Once the first draft is completed it is time to knock it into shape. Now is the time for revising, rewriting and proofing in order to improve the overall quality of the paper and to avoid losing points from errors you didn’t catch. Follow the ten steps below to make certain you go through your first draft in a thorough manner in order to catch all mistakes.
1. Give Yourself Time to Revise: If you have procrastinated about your paper, you won’t have time to revise. Finish your draft a few days before it is due. Take a break from your writing. Put the paper aside for a day. (If you are working on a lengthy assignment, you will need to set aside more time for revising.)
2. Develop & Expand:After the initial reading of first draft, you may notice that you need to change or expand upon your thesis statement. Readers should know exactly which sentence is the thesis statement. The statement should be a well-focused version of your very specific topic. Take another look at the introductory paragraph also. Is it powerful? Does it grab attention? Check to make sure the writing is clear and to the point.
3. Revise Your Outline & Draft: Make certain that all ideas within your outline have been followed; restructure outline if needed. Look over your paper for content errors. Check and recheck your facts and figures. You may find that you do not have an adequate amount of material for all of your sub-topics, and you may have to complete a bit more research. Revising involves improving your arguments, rearranging paragraphs, and rephrasing sentences. You may need to expand upon ideas more thoroughly, give more facts to support viewpoint, or delete unnecessary content. This isn’t “extra” work. Revising to strengthen and clarify is what every good writer does.
4. Check Spelling – Run a spell check but do not rely on it entirely. Spell checkers cannot identify places in your draft where a word is spelled properly but the wrong word has been used. Read your paper word for word slowly.
5. Look for Grammar & Punctuation Errors - Verify capitalization use. Check for correct word usage. Look for words used out of context. Many words are similar in spelling but not in meaning. Read each sentence separately for punctuation mistakes.
- Examine your paper to find semicolons and commas. Make certain you’re using them properly in the sentence. Lists of three or more are separated by commas. Ex.: I love dark chocolate, white chocolate, and milk chocolate. Closely related independent clauses are connected with a semicolon. Ex.: I love frozen strawberry yogurt; it’s healthier than ice cream.
- Make sure quotation marks are placed at the beginning and the ending of each direct quote.
- Avoid repetition of words. If the same word is used many times, replace with a similar word found in your thesaurus
6. Check for Clarity – If you find yourself rereading a section of your paper again for understanding, your wording is not clear enough. If you do not understand the section, your readers certainly will not. Avoid figures of speech, slang, and clichés. Use words you understand and do not over explain. Steer clear of wordiness. Use clear and concise sentences.
7. Read your Paper Aloud: You will be able to find mistakes you fail to see when reading silently. Pay attention to what you are saying as you read. Any omitted or incorrect words will become evident, as will opportunities to clarify and add power to your paper.
8. Feedback is Important: Ask your instructor to take a look at your draft. Instructors can steer you in the right direction with suggestions on how to complete your project successfully. Ask a friend or roommate to read through what you have. Even people who do not know the subject matter can help. They can tell you whether your writing is clear and concise.
9. Check with Your Writing Center: Many colleges have Writing Centers. These centers offer services relating to all aspects of research paper writing – including reading it. The tutors have been trained to generate ideas, develop research strategies, identify writing problems, and give suggestions. A better paper will be written with their help.
10. Keep editing & re-writing until you’re happy and satisfied with your work.
FINAL TIP: Print out a hard copy of your paper. A hard copy will allow you to view the paper in full to be able to identify the big problems and also give you space in the margins to make notes to yourself as you read.