How to Begin

Starting a writing project may be fearful, and this fear may result in writing apprehension, procrastination, or a poor document[1]. There is no right or single way to begin writing. Often, however, expert writers will use a recursive, or circular, process to write. In process writing, writers first invent and plan text, then draft text, then revise text, and finally edit text. This process becomes recursive because at any time, a writer may return back to any stage -- the process need not be linear.

Invention and Planning (Worksheet for Invention and Planning)

While there are many ways to invent or create text[2], the approach described here is appropriate in the context of technical-specific courses. Writers may begin writing by thinking about the necessary elements involved in writing a document. Such elements include content, context, purpose/key point, audience, organization, support, and design:

Answering questions about these elements helps shape the focus of documents, define a purpose and main idea, and solidify a plan for a draft. Below is an example worksheet for the invention/planning stage using a sample assignment. Use this worksheet to begin the invention and planning stage of your own document.

Topic: Write about a topic that deals with some aspect of the turfgrass industry. The topic can be a project (research project) or a design project, but must be above and beyond what you are currently working on.

Questions and Sample Answers for Invention

Answering the following questions can help you begin planning your papers. It may be helpful to review these questions twice. The first time, you may answer questions quickly and give "first impulse" answers. The second time, you may find that you can elaborate on your answers.

Q. What information needs to be included in the paper?
A. Some specific topic within turfgrass industry. I will write about golf course maintenance.

Q. What is the main idea or thesis of the paper?
A. I will describe the best methods for golf course maintenance. I will also include a brief history of golf course maintenance, current methods being used, and the newest developments in golf course maintenance.

Q. What is the context of the paper?
A. Class project. Have been studying turfgrass industry over the semester and must incorporate this knowledge.

Purpose/Key Point
Q. Why are you writing this paper (besides the fact that it is a graded assignment)?
A. Show general knowledge about turfgrass industry and specific knowledge about golf course maintenance.

Q. What will your paper do? (inform, persuade, describe, etc.)
A. Inform about golf course maintenance and discuss current research surrounding that topic. It is also evaluative in that I recommend the best method(s) for golf course maintenance.

Q. Who will read the paper?
A. Instructor, peers, President of Ames Country Club

Q. What do they want to learn?
A. About best method for golf course maintenance. They may also want to know the practical things about the method like cost.

Q. Why do they need the information?
A. Inform them about current methods of maintenance and help them continue or start using the preferred method of maintenance.

[1] See "Cognitive Components of Blocking" by Robert Boice, Written Communication 2.1 (January): 1985, 91-104.

[2] Other invention strategies include freewriting, idea-mapping (circles), asking a single research question, and looping. See "What Works in Teaching Composition: A Meta-analysis of Experimental Treatment Studies" by George Hillocks, Jr. American Journal of Education (November): 1984, 133-170