Techniques to Use for Revising an Essay

Techniques to Use for Revising an Essay
Tips for Improving an Academic Paper

Sometimes it might seem like writing the essay is the most important step, but revision is just as - if not more - valuable to the success of the paper.

The hard work of putting an essay together might make a student feel that revision is unnecessary, but it is an important step that leads to a great final draft. A student can rely on writing tutors, peer reviews, or even instructor comments to help with revision, but a student can even approach this process on his own. If he's not sure how to undertake the task, these hints might help.
Focus on the Big Picture
No matter what type of essay a student is trying to write (or for what class, for that matter), a student will be able to improve her essay simply by looking at the big picture. In other words, before reading through her paper, a student should write down a few ideas of what she wants to "see" in her paper. She'll want to keep her thesis in mind, because her thesis is the main idea driving the paper. But she also wants to think about smaller ideas she wishes to communicate in her essay.
Reading through the essay the first time, she'll want to look for those ideas permeating her paper throughout. If at any time her essay seems to go off on a tangent, she may want to make a note to look at it again the second time through.
When going through it a second time, she'll want to ask herself the following questions:
• How does this information relate to the rest of the paper?
• If this section was removed, would the essay still be coherent?
• Do any sections of the paper seem forced or seem to have little to do with the rest of the essay?
Based on her answers, she should have some good ideas for where to focus her energies when revising the paper.
Strive to be Coherent
If a student has time to further revise, his next task should be to make sure everything in his essay makes sense. It can be difficult sometimes as the writer of the essay to try to put oneself in the reader's shoes, but it is worth the effort. Reading through his paper again, a student can ask himself these questions to help him focus on the coherence of his essay:
• Does one paragraph seem to flow logically to the next? Do the ideas of one paragraph seem connected to the ones before and after?
• Do any words seem out of place?
• Are any sentences potentially confusing?
Other Things to Keep in Mind When Revising
There are other things a student might want to look for when polishing her paper. Other ideas to keep in mind when reading through to revise are as follows:
• What is the tone or "voice" in the essay? Does it feel natural?
• Are sources integrated smoothly or do citations feel awkward?
• Are there parts of the essay that should refer to a source but don't?
• Are transitions smooth? Is there any place in the essay where the writer, posing as the reader, is "pulled out" of the essay? In other words, is the flow of the essay organic, smoothly integrated? Does everything fit together naturally?
Revision is a Necessary Part of the Writing Process
It might be tempting to write a paper and call it good, but it really is prudent to go back through it once or twice with an eye of scrutiny. If the writer can go back through his paper and spot opportunities for improving his paper, he can likely improve his grade and certainly improve his writing skills. The more a student makes revision a part of his writing process, the easier it becomes, and the student begins to learn naturally what types of things to look for in his writing.

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