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Performing "Systems Checks" of Your Writing

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Performing "Systems Checks" of Your Writing

Pilots interacting in a plane cockpit
hxdyl/Shutterstock.com

Pilots perform systems checks before, during, and after flights to make sure airplanes are working well. Writers can perform systems checks on reports, research papers, and other longer assignments. One student used a freewriting systems check to reflect on his research before drafting a report:

  • Freewriting: Write freely about the part of the process you have completed and the part you are starting.

I found a lot of cool facts about flying fish, but I couldn't figure out how to put them together. Ms. Jones said I could use questions and answers. I'm going to do that. I'll list my questions and then write my first draft. I already know my first question: What are flying fish?

In addition to freewriting systems checks, you can also evaluate your progress in these ways:    

  • First thoughts: Write down your very first thoughts about a topic to discover if it would be worth writing about in depth.
  • Unsent letter: Write a letter to yourself or another person, explaining how your writing is going and what you expect to do next.
  • Dialogue: Explore your writing progress in a written conversation with someone real or imagined.         
  • Nutshelling: In one or two sentences, describe something you could improve as you revise your writing.

Your Turn  For your next big writing assignment, carry out at least four systems checks to assess your progress.

  • Use different types of systems checks. (See above.)
  • Keep your systems checks in a part of your notebook or in a computer folder.
  • Check your progress at different points during the process (prewriting, writing, revising, and editing).
  • In your systems checks, celebrate what is going well and try to work out problem areas.
  • Use this strategy to check your progress in all of your important writing assignments.

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