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Rough Drafts

Excelsior College OWL

  • The Writing Process
  • Essay Writing
  • 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 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



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Draft the Essay Plan

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  • Have you ever borrowed some books to start your research and realised you did not know where to begin?
  • Have you ever spent time reading a great deal of information that in the end was irrelevant to the essay or assignment you were working on?
  • Have you ever started to write your essay and realised you had too much information on one topic, and not enough information on another topic?

If you write the first draft of your essay plan before you begin your research, you will be organised and prepared, and you will save time.

​You must write the first draft of your essay plan before you start your research. This will give your research direction and ultimately make it easier for you to write your essay. Having a plan will let you know what you need to research and how much research you need on each topic or subject that you will be writing about.

​You will base this first draft of your essay plan on your essay question, and your current knowledge of your subject. You will not often be asked to write an essay on a topic you know nothing about, since you will already be studying the subject and will normally have had one or more lectures or tutorials on the topic.

It is acceptable if your essay plan is rough or vague at this point, or if you do not have a great deal of detail. You will develop your essay plan (expanding it and including more detail) and possibly even change it as you go through the research process.

What does a first draft of an essay plan look like?

The first draft of your essay plan will show you what main topics you will discuss in your essay, how the essay will be structured, and roughly how many words you will spend on each part.

If your essay question was ‘Is Critical Thinking relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse?’ and you had to write 1,500 words, then your essay plan might look like this:

Essay question: ‘Is Critical Thinking relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse?’

Essay length: 1,500 words

Introduction (150 words)

  1. Thesis statement: Through an examination of the evidence, it is clear that Critical Thinking is highly relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse for a number of reasons.
  2. Introduce main points or topics to be discussed: accuracy of diagnoses, patient outcomes, prevent and solve problems, communication

Topic 1: Accuracy of diagnoses (300 words)

Topic 2: Patient outcomes (300 words)

Topic 3: Prevent and solve problems (300 words)

Topic 4: Communication (300 words)

Conclusion (150 words)

  1. Concluding statement: Thus, it can be seen that the concept of Critical Thinking is invaluable and highly relevant to Registered Nurses.
  2. Sum up main points or topics that have been discussed: accuracy of diagnoses, patient outcomes, prevent and solve problems, communication

(Please note that this sample essay plan is intended only to serve as a guide for how to develop and write an essay plan, and should not be used as an essay plan by students writing an essay on this topic.)

Introductions and conclusions

As you can see from the example essay plan above, an introduction and a conclusion will normally be approximately ten per cent of the word count of the entire essay. (This is a general guide and does not apply to essays longer than 5,000 words).

​In order to be considered a true introduction, your first paragraph must do two things:

  1. Answer the essay question in a clear statement (this is called your thesis statement)
  2. Introduce the main points your essay will make to support your argument

You cannot discuss any major points or topics in your essay if you have not introduced them in your introduction. In addition, you must discuss all your main points or topics in the order that you introduce them in your introduction. This helps to maintain the flow and structure of your essay.

​Similarly, in order to be considered a true conclusion, your last paragraph must do two things:

  1. Restate the answer to the essay question (i.e. restate your thesis statement)
  2. Sum up the main points your essay has made to support your argument

Remember, a conclusion cannot contain any new information.

Body of the essay and topic sentences

You can find out how many words you will write in the body of your essay by taking away the number you will spend on your introduction and conclusion from the total amount. How you divide the number of words in the body of your essay between your main topics will depend on how important each topic is to your argument. How long you spend writing about each topic should reflect the importance of each topic. If all of your topics were of equal importance, you would write roughly the same amount of words on each. If one topic were more important, you would write about it first and spend longer discussing it. If one topic were less important, you would write about it last and write fewer words on it.

​Using topic sentences at the beginning of each new paragraph is essential to ensure that your essay is well organised and well structured. It also ensures that the essay flows logically and reads well. (This is something that your essay editor can check for you when you submit your document for editing.) A topic sentence must do two things:

  1. Introduce the new topic about to be discussed
  2. Show how this new topic helps to answer the essay question or support your argument in answering the essay question

If your essay question were ‘Is Critical Thinking relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse?’ and you were about to discuss the topic ‘accuracy of diagnoses’, then your topic sentence might sound like this: ‘Another way in which Critical Thinking is highly relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse is in ensuring accuracy of diagnoses’. This sentence clearly demonstrates to the reader that you are about to discuss ‘accuracy of diagnoses’ and you are doing so because it is another way that Critical Thinking is relevant to Registered Nurses, which is what your essay is arguing.

The information in this article is relevant to the second step of writing an academic essay. However, there are five other steps. Please ensure you read all of the articles in the series How to Write Distinction Essays Every Time . When you have completed following the steps and have written your essay, remember to submit it to one of our academic editors for professional editing. Academic essay editing and proofreading helps students to improve their grades.

Other parts in this series;

Step 1: Analyse the Question
Step 2: Draft the Essay Plan
Step 3: Conduct the Research
Step 4: Finalise the Essay Plan
Step 5: Write the First Draft of the Essay
Step 6: Professional Academic Editing

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