How to Write a Great Essay Draft In College

Students grimace at the thought of essay draft whenever they are asked to write one. Sure, some understand its necessity, but most others just wave it off, thinking that drafts are an unnecessary complication professors made up to make their lives more difficult. Who is right and who is wrong here? Let’s find out by establishing what a draft is. It’s a rough version of the final paper where a writer expresses an outline of their ideas, presenting their skeleton and putting some meat on it. 

But just knowing draft essay definition isn’t enough, you also have to fully realize its relevance and ways in which it should be created. Drafts are vital components of academic writing process: they could help students understand how their introduction, body, and conclusion are going to look like before their paper is fully written. They give you chances to catch mistakes and discrepancies before they go too far as with their help, you can correct everything on time. Let us expand on this thought and explain how an effective draft should be created.

What Makes Essay Drafts Important

Students are right to assume that writing a draft takes time. But what they usually dismiss is the fact that after this document is ready, they can submit it for preliminary assessment. Professor will take a look at it, underlining its strong and weak points, and if everything is more or less fine, you’ll get to keep the draft and transform it into the final essay. This way, the time you spent on it won’t disappear into nowhere — your final version will be at least half-done. 

Look at any example of a draft essay — sometimes they resemble a finished work because you can already understand writer’s point, their evidence, the structure of an essay and conclusion. You’ll be expanding a draft to make it into an essay, not writing it from scratch. In addition, even if professor tells you that whole thing needs to be redone because you focused on the wrong theme, it’s better to know about it in advance instead of writing an even longer essay and getting a failing grade for it. Look at this file like you would at the sample of final work. This is your opportunity to learn whether you’re moving in the right direction and take actions in case you took a wrong turn.

Four Key Steps WhenWriting the First Draft

What is a first draft? It’s initial try at building a picture of a future essay. Later, it might be sent back to you for revision or expansion, so you could write a second and third draft. If you want to prevent this situation from happening, it’s preferable to do a great job from the first try. These are the steps you should take.

1. Develop an outline

After deciding on what topic you should write about, start planning the points you’ll be exploring. Determine which bits should be mentioned in the body — it is the most important thing. For example, if you’re working on the theme of English postmodernism, indicate which factors represent it. Place one per each paragraph and add a few more details to them. After this skeleton is ready and you can move on toward the next step.  

2. Make a thesis

Thesis is a key statement of students’ paper that plays an equally relevant role in your first draft essay, so be sure to devise it early on. Decide, what is the central argument? What do you plan to prove? Your reader should be able to understand your goal simply by reading thesis statement, so make this bit count and base your work on it.  

3. Find good sources

You might have to include more sources when working on the final paper, but deciding on key ones is important at this stage. Choose two or three articles or books. Remember that they should be credible and created within the last 5 years. Dedicate each source to a paragraph, determining main ideas you’ll be supporting with their help.

4. Write at least 3-5 sentences about each key point

Everything is prepared, so it is time for actual writing. Focus only on key elements — other details should be added in later versions. Craft a short introduction with thesis. Explore every body point from an outline in 3 or 5 sentences; be brief, concise, and don’t deviate from the course you’ve set. Mention sources in support, even if you don’t provide full evidence yet. Conclude essay by adding some more sentences in the final part. Remember about limits: go for expressing all relevant factors, not for expanding your rough file just to increase the word count.

Useful information: Use our free conclusion generator is only a few clicks away.

Do This When Wondering How to Write a Draft Essay

In every assignment, there are some considerations that a student should take into consideration. With drafts, at least three could be distinguished. First, remember your goal. Since drafting entails giving shape to different ideas, this process has an unstable structure. Some new ideas might occur; other ideas could disappear. This is a natural occurrence and you shouldn’t be worried about it. Just keep your judgment sound: sometimes new direction could help you reach your goal more effectively, but other times, it only distracts. Keep visualizing it and you’ll be fine.

The second point worth remembering when drafting an essay is taking a break from writing. Walk somewhere, read something else, and then evaluate your draft. This could reveal some missteps that require correcting. The third consideration is your notes. It isn’t obligatory to make them, but at the same time, they could serve as guidelines showing what you intend to work on after draft is returned to you. They are a useful bridge between a draft and a final essay.   

Mistakes to Avoid

Looking through a draft essay example is a great idea for seeing what mistakes people make. If you know it, you can learn in advance what to avoid and how to smoothen rough angles of your work. Here are three most frequent errors everyone should be wary of.

  • Too many details. Common mistake many students make lies in treating a draft like a final essay. They try filling it with all details at once, expressing their opinions fully and not leaving anything out. As a result, they end up with work that equals or exceeds the size of real essay.
  • No structure. Other students, on the contrary, feel too lazy to bother with this task. What is a draft essay for them? This is an unpleasant necessity. That’s why they create a paragraph or two, jumping between points chaotically and hoping that it would be enough. Work performed in such manner is largely useless, and it won’t help with an essay in the slightest. 
  • Too much editing. Sure, doing some light editing and  is always good since it allows making sure that your sentences are coherent, but when drafting, it is vital not to overdo it. Some students get too focused on eliminating all technical mistakes, to the point where they forget about everything else. Drafts are training exercise for students, not some final version that must be polished perfectly. Content is far more important.   

Summary of All Crucial Points

Are you still wondering how to draft an essay? We decided on summarizing the points we mentioned and develop our list with best and worst things students could do in the process of their work. Keep them in mind and you’ll stand higher chances of succeeding.


  • Preliminary research. Conduct thorough research right away. Selecting sources, making an outline, and figuring out potential scope of future work are vital processes that you should take care of as soon as possible. It’ll come in handy both in a sample version and in an essay itself.
  • Present key essay points in your document. Through thesis and brainstorming, determine major points of an essay. Describe them in a draft, giving each of them a few sentences. In most cases, their number doesn’t exceed 5, but it depends on an overall size of your planned work.  
  • Leave space for additions. Remember that professor expects you to flesh out your ideas in a real paper, so present only raw facts in your draft. There should be space for expanding them at some later stage. You’ll use more evidence, ideas, and arguments there — be sure your word count covers it all.


  • Make document too long. Ideally, draft essay should present about 50-60% of its final version. Students are going to have enough time for expanding paragraphs and fill them with secondary details, so avoid doing it all in one go. Be specific, don’t be detailed.  
  • Treat it as a final paper. Don’t think that your draft is the same thing as a complete essay. That’s not true and it could only confuse you further. These rough essays are exercises, you’re only shaping real paper in them. Time for doing more is going to come afterward.   
  • Think it is unimportant. Drafts have an absolute importance, and students shouldn’t forget about this fact. By relying on them, you could see how your final essay would look like if you continued pursuing this course. What you invest into it will pay off, so work hard and follow recommendations provided by your teacher.

Make a Good Draft and Reap Its Benefits

Now that you know draft paper definition and the relevance it carries, you shouldn’t have problems with understanding why creating it is so essential. Consider this to be your training ground. Explore ideas, build links between them, think about sources that should be used in their support, and work on making solid conclusion. When everything is done, send final work for your professor’s assessment. They are going to review and express their opinion on your efforts, both strengths and weaknesses included. In turn, you’ll gain an opportunity to correct the essay and elaborate on the strong sides of your text.  

Find some great essay draft example in the Internet if you aren’t sure how to write your own. Start brainstorming right after that, noting down different essay ideas. Work on each part, from introduction to body and conclusion, exploring an outline of the main essay points. Introduce academic sources in every body paragraph, and that’s it! Your draft will inspire your final paper, serving as its strong foundation. 

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Elizabeth Baldridge
Elizabeth Baldridge

Elizabeth provides educational materials, conducts research, explores and solves student challenges. Her posts are always helpful, innovative, and contain interesting insights.

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