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The Working Draft

 

 

I. "Working" and "Draft"

You should think of this as a work in progress. It is your first attempt at putting your argument in a coherent form. This is not the final form of your paper and you should expect to extensively revise it.

    A. Make the draft count

The object in writing a working draft is to produce a manuscript as close to the final product as possible. In writing the working draft you will decide how you will solve all of your paper's organizational problems; learn whatever gaps exist in your argument and what you need to do in order to fill them; edit out all irrelevant material and, of course, provide a coherent argument for your thesis. Nevertheless, remember, it is only a draft.

    B. Write a complete draft

Your most important task is to put your entire argument on paper. Do not be side tracked with things that might interfere with this overriding goal. Do not be overly concerned with spelling, grammar, punctuation, footnotes and the other mechanical aspects of writing. It is much easier to edit a draft that has already been written than it is to write the draft in the first place.

    C. Good writing is hard work

Do not underestimate the amount of time it will take. You may have been able to get away with writing a short paper the night before it was due, but you cannot get away with writing an extended research paper that way. Do not be swayed by the temptation to start writing when you have finished your research or to put off getting started until you have tracked down that incredibly important fact. The sooner you start writing the better.

II. Some pointers:

  • 1. The only way to start writing a paper is to sit down and start writing.
  • 2. Begin by blocking out the paper. Use your outline to help you determine how much time you should spend on a particular topic. Since this will be about a fifteen page paper, if you find you are writing page 12 and are still on the introduction, you know you will have to cut something out.
  • 3. Begin writing where you feel most comfortable; you don't have to start with the introduction.
  • 4. Divide your paper into sections and treat each section as a separate essay. If you get stuck on one section, go on to another section. You can patch things together once each section is finished.
  • 5. Don't spend all of your time working on or reworking one particular section of the paper. While good prose will only come from constant reworking, at this point it is more important that you finish the whole draft rather than perfect any one section.
  • 6. While you do not have to have all of your references in final form at this point, you should indicate the author, title, and page number for each quotation and paraphrase you will have in your endnotes. You should also indicate where you will place bibliographic endnotes. It is almost impossible to properly document a paper if you have not kept track of the notes as you write the paper.
  • 7. Write a little bit each day. This paper is too long to write in one sitting. If you only wrote a page a day, you could have your draft done in two weeks.
  • 8. Do not feel yourself bound by your outline. If in the course of writing the draft, you discover a section is better placed elsewhere, put it there.
  • 9. Your working draft must be typed. After it has been turned in, it will be photocopied and distributed to the members of your critique group.

III. A Note on plagiarism.

The paper you are writing must be your own work. If you appropriate another author's words or thoughts and use them as if they were your own, you have committed plagiarism. Practically speaking, you have plagiarized if you do not cite a source from which material was quoted or paraphrased or if you use more than two words from another author in succession without putting them in quotation marks. Even if you do cite the source, you are guilty of plagiarism if you do not indicate a direct quotation with quotation marks.*

* Paula Shields, History 101: A Handbook for Students, (Berkeley, CA; 1984) p. 14.

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