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How to Write Your First Draft

After you have researched and arranged your information and topic sentence in an organised way, it is time for you to present your ideas or arguments in an essay. The most difficult process for many students is writing the first draft. How do you put all the ideas into your first draft comprehensively and relevantly? You may often find yourself facing a blank screen for a long time, not knowing where to start, and ending up with nothing. It is helpful if you have answers to the following questions before you start writing your first draft:

1. What is your answer to the essay question?
2. What main points will you discuss to support your argument?
3. In what order will you discuss your main points?
4. How long will you spend discussing each main point?
5. What information will each paragraph contain (i.e. what information will you use to discuss each of your main points)?
6. What references will you use to support your argument?

Write your first draft as quickly as possible and try to finish it in one go. Your first draft should include all your ideas and supporting facts or examples, following your organised outline from your research. Do not worry about adding adjectives or adverbs, or finding just the right words. Concentrate on your ideas or main points, which must be relevant to and support your topic sentence or thesis statement, and try to finish your draft in one sitting as quickly as possible. This is important for your first draft writing.

Use the thesis statement or your topic sentence as a guideline of your whole essay. You must know the main points you will use to support your topic sentence. In addition, those main points must support your topic sentence flowingly. Put examples or facts in your first draft to support your main points in each paragraph. If you find that some sections of your essay need more facts or examples but you do not have them, mark or bracket that section to remind yourself that it needs more supporting facts and keep on writing your draft until you finish.

You may find that while you are writing your first draft, you come up with new ideas that were not in your outline. These should be added to your draft if they are relevant.

Do not worry too much about ensuring that your essay is written in the appropriate academic style and in the correct format according to any guidelines that you need to follow. You can refine your writing and format it properly in your second draft.

Do make sure that you include the in-text references or footnotes to the sources of your supporting examples or facts from your research while you are writing your first draft. If you wait to do this in a later draft, it will be much more time consuming. Putting the necessary information and ideas comprehensively in your first draft will help you edit your second draft.

Updated 6 March 2023
Ellen McRae, PhD, AE (IPEd), MNZSTI
Senior Managing Editor