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Writing Strategies and Grammar


Why Prewrite?

The goal of prewriting is to make starting the essay easier. It gives you time to develop your ideas and structure your essay. Without taking time to prewrite, you’ll have to plan and draft at the same time, which can lead to disorganized ideas. Keep in mind that anything you prewrite can be changed at any point in the essay process.

Make a Claim

A claim is a statement you make about a topic. The claim should state your essay’s main goal or argument and will later be molded into the thesis statement.


  • Standardized tests should be discontinued.

State Supporting Details

Now, list the reasons (“supporting details”) that have led you to make this claim. Your supporting details should be strong enough to be expanded into full paragraphs and should prove that your claim is correct, necessary to read about, and important to your audience.

  • Detail 1: They place unnecessary stress on teachers and students
  • Detail 2: They favor test takers with socio-economic advantages
  • Detail 3: They are not accurate measurements of learning

Make a Thesis Statement

The thesis statement is a direct response to the essay prompt. It is a combination of the essay’s claim and supporting details. Keep in mind, the thesis statement should be the last sentence of the introduction paragraph.

  • Thesis Statement Example: Teachers and students are put under unnecessary pressure to pass standardized tests, which are not an accurate measurement of learning and only fill the test making companies’ pockets.

Plan Your Details

Now that you have your thesis statement, describe how you’re going to present the information in each paragraph. Everyone has their own way of outlining, so you can include as little or as much information as you wish. Considering these points is a good start:

  • State the topic sentence
  • List what research, examples, or evidence supports that paragraph
  • Explain the relevance of the previous step
  • Think about how the paragraph relates to the thesis
  • Consider transitions between paragraphs


Once you have an assignment for an essay, prior to coming up with content for it, it’s important to critically think about the assignment at hand.

Who is the intended audience?

What’s the purpose?

Keep these under consideration as you organize the ideas that result from brainstorming initially. As you develop your arguments and subtopics, one question to always keep in the back of your mind is: Does this support my thesis? Below are a few methods and ideas that can help you outline the essay.

Formal Outlines: Create an outline in a traditional method. Using headings and subheadings (either with bullets or numbers) write out a basic structure of the essay you have in mind. You can put on paper what arguments and sub-arguments you will have, and you can see boundaries between your ideas. Don’t marry yourself to the way in which it’s initially structured, because it may change once you draft, but formal outlines are great for getting a visual on ideas and relationships within the paper’s topic.


Story-telling: Write Creatively. We sometimes ignore how we first learned reading and writing skills: through story-telling. Sometimes the best way to approach an academic paper is to think of it in terms of ‘beginning-middle-end,’ Where does your topic begin? Where do you want it to end? How can it have a ‘happily ever after’ so it sums up nicely? By thinking in terms of chronological storytelling, you give your mind a method of writing that everyone has had a lifetime of experience in. We encourage you to format this in a structured outline style, but this focuses on the entirety of the essay rather than each paragraph.


Full Sentence Outlining: For the Writer in you! The outlining structure for full sentence outlining is essentially combining the story-telling aspects of outlining with formal outlines. Rather than jotting down ideas for content, some students prefer to write the basic sentences they will eventually include in the essay. If it helps your mind to write down outlines in full sentences, use whatever method works!