Writing the Rough Draft of an Essay

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  • 0:02 The Writing Process
  • 0:36 Starting the Rough Draft
  • 1:02 Introduction
  • 2:29 Body Paragraphs
  • 4:09 Conclusion
  • 5:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jason Lineberger

Jason has 20 years of education experience including 14 years of teaching college literature.

The writing process begins with a topic and concludes with a polished essay. One of the crucial stages in the middle is the rough draft. This lesson outlines a procedure for getting the most benefit from that first essay draft.

The Writing Process

When I taught AP Literature, I had four periods of the class in my teaching day. My first period often looked very different from the last. Some of the activities didn't go so well; my jokes hardly got a chuckle, but by the end of the day, the class zipped by in a smoothly timed series of lessons. And the jokes? While first period demanded their money back, my fourth period thought I was the funniest teacher in the school. This is just like the writing process. Before you polish the finished product, you have to work your way through a few revisions.

Starting the Rough Draft

The rough draft is just that, the first version of an essay. Before writing your rough draft, you've selected your topic; you might have conducted some research; you've considered your audience, and you've probably outlined the major points you want to cover. If you've got all that ready, then you need to set aside some quiet time to write that rough draft. Let's go over the parts to your draft and how to best put them on paper.


The first paragraph in your essay is the introduction. I taught my students that a good introduction, unlike a picnic, has an ANT. Here's how my acronym works.

A is for Announcement. Announcements are meant to get your attention. You're going to get the reader's attention with an arresting fact, an amusing story, or some intriguing idea.

N is your Need Statement. If you're writing an argumentative essay (and most of your AP Literature essays will be argumentative), this is where you prove that your topic is one worth considering. Answer this question - why would your audience need to know about this topic?

T is your Thesis. That's the direct statement of the position you take in your essay. A convenient place to drop that thesis statement is at the end of your introduction.

Pro tip - once you have your thesis statement written, take a moment to stop and write it on a sticky note. Post that note on the edge of your screen or next to your paper if you're handwriting. If you're going to take the trouble to write a rough draft of your essay, you want to get as much right as possible on the first time through. The easiest big mistake to make when writing a rough draft is getting off topic. By keeping your thesis in plain sight, you can ask yourself, every few sentences, 'Does this support my thesis?' If the honest answer is no, you can quickly correct course and get back on topic.

Body Paragraphs

Since you planned out your topics ahead of time, now you can write the body paragraphs. These are the paragraphs in the middle of the essay. If the introduction is the head and the conclusion is the tail, then everything in the middle is the body. Stick to one major topic per paragraph and state that topic in a clear sentence early in your paragraph. The rest of the paragraph should contain evidence that supports the point you made in your topic sentence.

Here's another pro tip: if you're writing about literature, you can't just add details from the story and expect them to prove your point. You have to explain why you picked those details and how they prove your point. That's your analysis, and all the best papers have it.

Keep writing your body paragraphs until you've covered all your topics. Try to avoid topics that aren't going to give you a full paragraph. By that, I mean if your topic can be covered in one or two sentences, you probably don't need that topic, or you can lump it in with another idea.

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