Writing a First Draft Help
First Draft Help
This lesson will discuss the different methods you can use for getting your ideas and thoughts down onto paper. It will also teach you some handy tricks for linking all the material and sentences you have already copied from your note cards and for using that information to form a first draft. Don't be worried about writing! This process will help you break down your paper into easy, manageable sections.
It's important that when you begin to write anything—whether it is a research paper, poem, or even a recipe—that you allow yourself the ease and freedom to brainstorm ideas. In other words, get all your thoughts down on paper, even if they don't seem to make sense right away or don't sound like perfect sentences. At this stage, when you first start to write, it's best not to edit yourself or criticize your writing. You can always fine tune, review, and edit your work later. In the beginning, just write. The more you give yourself permission to write, the easier it will be to let your ideas flow.
One of the easiest ways to get started writing your first draft is simply to link your note cards—which you already have arranged—in specific order. How do you string them together and combine diverse thoughts and pieces of information that might not be related? It's easy. Work on one section at a time. Remember you already have your thesis statement and a sample introduction, so you can already begin working on Section #1.
Remember that you will need to cite all the sources you have used; therefore, as you write, it's important to note each piece of information that will need to be credited to an outside source. Decide which method of citation you will be using before you begin to write your paper. If you are using footnotes or endnotes, insert your footnote numbers as you write. You don't need to write out a complete, formatted note at this stage, but it's a good idea to note the source and page number so that you can go back later and write up your notes in full. If you have decided to use parenthetical citations, insert them as you write your draft.
Using Transition Words and Sentences
Again, let's return to the example of President Kennedy's assassination. Your outline, which you should have handy, reads:
SECTION #1 = President John F. Kennedy's first two years in politics, and key political actions and strategies that caused controversy
You know that this section will cover his first two years in office only. Most likely, you have some key quotations from Kennedy and other politicians, perhaps a few statistics about his policies and whom they affected, and finally, you might have some facts about his political actions. In other words, all your note cards are already linked together by theme and topic—you just need to combine the various different sentences. A transition word or phrase can usually link almost any collection of sentences and ideas, no matter how diverse. These words make for continuity and a smooth flow from one idea to the other. Many of these words are simple. A list of typical transition words that often link contradictory pieces of information are:
- Despite [the fact that]
- On the other hand
- In addition
- Even though
Using these small transition words will help you get from one sentence to the other even when it doesn't seem as if the information you have follows a direct order or sense of logic. For example, maybe you have information that seems conflicting or contrasting. You might link two contrary sentences together like this:
"President Kennedy was the youngest president ever to be elected to office and was very popular despite the fact that he won a narrow victory in the election of 1960.* He was only 43 years old when he was sworn in as President of the United States and there was excitement that a new era had begun in American politics. However, in order to gain people's trust, he immediately surrounded himself with a talented staff that included 15 Rhodes scholars and other famous authors and intellectuals."* [* Be sure to always include the page numbers and the author's name after you use a statistic or information from other sources so that you can later go back and cite it as a footnote. Both the page number and author should be easily accessible from your note cards.]
Several pieces of this information might seem to be contradictory at first. In other words, Kennedy was popular but won a narrow victory at the polls. In addition, he was young, his election signaled a new era, but he had to earn the people's trust. By using a few transitional words and phrases here, you can link the separate sentences and individual pieces of information together. Now your writing can flow smoothly, and you can continue the process of copying material from your note cards, putting together one sentence after the other.
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