Sketching Your Thoughts on the Page

(even if it gets a little messy)

Writing the Rough Draft

For some of you, writing a rough draft will be fairly "easy."  You've written enough papers over the years that you have a good system for getting your words on the page, and the additional materials I provide here might not help you much.  For others of you, you'll have questions about where to begin, or how to keep going.  Or you felt comfortable writing papers for your prior courses, but you're not sure you have the tools to write a paper that hits 3,500 words.  With this lecture, we'll look at the different types of rough drafts out there, and then go into the method I feel works best.

If you already feel comfortable with your drafting process, then the system you already use will likely be the one that works best for you.  I still encourage you to look over what I've written below, but you are not required to follow my recommendations in terms of process.  I only require that your paper provide good, reliable information and that it reaches the word count — how you get there will be an individual process for each person.

Three Educational Models of the Rough Draft

What is a "rough" draft, really?  When I was a student, I was under the impression that a rough draft was a nearly-complete version of a paper.  The idea was that you would write your paper, turn it in, and then revise it based on feedback.  Over the years, this belief actually hurt my writing — whenever I wrote, I tried writing to a "rough draft" standard of "this is ready to turn in, and then I'm going to proofread it."

Now, I'm not sure how many of you have the same impression that I did.  Teaching has changed a great deal in the 20+ years since I graduated high school.  (ugh...why am I so old...)  Despite what many adults claim about how schools are "terrible" or "worse than they ever were," there are many aspects of teaching writing that are far better today than when I attended school.  In particular, it's more common today for high school teachers to emphasize creativity than in the past, and many classrooms show a greater acceptance of making mistakes in writing in order to produce a better, more thoughtful paper.  This is an approach that I strongly favor, and we'll be using this during these writing-intensive weeks for your Project 2 paper.

On the other hand, this more open-ended approach to writing is not favored in every classroom.  Some teachers still focus on the "traditional" method of teaching writing: you write something, and then the teacher grades you on the all the grammar and spelling mistakes.  I hate that system, but it does at least mean students are writing.  The third style I hear a lot about is the testing-focused approach to teaching, where students are required to master material to pass a standardized test — and in some classrooms, that leaves very little room for writing, especially in "non-writing" subjects like history.  For me, some of the best writing teachers I had were in history, philosophy, and German — depending on your past experiences, many of you may have also found that your most positive writing experiences came from courses focused on your personal interests rather than an English Lit classroom.  But if your past classrooms were heavily focused on standardized testing, it's quite possible that you haven't had as much experience writing in other subjects.

Based on these educational approaches, I see three main definitions of the "rough" draft — it's likely that each of you have a vision in your mind that's similar or related to one of these three:

The Messy Rough Draft: Getting Ideas on the Page

As a teacher, I focus on the first approach: messy is good.  Like the skeleton draft from last week, a messy rough draft will not be fully organized, and it does not need to fully proofread.  Instead, what you're doing is taking the skeleton draft, looking at the things you want to build on, and then filling in that material where you want to.  In this, I recommend using the following strategies:

To give you an idea of what this might look like, here's an example of what this might look like.  What I did was write out a few quick bullet points that could come from a skeleton draft, and then I added in material in the rough draft to show how these bullet points may be related:

Skeleton Draft Example

Note that even in the skeleton source, I've cited sources.  To prevent accidental plagiarism, use citations at every stage of drafting:

Messy Rough Draft Example

In this example, I'm simply expanding upon the Skeleton Draft bullet points above.  Additionally, I've added some places in bold for additional information I might add to the next draft.  This doesn't look very "pretty," but the rough draft doesn't need to be pretty.  It just needs to help you get to the next stage of drafting:

I want this section of my paper to explain why "This is an important quote" (Awesome Source).  I think I need another quote here talking about Awesome Source, but I'm not sure.  So I put this line in bold to remind me to revise this later.  Here's why I think Awesome Source is a good one, and why I think we should trust the important quote.  Okay Source also references Awesome Source, and this is what they say.  add direct quote?  Maybe my readers are tempted to disagree, however.  This is, after all, a controversial topic.  Icky Source argues that you should ignore Awesome Source, but here are some reasons why I disagree with Icky Source.  In my personal experience, Awesome Source's ideas better fit with my life, whereas Icky Source doesn't appear to have much research or personal experience to support their opinions.  Should I quote my best friend who also agrees with me?  Do they count as a source?

"Clean" Rough Draft Example

For some of you, you'll naturally skip the "messy" draft style above.  Or you might want to "clean up" your draft before submitting it as a rough draft.  If that fits your process, here's an example you can follow (but it's not required for the assignment).  In this, I've added three headers to show what I'm doing in each paragraph.  You do not need to have headers for each paragraph, but feel free to use those in your rough draft if they help you organize.  Just make sure you remove them before you write your final draft.

Opening with the Awesome Source quote:

According to Awesome Source, "This is an important quote."  It's important because in writing a rough draft, I'm going to elaborate on this quote.  I feel it's one of the most important things I've read about my topic, and I want to make sure my readers are fully aware of how important it is.  Also, let me tell you about what makes my Awesome Source so good.  I trust this source because they did an actual academic study, or maybe this is a firsthand account from someone who was actually there.  In fact, I found a Supporting Source that talks about Awesome Source, and I'm adding an indirect quote from them here to let you know why Awesome Source is so awesome.

Using Okay Source to Support Awesome Source, then bringing in Icky Source for alternate point of view:

Now, not everyone agrees with Awesome Source.  I also found Okay Source, which kind of agrees with Awesome Source, but not entirely.  Okay Source might be a secondary source that talks about my topic and the roll of Awesome Source in helping the world understand this topic.  Because of the way it's written, however, it was hard finding a single quote from Okay Source that summed up their main points, so instead, I'll add an indirect quote with the overall thoughts from Okay Source.  But I want to point out that there are some individuals who strongly, strongly disagree with both Awesome Source and Okay Source.  Many of these individuals simply aren't qualified to talk about this topic — Okay Source talks about how Icky Source has entirely misrepresented my topic.  However, I don't want to rely on hearsay information.  So "Here's a quote I disagree with" from Icky Source.  Now let me tell you why I disagree with this quote.

Random Stuff that might become its own section:

Now, here are some random thoughts I have about another topic, but I didn't know where else to put them.  So I think I'll write another paragraph about this random thought.  I know there are quotes about this, but I don't have any good sources for this yet.  Part of me wants to delete this entirely, but another part me wants to make this a whole section of my paper.  But for right now, it doesn't matter.  I'll just leave this here for now — maybe I'll delete it later.

Sketching with Words

Pencil and sharpener on notebook open to a blank page.
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