The Writing Process

“Having things scaffolded and having it broken down really helps, because then [students] are able to see in those incremental parts whether or not they’re getting the concepts.” —Leanne Serbulo (Online SINQ Instructor)

Develop a Plan

We all follow a writing process, even if we are not always aware of the steps we take as we write. We brainstorm projects, draft outlines, take breaks, show progress to our colleagues, revise, re-revise, edit, and proofread. Somewhere along the way, we learned habits that help us write for various contexts and in our respective disciplines. 

Breaking down the writing process for our students involves a conscious effort on our part. Just as Serbulo states above, assignments should be well-planned and we should communicate clear expectations for our students. 


As you prepare your assignments, outline the particular sequence of steps students will need to take in order to complete a specific task. 


Teaching Tips

In her assignment, The Eloquent LetterOnline SINQ Instructor Daneen Bergland breaks the writing assignment into steps, providing clear instructions not only for what the students will accomplish but how they will accomplish it.

SINQ Instructor Michael Lupro says he presents a writing process that prompts his students through the developmental stages of a college research paper. He asks students to follow the steps below to help them practice scholarly analysis, critical thinking, research, and revision in more meaningful ways. 

  • Ask yourself, “What am I interested in?”
  • Develop a question around this idea.
  • Ask yourself, “Where might I find resources to answer my question?”
  • Pull one or two quotes from a resource.
  • Write about what that quote means to you.
    • By this point, Lupro says, the student should have one or two paragraphs written.
  • Develop another question about what else you would like to know about your subject; repeat the process until you have a body/collection of these exercises. 

In Practice

You can guide students through the writing process by:

  • Providing clear expectations and outcomes for the assignments.
  • Focusing on specific skills in assignments (e.g. integrating sources).
  • Including specific due dates for particular elements of an assignment (e.g. proposals, annotated bibliographies, rough drafts) and assigning class points for turning in these elements.
  • Working with your mentor to develop peer reviews for main or mentor session.

Leanne Serbulo advises us to break assignments into stages and involve mentors in the scaffolding process. She also suggests giving frequent feedback early on, then backing off as an assignment progresses.

Several faculty offer students the possibility of revising a paper that has already been assessed with the stipulation that they submit a substantial revision instead of a cursory edit. This provides them the chance to further practice their writing development and reflect on their revision process. It can be helpful to offer some guidelines for revision so that students are not simply addressing surface issues and can be prompted through reflection on their writing process.