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 that your rough draft is a long way from your final draft, and you will engage in revision and editing before you have a draft that is ready to submit.
Sometimes, keeping this in mind can help you as you draft. When you draft, you don’t want to feel like “this has to be perfect.” If you put that much pressure on yourself, it can be really difficult to get your ideas down.
The sample rough draft on the right shows you an example of just how much more work a rough draft can need, even a really solid first draft. Take a look at this example with notes a student wrote on her rough draft. Once you complete your own rough draft, you will want to engage in a revision and editing process that involves feedback, time, and diligence on your part. The steps that follow in this section of the Excelsior OWL will help!
Rough Draft Example
Writing the Rough Draft
Writing the rough draft is a transition, one that takes you from the mental aspect of note taking, outlining and prewriting to the act of writing. Your topic is defined with a clarified and supported focus. As you incorporate all the work you have completed up to this point, keep in mind that your rough draft is just that—a rough copy of your paper that you continue to shape, edit and strengthen after it is written.
With that in mind, you can tackle your rough draft. Focus on the content and the flow of information rather than on the little details, such as detailed information and grammar –there is plenty of time to clean up and strengthen your paper between the rough draft and the final version. Your rough draft consists of writing an introduction, supporting body paragraphs and a conclusion. As you write, keep the following tips in mind:
- Maintain a logical development
- Create smooth transitions between paragraphs
- Stay in the active voice
- Vary your sentence structure by using simple, complex and compound sentences
- Avoid 1-2 sentence paragraphs
What you need to get started:
- Your notes
- Your outline
- A clear mind
- Time and room to work
While following your outline is important, putting every little detail and piece of supporting information into your paper in the rough draft is not always necessary, but do what works for you. Your notes and outline together serve as guides for what you intend to include and where you intend to include it.
Writing the introduction of your rough draft
With your outline in sight, start writing the introduction of your rough draft. The ultimate goal of a strong introduction is to get the attention and interest of your readers. In addition, your introduction should do the following:
- Include some background information on your topic
- Make the perspective and point of view clear
- Contain your thesis statement
- Provide a roadmap of how your paper is organized (broadly defined)
- Focus on the main points you make within the body of your paper
Writing the body paragraphs of your rough draft
The body paragraphs of your rough draft are the backbone of your paper; they hold the supporting information that backs up your thesis. Keep the suggestions below in mind as you write each paragraph:
- Start each paragraph with a clear topic sentence that defines what the paragraph is about
- Write smooth transitions between paragraphs using transitional words and phrases
- Avoid writing paragraphs that are too short because they show a lack of development
- Stay in the active voice to keep your paper clear and effective
- Maintain your point of view or perspective to keep the paper focused
- Avoid summarizing information you have already written about –save it for the conclusion
- Support your perspective and interpretations with data in the form of indirect and direct quotations
- Replace your keywords with synonyms periodically to avoid repetitive language
- Cite all sourced material
- Make sure the sentences of each paragraph flow to form a cohesive point
Writing the conclusion of your rough draft
The conclusion of your rough draft is where you tie everything together. Some of the information is similar to that found in the introduction, but it should not be a word-for-word copy. In the conclusion, more emphasis is placed on the results of your research or on broader implications on the subject as a whole. To write the conclusion, follow the below steps:
- Re-read your introduction while paying particular attention to the development of it and supporting body paragraphs
- Set the introduction aside
- Summarize the argument made in your introduction
- Conclude your argument(s)
Ultimately, your conclusion is your last chance to help readers truly understand what your paper is about, so it needs to show the order and importance of your main points and show how you logically conclude the paper.
Remember as you write your rough draft that it is okay to omit the more detailed information to focus on the flow and transition of each paragraph. The details obtained through your research are easily added after the first draft is complete. In fact, through the process of finalizing your paper, you are likely to edit, proofread, make corrections and change things up quite a bit.
Once the basics of your paper are in place, though, applying those finishing touches to strengthen your paper is much easier. With a rough draft completed, you should take a day or two away from the paper to provide clarity and a fresh perspective when you come back to finalizing it.