Remember: no one can write a great essay in one draft; a good paper requires revision, revision and more revision!
- Revisit the Prompt: After focusing so much on completing a draft, sometimes it’s easy to skip over the most basic purpose of your paper— answering the prompt. Read over the assignment and make sure that your paper addresses every single question your professor asks.
- Revisit the Thesis: Reread your thesis, and ask yourself: does your whole paper prove/support/pertain to your thesis? Make sure you’ve stuck to your thesis throughout each part of your essay, and remember that you should rewrite your thesis whenever you can make it a better guide for your essay. Sometimes the best theses are written after you’re done with everything else.
- Look at each paragraph by itself: Try to edit each paragraph by itself before looking at all the paragraphs together. Take a look at the “claim” of each paragraph, and determine whether each distinct chunk of your essay is fully developed. Does each paragraph have its own point? Have you supported the claim of each paragraph with evidence? Have you analyzed the evidence you used in each paragraph? Avoid super long and super short paragraphs.
- Look at the sequence of your argument: After you’ve determined what each paragraph argues, try to examine the sequence of your argument. Does the order of your paragraphs make sense? Could you reorder them to make the paper more logical? Do the transitions between paragraphs flow smoothly?
- Revisit the Conclusion and Introduction: Make sure that your conclusion and introduction do not contradict each other and that they do not just simply repeat the same ideas. The introduction should be a brief introduction into the question/ problem you’re answering, while the conclusion should go beyond just the main point you’ve stated (such as: the significance of your conclusion, further questions, etc.).
- Read your paper aloud: Reading the paper aloud will allow you to reexamine the flow and progression of your paper. It will also allow you to catch the grammatical mistakes, inconsistent tones, or awkward sentence structures that you might miss by simply reading the paper quickly to yourself. Pay close attention to active/passive voice and consistency of verb tense.
- Read and re-read your paper for different problems: Each time you read through your paper, try to tackle one thing at a time by having an important question in the back of your mind as you revise. Focus on issues such as: Have you addressed your target audience? Have you eliminated unnecessary or redundant sentences/ ideas? Have you analyzed, and not merely summarized?
- Talk about your paper with your friends: Try to have conversations about your ideas—sometimes talking can help you a lot with writing. Discussing the issues or each main ideas of a paper can help you discover for yourself what you really want to write about. Your friends can also help be a critical listener, and give you a chance to practice presenting your ideas to an audience.
- Think about your professor and class: Many professors have their own preferences for writing, and it can be useful to either speak with them about what they are looking for, or to pay attention to how they have marked your papers in the past. It is also a good idea to consider how your paper fits it with the rest of your class material and to try to draw connections with what you have learned in class and what you’re writing.
- Just Keep Swimming!: Remember that no paper is ever perfect, and that a good paper requires revising, revisiting and re-thinking. Writing is a never-ending process!
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