From Notes to a Rough Draft

Warning: Some dead ends and traps to avoid:

Plagiarism, usually by inadequate paraphrasing.

-The necktie effect-endless stringing of quotations without adequate discussion.

-Careless copying or sloppy paraphrasing that may misrepresent the author’s           position.

-The “Stick-it-to-them” technique-putting in direct quotations without -introductory phrases; the quotation stands alone like a lost soul at a party.


Here is the step-by-step procedure for moving from notes to a rough draft.


Steps for writing the rough draft

Step 1:

            Replace your rough, tentative topic outline with an Expanded Topic Outline and fill in the necessary information. You will need a clear topic sentence to introduce each of the body sections of your paper. (Note: We will use the term body sections instead of body paragraphs since normally you will need several paragraphs to develop you ideas. Some books and some teachers call these developmental sections.)

Arrange your note cards for the first body section of your paper in the order you intend to use them and number them in the upper left corner. Put aside those cards with information that does not support your topic sentence for this section. You may be able to use them elsewhere.


Step 2:

-Write the latest version of your thesis statement at the top of your paper and skip the next few lines.

-Do not try to write your opening paragraph(s) now; leave them for later. More ideas will come to you as you write.

Be sure to double-space your rough draft. It makes revision and editing much easier.


Step 3:

-Write the topic sentace for your body section, using your expanded topic outline and improving your topic sentence if you can. Make sure that this sentence introduces the main idea you plan to develop in the section. Use several additional sentences to make that idea clear.

-Begin providing support for that idea, your first major topic, using the information from you cards in order you have determined.

-Remember that you will use borrowed material in there different ways: paraphrase, summary, and direct quotation.

-Insert parenthetical citations (Levinson 47) AS YOU WRITE; do not even think about adding them later. It’s a cite-as-you write process.

Step 4:

Remember that a direct quotation ALWAYS requires a lead-in, that is, words or phrases that introduce it. Direct quotations are NEVER rudely inserted without an introduction; they always follow such phrases as:

According to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R- Miss), who held a press conference yesterday, “ It is a gratuitous slap…”

As Washington Post columnist Williams Raspberry points out, “The solution lies less in changing the way…”

Ezra Pound, one of the most famous and controversial poets of the twentieth century, observes, “ literature is language charged with meaning.”

-Keep the following rule in mind:

L-I… lead in, using the introductory words and phrases

Q… quote accurately

F-U… follow up with comments and explanation


Step 5.

-You must provide commentary and discussion of your borrowed material as well, but many students find it easier to get borrowed material from card to paper first and then to expand the discussion in the next step.


Step 6:

-Keep all your materials in a safe place, including source cards, outlines note cards, and separate drafts of your paper. Paper clips, rubber bands, and large envelopes are also helpful. Remember that your teacher is unlikely to believe that your dog at all your information.


Now lets follow a student through this process.


Meg’s thesis statement is: To become a successful scientist, Marie Curie had to overcome many obstacles with hard work and determination. Meg’s topic heading are Childhood influences, major professional accomplishments, and personal qualities. Her note cards about Curie’s  early life looked like this: