My opinions are my own and don’t represent those of anyone else. Not that anyone would want them :)
The Writing Process
Pre-Reading—What you do before you read.
Analyze the assignment, looking for key words that indicate the kind of paper you are to write. Consider the audience; who are you writing for? Look at the reading; how is it organized? What sort of information do you have to work with besides the body text; is there a bibliography, or glossary?
Close Reading—What you do while you read.
As you read, annotate the text you are reading. What is important? What is the author’s central thesis? What sort of evidence does the author use? Read it at least twice, asking questions as you read (is this proved? do I agree? is there a flaw in the argument?). It often helps to discuss the reading with others.
Prewriting/Discovery—Discover what you want to write.
Think about what you’ve read. Try free writing for a few minutes about your reactions to the reading. Brainstorm about possible ideas for your thesis. What does the reading remind you of in your own experience or other things you have read?
Organizing your Information—Organize your sources, and ideas before you write.
Look for quotations to either be used as jumping off points for your own writing, or to be used as evidence. Use paraphrase and summary to help you condense the information you have read. Start developing your initial thesis, thinking about how you will organize your information to support your thesis. What organizational strategy will you use?
Drafting—Begin to write.
Begin assembling your information, based on your notes, quotations, and your own ideas developed as you write, into a rough draft. Make sure that you have a thesis and that you support that thesis in the following paragraphs. Don’t worry if you write several rough drafts; there’s no limit. Many people like to write several short rough drafts just to figure out what they have to say.
Revising—Re-See what you’ve written.
It’s best if you can put writing aside for a day or two before you revise. Read your paper to yourself. Where do you need to add more detail, or examples? Are there sentences which you should cut? Perhaps you need to change the order of paragraphs, or throw one out altogether. Is your writing full of active verbs ? Do you have sentences with various shapes and lengths (you should)? Ask someone else to read your paper and suggest places that are confusing or where you need to add more data.
Editing/Proofing—Polish your writing.
Proofread your paper, looking for typographic mistakes, simple grammatical errors, or spelling problems. Make sure that you have used the correct manuscript and citation form. Sometimes it helps to use a ruler as a guide so that you can really concentrate on the line you are currently reading. Many people find it helpful to read the paper aloud, or to mix the order of the pages because these strategies make it easier to read what you have written rather than what you think you have written. Best of all, get a friend to look for those small things that might miss your notice because you’ve read the paper so many times. Almost no one can proof their own work.