Why Use a Process Approach to Writing?

Instructors who incorporate some attention to process have the opportunity to intervene in students’ writing process at any stage. Effective intervention results in better papers. Students who are asked or required to spend more time on a paper will think more about their topic, retain more information, and develop more powerful insights. Furthermore, students’ writing skills need practice in order to develop. Most institutions require one to two first-year writing courses, but becoming a skilled writer takes more time and instruction than those ENG101 and ENG102 courses can deliver. Finally, we will enjoy reading students’ papers if their quality is higher. We all know how depressing it is to read a batch of papers that make poor arguments, plagiarize, fail to follow acceptable formatting conventions, and otherwise violate our sense of what academic writing ought to look like. If we’ve looked at drafts and helped students think through their arguments more thoroughly, we will enjoy reading the final papers more.

But doesn’t it take a lot of time to read multiple drafts of papers? Yes, but we need not comment on everything in each draft. If we spend some time helping students get started by talking through their topics and plans, the initial drafts will be better than the drafts written by students left entirely on their own. If we read drafts first for focus or thesis, organization, and proportion of evidence to claim, we can help students rethink the shape of their whole texts before focusing on sentence-level concerns. Then we should encourage them to spend as much time as they can and get as much help as they need in final proofreading before handing in the paper. The time invested in the process will decrease the time spent on commenting on final drafts, since many of our concerns about early drafts will have been addressed by student writers before we get to the grading.


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