Over Revising Essays

Many students tell us that they don't know what to check for once they have finished their essay. They usually know to check for grammar, punctuation, and spelling, but other details are often seen as less important because of the high emphasis placed on these problems in their early education.

Writing experts generally agree, however, that while details such as grammar and punctuation are important, they are far less important than solid organization,  fresh writing, and creative content.

The following guidelines are designed to give students a  checklist to use, whether they are revising individually or as part of a peer review team.

Organization

  • Is there a clear introduction, body, and conclusion?
  • Does the introduction provide sufficient background for the reader? Are the "who," "where," "why," "what," and "how" questions addressed?
  • Is there a thesis sentence? Is the purpose of the essay clear?
  • Does the essay move from general to specific?
  • Are there sufficient transitions between related ideas?
  • Is the overall organization murky or clean? In other words, does the writer avoid introducing new material in the conclusion or switching subjects in the middle of a paragraph in the body?
  • Does every paragraph address the subject matter of the thesis in some way?

Content and Style

  • Does the essay show that the writer has a knowledge of the audience?
  • Is the length appropriate and adequate?
  • Has the writer used sufficient examples and detail to make his or her points clearly?
  • Has the assignment been addressed?
  • Is the tone of the essay appropriate?
  • Has the writer avoided insulting the reader?
  • Is the tone of the essay professional and appropriate?
  • Is the language convincing, clear, and concise?
  • Has the writer used fresh language and a creative approach?

Research and Sources

  • Are all sources credible?
  • Is the research accurate, unbiased, and complete?
  • Has the writer fully interpreted the findings?
  • Has the writer commented on each source used?
  • Is the analysis based on hard evidence?
  • Is the analysis free of faulty reasoning?
  • Is the documentation in the Works Cited page and body of the essay correct?
  • Have all quotations been checked against the original?
  • Are all quotations introduced? Is the flow of the essay seamless?
  • If material was paraphrased, are the sources still mentioned?
  • If necessary, are limitations clearly spelled out?
  • If included, are recommendations based on accurate interpretations?
  • Have all facts been checked for accuracy?
  • Have any potentially libelous statements been eliminated?

Proofreading

  • Has the writer checked grammar and punctuation?
  • Has the writer spell checked the essay?
  • Has the writer checked for his or her particular pattern of error?
  • Are the page numbers correct?
  • Is the title capitalized correctly?
  • Has the writer used the correct margin and font?

Steps for Revising Your Paper

Summary:

Proofreading is primarily about searching your writing for errors, both grammatical and typographical, before submitting your paper for an audience (a teacher, a publisher, etc.). Use this resource to help you find and fix common errors.

Contributors: Jaclyn M. Wells, Morgan Sousa, Mia Martini, Allen Brizee, Ashley Velázquez, Maryam Ghafoor
Last Edited: 2013-03-01 10:29:49

When you have plenty of time to revise, use the time to work on your paper and to take breaks from writing. If you can forget about your draft for a day or two, you may return to it with a fresh outlook. During the revising process, put your writing aside at least twice—once during the first part of the process, when you are reorganizing your work, and once during the second part, when you are polishing and paying attention to details.

Use the following questions to evaluate your drafts. You can use your responses to revise your papers by reorganizing them to make your best points stand out, by adding needed information, by eliminating irrelevant information, and by clarifying sections or sentences.

Find your main point.

What are you trying to say in the paper? In other words, try to summarize your thesis, or main point, and the evidence you are using to support that point. Try to imagine that this paper belongs to someone else. Does the paper have a clear thesis? Do you know what the paper is going to be about?

Identify your readers and your purpose.

What are you trying to do in the paper? In other words, are you trying to argue with the reading, to analyze the reading, to evaluate the reading, to apply the reading to another situation, or to accomplish another goal?

Evaluate your evidence.

Does the body of your paper support your thesis? Do you offer enough evidence to support your claim? If you are using quotations from the text as evidence, did you cite them properly?

Save only the good pieces.

Do all of the ideas relate back to the thesis? Is there anything that doesn't seem to fit? If so, you either need to change your thesis to reflect the idea or cut the idea.

Tighten and clean up your language.

Do all of the ideas in the paper make sense? Are there unclear or confusing ideas or sentences? Read your paper out loud and listen for awkward pauses and unclear ideas. Cut out extra words, vagueness, and misused words.

Eliminate mistakes in grammar and usage.

Do you see any problems with grammar, punctuation, or spelling? If you think something is wrong, you should make a note of it, even if you don't know how to fix it. You can always talk to a Writing Lab tutor about how to correct errors.

Switch from writer-centered to reader-centered.

Try to detach yourself from what you've written; pretend that you are reviewing someone else's work. What would you say is the most successful part of your paper? Why? How could this part be made even better? What would you say is the least successful part of your paper? Why? How could this part be improved?

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