Academic Writing and Rhetoric

Writing as a Rhetorical Process

There are two parallel sets of processes involved in academic composition: the mechanical and the rhetorical. The mechanical processes are those that produce writing. The rhetorical processes are those that refine ideas and their presentation to an audience. You cannot separate these activities because each act of writing reflects rhetorical choices while leading to new choices.

The Writing Process

  Writing Process Rhetorical Choices
  • Brainstorming, Freewriting
  • Clustering and Mapping
  • Take inventory of what you know
  • Figure out what you need to learn (research)
  • Make procedural plans, including a calendar or timeline
  • Establish hypotheticals for audience, purpose, task
  • Write a description of what your paper should do and why this is valuable
  • Write a summary of the paper
  • List possible keywords
  • Generate new information
  • Write an introduction
  • Make a chunk outline
  • Test write a thesis idea
  • Tighten up sense of purpose
  • Select and arrange
  • Consider audience needs
  • Look for the message
  • Find the questions you want to address
  • Find significance for your writing
  • Generate a list of questions about your key idea
  • Insert essential information
  • Add or cut facts, stories, details
  • Resequence
  • Check paragraphs for efficiency
  • Outline
  • Look at the paper in terms of audience and purpose
  • Figure out what is lacking and expand those areas
  • Analyze claims and evidence
  • Check spelling and grammar
  • Follow the format for publishing
  • Make sure someone can read it
  • Verify it says what you want it to say
  • Verify you have clarity
  • Check core assertions
  • Check verb choices
  • Check idea continuity
  • Check for concise language
  • Make sure conventions for the genre are adhered to

Reality versus Theory

We urge teachers and students to remember that it is misleading to think of writing as a perfectly linear process. Writing a paper is not like assembling a model or baking a cake; we revise our ideas and the text of a paper until it is turned in to the instructor. If we try to follow the ideal step, one at a time, that doesn’t recognize the reality that we often experience “ah-ha!” moments during composing. Any chart or table claiming to be “The” writing process is making an impossible claim.


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Writer: C. S. Wyatt
Updated: 08-Mar-2017
Editor: S. D. Schnelbach