After you have written the first draft of your essay, you might think most of your work has been completed. You might take a break for several days and completely forget about your writing. Though this rest is necessary, do not rush into creating a final draft when you decide to come back to your essay. The writing process is more complicated than that, requiring a writer to make a second draft before making it final. The second draft may be thought of as an enhanced and more detailed copy of the first one, and its main purpose is to make sure you haven’t missed anything crucial.
Steps for Crafting a Second Draft of an Essay
- Reread your first draft slowly, caring about how each of your main points are expressed, how the thesis holds up to the rest of your essay, and the technical side of your writing such as grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
- Fill in the blank spaces you might have left while writing the first draft; include content you noted in the margin while writing your first draft. Stated succinctly, clean up the clutter: complete all sentences and expand a little on all ideas that weren’t fully elaborated on.
- Take a closer look at the order your arguments are organized in and see whether they hold together. This means the essay should flow from one point to another in a convincing manner. At this step, you might want to change certain key points, or even the structure of the whole essay.
- Analyze each argument you introduce and decide whether the evidence is sufficient, and whether the argument is appropriate to your topic. In other words, consider whether your arguments answer the question: “Does this argument match my thesis and develop its concept properly?” Mind including several alternative perspectives as well.
- Pay additional attention to the introduction and conclusion section. Think of several catching phrases for the introduction that would draw in reader’s attention and logically lead to the thesis statement. Also, think about the best way to summarize your arguments and thesis statement in the conclusion.
Key Points to Consider
- The second draft is usually easier to craft because you already have the material written down, so your task is more about trimming it than writing from scratch. However, you might want to experiment and write the second draft from scratch based on what you have written in the first copy.
- The second draft implies that you start filling in the blueprint of your essay you drafted so far with specific details. Therefore, at this point, it may turn out that you need to conduct additional research to verify your data, or create more convincing arguments. An insufficient supporting base can be noticed easily, so make sure all information you present in your future essay is credible.
- You can’t cram all your ideas into one piece of writing. If you have made notes about several ideas on the same issue or argument, you must choose only one of them. This way your arguments will be precise and pinpointed.
- In the second draft, you can start paying attention to punctuation, grammar, style of writing, and other technical issues you ignored in the first draft copy.
Do and Don’t
Common Mistakes When Crafting a Second Draft of an Essay
– Proceeding to the second draft immediately after completing the first one. You may want to finish this process as soon as possible, but the truth is when your head is full, you can hardly think of anything worthwhile.
– Introducing multiple arguments per paragraph, thus trying to put all your ideas into one paper. This way you can’t enhance your writing, because for your arguments to sound convincing, it must be heavily supported by evidence; since essays usually have a word limit, you can hardly support all the arguments you want to come up with appropriately. Choose only the most significant arguments.
– Forgetting the importance of revising your initial thesis statement. Reformulate it, or even completely change it if you see that it doesn’t appear to correspond with your arguments.
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Work on a second draft may present your last opportunity to substantially change your argument without great cost. By now, you’ve invested ample time and effort into your argument, but still, much intellectual capital remains to be invested in the revision process. You need to ensure that this investment is sound before making it.
In other words, it can be difficult to evaluate your argument until you’ve made it; once you’ve executed your argument in the first draft—and before further work on your essay—your primary task is to evaluate the argument as it stands. You need to know if the argument works as well as you envisioned in your outline. Whereas everything up until the end of the first draft is about transforming ideas into workable arguments, a second draft fortifies and completes these arguments by identifying gaps in their logic, places in which the arguments are weak, and supporting claims that require further research, for example.
After any problems have been identified, work on a second draft often involves substantial change to the content of the essay, so although you may alter the essay’s organization (as you do when revising), we can think of the second draft’s emphasis as falling on writing rather than revision.
Concerns to address in the second draft
These are all important in working your second draft of an essay, but I’ve listed them here in an approximate order of importance.
- Priority reassessment. Arguments have a way of changing while they are being transformed from a relatively abstract essay plan into a full-fledged essay—it’s the difference between theory and execution. Hence, as odd as it sounds, the first thing you should do in working on your second draft is double-check that (i) you’re still doing what you’ve been asked to do and (ii) that you’re doing what you envisioned when you began your first draft. Make changes to the essay as necessary. If your argument has become something different than what you envisioned, you might try to realign it with your original plan (if you can). So long as the new argument is suitable for the assignment and you’re aware it has evolved, however, a change in argument is not necessarily a setback.
- Unjustified assumptions. Be critical of your argument, and try to identify any assumptions you’ve made that might require justification—remember, you need to decide from your reader’s perspective (not yours) whether or not your argument makes unjustifiable assumptions. Anywhere you’ve made an unjustifiable assumption, either eliminate the assumption or provide some support for it.
- Logical coherence. Find any places in which the essay seems not to make necessary connections between claims. Your argument always has to show how your supporting claims are linked both to each other and to the larger claims that they establish. Where these links are unclear, or where these links are simply missing, they will need to be made.
- Insufficiently fortified arguments. Most first drafts have a few of these: arguments that work and have support, but do not have the support they need in order to be convincing. Look at all of your arguments and consider whether a reasonable but skeptical reader could be unsatisfied with the rationale you’ve given for any claim. If your reasonable skeptic would object that you haven’t given enough evidence for your claim, you should provide more, substantial evidence.
- Areas requiring further research. Identify any claims or points that you are unsure of or that your audience might have reason to be unsure of, and do some additional research. This return to the research stage of the writing process allows you to both reassure your reader and provide more specific and authoritative arguments.
- Possible reorganizations. Don’t marry your first draft’s organization: feel good about reorganizing your ideas. It is very simple to put things back into the original order if you don’t like a new one. Ask whether any sections feel out of place, whether you split up your discussion of a certain idea or topic without clear reason, and whether your ideas could be better organized, even if the organization is at present satisfactory. If it feels out of place, move it and re-evaluate. If your ideas are split up without reason, collect them into a single discussion.
- Subtraction and addition of ideas. Often you will find that a handful of old ideas don’t fit as well as you thought they would. These should be cut or condensed. You will probably also find that in writing your first draft, new and well-suited ideas have occurred to you. Now is the time to develop these ideas in the essay.
In short, if the argument needs to be truncated, bolstered, or otherwise modified after the first draft, the second draft is where this change should happen. Once the argument itself is finalized in the second draft, it’s time to focus on the revision process.