ParaPro Writing Study Guide: Pre−Writing

This page of our ParaPro practice test covers the use of pre-writing to generate and organize ideas.

In order to excel in this section, as a paraprofessional, you must be aware of the writing process and the order in which it goes:

  1. Prewriting: Brainstorm ideas
  2. Research: This includes knowing the appropriate materials to use, such as .edu and .gov sources
  3. Organize an outline: This is where you lay out your paper, including each section’s topic and the supporting details/evidence.
  4. Write a draft
  5. Revise to make it better
  6. Write the final draft
  7. Edit and proofread the final draft and submit.

Knowing the details of each of these steps will help you excel in this section. The test will focus on specific areas within these steps to assess your knowledge.

Here’s a sample question you may come across concerning an outline:

Example 1

Jennifer has brainstormed her essay topic and completed her research. She is going to write about how technology has had a positive effect on society. However, she must organize her notes and complete her outline. Use the outline below to answer the question:

The Positive Effects of Technology

  1. Good in case of emergency
    1. Car Problems
      1. Able to call if you are stuck
      2. On-Star Technology able to locate you
    2. Can Immediately contact love ones if you need them
  2. Access to Information
    1. Research
      1. Able to get answers quickly
      2. Get more accurate and reliable results
    2. Education
      1. People able to access internet to self-learn
      2. Easier for teachers to use resources to help them
  3. _______________
    1. Prolongs lives
      1. Medicine to help you live longer
      2. More remedies for life-threatening diseases
    2. Cancer research
      1. Technology has given us more options to beat cancer.
      2. People able to send money easier to raise money for awareness
      3. More accurate results on findings

Question: What do you think the topic of Section III would be?

A. Internet research

B. Medical breakthroughs

C. Social Media

D. Record-keeping

This is the type of question you’ll see on the exam. The answer is B. Seeing words like “cancer research” and “medicine” indicate this is related to health and the medical field.

You may also be asked questions referring to how to improve your outline or how to write a thesis statement based on the outline. Knowing what a thesis statement is and its purpose is essential.

Things to know about a thesis statement:

  • It’s the FINAL sentence of an introduction
  • Accurately previews what your main points and the essay will be about in one sentence.
  • Does not go into the details in each body paragraph–just focuses on the broader picture.
  • Unlike the hook, it doesn’t involve questions or quotes.

Given that information, a good thesis statement for the outline above now knowing that Section III is about medical breakthroughs would be the following:

Technology has had a positive influence on society, (1) aiding us in case of an emergency, (2) improving our research, (3) and helping us with medical breakthroughs.

Here you can see all three points reflected in one statement. This alerts the reader that each section will center around each of these topics with supporting details helping aid the argument.

When making arguments and writing essays, you also want to be sure to use the appropriate reference materials when conducting your research. Here are some guidelines for choosing the correct research materials:

  • Avoid Wikipedia as a main source.
  • Try to use .edu, .gov, and .mil sources. These are more trustworthy than .edu and .org sources.
  • Primary source materials are more dependable than second source information. Primary sources come from the main topic or person itself, where as secondary sources are written by an outside source about someone or something.
  • The following are secondary source reference materials and what they’re used for:
    • Encyclopedia: Good for finding general information and facts about specific topics, such as animals, countries, states, people, and things.
    • Atlas: Good for seeing where states and countries are on a map, including their bordering countries and continents they rest in.
    • Biography: Good for getting information on a specific person’s life. For example, “The Life and Presidency of Ronald Reagan.”
    • Dictionary: Use this when looking up definitions of words
    • Other secondary source references: Textbooks, commentaries, book reports
  • The following are primary source reference materials and what they’re used for:
    • Autobiography: Unlike a biography where the author writes about the topic, this is when the person writes about their own life or experiences. For example, “My Presidency in My Own Eyes” by Jimmy Carter
    • Diary: Similar to autobiographies, a diary includes journals or writings kept by a person. “The Diary of Anne Frank,” for example, details her accounts from the Holocaust. Unlike autobiographies, these are written during the course of one’s life, not afterwards.
    • Other primary source materials: Interviews, journals, photographs, memos, letters, speeches.

Look at the following question below based on the above material:

Example 2

Janine is looking to write a research paper on famous Olympian Jesse Owens. She wants to get the most accurate information with his own thoughts and words, not someone else’s. What would be the best source to use for this paper?

  1. Encyclopedia
  2. Commentary on Jesse Owens
  3. Biography
  4. Autobiography

The answer here would be D. Autobiographies are written by the subject themselves; in this case, Jesse Owens would have authored a book and Janine would want to use that. All the other options would provide information about Jesse Owens from outside writers. While biographies would include quotes from Owens and are good sources, they still would be written by someone else and are not as reliable as if you get an autobiography.

Here’s another question that is similar to the type found on the exam:

Example 3

Lisa is writing a persuasive paper about school uniforms and why they should be used in schools. She provides the following sources:,, and As a teacher, what feedback would you give to Lisa?

  1. Those are excellent sources. Your paper will have great and accurate information in it.
  2. Three sources are not enough. Try and use a source from Four is a better amount.
  3. While these sources provide some good information, you want to use more reliable sources from .edu and .gov links and include those in your paper.
  4. When writing a persuasive paper, you don’t need reference materials. It’s all based on your opinion.

The answer here would be C. Any time you are writing a persuasive essay, you want to use references from reliable websites. Sites that end in .edu, .mil, and .gov are the most trustworthy sites and provide the best information.

Pre-Writing Review Test

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