Essay Process

The Thirteen Steps to College Level Essays:

(You will find that you do not need to follow each step; instead find the key steps that work best for you.)

  1. Read imaginatively, pencil in hand; underline important passages and make notes in margins.
  2. Listen carefully during in-class discussions; take good notes. 
  3. Speak up during in-class discussions; test out your own ideas by asking good questions and participating actively in the analysis.
  4. Write regularly in your journal; respond to the characters and situations, quote the text, and explore ideas in the reading; flesh out ideas that came to you during class discussions.
  5. Brainstorm first responses to essay questions in your journal.
  6. Engage in collaborative planning discussions with fellow students in which you test your notions and talk about ideas for a possible thesis statement; take good notes of the feedback from your partner.
  7. Draft several versions of your thesis statement. Don't be satisfied until you develop a provocative, engaging idea to defend in your paper.
  8. Write a rough draft of the full text of your essay on the word processor.
  9. Engage in a peer revision session with fellow student either in class or at the Writing Center during which you read out loud the first draft of your essay and listen carefully to feedback about the clarity of your thesis and the organization of your argument and the solidity of your conclusion. Take notes!
  10. Revise your thesis statement on the basis of notes from your peer revision session.
  11. Write a second draft of the full text of your essay.
  12. Proofread the draft with careful attention to clarity of expression, sentence variety, creative transitions between paragraphs, adequate quotations from the text and appropriate documentation of sources using MLA format.
  13. Finish the final draft of your essay.

Portfolio Project

  1. As you write papers during the semester, try to pin point the key moment in your writing process, that "A-ha!" moment when a great thesis statement comes to mind.
  2. Collect documents from the various stages of the writing process that chart the development of your thesis statement, leading to a final draft. Underline or highlight the important stages of the idea's evolution. Feature the "A-ha!" moment.

Possible Portfolio Contents:

  • significant class notes
  • significant reading log entries
  • significant pre-writing materials
  • notes from collaborative planning sessions
  • significant portions of rough drafts
  • significant notes from peer review sessions
  • final draft
    • thesis highlighted to demonstrate process
    • links to significant sources
  • comments by teachers, other students and parents
  • student self-assessment of his/her performance: "Final Reflections"