Today’s blog post was written by Nancy Sessoms and Tim Muren in the SSC Writing Center. The Writing Center staff helps students with projects ranging from personal statements and CVs to dissertations. Learn more about the Writing Center at http://studentsuccess.uams.edu/writing-center/.
You’ve done the research, organized the data, and written the paper. You can check that off of your assignments list, right? Wrong. Now it’s time to revise what you thought was a completed paper but is actually your first draft. It is not unusual for a paper to require three or more revisions before it is ready to turn in.
According to Rew (1999), there are four basic levels of editing: organization and coherence, content, language and style, and proofreading. Each level may require a revision of the paper. Ideally, you make revisions at the first level (organization and coherence) then pass that draft through the second level (content), make revisions, on to the next level (language and style), ending with the final level (proofreading).
Some tips for each of the four levels of revision:
- Organization and coherence is the initial read-through to see that the paper is organized in correct form and flows logically from one paragraph to the next. Keep your instructors assignment and/or grading rubric on hand for this step.
- Content is checked next. Ensure the accuracy of your text and graphics. This can be done concurrently with Level 1, organization and coherence. At this level make sure your numbers add up, fact check, etc.
- Language and style is sentence level editing—grammar and punctuation. Check for sentence fragments, run on sentences or comma splice (independent clauses separated by only a comma), parallelism, etc., and correct punctuation.
- Proofreading is the last pass and in it you search for typos, misspellings, etc. By the time you get to this level, you probably know the paper by heart which can cause you to not really read the sentences because you already know what they say. To read your paper with fresh eyes, print it out and using a sheet of paper, cover all the text on a page except for the last sentence. Check it and move upward to the next sentence. Continue until you’ve reviewed all the sentences on the page. This will force you to really read each sentence separately to be sure it makes sense and there are no misspelled words or typos.
If you would like help with revision, you can contact the Writing Center by submitting a form: http://studentsuccess.uams.edu/writing-center/writing-center-appointment-request/ ; emailing firstname.lastname@example.org ; calling 686-8536; or coming by the Center on the 3rd floor of the Library, rm. 3/110.
Rew, L.J. (1999). Editing for writers. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.