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My Writing Process

In the past, some people have been curious as to the process I use when writing my papers. I can hardly claim that I'm a good writer, and I don't think my papers, academic or otherwise are really the best things to be basing your own writing on. However, I do have a process that I think makes my writing better than it would be had I not used it. That is to say, when I don't really follow this process the whole way through, my writing is tangibly worse. :)

I like to start my writing with a good idea of what sort of process I am going to go through. I use the following process when I am writing any academic paper or a paper that will have scholarly research in it:

  1. Document the topic and idea, thesis, and maybe an abstract
  2. Generate an outline that covers the flow of the paper and the important elements
    • I like to get to almost a paragraph resolution in my lowest points,
    • Try to emphasize the important elements, and not write everything out longhand
  3. Write a first draft that includes the body of the text, rough citations and references including figures and tables.
  4. Generate a reverse outline from the first draft;
  5. Use the reverse outline and the first draft to do a paragraph level rewrite
    • Focus on paragraph flow and themes
    • Do not worry about the internal paragraph structures
    • Create and compose all the figures and tables
  6. Do a third draft
    • Focus on sentence level reconstruction and adjustment
    • Paragraphs should be in place, so it's really a matter of making sure that each paragraph makes sense in its own right and flows well internally.
    • Insert the references and finalize all the cross references, figures, tables, &c.
  7. Do the final paper
    • focus on typos, small editorial issues
    • Find any other mistakes and correct any last minutes finishing touches
  8. Typeset the paper
    • Layout the master pages, select fonts, styles, &c.
    • Insert the main text, references
    • Insert the footnotes
    • Drop in the tables, figures, and other out-of-band elements
    • Adjust page wrapping and breaks, figure out the right placement of things