The Writing Center


These planning exercises are derived from the work of Janice Lauer et al in their book Four Worlds of Writing (1991). They help writers focus and develop their essays for a special audience.

Planning Exercises to Make Writing the First Version Easy

  1. Now that you've done most of your reading for your paper, go back to your original question--write it down in the space below:
    Now answer it--using your readings and your own values, opinions, attitudes--in one sentence which will be the focus or thesis for your paper; write it below. It helps most people if they break their focus into the subject (what was previously the question) and a point of significance (the so what).

  2. Audience Guide. Your audience is twofold--the class and me. Answer the following questions briefly.

    1. describe the audience in terms of demographics (e.g. background, age, gender, educational background)

    2. how much does my audience know about this subject?

    3. what are my audience's values--overall and regarding this subject?

    4. draw a picture of the audience reading your text--what role do you want them to play? (e.g. instructor giving you an A, peer group being entertained)

  3. Drawing up an organizational plan (NOT an outline) helps many people write more quickly. You can choose a mode or you can simply follow your focus. Modes refer to organizational patterns; the most common is descriptive which goes from whole to parts. A narrative follows some chronology or process; an evaluative paper articulates criteria and then defends them. Here's an example:

Question: What is Isaac Bashevis Singer saying about the Jews after the Holocaust in NYC (in Shadows on the Hudson)?

Focus: In Shadows on the Hudson, Isaac Bashevis Singer is saying that the Jews after the Holocaust experienced impossible moral tension as a result of knowing obliquely their religious heritage and not being able to live it out because of a lack of faith often due to the Holocaust.

The isolation of the Jew was made impossible once they left their heritage, yet that was their identity, according to Singer.

Organizational Plan

impossible moral tension - -- - - - - - - - -lack of faith/Holocaust

each character suffers it - - - - - - - - - - - because of these

plot advances moral tension - - - - - - - - -showing remnants of beliefs

animation of objects - - - - - - - - - - - - - --shows potential for faith

the city itself brings up moral tension - - - in its freedoms of lifestyle