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When Should You Start Writing? - Drafting "in the Middle"

In The Curious Researcher, Bruce Ballenger advocates writing "in the middle," meaning during the research process (119). Rather than wait until all notes have been taken and the due date is very near, you can begin to make sense of information already gathered and realize other areas where research is needed next by drafting some paragraphs.

If you have taken double-entry notes or kept a research log, you already have begun to think about the significance of the information learned. Now those facts and thoughts can be drafted into sections of the research essay. Review your notes to find two or three significant ideas. Then as you start drafting, remember to explain why the research information is important rather than assume a reader already understands its significance. As you present research information, use the following phrases, which are called "signal phrases," to mention titles and authors:

In "Article Title," Geneva Smitherman explains that Ebonics . . . paraphrase (22).

In Book Title, Myra and David Sadker assert, "quotation " (207).

Remember that paraphrased information, meaning ideas restated in your own words, must be cited as well as any direct quotations. Using what is known as a signal phrase to identify the source, a student writer makes clear where the cited material begins. The parenthetical citation shows where the research information ends and a researcher starts to elaborate on that material. For example,

According to Michael Fullan, rapid and massive school reform may not be possible because these plans may be "designed to help, but they actually add insult to injury. Complex implementation plans themselves become another source of confusion and burden" for weak school systems (97). Thus, schools cannot be expected to change overnight; reform plans cannot be imposed suddenly upon teachers already overwhelmed by a troubled school system. Instead reform must be a continuous and gradual process.

By drafting "in the middle," using signal phrases to introduce your research, and adding citations of your sources, you can avoid writing a last minute report in which you only fill up the required number of pages with what experts have said.