A draft is not the same thing as a freewrite. It's your first real try at producing a finished paper. It should have an introduction, developed paragraphs, and a conclusion. In some classes, professors will look at drafts, you can share them with classmates for a peer review, or you'll have a chance to submit them for a class workshop. If your draft goes public, make sure that you use the spell-checker (and grammar-checker) on your computer and that you also proofread the draft.
Begin by drafting an introduction, but know that what you write will probably change drastically. Many writers like to imagine the introduction as a kind of inverted triangle. Try beginning rather broadly and gradually work your way to a more specific claim. This will be your thesis.
Any introduction needs to
- give your reader a clear idea of what question you are answering in your paper
- invite your reader to pin you in considering that question (that is, the introduction should appeal to the reader's interest)
- give a sense of why the question is important - to you and others
- give the reader an idea of what kinds of sources you are considering for evidence.
The introduction, then, presents a question, the context for asking that question, and your motivation for answering it.
Writing the body of your paper means developing the ideas in your outline. Don't assume that your reader is inside your head. You have to explain your ideas in detail. Develop them fully so that your reader understands their relation to your thesis. Make sure that you provide evidence for your assertions. Remember, it's your job to support your thesis. Keep asking yourself these basic questions: "What did I tell my reader I was going to do? Am I doing it?"
Finally, you need to draft a conclusion. Many of us were probably taught that our conclusion is where we restate our argument. But think of this from the reader's point of view. If we're reading information that we've already read, what is our incentive to stay interested? Aren't we likely to get bored and tune out? Keep this possibility in mind as you write your conclusion, and work on coming up with a new twist - something that offers an additional perspective on your topic, but not something that needs to be developed in full.
Your conclusion should answer the question, "so what?" Why is your argument significant? Why should anyone care about what you've just said in your paper?
Any conclusion may
- help your reader consider your ideas in a larger context (that is, show the reader that your question is really part of a larger question)
- inspire your reader to think about your question in a new way
- justify your writing the essay by making a case for the significance of the question
- help your reader take the next step in thinking about the question.
To read about a draft in the context of the writing process, click here.