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Revising a Paper

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Writing and revising a paper is a time-consuming and messy process, and this is exactly why some people experience anxiety about writing long papers. It’s not a task that you can finish in a single sitting—that is, you can’t if you want to do a good job. Writing is a process that you do a little bit at a time. Once you come up with a good draft, it’s time to revise.

Ask yourself the following questions as you go through the revision process.

Does the paper fit the assignment?

Sometimes we can get so excited about something we find in our research that it sets us off in a new and different direction. It’s perfectly fine to veer off in a new direction, as long as the new course doesn’t lead us outside the bounds of the assignment.

As you read over a draft of your paper, take a look at the directional words used in the original assignment. There is a difference between analyze, examine, and demonstrate, for example. Did you follow the directions?

Does the thesis statement still fit the paper?

A good thesis statement is a vow to your readers. In one single sentence, you stake a claim and promise to prove your point with evidence. Very often, the evidence we gather doesn’t “prove” our original hypothesis, but it does lead to new discovery.

Most writers have to re-work the original thesis statement so it accurately reflects the findings of our research.

Is my thesis statement specific and focused enough?

“Narrow your focus!” You’re very likely to hear that many times as you progress through the grades--but you shouldn’t get frustrated by hearing it time and again. All researchers have to work hard at zooming in on a narrow and specific thesis. It’s just part of the process.

Most researchers revisit the thesis statement several times before they (and their readers) are satisfied.

Are my paragraphs well-organized?

You can think of your paragraphs as little mini-essays. Each one should tell its own little story, with a beginning (topic sentence), a middle (evidence), and an end (concluding statement and/or transition).

Is my paper organized?

While your individual paragraphs may be well-organized, they may not be well-positioned. Check to make sure that your paper flows from one logical point to another. Sometimes good revision starts with good old cut and paste.

Does my paper flow?

Once you make certain that your paragraphs are placed in a logical order, you will need to revisit your transition statements. Does one paragraph flow right into another? If you run into trouble with, you might want to review some transition words for inspiration.

Did you proofread for confusing words?

There are several pairs of words that continue to vex the most accomplished writers. Examples of confusing words are except/accept, whose/who’s, and effect/affect. It’s easy and quick to proofread for confusing word errors, so don’t omit this step from your writing process. You can’t afford to lose points for something so avoidable!

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