Whether you’re writing for an instructor or a client, criticism can often be painful, so it is understandable that many of us try to avoid hearing or thinking much about our critics’ comments. Nevertheless, your growth as a writer is largely dependent on your ability to learn from past mistakes and to improve drafts in response to readers’ comments.
What is the Writing Process? | Steps & Examples
Bethany is a certified Special Education and Elementary teacher with 11 years experience teaching Special Education from grades PK through 5. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education, Elementary Education, and English from Gordon College and a Master’s degree in Special Education from Salem State University.
Writing is an integral part of both education and employment. Good writers use their work to inform, persuade, entertain, advise, educate, and analyze. But good writing seldom goes from the brain to page in one simple step. Instead, writing is a process. What is the writing process? The writing process refers to a series of actions taken by writers to move from an assignment or idea to a polished product. The writing process definition outlines stages used by most writers to gather ideas, organize their thoughts, write, revise, and rewrite until the text is ready for the intended audience.
Research on The Writing Process
How Do Investigators Study the Writing Process?
The Writing Process is something of a black box: investigators can see inputs (e.g., time on task) or outputs (e.g., written discourse), yet they cannot empirically observe the internal workings of the writer’s mind.
Investigators can use research methods to record a writer’s eye tracking or other writing behaviors, yet at the end of the day they have to jump from what they observe to what is really going on in the writer. And even if investigators ask a writer to talk out loud about what they are thinking as they compose, they can only hear what the writer is saying: they cannot see the internal machinations associated with the writer’s thoughts.
The Writing Process & Process Pedagogy
Donald Murray’s call to Teach the Process not the Product represented a sea change on the part of middle schools, high schools, and universities in the U.S. In addition to teaching great works of literature, the process movement catechism exhorted teachers to give some class time to coaching students through the writing process. Rather than putting the focus on a literary work, the canon, teachers were encouraged to put the emphasis on the student text. Teachers broke larger assignments down to parts instead of assigning one long project and wishing the students luck. Rather than grading a student one time from a summative perspective, teachers embraced the role of coach and provided formative feedback. (For an example of process pedagogy, see one of my undergraduate courses, such as professional writing, which breaks the processes involved in writing a recommendation report down into a 15-week schedule.)
Since the 1980s, the Process Pedagogy movement has transformed writing instruction throughout the U.S., from K-12. Now it is commonplace for writing instructors to coach students from prewriting and invention through multiple revisions and edits.
The Cognitive Model of the Writing Process
Hayes and Flower’s cognitive process is recursive: they speculate writers shift their attention back and forth between the task environment (the assignment prompt and current draft) and the writer’s memories (e.g., knowledge of genre, composing processes, grammar, etc.).
Later, in “Modeling and Remodeling Writing” (2002), Hayes explains revisions to the cognitive process model he and Flower originally proposed in their earlier article Cognitive Processes in Writing (Hayes and Flower 1980). More specifically, Hayes explains his rationale for deleting the concept of the monitor and for introducing the concept of layering to the writing process.
More recently, working with international colleagues and employing scholarly, case study of a professional writer, and formalist methods (observation, interviews, logbooks, social network analysis, and keystroke logging), Hayes introduced new elements to the model: