table with cluster of the writing process
Image: Writing Centre Uni Konstanz

Make writing visible

We offer course materials and input for your session.

By dividing the task into several sub-steps, cognitive work is made visible and assessable.

The steps outlined below encourage and demand the students' own effort. Depending on your goals, AI writing tools can be used effectively in every step of the process. However, they need to be critically reflected and adapted to the context. The use and handling of AI writing tools is part of our teaching consultations and course units. We always adhere to the guidelines of the University.

The individual design of the writing process differs according to subject, target group and study phase. However, academic writing processes can be visualized by a multiple-stage model (Girgensohn & Sennewald, 2012, p. 102).

Multi-stage writing

Orienting and planning and finding a structure represent important preliminary work for texts: A great deal of thinking and textual work happens early on. This can already occur during the seminar in the course of the semester.

However, thought processes also develop further during the writing of the first draft and feedback and revison. Initially, this results in writer-based prose (Flower 1979), which is strongly oriented towards the student's own cognitive process. These texts must then be revised through the inclusion of feedback to become reader-based prose.

Editing and finalizing contains tasks both before and after submission: the correction of the text and the lecturers' feedback on the submitted text. The writing development continues after submission. A discussion of instructor feedback is significant for future student texts and a precondition for further development in academic writing.

Orientation and planning

This stage is about activating students, making the relevance of the topic clear and linking their prior knowledge to the specialist topic, clarifying their own contribution, making the assignment transparent, and clarifying expectations.

Suitable exercises in this stage can be, for example, Genre Awareness and Genre Analysis, because through guided reading of specialized texts on a meta-level, students learn how these texts work and how they can generate them. Likewise, lecturers can demonstrate the relevance of the task by means of subject-specific examples and their design. The key here is that the set task is situated and authentic: It has a connection to student work in the subject or to the professional profile being pursued. Students can then start to identify the topic and work, for example, with our exercises on clusters, outlines and mind maps.

Finding a structure

Students usually learn to find or collect knowledge relevant to their subject through literature research, surveys, laboratory experiments. They need to develop a subject-specific question or working hypothesis, and to plan its answer or verification. Ideally, this should result in preliminary or auxiliary texts and not just keywords.
To evaluate and structure the collected ideas, to find a research question or a hypothesis and to develop a first thread, techniques like triad, peparing an exposé, storytelling or living outline are useful. The extent of the planning phase can vary from subject to subject: While in some subjects thoughts are not developed until students begin to write, in other subjects the goal of the text must already have been identified. Accordingly, it is useful to refer to auxiliary texts such as (experimental) protocols, notes, excerpts, and presentations. Discussions in the seminar can also be a helpful basis for your own positioning.

Writing a first draft

Students should be made aware that the first draft shows their own thought process and is written primarily for themselves. Rough drafting here does not refer to the entire paper, but is related to individual sections.
Joint writing sessions are a useful addition at this stage, encouraging students to quickly put ideas on paper that don't have to be perfect, but text that lays the groundwork for feedback and revision. Teaching sessions through the Writing Center can also be used here to guide the writing of multiple versions and to discuss patterns of argumentation. Students also benefit from the example set by instructors when, for example, authentic first drafts are shown at this point in comparison to the final version and the ways in which these texts were revised are discussed.

Feedback and revision

Without a first draft, no revision can take place. The resulting written thoughts must be further developed in a reader-oriented and critically examining manner. In doing so, we must be aware that there are two levels at which revision takes place. First, there are higher order concerns (Frank et al., 2013, p. 71) such as content and structure. Guided peer feedback in the course or with the trained writing tutors is particularly fruitful at this stage. It allows students to take the reader's perspective. The resulting revisions are a good basis for consultation sessions with instructors.

Feedback can also be guided in written tasks or take the form of presentations. One technique at the text level is reverse outlining, which mirrors the structure of the text and shows the author(s) whether their intention was understood.

The implementation of feedback is always the responsibility of the authors who must decide what they will revise in their text.


Students examine later or lower order concerns in another clearly guided step (Frank et al., 2013, p. 71): Language, style, and formal aspects. We can offer support for this stage with self study courses.

Again, peer feedback is productive for both sides, as it is often easier to identify errors in other people's texts than in one's own. The correction of the text can be guided, for example, in the form of an exercise that teaches proofreading.

Lecturers' feedback

The final step is transparent lecturer feedback that refers back to the assignment. Students can make decisions about their further learning from a written comment or a conversation about the text. Such conversations give students the opportunity to reflect on their approach, explain, justify, and defend their contribution to the topic. Further steps and improvements in the thinking and writing process can be initiated.

Here, the peer writing tutors can be a contact point to help students in implementing consequences from the feedback and figure out specific steps for future texts.

With the break-down of individual steps and competences, student writing retains its high value in times of AI: Scientific work is reflected and practiced, errors serve to increase learning, and feedback is implemented constructively and visibly.

Last but not least, this approach contributes to sustainable academic education: critical thinking and the use of new technologies are trained by clearly communicating and illustrating that the responsibility for the texts remains with the authors. This is supported by relevant and authentic writing tasks that provide an incentive to generate rather than merely reproduce knowledge, as well as by reflective texts and conversations among peers and with lecturers that can be included into the assessment.


  • Flower, L. (1979). Writer-Based Prose: A Cognitive Basis for Problems in Writing. College English, 41(1), 19-37.
  • Frank, A., Haacke, S. & Lahm, S. (2013). Schlüsselkompetenzen: Schreiben in Studium und Beruf (2., aktualisierte und erweiterte Auflage). Verlag J.B. Metzler.
  • Girgensohn, K. & Sennewald, N. (2012). Schreiben lehren, Schreiben lernen: eine Einführung. Wiss. Buchges.
  • Harris, M. (1995). Talking in the Middle: Why Writers Need Writing Tutors. College English, 57(1), 27–42.
  • Wolfsberger, J. (2016). Frei geschrieben: Mut, Freiheit und Strategie für wissenschaftliche Abschlussarbeiten. (4. Auflage). Böhlau.