Where to Begin

A popular assumption is that writing should take place in a series of distinct steps: make an outline, write an introduction, write several body paragraphs based on the outline, and write a conclusion.

“Stage models” of this sort focus on the structure of the final product rather than on the thinking process that lies behind the creation of a well-structured essay. These models give the mistaken impression that essay writing requires a structure before one can write.

However, most experienced writers allow the structure of the essay to emerge later in the writing process. They see writing as an act of thinking, a way to understand a topic, a way to “try” and “test” what can be said about it. They try out many different ideas, and make decisions about what to include and where to include it as they proceed. Where they begin varies from writer to writer and assignment to assignment and may be focused on any aspect of the writing.

Roll your cursor over the common questions listed below regarding how and where to begin.


Should I prepare an outline before starting an essay?


Should I write the introduction of the essay first?


Should I write a thesis statement first?