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Getting started with writing

Getting words on the page can be hard. One way of getting started is ‘free writing’.

It involves:

  • Using a question prompt
  • Writing continuously and quickly
  • Not editing your own writing yet (incomplete sentences & mistakes are ok)

Video (2:34)

An example of free writing and reorganising it to create academic writing

Example of free writing

Example of free writing

Step from free writing to academic writing

While free writing gets words on the page, it then needs to be crafted into academic writing. Some important steps include:

  • Highlighting emerging concepts
  • Re-organising concepts from more general to more specific
  • Identifying areas for further reading
  • Refining, adding & deleting concepts

Hightlighting emerging concepts

With words on the page, you can identify concepts that are in your free writing and thinking.

Example of identifying concepts

Re-organising concepts & identifying areas for further reading

These concepts can now be reorganised in a ‘map’ to show relationships between them, such as concepts that are more general and those that are more specific.

Example of reorganised concepts

This kind of visual mapping also helps to identify areas for further reading, i.e. what you want to know more about for your research.

Example of refining, adding & deleting concepts

As you read more, you can adjust your map by refining concepts, deleting, adding, and/or repositioning them – as relevant to your research.

Refining concepts

Example of organised academic writing

Maps of concepts can then be used to structure your academic writing. This helps to orientate your reader to the main ideas and guide them towards the more specific details.

Example of organised writing

Related workshops

Getting started with writing

More videos about academic writing

AUT academic writing YouTube channel

More from AUT's Graduate Research School

Online resources

Recommended literature

Elbow, P. (1986). Writing with power: Essays towards a hopeful theory of writing and teaching writing. Oxford University Press.

Elbow, P. (2000). Everyone can write. Oxford University Press.

Li, L.Y. (2007). Exploring the use of focused freewriting in developing academic writing. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 4(1), 40-53.


From teaching materials (example texts and images)