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Student Learning Success: Research & writing

WRITING STRATEGIES help you improve your writing process. The process usually includes these steps: planning, researching, drafting, revising, and editing/proofreading. The steps are the same for essays, lab reports, product documentation, or project proposals.


Read other academic writing. Textbooks and journal articles in your discipline offer excellent models on how to organize your paper, incorporate quotes, or even write an effective introduction or conclusion.

Use your assignment guidelines to inform your research and organization. 

Try different brainstorming techniques such as mapping, freewriting, questioning, or speaking aloud to yourself or a friend.

Create an outline for your work to help you focus your essay and stay on track.

Wait a day before you start revising your first draft. After a sleep, your mind will be detached from the writing enough to look at it with a clear, critical eye.

If you're having a hard time getting started, book an appointment with your instructor or with a Camosun writing tutor.

Throughout the writing process, you may find it helpful to read aloud to yourself or another person. Speaking uses a different part of your brain than writing does, and it's an especially helpful strategy to try if you're feeling stuck. 

What do you find most interesting about your topic?

Do you think about how you can best present the information to make the biggest impact on your readers?

What sources are you using? Are they credible and peer-reviewed?

Do you write an entire first draft without stopping just to get your ideas on paper? Or do you write from an outline, creating each sentence slowly and methodically?

Do you ever ask for feedback on your draft from a friend who has good writing skills or a Writing Centre consultant?

Analyzing the Assignment

Reflect on your assignment before beginning.

  • Why do you think your instructor gave you this assignment, and how does it link to the course material?
  • What is the assignment asking you to do (explain, analyze, compare, evaluate, etc.)? Look for those key verbs!
  • What part of this assignment do you find the most interesting?
  • Who is your intended audience?
  • What kind of evidence do you need?

Read your assignment guidelines carefully before beginning and refer back to them throughout the writing process.


Before you begin your first draft, set yourself up for success.

  • Get comfortable and remove distractions.
  • Schedule time for research and planning.
  • Keep track of the sources you read.
  • Take notes as you read.
  • Try different brainstorming techniques to generate ideas.
  • Create an outline that includes a working thesis and your main points (don’t worry if your working thesis changes over time; right now, it only serves to help guide your thoughts/research).


Test your working thesis and organize your paragraphs.

  • Create “sections” for your work (and place paragraphs into these sections).
  • Use the assignment rubric to help organize your paper; did you give enough attention to the heavily weighted areas?
  • Keep writing! Don’t stop to edit (this is done later in the revising stage).
  • Look for feedback on your draft. If your reader is confused, it may mean your organization is weak or you haven’t fully explained a point or position.


Take a look at these “big picture” tips to revise your work for clarity and flow:

  • Review your assignment again. Do you feel your paper fulfills all of the requirements of the assignment?
  • Test your thesis statement. It should be a significant, single, specific, and supportable statement.
  • Ask whether each paragraph directly supports your thesis statement.
  • Use transitions to move from one idea/one paragraph to another. This helps to create “flow” in your writing.


Take the time to focus on the fine details of each paragraph and sentence.


  • Begin each paragraph with a specific and supportable topic sentence.
  • Incorporate appropriate and convincing evidence to support your topic sentence (and cite your sources!).


  • Eliminate unnecessary words, awkward phrases, and redundancies.
  • Use varied sentence structure.
  • Double-check spelling, grammar, and punctuation.


Take the time to proofread your final draft.

  • Finish your paper well in advance so you have time to correct “surface errors” like typos, misspelled words (their vs. they're), incorrect/missing punctuation, etc.
  • Print your paper and read it aloud. You’ll catch more errors than when you try to proofread on a computer screen or other electronic device.
  • Start at the end of your essay and read each sentence aloud very slowly. You’ll be more likely to catch errors because you won’t be reading the essay as a whole.
  • If you used citations, be sure the formatting style is consistent. (Keep the citation rules handy.)
  • Check for punctuation errors such as missing periods, missing or misplaced apostrophes, missing question marks, etc. (Keep a grammar handbook handy and look up rules when you need to.