actions

  • Share on Facebook

Comments (0)

Use the form below to ask our team a question!

Need an answer now? Search our FAQs !

How can I find my course textbook?

This service is reserved for Rasmussen students, faculty, and staff. You can expect a prompt response, Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM-4:00 PM Central Time (by the next business day on weekends and holidays).

Questions may be answered by a Librarian, Learning Services Coordinator, Instructor, or Tutor. 

Have a language expert improve your writing

Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.

  • Knowledge Base
  • How to write an essay outline | Guidelines & examples

How to Write an Essay Outline | Guidelines & Examples

Published on August 14, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

An essay outline is a way of planning the structure of your essay before you start writing. It involves writing quick summary sentences or phrases for every point you will cover in each paragraph , giving you a picture of how your argument will unfold.

Instantly correct all language mistakes in your text

Upload your document to correct all your mistakes in minutes


Table of contents

Organizing your material, presentation of the outline, examples of essay outlines, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about essay outlines.

At the stage where you’re writing an essay outline, your ideas are probably still not fully formed. You should know your topic  and have already done some preliminary research to find relevant sources , but now you need to shape your ideas into a structured argument.

Creating categories

Look over any information, quotes and ideas you’ve noted down from your research and consider the central point you want to make in the essay—this will be the basis of your thesis statement . Once you have an idea of your overall argument, you can begin to organize your material in a way that serves that argument.

Try to arrange your material into categories related to different aspects of your argument. If you’re writing about a literary text, you might group your ideas into themes; in a history essay, it might be several key trends or turning points from the period you’re discussing.

Three main themes or subjects is a common structure for essays. Depending on the length of the essay, you could split the themes into three body paragraphs, or three longer sections with several paragraphs covering each theme.

As you create the outline, look critically at your categories and points: Are any of them irrelevant or redundant? Make sure every topic you cover is clearly related to your thesis statement.

Order of information

When you have your material organized into several categories, consider what order they should appear in.

Your essay will always begin and end with an introduction and conclusion , but the organization of the body is up to you.

Consider these questions to order your material:

  • Is there an obvious starting point for your argument?
  • Is there one subject that provides an easy transition into another?
  • Do some points need to be set up by discussing other points first?

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

Within each paragraph, you’ll discuss a single idea related to your overall topic or argument, using several points of evidence or analysis to do so.

In your outline, you present these points as a few short numbered sentences or phrases.They can be split into sub-points when more detail is needed.

The template below shows how you might structure an outline for a five-paragraph essay.

  • Thesis statement
  • First piece of evidence
  • Second piece of evidence
  • Summary/synthesis
  • Importance of topic
  • Strong closing statement

You can choose whether to write your outline in full sentences or short phrases. Be consistent in your choice; don’t randomly write some points as full sentences and others as short phrases.

Examples of outlines for different types of essays are presented below: an argumentative, expository, and literary analysis essay.

Argumentative essay outline

This outline is for a short argumentative essay evaluating the internet’s impact on education. It uses short phrases to summarize each point.

Its body is split into three paragraphs, each presenting arguments about a different aspect of the internet’s effects on education.

  • Importance of the internet
  • Concerns about internet use
  • Thesis statement: Internet use a net positive
  • Data exploring this effect
  • Analysis indicating it is overstated
  • Students’ reading levels over time
  • Why this data is questionable
  • Video media
  • Interactive media
  • Speed and simplicity of online research
  • Questions about reliability (transitioning into next topic)
  • Evidence indicating its ubiquity
  • Claims that it discourages engagement with academic writing
  • Evidence that Wikipedia warns students not to cite it
  • Argument that it introduces students to citation
  • Summary of key points
  • Value of digital education for students
  • Need for optimism to embrace advantages of the internet

Expository essay outline

This is the outline for an expository essay describing how the invention of the printing press affected life and politics in Europe.

The paragraphs are still summarized in short phrases here, but individual points are described with full sentences.

  • Claim that the printing press marks the end of the Middle Ages.
  • Provide background on the low levels of literacy before the printing press.
  • Present the thesis statement: The invention of the printing press increased circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation.
  • Discuss the very high levels of illiteracy in medieval Europe.
  • Describe how literacy and thus knowledge and education were mainly the domain of religious and political elites.
  • Indicate how this discouraged political and religious change.
  • Describe the invention of the printing press in 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg.
  • Show the implications of the new technology for book production.
  • Describe the rapid spread of the technology and the printing of the Gutenberg Bible.
  • Link to the Reformation.
  • Discuss the trend for translating the Bible into vernacular languages during the years following the printing press’s invention.
  • Describe Luther’s own translation of the Bible during the Reformation.
  • Sketch out the large-scale effects the Reformation would have on religion and politics.
  • Summarize the history described.
  • Stress the significance of the printing press to the events of this period.

Literary analysis essay outline

The literary analysis essay outlined below discusses the role of theater in Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park .

The body of the essay is divided into three different themes, each of which is explored through examples from the book.

  • Describe the theatricality of Austen’s works
  • Outline the role theater plays in Mansfield Park
  • Introduce the research question : How does Austen use theater to express the characters’ morality in Mansfield Park ?
  • Discuss Austen’s depiction of the performance at the end of the first volume
  • Discuss how Sir Bertram reacts to the acting scheme
  • Introduce Austen’s use of stage direction–like details during dialogue
  • Explore how these are deployed to show the characters’ self-absorption
  • Discuss Austen’s description of Maria and Julia’s relationship as polite but affectionless
  • Compare Mrs. Norris’s self-conceit as charitable despite her idleness
  • Summarize the three themes: The acting scheme, stage directions, and the performance of morals
  • Answer the research question
  • Indicate areas for further study

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

  • Ad hominem fallacy
  • Post hoc fallacy
  • Appeal to authority fallacy
  • False cause fallacy
  • Sunk cost fallacy

College essays

  • Choosing Essay Topic
  • Write a College Essay
  • Write a Diversity Essay
  • College Essay Format & Structure
  • Comparing and Contrasting in an Essay

 (AI) Tools

  • Grammar Checker
  • Paraphrasing Tool
  • Text Summarizer
  • AI Detector
  • Plagiarism Checker
  • Citation Generator

You will sometimes be asked to hand in an essay outline before you start writing your essay . Your supervisor wants to see that you have a clear idea of your structure so that writing will go smoothly.

Even when you do not have to hand it in, writing an essay outline is an important part of the writing process . It’s a good idea to write one (as informally as you like) to clarify your structure for yourself whenever you are working on an essay.

If you have to hand in your essay outline , you may be given specific guidelines stating whether you have to use full sentences. If you’re not sure, ask your supervisor.

When writing an essay outline for yourself, the choice is yours. Some students find it helpful to write out their ideas in full sentences, while others prefer to summarize them in short phrases.

You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay . However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your essay outline . Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Caulfield, J. (2023, July 23). How to Write an Essay Outline | Guidelines & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved March 4, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/essay-outline/

Is this article helpful?

Jack Caulfield

Jack Caulfield

Other students also liked, how to create a structured research paper outline | example, a step-by-step guide to the writing process, how to write an argumentative essay | examples & tips, what is your plagiarism score.


College Essay Writing Techniques: How to Write a Rough Draft

Not sure what to do with your brainstorming notes and freewriting? This video will show you how to focus on both breadth and depth while writing your Common App personal statement or school-specific supplemental essays. Build a strong foundation for your college essay by watching this tutorial!

Ivy Divider

How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Grad School

When it comes to writing a successful statement of purpose for graduate school, telling a personal story about your goals and ambitions is key. In this video, CEA's Founder and Chief Advisor, Stacey Brook, answers frequently asked questions, provides viewers with brainstorming launch pads, and offers insight as to what grad school admissions officers are looking for.

Are “Optional” College Essay Prompts Really Optional?

Are “Optional” College Essay Prompts Really Optional?

Every year, colleges and universities around the world offer applicants the opportunity to respond to "optional" supplemental essay questions...But are these prompts truly optional? CEA's Founder and Chief Advisor, Stacey Brook, lets you in on a college admissions secret.

Can A Great College Essay Get You Into College?

Can A Great College Essay Get You Into College?

We've heard this question time and time again, "Can a great college essay get me into college?" There are many factors that go into an admission officer's decision to accept, defer, waitlist, or reject an applicant. CEA's Founder and Chief Advisor, Stacey Brook, is here to answer the question once and for all!

How to Create a Winning Activity Resume (for College Applications!)

How to Create a Winning Activity Resume (for College Applications!)

Many schools will ask you for an “activity resume,” and the Coalition and Common Application have separate sections specifically for activities and extracurriculars, so it’s really easy to overthink this piece of the application. If you’ve never written a resume before, getting started can be incredibly daunting, but don't worry -- CEA is here to help!

Unpopular Opinion: What to do When You’re Waitlisted

Unpopular Opinion: What to do When You’re Waitlisted

In this video, CEA's Founder and Chief Advisor, Stacey Brook, offers her (unpopular) opinion as to what students should do when waitlisted at their top college or university.

How to Get Off the Waitlist (at your Dream School)!

How to Get Off the Waitlist (at your Dream School)!

Waiting is tough, and it can feel like forever when it comes to college admissions. If you were waitlisted, don't panic; you are not alone. The good news is that you can do something about it. CEA's Founder and Chief Advisor, Stacey Brook, is here to tell you everything you need to know about getting off the waitlist (and into the college of your dreams)!

Is your College Essay Cliché?

Is your College Essay Cliché?

Applicants often choose to write about cliché subjects because they THINK the resulting essays present the kinds stories admissions officers want to read. To the contrary, jumping on an essay cliché bandwagon can make it nearly impossible for an admissions officer to distinguish you from your closest competition. In this video, CEA's Founder and Chief Advisor presents The Cliché Quiz.

How to Write a Great Transfer Essay

How to Write a Great Transfer Essay

The transfer essay presents new hurdles that differ from those of the standard freshman personal statement. There are three key steps you must take to master the transfer essay. Luckily for you, CEA's Founder and Chief Advisor, Stacey Brook, is here to tell you everything you need to know in order to write a fantastic transfer application essay!

How to Write a Unique College Essay About a Grandparent

How to Write a Unique College Essay About a Grandparent

So you just can’t shake the voice in your head telling you to write your college admissions essay about your grandma. We get it, grandparents are awesome! They know so much about you! And you’ve gained so much wisdom from your relationship with them! Writing a great personal statement or supplemental essay about them, however, is tricky. Luckily for you, CEA's Founder and Chief Advisor, Stacey Brook, is here to help you make sure your essay stands out.

10 Things You Should NEVER Write in Your College Essay

10 Things You Should NEVER Write in Your College Essay

In this video, we will walk you through the top 10 DON'Ts of the college admissions essay writing process, so you can submit your Common App personal statement and school-specific supplemental essays with the utmost confidence! This video will teach you: what not to write under any circumstance (or most circumstances), the mistakes applicants make without even realizing, and more!

How to Turn your Outline into a Stellar Essay

How to Turn your Outline into a Stellar Essay

Structuring a winning college admissions essay is hard. Should you start with the ending and then catch the reader up? Or throw them head first into the action and explain later? And where exactly should you put all of great sentences, you've come up with thus far? In this video, we'll teach you everything you need to know about turning your outline into a rough draft!

College Essay Writing Techniques: How to Write a Rough Draft

Freewriting, Topic Selection, and the First Draft

Freewriting is the key to an amazing college application essay - especially the first draft! Fill up you blank page (or text box) with these tips for getting started (and never stopping) on your way to personal statement success.

Freewriting 101: How to Freewrite for Your College Essay

Freewriting 101: How to Freewrite for Your College Essay

Freewriting is, at its core, just as it sounds: the act of writing freely. It is the exercise of jotting down whatever comes to mind, without judgment or worrying about the final product. Because the college admissions essay holds so much weight, many students struggle with the 'no judgement' part. This video will show you how to put your inner critic aside and let the writing flow.

How do You Know When You’ve Found THE Winning Topic? [TAKE THE TEST]

How do You Know When You’ve Found THE Winning Topic? [TAKE THE TEST]

How do you know when you've found THE topic? You know, the topic that will rule all other topics. The one that will make admissions officers laugh or cry...or both? Does your topic have what it takes to make you stand out from a sea of similarly qualified applicants? This video is here to help you put your topic to the test.

How to Begin the College Essay Writing Process

How to Begin the College Essay Writing Process

One of the hardest parts of writing the college application essay is getting started. Where is the best place to begin? What does admissions really want to hear from you? And how do you know if you’re moving in the right direction? We made this video full of helpful tips to help you break through your initial writing blocks and get you on the road to college essay success.

How To Outline Your Personal Statement

How To Outline Your Personal Statement

Extracting a killer college application essay from your notes, brainstorms, and freewrites may seem like a daunting task. You love your topic, but your ideas are scattered. That's why outlining is your friend.

The Trick to Writing an Amazing Opening Line

The Trick to Writing an Amazing Opening Line

The personal statement is a crucial part of your college application, but it won't help you if it bores admissions officers to tears! Learn the do's and don'ts of how to write a powerful opening line that pulls your reader in from the very first word.

How To Write a Memorable Closing Line

How To Write a Memorable Closing Line

Your personal statement should tell a memorable story that admissions officers just can't shake. Your closing line is your final shot to make a lasting impression before your college fate is sealed! The experts at College Essay Advisors have lined up their most essential tips for writing a killer closing line.

  • Our Approach & Team
  • Undergraduate Testimonials
  • Postgraduate Testimonials
  • Where Our Students Get In
  • CEA Gives Back
  • Undergraduate Admissions
  • Graduate Admissions
  • Private School Admissions
  • International Student Admissions
  • Common App Essay Guide
  • Supplemental Essay Guides
  • Coalition App Guide
  • The CEA Podcast
  • YouTube Tutorials
  • Admissions Stats
  • Notification Trackers
  • Deadline Databases
  • College Essay Examples
  • Academy and Worksheets
  • Get Started

Logo for M Libraries Publishing

Want to create or adapt books like this? Learn more about how Pressbooks supports open publishing practices.

8.3 Drafting

Learning objectives.

  • Identify drafting strategies that improve writing.
  • Use drafting strategies to prepare the first draft of an essay.

Drafting is the stage of the writing process in which you develop a complete first version of a piece of writing.

Even professional writers admit that an empty page scares them because they feel they need to come up with something fresh and original every time they open a blank document on their computers. Because you have completed the first two steps in the writing process, you have already recovered from empty page syndrome. You have hours of prewriting and planning already done. You know what will go on that blank page: what you wrote in your outline.

Getting Started: Strategies For Drafting

Your objective for this portion of Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” is to draft the body paragraphs of a standard five-paragraph essay. A five-paragraph essay contains an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. If you are more comfortable starting on paper than on the computer, you can start on paper and then type it before you revise. You can also use a voice recorder to get yourself started, dictating a paragraph or two to get you thinking. In this lesson, Mariah does all her work on the computer, but you may use pen and paper or the computer to write a rough draft.

Making the Writing Process Work for You

What makes the writing process so beneficial to writers is that it encourages alternatives to standard practices while motivating you to develop your best ideas. For instance, the following approaches, done alone or in combination with others, may improve your writing and help you move forward in the writing process:

  • Begin writing with the part you know the most about. You can start with the third paragraph in your outline if ideas come easily to mind. You can start with the second paragraph or the first paragraph, too. Although paragraphs may vary in length, keep in mind that short paragraphs may contain insufficient support. Readers may also think the writing is abrupt. Long paragraphs may be wordy and may lose your reader’s interest. As a guideline, try to write paragraphs longer than one sentence but shorter than the length of an entire double-spaced page.
  • Write one paragraph at a time and then stop. As long as you complete the assignment on time, you may choose how many paragraphs you complete in one sitting. Pace yourself. On the other hand, try not to procrastinate. Writers should always meet their deadlines.
  • Take short breaks to refresh your mind. This tip might be most useful if you are writing a multipage report or essay. Still, if you are antsy or cannot concentrate, take a break to let your mind rest. But do not let breaks extend too long. If you spend too much time away from your essay, you may have trouble starting again. You may forget key points or lose momentum. Try setting an alarm to limit your break, and when the time is up, return to your desk to write.
  • Be reasonable with your goals. If you decide to take ten-minute breaks, try to stick to that goal. If you told yourself that you need more facts, then commit to finding them. Holding yourself to your own goals will create successful writing assignments.
  • Keep your audience and purpose in mind as you write. These aspects of writing are just as important when you are writing a single paragraph for your essay as when you are considering the direction of the entire essay.

Of all of these considerations, keeping your purpose and your audience at the front of your mind is the most important key to writing success. If your purpose is to persuade, for example, you will present your facts and details in the most logical and convincing way you can.

Your purpose will guide your mind as you compose your sentences. Your audience will guide word choice. Are you writing for experts, for a general audience, for other college students, or for people who know very little about your topic? Keep asking yourself what your readers, with their background and experience, need to be told in order to understand your ideas. How can you best express your ideas so they are totally clear and your communication is effective?

You may want to identify your purpose and audience on an index card that you clip to your paper (or keep next to your computer). On that card, you may want to write notes to yourself—perhaps about what that audience might not know or what it needs to know—so that you will be sure to address those issues when you write. It may be a good idea to also state exactly what you want to explain to that audience, or to inform them of, or to persuade them about.

Writing at Work

Many of the documents you produce at work target a particular audience for a particular purpose. You may find that it is highly advantageous to know as much as you can about your target audience and to prepare your message to reach that audience, even if the audience is a coworker or your boss. Menu language is a common example. Descriptions like “organic romaine” and “free-range chicken” are intended to appeal to a certain type of customer though perhaps not to the same customer who craves a thick steak. Similarly, mail-order companies research the demographics of the people who buy their merchandise. Successful vendors customize product descriptions in catalogs to appeal to their buyers’ tastes. For example, the product descriptions in a skateboarder catalog will differ from the descriptions in a clothing catalog for mature adults.

Using the topic for the essay that you outlined in Section 8.2 “Outlining” , describe your purpose and your audience as specifically as you can. Use your own sheet of paper to record your responses. Then keep these responses near you during future stages of the writing process.

My purpose: ____________________________________________


My audience: ____________________________________________

Setting Goals for Your First Draft

A draft is a complete version of a piece of writing, but it is not the final version. The step in the writing process after drafting, as you may remember, is revising. During revising, you will have the opportunity to make changes to your first draft before you put the finishing touches on it during the editing and proofreading stage. A first draft gives you a working version that you can later improve.

Workplace writing in certain environments is done by teams of writers who collaborate on the planning, writing, and revising of documents, such as long reports, technical manuals, and the results of scientific research. Collaborators do not need to be in the same room, the same building, or even the same city. Many collaborations are conducted over the Internet.

In a perfect collaboration, each contributor has the right to add, edit, and delete text. Strong communication skills, in addition to strong writing skills, are important in this kind of writing situation because disagreements over style, content, process, emphasis, and other issues may arise.

The collaborative software, or document management systems, that groups use to work on common projects is sometimes called groupware or workgroup support systems.

The reviewing tool on some word-processing programs also gives you access to a collaborative tool that many smaller workgroups use when they exchange documents. You can also use it to leave comments to yourself.

If you invest some time now to investigate how the reviewing tool in your word processor works, you will be able to use it with confidence during the revision stage of the writing process. Then, when you start to revise, set your reviewing tool to track any changes you make, so you will be able to tinker with text and commit only those final changes you want to keep.

Discovering the Basic Elements of a First Draft

If you have been using the information in this chapter step by step to help you develop an assignment, you already have both a formal topic outline and a formal sentence outline to direct your writing. Knowing what a first draft looks like will help you make the creative leap from the outline to the first draft. A first draft should include the following elements:

  • An introduction that piques the audience’s interest, tells what the essay is about, and motivates readers to keep reading.
  • A thesis statement that presents the main point, or controlling idea, of the entire piece of writing.
  • A topic sentence in each paragraph that states the main idea of the paragraph and implies how that main idea connects to the thesis statement.
  • Supporting sentences in each paragraph that develop or explain the topic sentence. These can be specific facts, examples, anecdotes, or other details that elaborate on the topic sentence.
  • A conclusion that reinforces the thesis statement and leaves the audience with a feeling of completion.

These elements follow the standard five-paragraph essay format, which you probably first encountered in high school. This basic format is valid for most essays you will write in college, even much longer ones. For now, however, Mariah focuses on writing the three body paragraphs from her outline. Chapter 9 “Writing Essays: From Start to Finish” covers writing introductions and conclusions, and you will read Mariah’s introduction and conclusion in Chapter 9 “Writing Essays: From Start to Finish” .

The Role of Topic Sentences

Topic sentences make the structure of a text and the writer’s basic arguments easy to locate and comprehend. In college writing, using a topic sentence in each paragraph of the essay is the standard rule. However, the topic sentence does not always have to be the first sentence in your paragraph even if it the first item in your formal outline.

When you begin to draft your paragraphs, you should follow your outline fairly closely. After all, you spent valuable time developing those ideas. However, as you begin to express your ideas in complete sentences, it might strike you that the topic sentence might work better at the end of the paragraph or in the middle. Try it. Writing a draft, by its nature, is a good time for experimentation.

The topic sentence can be the first, middle, or final sentence in a paragraph. The assignment’s audience and purpose will often determine where a topic sentence belongs. When the purpose of the assignment is to persuade, for example, the topic sentence should be the first sentence in a paragraph. In a persuasive essay, the writer’s point of view should be clearly expressed at the beginning of each paragraph.

Choosing where to position the topic sentence depends not only on your audience and purpose but also on the essay’s arrangement, or order. When you organize information according to order of importance, the topic sentence may be the final sentence in a paragraph. All the supporting sentences build up to the topic sentence. Chronological order may also position the topic sentence as the final sentence because the controlling idea of the paragraph may make the most sense at the end of a sequence.

When you organize information according to spatial order, a topic sentence may appear as the middle sentence in a paragraph. An essay arranged by spatial order often contains paragraphs that begin with descriptions. A reader may first need a visual in his or her mind before understanding the development of the paragraph. When the topic sentence is in the middle, it unites the details that come before it with the ones that come after it.

As you read critically throughout the writing process, keep topic sentences in mind. You may discover topic sentences that are not always located at the beginning of a paragraph. For example, fiction writers customarily use topic ideas, either expressed or implied, to move readers through their texts. In nonfiction writing, such as popular magazines, topic sentences are often used when the author thinks it is appropriate (based on the audience and the purpose, of course). A single topic sentence might even control the development of a number of paragraphs. For more information on topic sentences, please see Chapter 6 “Writing Paragraphs: Separating Ideas and Shaping Content” .

Developing topic sentences and thinking about their placement in a paragraph will prepare you to write the rest of the paragraph.

The paragraph is the main structural component of an essay as well as other forms of writing. Each paragraph of an essay adds another related main idea to support the writer’s thesis, or controlling idea. Each related main idea is supported and developed with facts, examples, and other details that explain it. By exploring and refining one main idea at a time, writers build a strong case for their thesis.

Paragraph Length

How long should a paragraph be?

One answer to this important question may be “long enough”—long enough for you to address your points and explain your main idea. To grab attention or to present succinct supporting ideas, a paragraph can be fairly short and consist of two to three sentences. A paragraph in a complex essay about some abstract point in philosophy or archaeology can be three-quarters of a page or more in length. As long as the writer maintains close focus on the topic and does not ramble, a long paragraph is acceptable in college-level writing. In general, try to keep the paragraphs longer than one sentence but shorter than one full page of double-spaced text.

Journalistic style often calls for brief two- or three-sentence paragraphs because of how people read the news, both online and in print. Blogs and other online information sources often adopt this paragraphing style, too. Readers often skim the first paragraphs of a great many articles before settling on the handful of stories they want to read in detail.

You may find that a particular paragraph you write may be longer than one that will hold your audience’s interest. In such cases, you should divide the paragraph into two or more shorter paragraphs, adding a topic statement or some kind of transitional word or phrase at the start of the new paragraph. Transition words or phrases show the connection between the two ideas.

In all cases, however, be guided by what you instructor wants and expects to find in your draft. Many instructors will expect you to develop a mature college-level style as you progress through the semester’s assignments.

To build your sense of appropriate paragraph length, use the Internet to find examples of the following items. Copy them into a file, identify your sources, and present them to your instructor with your annotations, or notes.

  • A news article written in short paragraphs. Take notes on, or annotate, your selection with your observations about the effect of combining paragraphs that develop the same topic idea. Explain how effective those paragraphs would be.
  • A long paragraph from a scholarly work that you identify through an academic search engine. Annotate it with your observations about the author’s paragraphing style.

Starting Your First Draft

Now we are finally ready to look over Mariah’s shoulder as she begins to write her essay about digital technology and the confusing choices that consumers face. As she does, you should have in front of you your outline, with its thesis statement and topic sentences, and the notes you wrote earlier in this lesson on your purpose and audience. Reviewing these will put both you and Mariah in the proper mind-set to start.

The following is Mariah’s thesis statement.

Everyone wants the newest and the best digital technology ,but the choices are many, and the specifications are often confusing

Here are the notes that Mariah wrote to herself to characterize her purpose and audience.

Mariah's notes to herself

Mariah chose to begin by writing a quick introduction based on her thesis statement. She knew that she would want to improve her introduction significantly when she revised. Right now, she just wanted to give herself a starting point. You will read her introduction again in Section 8.4 “Revising and Editing” when she revises it.

Remember Mariah’s other options. She could have started directly with any of the body paragraphs.

You will learn more about writing attention-getting introductions and effective conclusions in Chapter 9 “Writing Essays: From Start to Finish” .

With her thesis statement and her purpose and audience notes in front of her, Mariah then looked at her sentence outline. She chose to use that outline because it includes the topic sentences. The following is the portion of her outline for the first body paragraph. The roman numeral II identifies the topic sentence for the paragraph, capital letters indicate supporting details, and arabic numerals label subpoints.

The roman numeral II identifies the topic sentence for the paragraph, capital letters indicate supporting details, and arabic numerals label subpoints.

Mariah then began to expand the ideas in her outline into a paragraph. Notice how the outline helped her guarantee that all her sentences in the body of the paragraph develop the topic sentence.

Outlines help guarantee that all sentences in the body of the paragraph develop the topic sentence.

If you write your first draft on the computer, consider creating a new file folder for each course with a set of subfolders inside the course folders for each assignment you are given. Label the folders clearly with the course names, and label each assignment folder and word processing document with a title that you will easily recognize. The assignment name is a good choice for the document. Then use that subfolder to store all the drafts you create. When you start each new draft, do not just write over the last one. Instead, save the draft with a new tag after the title—draft 1, draft 2, and so on—so that you will have a complete history of drafts in case your instructor wishes you to submit them.

In your documents, observe any formatting requirements—for margins, headers, placement of page numbers, and other layout matters—that your instructor requires.

Study how Mariah made the transition from her sentence outline to her first draft. First, copy her outline onto your own sheet of paper. Leave a few spaces between each part of the outline. Then copy sentences from Mariah’s paragraph to align each sentence with its corresponding entry in her outline.

Continuing the First Draft

Mariah continued writing her essay, moving to the second and third body paragraphs. She had supporting details but no numbered subpoints in her outline, so she had to consult her prewriting notes for specific information to include.

If you decide to take a break between finishing your first body paragraph and starting the next one, do not start writing immediately when you return to your work. Put yourself back in context and in the mood by rereading what you have already written. This is what Mariah did. If she had stopped writing in the middle of writing the paragraph, she could have jotted down some quick notes to herself about what she would write next.

Preceding each body paragraph that Mariah wrote is the appropriate section of her sentence outline. Notice how she expanded roman numeral III from her outline into a first draft of the second body paragraph. As you read, ask yourself how closely she stayed on purpose and how well she paid attention to the needs of her audience.

Outline excerpt

Mariah then began her third and final body paragraph using roman numeral IV from her outline.

Outline excerpt

Reread body paragraphs two and three of the essay that Mariah is writing. Then answer the questions on your own sheet of paper.

  • In body paragraph two, Mariah decided to develop her paragraph as a nonfiction narrative. Do you agree with her decision? Explain. How else could she have chosen to develop the paragraph? Why is that better?
  • Compare the writing styles of paragraphs two and three. What evidence do you have that Mariah was getting tired or running out of steam? What advice would you give her? Why?
  • Choose one of these two body paragraphs. Write a version of your own that you think better fits Mariah’s audience and purpose.

Writing a Title

A writer’s best choice for a title is one that alludes to the main point of the entire essay. Like the headline in a newspaper or the big, bold title in a magazine, an essay’s title gives the audience a first peek at the content. If readers like the title, they are likely to keep reading.

Following her outline carefully, Mariah crafted each paragraph of her essay. Moving step by step in the writing process, Mariah finished the draft and even included a brief concluding paragraph (you will read her conclusion in Chapter 9 “Writing Essays: From Start to Finish” ). She then decided, as the final touch for her writing session, to add an engaging title.

Thesis Statement: Everyone wants the newest and the best digital technology, but the choices are many, and the specifications are often confusing. Working Title: Digital Technology: The Newest and the Best at What Price?

Writing Your Own First Draft

Now you may begin your own first draft, if you have not already done so. Follow the suggestions and the guidelines presented in this section.

Key Takeaways

  • Make the writing process work for you. Use any and all of the strategies that help you move forward in the writing process.
  • Always be aware of your purpose for writing and the needs of your audience. Cater to those needs in every sensible way.
  • Remember to include all the key structural parts of an essay: a thesis statement that is part of your introductory paragraph, three or more body paragraphs as described in your outline, and a concluding paragraph. Then add an engaging title to draw in readers.
  • Write paragraphs of an appropriate length for your writing assignment. Paragraphs in college-level writing can be a page long, as long as they cover the main topics in your outline.
  • Use your topic outline or your sentence outline to guide the development of your paragraphs and the elaboration of your ideas. Each main idea, indicated by a roman numeral in your outline, becomes the topic of a new paragraph. Develop it with the supporting details and the subpoints of those details that you included in your outline.
  • Generally speaking, write your introduction and conclusion last, after you have fleshed out the body paragraphs.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Want to create or adapt books like this? Learn more about how Pressbooks supports open publishing practices.

VII. Researched Writing

7.7 From Annotated Bibliography to Rough Draft: How to Develop your Position

Terri Pantuso

Now that you’ve completed your annotated bibliography, you may find yourself struggling with how to begin the rough draft of the researched position paper assignment. A researched position paper is simply an argumentative essay in which you take a position on a chosen topic and defend it with secondary sources. While it may be easy for you to state your position and reasons for your argument, you may find it difficult to incorporate your secondary sources into your own draft and still maintain your own voice. Now is the time to break out the scissors.

In this exercise, you are becoming part of the academic discussion, or discourse community, on your chosen topic. Now that you have located sources that either agree or disagree with your position, it’s time to see how those sources inform your thesis . If your annotated bibliography is printed on continuous pages, cut the annotations apart making certain to leave the bibliographical information with each annotation. Once you have done this, arrange the annotations on a table in front of you and imagine that each source is a person standing before you speaking. The topic about which they are speaking is the information contained in your annotation.

Now imagine that your best friend just walked up behind you and asked, “Hey, what are you all discussing?” Your one or two sentence answer is your thesis. That response sums up the gist of the argument being discussed and makes clear your position on the topic. Even if you had a working thesis beforehand, it’s okay to revise it at this point to more clearly match the debate being presented by your sources. It’s still your position – after all, you chose the sources.

Next, in selecting how to arrange the sources to create a rough draft, imagine the conversation again. Which one of the sources provides the strongest support for your position? Which one offers a counterargument? Which one(s) provide evidence which gives the argument logos credibility? As you hear the conversation in your head, arrange your annotations to begin to visualize the outline for your rough draft. However, do not copy/paste the annotations into your rough draft. Instead, incorporate the information you’ve identified into your own argument making sure to be cognizant of syntax .

To enter into a dialogue or conversation about a topic; to consider a subject formally in speech or writing. Public discourse refers to the speeches, publications, media attention, social media posts, and other statements that discuss the public good, the function of government, and the role of the individual in society.

A statement, usually one sentence, that summarizes an argument that will later be explained, expanded upon, and developed in a longer essay or research paper. In undergraduate writing, a thesis statement is often found in the introductory paragraph of an essay. The plural of thesis is theses .

Logos is a rhetorical appeal to reason or logic such that the apparent truth of the argument is what is persuasive. It is one of three types of rhetorical appeals described by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle.

The order, pattern, structure, or arrangement of words in a sentence or phrase that is deliberately used by a writer.

7.7 From Annotated Bibliography to Rough Draft: How to Develop your Position Copyright © 2022 by Terri Pantuso is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

  • Features for Creative Writers
  • Features for Work
  • Features for Higher Education
  • Features for Teachers
  • Features for Non-Native Speakers
  • Learn Blog Grammar Guide Community Academy FAQ
  • Grammar Guide

From Draft to Done: A Full Breakdown of the Writing Process

Micah McGuire

Micah McGuire

pencil and pencil shavings on a notebook

So you’ve decided to write a story and hope to publish it. For write-to-publish newbies, you might want to know what you’re getting into, especially if you’re working on a large project like a novel. It’s natural to wonder: how many drafts will it take before my story is ready to publish?

Unfortunately, you’re more likely to answer “how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie pop?” before knowing how many drafts you’ll need before publication. Here’s why.

A rose by any other name: What’s in a draft?

The biggest problem with breaking down the writing process from first to last draft can be linked back to one little detail:

How do you define a draft?

There are as many ways to define the word “draft” as there are writers. Which means every writer’s version of “the writing process” will look different. It’s impossible to say: “oh, writing a novel will take five drafts.”

Because the definition of “draft” can vary so much, it’s useful to think about drafting on a spectrum:

  • The fewest drafts: Only rewrites count
  • Middle-of-the-road: The fiction patching method
  • The most drafts: Every change counts

Keep reading for more on how this draft spectrum works.

Only rewrites count

The minimalist take on drafting. By this definition, only full rewrites of a piece count as a true draft. Which means when saving a manuscript to a file, you wouldn’t alter the file name until you completely rewrite that chapter, section, or piece.

The advantage here lies in simplicity: you have fewer files to juggle since you’re saving to the same file over and over. But you may risk losing details from earlier drafts because of the repeat saves. Plus, for larger projects like novels, you need to divide your manuscript into parts and have a file system in place to keep track of your revisions.

The fiction patching method

While this started as more of a joke between writers on social media, it’s a great middle-of-the-road way to think about drafting. It takes cues from software versioning , noting that not every change means a new draft. Smaller changes are like patches (the version’s third number) and rewrites might be closer to updates (the second number) rather than a new version release/new draft (the first number).

So draft names might look like this:

  • Draft 0.1: Outline
  • Draft 1.0: Rough Draft
  • Draft 1.5: Rough draft with some rewrites
  • Draft 2.0: Rough draft fully rewritten with feedback from critique partners
  • Draft 2.0.1: Rewritten rough draft with a minor tweak (or “patch”) to the protagonist’s motivation

Here, you can always revisit an older version to review details you want to re-emphasize in rewrites. But, it’s easy to end up with dozens if not hundreds of files and you’ll have to decide what constitutes a “patch,” an update and a brand new release ahead of time to stay consistent with naming.

Every change counts

Taken to its extreme, this approach to drafting may seem silly. Why would anyone count every change as a new draft? But most writers favor a less extreme version of this approach. It’s how we end up with draft names like “Final draft” and “Final draft I swear,” and “No really this is the last draft.”

Fortunately, this means you’ll never lose a detail again and you have complete control over naming conventions. However, you can end up with hundreds of files in a blink. And, if you’re not careful with what you name each file, it may take some detective work to figure out which one is the most recent version.

So, where do you fall on the drafting spectrum? Keeping it in mind can help you estimate the number of drafts you might need before publishing your story.

Typewriter page reading: edit...rewrite...edit...rewrite

From outline to finished product: the writing process

Now that you have a better understanding of what the word “draft” means to you, you can look at the writing process with fresh eyes.

While it’s impossible to say how many drafts a manuscript takes, it is possible to break the writing process down into stages . We can define the process in 5 stages:

  • The rough draft
  • Content edits
  • Proofreading

Try not to think of this as a step-by-step process. It’s more like a series of loops as each one of these stages may require multiple revision rounds. Sometimes, the process can feel like one step forward and two steps back, but each round will strengthen your manuscript.

Let’s look at each stage.

1. Outlining

2. the rough draft, 3. content edits, 4. line edits, 5. proofreading.

We couldn’t talk about the writing process without touching on outlining. Planners, applaud and cheer as much as you’d like—just make sure not to upset your color-coded highlighter sets.

Pantsers, resist the urge to skip this. It still applies to you, even if you think it doesn’t.

Like a draft, there are thousands of ways to define the term “outline.” But whether you fall on the planner detailed scene-by-scene index card method or the pantser “I know the ending. How I get there is up to the characters” end of the spectrum, you need some form of an outline.

The point of an outline is to ensure your writing produces a story with a plot. Otherwise, you risk writing pages and pages in which your characters run around and do things but never advance the plot.

So at the bare minimum, an outline requires you know:

  • Who your protagonist is
  • Who your antagonist is
  • Why the protagonist and antagonist have a problem with each other (otherwise known as your central conflict)
  • Where the story starts
  • Where the story ends

Pantsers, breathe a sigh of relief: you don’t have to answer any of these questions in detail for it to count as an outline. You just need to know where you’re starting and where you’re going. You don’t even need to use a pen and paper— try these three fun outlining methods .

Spend as much or as little time on this stage as you’d like.

But once your outline is complete, you can move onto what most of us think of as the “real” writing: drafting.

This is the most crucial aspect of writing a story. Fortunately, it’s also the one stage that’s impossible to get wrong.

There’s one goal to a rough draft: get the story out of your head and onto a page in a somewhat comprehensible form. That’s the only focus. So if you’re writing, you’re succeeding.

Most writers face perfectionist paralysis in the rough draft stage. We think that because the writing doesn’t match what we see it in our heads, it’s bad. Or the story’s going to be bad. Or we’re bad writers.

If you’re in the analysis paralysis camp, invoke Anne Lamott’s “Sh*tty First Drafts” rule . To quote the late great Terry Pratchett, “the first draft is you telling yourself the story.”

So don’t judge it. Or better yet, accept that it’s bad. Cringe, wince, make faces. Just get it down on the page. Because you can’t edit a story that’s floating around in your head.

A marked up journal

So you’ve finished your rough draft. Take a moment to celebrate! Your story is out of your head and onto the page.

Next up: editing.

Writers usually see editing as a terrifying mountain or a fun challenge. But there’s no denying it’s a monumental job, no matter how long or short your story is.

Because the scope of editing can be overwhelming, it’s easiest to break the process up into steps. Those steps are:

Here’s a breakdown of each.

A content edit is just what it sounds like: a pass editing the content and story of your work. This is the place to catch plot holes, character inconsistencies, and scenes that are a bit of a slog. For some, it’s easier to think of this as a “rewriting” round rather than an “editing” round since you’re making large-scale changes.

Sometimes, content edits are obvious on a read-through of a rough draft. Yet the longer you’ve worked on a piece, the harder it is to spot those editing opportunities.


Each draft you write marks progress in your writing abilities. When you read back over the first few scenes you wrote, you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come. This is why the self-edit is so important. You need to apply your newfound skills and perspective to your manuscript so that it’s the best it can be before you open it up for feedback.

The first step is to use an editing software like ProWritingAid to help you spot issues with overly long sentences, awkward constructions, unruly dialogue tags, and pacing. Using an editing tool at this stage helps you to get the most out of any human beta-readers and editors you may reach out to down the line.

Some reports give you the tools to visualise your draft at a glance to see where you need to focus. The Sentence Length Report shows you all of your sentences in a handy bar chart so you can cut long, winding sentences down to size. This will help keep your ideas clear and avoid any readability issues.

sentence length report prowritingaid

Other reports let you get to work directly on your manuscript, like the Overused Words Report. This report highlights words that are often overused in published writing. These are words like could , just , and feel that point to vagueness or telling rather than showing.

overused words in desktop

The report lets you pick out these words and change them to make sure your description is doing the work it needs to to immerse your readers.

Learn how to approach the self-edit, and how ProWritingAid can help .

Critique partners and beta readers

Once your first self-edit is complete, you’ll need a fresh set of eyes to help direct your efforts. Enter critique partners and beta readers.

On the surface, it may sound like critique partners and beta readers do the same thing: they both read through your work and provide feedback.

However, there’s some nuance that separates the two:

Critique partners are writers who read like writers. But beta readers are writers or readers who read like readers.

Because your critique partners are fellow writers, they’re great at spotting technical issues, like:

  • Weak character motivations
  • Stilted dialogue
  • Clichéd descriptions
  • Continuity errors

Getting this technical feedback is especially helpful before handing your story off to readers, so it’s best to let your critique partners read a story before jumping into a beta reading round.

As a bonus, your critique partners can spot these issues and help you figure out ways to fix them while you’re both “talking shop.”

Beta readers, on the other hand, are fantastic for getting feedback on emotional reactions to your story, like:

  • Whether a certain character was likable or not
  • If certain chapters felt too fast or too slow
  • Whether the conflict kept them engaged
  • If they found themselves wanting to read more

Here, you’re getting close to how a reader would react to your story once it’s published. Use their feedback to determine if the story prompts the response you intended it to and edit accordingly.

Now, a quick note on the biggest difference between beta readers and critique partners: the detail level of their suggestions. If beta readers aren’t writers themselves, they may not be able to articulate the specifics of what they dislike in the story. Their feedback can be vague, amounting to: “I don’t like this scene, but I’m not sure why.” The best way to identify problem spots is to look at the feedback of all of your beta readers. If multiple readers have an issue with a scene or section, it’s a good indicator to pay close attention on editing.

Critique partners, however, can usually pin-point issues with laser precision, but may go overboard with their suggestions. Feedback may seem harsh and critique partners with a domineering streak may make “my way or the highway” style fix suggestions.

So it’s ultimately a fine balance. Note where you can improve and keep that in mind during your content edits, but also trust your gut instinct. In the end, it’s your story.

Once you’ve gone through a round or two (or more) of content edits, it’s time to move to line edits. These edits ensure your story is as strong as possible when it’s published. You’re examining your story, sentence by sentence, to catch dialogue issues, problems with the flow of a paragraph, and weak sentences that need rewriting.

If you’d like to hire a professional editor, this is a great stage to do it. But, if you’d prefer to tackle this edit yourself, ProWritingAid can make your process run much more smoothly. Check out our guide to six of the key reports that can make your line edits easy.

The proofreading stage is what most writers think of when they think of “editing.” Here, you’re checking for spelling and grammatical errors and ensuring consistency. Think of it as a final polish.

While some writers may hire a professional editor to proofread, it’s not a necessity, especially if you’re looking to publish traditionally. Often, a friend with a good eye for grammar can catch trouble spots on their read through. And ProWritingAid’s spelling and grammar reports can point out any little details they may have missed.

With your proofreading sweep complete, congratulations! Your story is ready to share with the wider reading world. Now, it’s time to move on to publishing or querying process.

If you’re looking to self publish your story, check out our webinar on the 7 Processes of Publishing . And for those who want to query, Jennifer Xue’s guide covers the process in depth .

Are you prepared to write your novel? Download this free book now:

The Novel-Writing Training Plan

The Novel-Writing Training Plan

So you are ready to write your novel. excellent. but are you prepared the last thing you want when you sit down to write your first draft is to lose momentum., this guide helps you work out your narrative arc, plan out your key plot points, flesh out your characters, and begin to build your world..

rough draft in an essay

Be confident about grammar

Check every email, essay, or story for grammar mistakes. Fix them before you press send.

As ProWritingAid’s Growth Marketing Manager, Micah’s approach to marketing combines her three favorite things: writing, user research, and data analysis. Previously, she managed PR and partnerships for startup GrowthMentor. A geek about all things science, but especially her former field of study, microbiology, and neuroscience, she’s always on the lookout for ways to incorporate fascinating new research into writing. Much of her previous freelance work analyzes the science of productivity, creativity, and how we can better understand the intersection of the two to lead richer lives. Outside of work, you can usually find her baking or typing away at her latest science fiction or fantasy project.

Get started with ProWritingAid

Drop us a line or let's stay in touch via :

  • Character Education
  • Classroom Management
  • Cultural Responsive
  • Differentiation
  • Distance Learning
  • Explicit Teaching
  • Figurative Language
  • Interactive Notebooks
  • Mentor Text
  • Monthly/Seasonal
  • Organization
  • Social Emotional Learning
  • Social Studies
  • Step-by-Step Instruction
  • Teaching Tips
  • Testing and Review
  • Freebie Vault Registration
  • Login Freebie Album
  • Lost Password Freebie Album
  • FREE Rockstar Community
  • Shop Teacher Finds
  • Follow Amazon Teacher Finds on Instagram
  • In the News
  • Shop Writing Resources
  • Shop Reading Resources
  • Shop Social Studies Resources
  • Interactive Writing Notebooks
  • Interactive Reading Notebooks
  • Social Studies Resources
  • Rockstar Writers® Members Portal Login
  • FREE MASTERCLASS: Turn Reluctant Writers into Rockstar Writers®
  • Enroll in Rockstar Writers®

Rockin Resources

Did your students follow the other writer’s workshop lessons to organize a narrative essay? If so, students’ graphic organizers are completed and it is time to write! Woo woo! This lesson will share teaching tips for writing rough drafts.  It is STEP 2 of the writing process. These ideas are part of a scaffolding approach to writing with a series of lessons ideal for any writing curriculum.

Start off the lesson by introducing all the rough draft tips below. 

  • Create a specific goal for your writing.
  • Just write.
  • Keep your audience in mind while writing.  For example, you would write in a different voice to your friends than you would for an adult.
  • Don’t worry about misspelled words.
  • Indent each paragraph.
  • Skip lines so that you can make changes during the revising step.

Model writing a rough draft and purposely make mistakes so students see that it doesn’t matter for this stage.  It is more important to get idea down and keep them flowing. Often times when students stop to make changes while they are writing, they lose their train of thought.  I love when students want to correct me right away when I purposely make a mistake. I laugh and say, “It is my rough draft! It is important that I just write and not think about the mechanics! Let me write! I don’t want to lose my focus.”


Have students take notes in their notebook to remind themselves how to write a rough draft in the future.

rough draft in an essay

Now it is the students’ turn to write. Let your students write around the room.  Getting them comfortable will ease their fears of writing.  

rough draft in an essay

Sharing their rough draft writing is valuable. Students will be able to hear their writing to see if it flows naturally. It will give them ideas for the revising stage.

I hope this helps you with your writing lessons!  

rough draft in an essay

Check out my FREE writing masterclass! CLICK HERE




This lesson is also included in the STEP-BY-STEP WRITING ® Programwith mini-lessons designed to scaffold through the writing process. Writing units included are sentence structure, paragraph writing, narrative writing, opinion writing, and informative writing. See what is included in the image below and click on it to learn more about them! You will turn your reluctant writers into ROCKSTAR WRITERS ™! 

rough draft in an essay

“I can’t say enough about how great this resource is. We’ve finished the first unit, and I followed each lesson as written out! The grade three and four aligned, but had different lessons, so I looked like a superstar teacher in the first paragraph writing month. Best thing bought from TpT! Would recommend wholeheartedly from a veteran 22 year teacher!” – Diana

rough draft in an essay


Writing mini lesson #23- revising a narrative essay.

rough draft in an essay

  • AI Content Shield
  • AI KW Research
  • AI Assistant
  • SEO Optimizer
  • AI KW Clustering
  • Customer reviews
  • The NLO Revolution
  • Press Center
  • Help Center
  • Content Resources
  • Facebook Group

Basic Guide: Essay Rough Draft Outline

Table of Contents

With a name like “rough draft,” it can be easy to imagine what it entails. It is your chance to play around with ideas and see what works best for your work. An  essay rough draft outline  helps you stay focused and organized.

A writer’s job is to produce a polished piece that flows smoothly and clearly. An outline’s job is to successfully communicate the writer’s intended message in the most precise and efficient way possible.

This article gives quick steps and tips on how to draft a rough essay outline .

fountain pen on black lined paper

What Is a Rough Draft of an Essay?

The rough draft is a crucial part and the first version of a document. It is the first document the professor sees and assesses for details and significant ideas. 

After completing a rough draft, the author will edit it by making any necessary changes. Such changes include adding or removing sections or rearranging and polishing the existing ones.

The rough draft takes the outline and fills it with the researched information to generate a well-structured essay . This is then modified to become the final output.

4 Quick Steps to Writing an Essay Rough Draft Outline

Rough draft writing is a vital ability for school and work. Many careers necessitate written reports that could benefit from a rough draft stage. Students begin their essays with a rough draft, no matter the level of learning.

Several preparatory procedures lead up to the drafting of an essay. The procedures to be followed when drafting a rough outline are as follows:

1. Choosing a Topic

Depending on the instructor, students may be given free rein over what they write about in their essays.

Choose a topic that is narrow in scope. In a sea of data, focusing on a specific topic helps authors pick the most pertinent data from which to craft-focused, powerful writing. 

2. Research

An excellent piece of writing will incorporate elements from many different sources. Verifying the reliability and credibility of a source is crucial.

While researching, take detailed notes and document where you found each valuable piece of data. It’s your job to give each source its due credit by finding its rightful place in the bibliography. While researching, a writer may decide to modify or completely change the topic. 

3. Creating an Outline

An outline is a skeleton used to build an essay or a story. The purpose of an outline is to determine the main points and organize them to give the most coherent message.

Make an outline that details the key points you want to cover in the essay. Also, include the sequence in which you want to discuss them. 

4. Construction of a Thesis

Express your argument or thesis for the paper. Your essay’s thesis is a statement explaining what you want to prove. The thesis of an argumentative or persuasive essay is the author’s main argument. 

This thesis statement introduces the reader to the work that will be discussed. It alludes to the arguments made in the essay and provides context for why the issue is significant.

After these preliminary processes are finished, you can begin composing the essay’s rough draft.

Wrapping Up

When writing an  essay rough draft outline , it is essential to gauge the information you plan to cover in the outline. Then, you’ll be able to organize that information and write it effectively, providing an overview of your essay .

Remember that the purpose of a rough draft is to give you an idea of what you want to write about. It does not seek to create the essay.

Basic Guide: Essay Rough Draft Outline

Abir Ghenaiet

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

Explore All Essay Outline Tool Articles

How to write a synthesis essay outline.

One of the most interesting assignments you could have is writing a synthesis essay. For a college or university student,…

  • Essay Outline Tool

Learning the Structure of an Informational Essay

Academic writing assignments, primarily essays, are required of all college and university students. That’s because they think it will aid…

The Correct Way to Structure an Article

Writing non-fiction has a set format that can be followed, which makes it not all that different from writing fiction.…

Exploring the Structure of a Response Essay

You will typically be expected to write in a formal and impersonal voice when you are given the assignment of…

Writing a Persuasive Essay? Use This Structure!

Writing essays is a requirement of your academic program as a college student. Whether you love them or loathe them,…

Writing a Proposal Essay? Read This!

Are you writing a proposal essay? To write it correctly, we have to know what a proposal essay actually is.…

  • Trending Categories

Data Structure

  • Selected Reading
  • UPSC IAS Exams Notes
  • Developer's Best Practices
  • Questions and Answers
  • Effective Resume Writing
  • HR Interview Questions
  • Computer Glossary

Writing the Rough Draft of an Essay

Introduction: writing a rough draft.

Rough draughts are simply unpolished versions of the entire task.

rough draft in an essay

Writing a rough draft of an essay is an important step in the essay writing process. It allows you to get your thoughts down on paper without worrying too much about grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.

A rough draught, first draught, or "sloppy copy," is an early, unfinished piece of writing that represents your first attempt to put all of your ideas on paper. The final version uses it as a framework. A rough draught is never supposed to be flawless; it is jam-packed with grammatical errors, bad word choices, and structural problems. Get a good chunk of your project written with the intention of worrying about the errors afterwards.

It is challenging to write. Even if you have a knack for wordplay, you are not exempt from the worries that plague all writers, such as deadline fear, writer's block, or any variety of personal issues. The rough draught relieves pressure, which helps overcome these barriers when it is accepted with the proper attitude. Just keep in mind that it doesn't have to be excellent.

What should be written in a rough draught?

The initial draught should contain everything that the final document will have. Of all, the rough copy is solely for the writer, so no one will object if you need to skim over or skip some sections—but you'll need to resolve any shortcuts before the final draught.

How much time should a first draught take?

A preliminary draught ought to be around the same length as the final product. The early manuscripts of many writers are frequently revised. In fact, having more usable content to pick from might work to your advantage. The best elements of that initial copy should be included in what you finally preserve, so bear that in mind while you edit.

Do you require citations in a draught?

It helps to include all the information, including citations, that you'll need for your final draught in your initial draught so you can assess the essay as a whole.

Steps To Follow When Writing A Rough Draft Of An Essay

rough draft in an essay

Here are the steps to follow when writing a rough draft of an essay −

Brainstorm and outline − Before you start writing your rough draft, brainstorm ideas and create an outline. Jot down all your ideas on a sheet of paper and then organize them into a coherent structure. This will help you stay on track as you write.

Write an introduction − Begin your rough draft with an introduction that includes a thesis statement. This statement should clearly state your argument or main point.

Write body paragraphs − The body of your essay should provide supporting evidence for your thesis statement. Each paragraph should focus on one key idea and include evidence or examples to support your point.

Write a conclusion − The conclusion should summarize your main points and restate your thesis statement. It should also provide a final thought or call to action.

Revise and edit − Once you have completed your rough draft, take a break, and then come back to it with fresh eyes. Revise and edit your essay for grammar, punctuation, and clarity.

Finalize your essay − After making revisions, finalize your essay by creating a final copy. Make sure to proofread your final copy before submitting it.

Tips To Write A Great Rough Draft Essay

Write without stopping − When writing your rough draft, try to write without stopping. Don't worry about going back and fixing mistakes or rewording sentences. Keep writing until you've covered all the points you want to make.

Use specific examples − To make your essay more interesting and engaging, use specific examples and anecdotes to illustrate your points. This will help bring your essay to life and make it more memorable.

Stay on topic − It is easy to get off-topic when writing an essay, but It is important to stay focused on your main argument or thesis statement. Make sure that every paragraph and sentence in your essay is related to your topic.

Your rough draft's primary objectives are to provide yourself a place to start and to write down your ideas. After you've completed a first draught, it is much simpler to find the appropriate word and arrange the parts in the most effective sequence; otherwise, it can be difficult and time-consuming.

You can notice issue areas in a rough draught that you can't with just brainstorming and outlining. You don't see certain errors, such story holes, or organisational problems, until they are spelled out in paper.

Remember, the rough draft is just the first step in the writing process. Don't worry too much about getting it perfect on the first try. The most important thing is to get your ideas down on paper so you can refine and revise them later.

Bitopi Kaashyap

Related Articles

  • Which is the best website for essay writing help?
  • How to Write an Essay
  • Basic Essay Structure: The Five-Paragraph Essay
  • Get the Gist of an Essay & Improve Reading Comprehension
  • Developing the Essay Topic
  • How to Structure an Argument in Your Essay
  • How to Proofread an Essay for Spelling and Grammar?
  • What are the rules for writing the symbol of an element?
  • Difference between Bank Draft and Money Order
  • Is simplicity an inspiration for writing?
  • What makes the rayon rough?
  • Agraphia: Lost of Writing Skill
  • What was the writing style of Thomas Carlyle?
  • What was the writing style of Walter Pater?
  • Simple Ways to Write a Short Essay

Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course


AFS Programs

Rough Draft Essay Example: How to Write an Effective Rough Draft

Rough Draft Essay Example: How to Write an Effective Rough Draft

Writing an excellent rough draft is a crucial step in the process of academic writing. It helps you organize your thoughts and ideas without worrying too much about the finer details. In this rough draft essay example, we will go through the logical steps that can assist you in starting and building an effective essay.

The first step in writing a rough draft is prewriting. This includes brainstorming and outlining your main ideas and purposes. It is helpful to create a rough sketch that shows the linking of paragraphs and the development of your thoughts. Prewriting allows you to quickly get your initial thoughts on paper, giving you a total overview of what you want to include in your essay.

As you work through the rough draft, be sure to provide enough explanation and examples to support your main ideas. Use paragraphs to break up long text and make it easier for readers to read and understand your essay. Each paragraph should have a clear focus and flow smoothly into the next one. Remember to revise as you go along, making sure your ideas are well-developed and that there is a logical progression from one paragraph to the next.

The Importance of Rough Drafts in Essay Writing

Rough drafts are an essential step in the process of essay writing. They serve as a sketch or outline of the main ideas that will be developed further in the final draft. Without a rough draft, the writing process can become long and chaotic, making it difficult for the writer to keep track of their thoughts and ideas.

One of the main purposes of a rough draft is to provide a suitable structure for the essay. It helps to organize and prioritize the ideas that the writer wants to present to the reader. Writing down the main points and examples in a rough draft helps the writer to see the progression and logical linking of ideas, ensuring a clear and cohesive essay.

Rough drafts also serve as a helpful tool during the prewriting stage. They allow the writer to brainstorm and jot down all the important ideas and examples they want to include in their essay. This helps to avoid missing any crucial points and provides a total overview of the topics the writer wants to cover in their essay.

Starting with a rough draft allows the writer to quickly get their thoughts on paper, without worrying too much about grammar and perfection. It provides a starting point from which the writer can build upon and refine their ideas during the revision stage.

Rough drafts are also important for the reader’s perspective. They allow the reader to see the progression of the writer’s thoughts and understand the meaning behind their examples and arguments. By reading a rough draft, the reader can also provide feedback and offer suggestions for improvement, creating a collaborative process between the writer and the reader.

Proofreading and revising the rough draft is also a crucial step. It helps to catch any spelling or grammar mistakes and allows for improvements in sentence structure and overall clarity. By reading and revising the rough draft, the writer can ensure that their essay is well-written and polished before the final submission.

Tips for Writing an Effective Rough Draft

1. Prewriting and Outlining: Before starting your rough draft, spend time prewriting and creating an outline. This stage will help you organize your thoughts and connect your ideas coherently.

2. Include all the necessary paragraphs: Make sure to include all the paragraphs that are required for your essay. Each paragraph should have a clear purpose and contribute to the overall meaning of your work.

3. Link paragraphs together: Ensure that there is a strong progression and linking between paragraphs. This will help your readers follow your train of thought and understand the flow of your essay.

5. Revise and proofread: Don’t expect your rough draft to be perfect. It is a work in progress, and you will need to revise and proofread it multiple times. Look for any mistakes, unclear sentences, or areas that need improvement.

Following these tips will help you create a strong and effective rough draft. Remember, the purpose of a rough draft is to generate material to work from in the revision stages, so don’t be afraid to make changes and try new ideas. Keep in mind that the rough draft is not the same as the final essay – it is a starting point to build upon. With the assistance of these hints, you will be well on your way to writing an excellent final piece!

Common Mistakes to Avoid in a Rough Draft

One common mistake is not focusing on the purpose of the rough draft. The purpose of a rough draft is to quickly get your ideas down on paper without worrying too much about organization or perfect grammar. Many writers get nervous or overwhelmed with the thought of creating a perfect first draft, but it’s important to remember that this stage is just for building the foundation of your essay.

Another mistake is not taking the time to brainstorm and outline your ideas before starting the rough draft. Brainstorming helps to get your thoughts flowing and allows you to organize your ideas in a logical progression. An outline provides a roadmap for your essay and helps to keep you focused on your main topics and supporting paragraphs.

One common mistake is not providing enough explanation or examples in your rough draft. It’s important to show the reader what you mean by providing further examples or explanation to support your main points. This helps to make your arguments stronger and provides a clear understanding for the reader.

Proofreading and revising are also important stages in the rough draft process. Many writers overlook these steps and submit their rough drafts without thoroughly reviewing their work. It’s important to take the time to read through your rough draft multiple times, looking for any errors or areas that need improvement. It’s also helpful to have someone else read your rough draft to provide additional feedback and assistance.

Finally, one of the most common mistakes is not considering the reader while writing the rough draft. It’s important to keep in mind who your audience is and what they might be looking for in your essay. This will help you tailor your writing to meet the needs and expectations of your readers.

Revising and Editing Your Rough Draft

1. read your rough draft.

The first step in revising your rough draft is to read it through carefully. Take the time to thoroughly understand the main purpose and meaning of your essay. As you read, pay attention to the overall structure and organization of your ideas. Keep an eye out for any paragraphs or sections that may need further development or explanation.

2. Create an Outline

To help with the revision process, create an outline of your essay. This outline will serve as a roadmap, guiding you through your revision. It will also help you ensure a logical flow of ideas from one paragraph to another and provide a suitable structure for your essay.

3. Identify Weak Points

While reading your rough draft, identify any weak points in your writing. This can include unclear or confusing sentences, unsupported arguments, or areas where the meaning is not conveyed effectively. Take note of these areas, as they will need to be revised.

4. Revise for Clarity, Purpose, and Development

Once you’ve identified the weak points, revise your essay to improve clarity, purpose, and overall development. Make sure that each paragraph has a clear topic sentence and that all the supporting details and evidence are relevant and strong. Focus on creating a strong and logical argument throughout your essay.

5. Edit for Grammar and Style

After revising the content of your essay, it’s time to edit for grammar, punctuation, and style. Proofread your work for any spelling or grammatical errors, and ensure that you are using appropriate academic writing style and tone.

Throughout the revision and editing process, it’s essential to keep in mind the purpose of your essay and what you want to convey to your readers. Take advantage of revision hints, brainstorming sessions, and feedback from others to ensure that your essay is well-written and effective in communicating your ideas.

Frequently Asked Questions about Rough Drafts

1. what is the purpose of a rough draft.

A rough draft serves as a preliminary version of the essay. It is the first written response to the essay prompt or topic. The purpose of a rough draft is to lay down the main ideas and structure of the essay without worrying too much about grammar or spelling errors. It provides a suitable explanation of what the essay is going to be about and helps the writer to keep their focus on the same line.

2. How should I start my rough draft?

3. what are some helpful tips for writing a rough draft.

– Don’t worry about getting everything perfect. Remember, it’s called a rough draft for a reason.

– Focus on getting your ideas down on paper without worrying too much about grammar or spelling errors.

– Don’t be afraid to make revisions and changes as you go along. The rough draft is a starting point, and you can refine it further in later drafts.

– Use linking words and transitional phrases to connect your ideas and make the essay flow smoothly.

– Read your rough draft out loud to find any areas that sound awkward or need improvement.

– Ask for assistance or feedback from a peer or instructor. Another set of eyes can often provide valuable insights.

– Proofread your rough draft for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors before moving on to the next step of revising.

4. How much revision is needed for a rough draft?

The amount of revision required for a rough draft will vary from writer to writer and essay to essay. Some writers may need to make significant changes, while others may only need minor tweaks. It’s important to read through your rough draft and think critically about how well it meets the requirements of the assignment and whether it effectively communicates your ideas to the reader. If you find that your rough draft is lacking in some areas, don’t be afraid to make substantial revisions to improve the overall quality of your essay.

By following these steps and tips, you can write an effective rough draft that lays a strong foundation for your final essay. Remember, the rough draft is just the beginning, and it’s through the process of revising and refining that your essay will truly come to life.

What is a rough draft?

A rough draft is an early version of a piece of writing that needs to be revised and edited before it is considered a final draft.

Why is it important to write a rough draft?

Writing a rough draft allows you to get your ideas down on paper and see how they flow together. It also gives you the opportunity to make revisions and improve your writing before creating the final draft.

What are the stages of building a strong essay draft?

Building a strong essay draft involves several stages including brainstorming, outlining, writing the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion, revising and editing.

How does brainstorming help in the rough draft writing process?

Brainstorming helps generate ideas and organize them into a logical structure. It allows you to explore different perspectives, gather evidence, and create a clear thesis statement before starting the rough draft.

Why is revising and editing an essential step in the rough draft process?

Revising and editing allows you to improve the clarity, coherence, and overall quality of your writing. It helps you identify and correct errors in grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure, ensuring that your essay is polished and effective.

Building a strong essay draft requires going through several stages. First, you need to brainstorm ideas and develop a clear thesis statement. Then, you should create an outline to organize your thoughts and main arguments. After that, you can start writing your rough draft, focusing on presenting your ideas and supporting evidence. Finally, you should revise and edit your draft to improve clarity, coherence, and grammar.

Why is it important to have a clear thesis statement in an essay draft?

A clear thesis statement is crucial in an essay draft because it helps guide your writing and provides a clear focus for your readers. It allows you to stay on track and ensures that your essay has a central argument or main point. Without a strong thesis statement, your essay may lack direction and coherence, making it difficult for your readers to understand your main idea.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California , and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.

How to Write the First Draft

Part 4: How to Write the First Draft


By this stage, you will have a final essay plan and a research document that presents your findings from the research stage in an organised and easy-to-use way. Together, these documents provide a clear map and all the information you need to write a well-structured essay , in a fraction of the time it would otherwise take. 

This timesaving comes from the fact that you have already made all the big decisions about your essay during the research phase: 

  • You have a clear idea of your answer to the essay question.
  • You know the main topics you will discuss to support your answer.
  • You know the best order in which to discuss these topics. 
  • You know how many words should be spent on these topics, based on their importance to supporting your answer.
  • You know what points you will make under each topic and will discuss each of these in a new paragraph. 
  • You know exactly what information each paragraph of your essay should contain. 

You have already compiled your list of references or bibliography, and have easy access to all the details you need to correctly cite and reference your work. 

Formal academic language

Before starting to write your essay, you must understand that using formal academic language is essential when writing at university. Formal academic language is clear and concise. You should never use 20 words when 10 will do; and your writing should leave no room for misunderstanding or confusion.

First person should almost always be avoided when writing an essay; however, it is recommended that you check with your tutor or lecturer about their attitude towards the first person and when it should be used, if ever. Conversely, contractions (e.g. shouldn’t, could’ve, he’s and hasn’t) are always inappropriate in academic writing. The only time you should see a contraction in academic text is in a direct quotation, usually taken from informal or spoken text. 

Care should be taken to craft grammatically correct sentences, with no errors of spelling or punctuation. Colloquialisms and idiomatic language should be avoided. (These are characteristics of informal or spoken language.) It is also important to avoid racist, sexist and gender-specific language in your writing. Instead, use inclusive and gender-neutral vocabulary. For more information, please see our blog article ‘ Simplicity in Academic Writing ’.


As you already have a clear idea of what your essay will include, you can write your introduction first. Of course, you should always come back to your introduction at the end of writing your essay to make sure that it definitely introduces all the topics you discussed. (You should not discuss any topics in the body of your essay that you have not mentioned in the introduction.) 

Some other points to remember when writing your introduction are that you need to clearly state your answer to the essay question (your thesis statement), not just introduce the question. Also, your introduction should include no information that is not directly relevant to your topic. Including irrelevant background information in the introduction is a common mistake made by novice academic writers. 

See the following example of a poor introduction. Then, compare it with the example of a good introduction below that. These example introductions are for the same 1,000-word essay used for the examples given in earlier stages of this guide, ‘How to Begin’ and ‘How to Organise Your Research’.

This is an example of a poor introduction: In 1492, Columbus set sail from Spain on a quest to find a new trade route to Asia. Despite the fact that he believed he had landed in the East Indies, Columbus had found another continent entirely. This essay will examine the issue of whether or not indigenous culture was completely decimated in the Americas as a result of Spain’s colonisation in the 16th century. It will look at the areas of family, religion and language.
This is an example of a good introduction:  Beginning in the sixteenth century, Spanish colonisation of the Americas had a significantly negative effect on the cultural practices of the indigenous population. In particular, the introduction of new diseases and the consequent demographic collapse dramatically weakened indigenous culture and their ability to resist Spanish domination. However, aspects of the culture of some indigenous groups survived and even thrived—it was not completely decimated. Through an examination of the evidence related to religion, family and language, including the effects of colonisation on these areas of society, this essay will demonstrate aspects of indigenous beliefs, customs and practices that managed to endure.

In the example of a poor introduction, background information is included that is not directly relevant to the topic. Also, it does not answer the question, it only introduces it. Finally, it does not introduce all the topics to be discussed (as outlined in the final essay plan), and for those it does introduce, it does not mention them in the order they will be discussed in the essay (as outlined in the final essay plan). 

By contrast, the good introduction provides a clear thesis statement; introduces, in order, all the topics to be discussed; and only includes information that is directly relevant to the essay question. 

Topic sentences

As explained in ‘How to Begin’, every paragraph needs a topic sentence. The topic sentence introduces the new topic about to be discussed. It also links the topic back to the essay question, to make it clear why it is relevant and how it advances your argument. 

The following are examples of topic sentences for Topic 1 ‘Disease and demographic impact’, Topic 2 ‘Religion’ and Topic 4 ‘Language’, as outlined in the final essay plan in ‘How to Finalise Your Essay Plan’. Notice how they link back to the thesis statement: ‘Spain’s colonisation had a significantly negative effect on the indigenous population of the Americas but some aspects of the culture of some indigenous groups survived and even thrived—it was not completely decimated’.

Topic 1: One of the most obvious negative effects of colonisation was the introduction of diseases that caused rapid demographic collapse among the indigenous population. Topic 2: Missionaries arrived to preach Catholicism to the Native Americans, but they allowed the Native Americans to keep parts of their culture and religion that did not clash with Catholic value and traditions.   Topic 4: The Spanish did not force their language on the Native Americans, but there were nonetheless cases of indigenous languages fading out of use and being replaced with Spanish.

A common misconception is that your paragraphs need a concluding sentence for each topic. This is not true, and in fact results in unnecessary repetition, especially in a short essay. 

If you have carefully followed the steps outlined in the articles on organising your research and finalising your essay plan, your final essay plan should clearly indicate what information will go in each paragraph of your essay. Each paragraph should contain only one main idea. Care should also be taken to only spend as many words as planned on each paragraph. If you decided in your research and planning stages that 150 words were enough to discuss a certain topic, then stick as closely to that plan as possible. Likewise, unless you have a very good reason for doing otherwise, follow your planned order of paragraphs, as that order should reflect the most logical arrangement and help your essay to flow well.

When writing your paragraphs, you want to choose the best supporting evidence and examples from your research to use. You must also ensure that you are inserting the necessary in-text citations and compiling your final reference list as you are writing, rather than leaving this until the end. This should be easy to do, as all these details are readily available in your research document (see ‘How to Organise Your Research’). 


As explained in ‘How to Begin’, a conclusion should restate the thesis statement and summarise the points that were made in the body of the essay in the order in which they were made. The conclusion offers an important opportunity to synthesise the points you have made to support your argument and to reinforce how these points prove that your argument is correct. In many ways, the conclusion is a reflection of the introduction, but it is important that it is not an exact repeat of it. A key point of difference is that you have already provided ample evidence and support for your answer to the essay question, so the purpose of your conclusion is not to introduce what you will say, but rather to reiterate what you have said. Further, your conclusion absolutely must not contain any new material not already discussed in detail in the body of your text.  


It is important that you acknowledge your sources of information in your academic writing. This allows you to clearly show how the ideas of others have influenced your own work. You should provide a citation (and matching reference) in your essay every time you use words, ideas or information from other sources. In this way, you can avoid accidental plagiarism. 

Referencing also serves other purposes. It allows you to demonstrate the depth and breadth of your research, to show that you have read and engaged with the ideas of experts in your field. It also allows you to give credit to the writers from whom you have borrowed words or ideas. For your reader, referencing allows them to trace the sources of information you have used, to verify the validity of your work. Your referencing must be accurate and provide all necessary details to allow your reader to locate the source.

Whether you have been provided referencing guidelines to follow, or have selected guidelines that you consider appropriate for your field, these must be followed closely, correctly and consistently. All work that is not 100% your own should be referenced, including page numbers where necessary (see ‘How, When and Why to Reference’). Your referencing should be checked carefully at the end of writing to ensure that everything that should have been referenced has been referenced, all in-text citations have corresponding reference list entries and the reference list or bibliography is correctly ordered.

Your document should be neatly and consistently formatted, following any guidelines provided by your tutor or lecturer. Neat formatting shows that you have taken pride in your work and that you understand the importance of following convention. 

If no guidelines have been provided to you, we recommend you use the following formatting guidelines: 

  • normal page margins
  • 12 pt Times New Roman or Arial font for the body (10 pt for footnotes)
  • bold for headings
  • 1.5 or double line spacing for the body (single spacing for footnotes)
  • a line between each paragraph (or a first line indent of 1.27 cm for each paragraph).

These are the guidelines most commonly preferred by Australian and New Zealand universities. 

Learning how to write your first draft can feel overwhelming. To solidify your knowledge, you might like to watch Dr Lisa Lines' video on the topic on our YouTube channel . If you need any further assistance, you can read more about our professional editing service . Capstone Editing is always here to help.

Related Guides

Essay writing: everything you need to know and nothing you don’t—part 1: how to begin.

This guide will explain everything you need to know about how to organise, research and write an argumentative essay.

Essay Writing Part 2: How to Organise Your Research

Organising your research effectively is a crucial and often overlooked step to successful essay writing.

Essay Writing Part 3: How to Finalise Your Essay Plan

The key to successful essay writing is to finalise a detailed essay plan, carefully refined during the research stage, before beginning to write your essay.

Part 5: How to Finalise and Polish Your Essay

Before handing in any assignment, you must take the time to carefully edit and proofread it. This article explains exactly how to do so effectively.

rough draft in an essay

Joseph Ye - Rough Draft Essay Unit Essay

  • Health Science


  1. Unforgettable Rough Draft Essay ~ Thatsnotus

    rough draft in an essay

  2. Writing A Rough Draft For An Essay

    rough draft in an essay

  3. Rough Draft Examples

    rough draft in an essay

  4. Rough Draft Example For Kids : Essay Draft ‒ English Composition 1 / I

    rough draft in an essay

  5. Rough Draft Examples : Essay Rough Draft Template

    rough draft in an essay

  6. Essay 4 Rough Draft

    rough draft in an essay



  2. English 121

  3. Recording #6 (2)

  4. The Corrupt Man Behind "He Gets Us" EXPOSED

  5. Argumentative essay writing



  1. Tips for Writing a Powerful Rough Draft

    The most important tip for writing rough drafts is to give yourself permission to write imperfectly. As we've said, the goal of a rough draft is to get all your ideas down, not to write everything perfectly on your first try. This is because if you're focusing on finding the right word or making sure your grammar is correct, it means you ...

  2. How to Write a Rough Draft: 14 Steps (with Pictures)

    Section 3: Conclusion, including a summary of your three main points, a restatement of your thesis, and concluding statements or thoughts. 4. Have a thesis statement. If you are creating a rough draft for an academic essay or paper, you should have a thesis statement.

  3. Rough Drafts

    Rough Drafts. In this section of the Excelsior OWL, you have been learning about traditional structures for expository essays (essays that are thesis-based and offer a point-by-point body), but no matter what type of essay you're writing, the rough draft is going to be an important part of your writing process. It's important to remember ...

  4. Writing the Rough Draft of an Essay

    The purpose of a rough draft is to be the first version of an essay arranged in the appropriate format. Before the rough draft, a writer should choose a topic, do research, and make an outline.

  5. Rough Draft: Why It's Important and How to Write

    Rough Draft: Bottom Line. A rough draft is a sketch of your future essay. It is critical for writing a successful paper. We've described how to write a draft in 5 steps together with tips and examples. So you are ready to try writing the best draft for your academic work.

  6. Putting Pen to Paper: How to Write a Rough Draft

    There are some things you can do to make sure that you don't have a rough time writing your rough draft. These tips will help make the writing process a bit easier: Write in the active voice. Don't stress out over every word. Just let your ideas spill onto the paper. If you can't think of an appropriate word, just type the first word that ...

  7. 12.1 Creating a Rough Draft for a Research Paper

    Apply guidelines for citing sources within the body of the paper and the bibliography. Use primary and secondary research to support ideas. Identify the purposes for which writers use each type of research. At last, you are ready to begin writing the rough draft of your research paper. Putting your thinking and research into words is exciting.

  8. Stages of the Writing Process

    Usually, writers start with choosing topics and brainstorming, and then they may outline their papers, and compose sentences and paragraphs to make a rough draft. After they make a rough draft, writers may begin revising their work by adding more sentences, or removing sentences. Writers may then edit their rough draft by changing words and ...

  9. Rough Draft: What Is It and How to Write One

    Writing a rough draft is an essential part of the writing process and is an opportunity to write your first ideas and thoughts on paper. It can be challenging to dive directly into a rough draft of an essay or creative work (such as a novel or short story). You need to start by brainstorming your ideas and letting your creative juices flow.

  10. Writing

    If a 1,500-word essay is due in a few weeks, for example, you could research during the first week, then draft 300 words per day (Monday to Friday) in the second week. This would give you a 1,500-word rough draft, with one more week remaining to re-draft and edit. If typing your rough draft, you can use 'word count' features to track your progress.

  11. College Essay Writing Techniques: How to Write a Rough Draft

    Not sure what to do with your brainstorming notes and freewriting? This video will show you how to focus on both breadth and depth while writing your Common ...

  12. What is a rough draft?

    A rough draft is a version of your paper that is complete but not polished. It's a good idea to write an outline before starting your rough draft, to help organize your ideas and arguments. The purpose of a rough draft is to allow you to write your paper in the form described above and then edit it or revise it to improve your work.

  13. How to Write an Essay Outline

    An essay outline is a way of planning the structure of your essay before you start writing. It involves writing quick summary sentences or phrases for every point you will cover in each paragraph, giving you a picture of how your argument will unfold. You'll sometimes be asked to submit an essay outline as a separate assignment before you ...

  14. The Writing Center

    words. Be specific: Words like things, very, stuff, and interesting are vague. Search for words or sentences in your essay that could be replaced with more specific words. You also may want to add more specific details to strengthen your argument. For example, "Barbies are bad for people" might be revised to "Barbies are harmful to young ...

  15. College Essay Writing Techniques: How to Write a Rough Draft

    The transfer essay presents new hurdles that differ from those of the standard freshman personal statement. There are three key steps you must take to master the transfer essay. Luckily for you, CEA's Founder and Chief Advisor, Stacey Brook, is here to tell you everything you need to know in order to write a fantastic transfer application essay!

  16. 8.3 Drafting

    Exercise 1. Using the topic for the essay that you outlined in Section 8.2 "Outlining", describe your purpose and your audience as specifically as you can. Use your own sheet of paper to record your responses. Then keep these responses near you during future stages of the writing process.

  17. 7.7 From Annotated Bibliography to Rough Draft: How to Develop your

    Now that you've completed your annotated bibliography, you may find yourself struggling with how to begin the rough draft of the researched position paper assignment. A researched position paper is simply an argumentative essay in which you take a position on a chosen topic and defend it with secondary sources.

  18. Draft to Done: A Guide to the 5 Stages of the Writing Process

    2. The Rough Draft. This is the most crucial aspect of writing a story. Fortunately, it's also the one stage that's impossible to get wrong. There's one goal to a rough draft: get the story out of your head and onto a page in a somewhat comprehensible form. That's the only focus. So if you're writing, you're succeeding.

  19. Writing Mini Lesson #22- Writing a Rough Draft for a Narrative Essay

    This lesson will share teaching tips for writing rough drafts. It is STEP 2 of the writing process. These ideas are part of a scaffolding approach to writing with a series of lessons ideal for any writing curriculum. 1. TEACH. Start off the lesson by introducing all the rough draft tips below. Create a specific goal for your writing. Just write.

  20. Basic Guide: Essay Rough Draft Outline

    The rough draft takes the outline and fills it with the researched information to generate a well-structured essay. This is then modified to become the final output. 4 Quick Steps to Writing an Essay Rough Draft Outline. Rough draft writing is a vital ability for school and work. Many careers necessitate written reports that could benefit from ...

  21. How to Revise: A Step-by-Guide to Revising Your Writing

    Revising gives you a second chance to zoom out and catch mistakes you missed the first time, plus reading a rough draft can reveal some mistakes you hadn't anticipated. No matter which type of essay you're writing, the methods for revising an essay still tend to follow the same guidelines, covered in the next section. Narrative and fiction ...

  22. Writing the Rough Draft of an Essay

    Writing the Rough Draft of an Essay - Introduction: Writing A Rough Draft Rough draughts are simply unpolished versions of the entire task. Writing a rough draft of an essay is an important step in the essay writing process. It allows you to get your thoughts down on paper without worrying too much about grammar, punctuation, and sente

  23. Rough Draft Essay Example: How to Write an Effective Rough Draft

    Writing an excellent rough draft is a crucial step in the process of academic writing. It helps you organize your thoughts and ideas without worrying too much about the finer details. In this rough draft essay example, we will go through the logical steps that can assist you in starting and building an effective essay.

  24. How to Write the First Draft of Your Essay

    1.5 or double line spacing for the body (single spacing for footnotes) a line between each paragraph (or a first line indent of 1.27 cm for each paragraph). These are the guidelines most commonly preferred by Australian and New Zealand universities. Learning how to write your first draft can feel overwhelming.

  25. 5 Reasons Drafts Are Important to Writing

    As someone who has migrated from writing one story in-a-go to placing their full faith in drafts, here are the reasons I've discovered all writers should befriend them. 1. Drafts help you organize your ideas into words. I rewrote an entire draft of a 1600 word article and hit publish on the final story on the same day.

  26. Essay Rough Draft Example

    Reflective Essay: A Rough Draft Of My Writing I do not have a rough draft of my essay. Regardless, I understand how I have improved in my writing skills compared to the beginning of the year. It would take me hours to write a paper. I could not write a single sentence unless it was exactly how I wanted it. When I wrote the Iliad prompt, I

  27. I need help writing a rough draft for this prompt in decent length

    I need help writing a rough draft for this prompt in decent length Zora Neale Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God is often described as one woman's journey in search of self-realization and love. It can also be described as one woman's challenge to the patriarchal order, an order that has put Black women at the very bottom of the racial caste system.

  28. Joseph Ye

    Health-science document from Dr Norman Bethune Collegiate Institute, 4 pages, Rough Draft Essay Outline Gold standard of something: Big Mac is the gold standard of all fast food. Thesis: Junior Chicken is the Gold Standard of all other fast food The originality: Its as original as it gets Topic: How has the Junior Chicken shaped

  29. PDF Bilingual Imaginaries

    Final Essay: 25% Your final paper (8-10 pages), due at the end of the term, will present an argument supported by evidence drawn from our readings and other scholarly sources. You may choose any topic or reading(s) as your main focus. After turning in a first rough draft (5%), you will submit revised final draft (20%) at the end of the term.