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The art of drafting

It is virtually impossible to write good research in one draft. You need to give yourself time to get your ideas on paper, link them up, work out what your argument is, make sure it is clearly written, ensure the conclusion is consistent with the introduction, and check that you have correctly referenced everything that needs referencing.

Your drafting process should involve:

  1. Working out what the question is asking you to do: how do you interpret the question?
  2. Planning the research. Get your ideas down on paper. Planning an approach to writing might well depend on paper length and the type of question but you need to sort out what the basic points are you want to make: you may entirely agree with the question, disagree with it, or see that there are different ways of approaching the issue.
  3. Producing a first draft in which you follow your plan and get as many ideas down as possible, prioritising getting the main points down you want to make
  4. Working with this draft to make you get the structure right and you are answering the question
  5. Fine-tuning the style - read the paper out to yourself and think about how it sounds. Give it to a friend to read.
  6. Proofreading for the final time and making sure you have checked all the important presentation details such as spelling, punctuation, word count, correct information on front page, line spacing and referencing.

Note: How you approach an research paper depends on the type of document it is. Of course the approach to a Policy Note is going to be different to that of a full study - but bear this in mind.