Writing in Sociology at Queens College



reat papers are written in drafts! This is how they work.

Starting Out
Get your thoughts and notes on paper. Do not try to write a perfect paper when you start out. You will not be able to do it. Writing is a process. There is nothing more frightening than trying to write a perfect first draft. If you understand that the first draft of the paper is only a draft, then it will be much less frightening. And you will write a much better paper.
The First Complete Draft
Once you have several pages written, you are going to want to read over the paper and see if it makes sense. Does it fit with your outline? If not, did you make improvements in the paper's structure or just get lost? If the new structure is better, then keep it. If it looks a little disorganized (be honest with yourself), then see if you can reorganize the paper by moving sentences and paragraphs around. Don't be afraid to cut out sections that aren't working. Go over each sentence and see if it works. If something doesn't sound right, rewrite it. When you are done with the first draft, you should feel that the paper is done. (It isn't.)
The key to revision is some distance and perspective. At the very least you want to give yourself a day of rest before trying to turn your first draft into a final draft. The best idea is to have someone else read your first draft and comment on it. The Writing Center has tutors who will do just that if you make an appointment. If your professor requires a first draft, he or she will most likely comment on it. You want someone to look at the paper and give you an honest assessment of what parts of the paper need work: Are their logical flaws? Do you need more research? Are sections of the paper confusing? Are there grammatical or spelling errors? Rewriting and editing problem areas will greatly improve your final paper.
More Drafts (optional!)
If you like to write or the paper that you are writing is particularly difficult or important, you may want to write more than three drafts. Most professional writers and academics write many more than three drafts when they are working on articles. I think that three drafts is the minimum for a well done college-level paper, but it is not the maximum!
Final Draft
Before handing in the final version of your paper, be sure to check for the kinds of superficial errors that can be easy to miss during the more substantive early draft process. Use your word processor's spellcheck, but don't trust it to catch all errors: It won't know the difference between, for example, "effect" and "affect". Reading your paper out loud will help you to catch incomplete sentences, run-ons, and awkward word choices. Choose fonts, line-spacing, and margins that maximize readability for your professor. The general thing to think about as you edit your final draft is this: Don't let sloppy presentation get in the way of the most important part of your paper - the content.