1. Read and analyze the prompt. Determine EXACTLY what the prompt is actually expecting you to do. Underline key terms in the prompt, and rewrite the question if you have to. Do NOT skip this step!
2. Before looking at the documents, rough out a very basic answer to the prompt (a draft thesis) and an outline. You may revise this as you gather more information.
3. BRAINSTORM! You MUST generate Outside Information (OI), which is NOT provided to you!
During prewriting, spend some time writing down any people, places, laws, or events that happened during the time period before you look at the documents. This will also help you understand the documents better by refreshing your knowledge about the time period
4. Then use the documents to brainstorm more information– make notes on the context, the person speaking, the topic. See if the date on the document has any significance. Determine what each document means, and how it relates to the essay question. Group the documents within your outline.
5. Start writing. You might want to actually start writing the body of the paper first, so leave some space to go back and write your introductory paragraph, which should end with your very specific topic sentence that fully addresses the prompt– that’s why I suggest you might want to wait so that you can refine it as you write your essay. Make sure you focus on the question. After you’ve brainstormed, anything that does not advance your argument and deal directly with the questions is just a waste of precious time.
6. Cite documents, but avoid quoting from them. Show that you understand what the author was saying by paraphrasing. Also use the documents to support your argument, don’t just run through them in a laundry list. Readers hate that.
7. Develop a strong, clearly stated thesis that ANSWERS THE QUESTION. Take a stand– don’t try to be wishy-washy.
8. This thesis should be at the end of a strong introduction that uses a quote, an anecdote, or an image to grab the reader’s attention and make it stand out from the rest of the papers.
9. KEEP TRACK OF TIME! Try to leave yourself some time to read over your essay and make sure you haven’t left out any important information.