Loyola University Chicago

Writing Center

3: Drafting


Based on the ideas you generated during the prewriting stage, write a rough first draft. At this stage of the process, don't worry about precise word choice or grammar, but work on focusing your ideas and shaping them into a whole piece, keeping in mind that you will revise your paper (sometimes extensively) before handing it in.

Think of drafting as discovering what you want to say. You can work at crafting elegant sentences, finding the perfect word, and writing meaningful transitions later. Before you begin, be sure you understand what the writing assignment asks you to do.

Here are two ways to begin writing a draft:

  •  Write a working introduction that leads to your thesis. For information about revising your introduction, see "Introductions" on the revising page.

  • Leave the introduction for later and first work on body paragraphs. You still will need a focus before you begin. The focus might change as you write, but you need something to start with.

Draft a Tentative Thesis

You need a central controlling idea, a claim about your focus that the body of the paper supports with evidence. For information about revising your thesis statement, "Thesis Statements" on the revising page.

If you begin to write without knowing what you want to prove, body paragraphs will not add up to a coherent whole. Even at this early stage, work on a claim that is not overly obvious, such as "x and y are similar yet different." (What is the significance of the similarities and differences?)

Draft Body Paragraphs

All body paragraphs should relate to your thesis. If you find yourself straying from the controlling idea, you can do one of two things:

  • Get back on track.
  • Change your thesis statement. Sometimes you end up going in a more interesting direction than you started out on.

Each body paragraph should be unified, that is, should develop a single idea. Begin with a topic sentence, a general statement that you support with evidence. The topic sentence functions for the paragraph the same way that the thesis statement functions for the whole paper.

Work out an organizational plan of some kind before you begin. You may end up changing the order of paragraphs when you revise. Organization is often difficult because there are many choices to make, and sometimes various choices are viable.


On the getting started page, there's a section about brainstorming for an essay on Walt Disney's Cinderella. The list of ideas centers on ways in which the characters reflect the values and beliefs of mid-twentieth century America.

Possible tentative thesis: The human and animal characters in Disney's Cinderella reflect Post World War II values and beliefs concerning behavior that is rewarded (e.g., helpfulness, gentleness, working hard) and behavior that is punished (e.g., selfishness, harshness, laziness).

This thesis suggests developing ideas by comparing and contrasting: comparing Cinderella with the "good animals" (e.g., Bruno, the mice, the birds), comparing the stepsisters with the "bad" animal (e.g., Lucifer), and contrasting Cinderella with the stepsisters and the good animals with Lucifer.

Two possible ways to organize body paragraphs (some points below would need more than one paragraph and there are more than two possible ways to organize).


  1. Cinderella's character vs. stepsisters' character
  2. Good animals character vs. Lucifer's character
  3. Lucifer and stepsisters
  4. Good animals and Cinderella


  1. Lucifer and stepsisters
  2. Good animals and Cinderella
  3. Good animals vs. Lucifer
  4. Cinderella vs. stepsisters


You may find it useful to read your draft before writing a working conclusion.

What does your discussion add up to?

Sometimes, at this point, you've fully articulated your controlling idea or claim, and you may want to rewrite your thesis to reflect your idea more accurately.

You need to sum up points, but avoid simply repeating the main idea because doing so will be repetitive and dull.

At this stage, don't worry if the conclusion seems less than perfect. After reading your draft several times, you'll discover emphases and links to make the conclusion interesting and thoughtful. For information about revising your conclusion, see "Conclusions" on the revising page.

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