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The Importance of Revising Your Paper

The Importance of Revising Your Paper

Many students make the mistake of finishing a draft of their paper and handing it in. Not only are their papers often filled with typographical errors and other problems, but they lack the benefits of a fundamental stage in the writing process: revision.

When we revise our writing, we take the opportunity to step back and re-envision it. We think about the goals of the paper and whether we have accomplished these goals. We ensure that our ideas are clearly expressed and well supported. And, we make certain that errors of grammar and style do not detract from our work or make it look as though the paper was prepared hastily.

Keep the following rules of revision in mind:

  1. Do everything in your power NOT to hand in a first draft.
  2. Try to take a break (even if it is only 30 minutes) between drafting and revision. This will help you gain perspective.
  3. If you are feeling frustrated and stuck, involve someone else in your revision process. You can have a friend read it. Or, you can take a draft to the Academic Skills Centre.

Revising for Substance

As you read through your draft, ask yourself the following questions about the substance of your paper:

  • Is your thesis clearly and firmly stated?
  • Do you present your own analysis?
  • Does your work fairly reflect the sources that you consulted?
  • Do you include specific evidence to support your ideas? Is this evidence analyzed and explained?
  • Are there gaps in your logic that need to be corrected?
  • Do you fulfill all of the goals that you set out in the thesis?
  • Have you met all of the instructions included with the assignment?


Revising for Structure

As you read, you need to ensure that your essay has a strong structure. Consider all of the questions below:

  • Is there a clear and logical pattern by which you prove your thesis?
  • Does your introduction give a clear indication of what the paper is about?
  • Is each paragraph unified and developed?
  • Does each paragraph contain a strong, clear topic sentence?
  • Is each paragraph related to the thesis? You could create a reverse outline. See Creating an Effective Outline.
  • Do you have transitions between paragraphs and between sections?
  • Does your essay have a well-reasoned and interesting conclusion?

Revising for Style

Unclear writing and errors detract from your ideas and your mark. As you edit, you want to think about your writing style. Take the following issues into account:

  • Have you used the passive voice too much?
  • Did you make sure to use gender neutral language?
  • Is your language precise and concise?
  • Have you edited out repetitive language or syntax?
  • Have you corrected grammatical errors and made sure that all of the names and events that you discuss are spelled properly?
  • Is all of your information properly footnoted and do you have a bibliography that is correctly formatted?

Final Proofreading

Your final read-through of the draft should focus on formatting and accuracy – not substance. Use a hard-copy instead of just reading from your computer screen. You may want to read the words out loud. Check for:

  • Spelling, typographical errors, correct word usage
  • Italicize or underline titles of books and put titles of articles in quotation marks
  • Correct documentation and bibliography
  • Double Space (unless told otherwise)
  • Create a Title Page that includes a title for your essay, your name, your section and tutorial leader’s name, and the date.
  • Pagination. Use page numbers but do not use a page number on the title page.