Evaluating Your Thesis Statement Study Guide (page 2)
Evaluating Your Thesis Statement
Things aren't magically better, if that's what you're hoping for. It's not that simple. - RANDAL K. MILHOLLAND (1975– ) INTERNET COMIC AUTHOR
Once you've written a first draft, it's time to begin the all-important process of evaluation and revision. It is essential at this point to understand exactly what is meant by revision. The word revision most often refers to the process of reworking, or even completely rewriting, major portions of your work. This may mean rewriting a paragraph, adding new examples, strengthening your argument, or even modifying your conclusion. (The process of improving individual words or sentences is usually referred to as editing.) This lesson focuses on and provides advice on evaluating your thesis statement. Subsequent chapters will discuss the evaluation and revision of the other parts of your essay.
This lesson explores the second important stage in the writing process: the evaluation and revision of your work. (The first and most important stage is the planning and outlining of your work.) While every writer wishes a first draft could magically be transformed into a final draft, that's an impossible dream. It never happens. The most skilled of writers revise, again and again. Some writers tell stories of having written five or six drafts of even a short essay before they feel satisfied that the work is done and ready to be read by others.
You may not need six drafts, but you certainly should assume that, at the very least, anything you write will require a minimum of two drafts, and that those two drafts will be followed by a last polish; at that point, you will have created, at last, a final draft. That means three drafts at a minimum. Remember, by its very definition, to draft means to create a preliminary version of your work. Successive versions will be smoother and more polished, but your first drafts will always be rough. And that's as it should be.
To help you understand what you should be doing in all those drafts, we'll look first at two common drafting techniques. Depending on the requirements of your writing project, you may find that different kinds of drafts are appropriate. For example, if you are writing a research paper, you'll need to have done all (or most) of your research before you can begin to put any words down on paper. If you're writing a short story, you may feel ready to dive right in. Think about which of these drafts you're most likely to use.
Two Types of Drafts
1. A First Rough Draft
A first rough draft is a document that approximates the assigned length you are working toward; it includes, more or less fully, all the major points you intend to make. If you have prepared adequately, by writing either a rough informal outline or a more formal outline, you'll write a first rough draft from your prepared outline. Most professional writers work from this kind of standard rough draft.
This type of draft reflects all the work you've done in advance of writing it. Before you begin writing your rough draft, you'll have already decided on and written a fine-tuned thesis statement; you'll have in mind several supporting paragraphs you plan to write to illustrate your thesis statement; and you'll have sketched out, however briefly, the conclusion you plan to draw. Your rough draft will utilize all your preplanning, and it will include all the required essay parts: a thesis, a body, and a conclusion. If writing were magic, you'd be almost finished, or at least you'd be hoping so. In fact, once you've gotten this much written, the work of evaluating the first rough draft can begin.
2. The Discover-as-You-Go Draft
Some professional writers insist they cannot stand to write outlines, and they can't wait to get started, so they plunge right in. Most often, these writers are actually practicing a lengthened version of the prewriting technique that you learned about in Lesson 10. These writers can't wait to write an outline first; instead, they write as quickly as they can, discovering, even as they write, the thesis and the supporting details of the argument that they will eventually rework and revise.
This type of drafting can be rather chaotic, and usually results in extended rewrites and extensive editing in subsequent drafts. Another disadvantage to this plunge-right-in approach is that it frequently leads the writer down deadend alleys far away from the original destination. Writer Anne Lamott calls this kind of draft a down draft, the draft in which you just get it down. She names the next draft the up draft, the draft in which you fix it up.
You will make your writing work much easier if you use the first drafting technique. Don't be tempted to start right in on good writing. It requires advance planning. If you spend the effort and take the time to do this advance planning, your actual writing time will be shorter and less filled with frustration and false starts.
Beginning The Evaluation Process
Before you apply yourself to the evaluation of your draft, you may want to subject it to a peer review. That's a fancy way of saying that you consult with a trusted friend to get an objective opinion about your work. This is not an obligatory step, but it's a very popular one that you may want to try.
There's hardly a professional writer alive who doesn't have a back-up team of other writers who read early drafts and provide feedback, no matter how rough the drafts are. In many cities, writers rent office space together where they can sit side by side and easily compare early drafts. Next time you go past a coffee shop, take a look around; you're likely to spot writers hunched over a small table together comparing rough drafts.
How To Conduct A Peer Review
If you choose to have a peer review, select your reviewer carefully. You're asking a big favor: a serious reading of your work that results in thoughtful input. You need a friend you can trust to take on this assignment seriously. Give your friend a deadline (the next day is usually good) and set a time when the two of you can sit together quietly and go over the essay draft together. The job of the reviewer is not to correct your grammar and spelling. The reviewer's assignment is to get an overview of your essay, its thesis and conclusion, its strengths and its weaknesses, and in so doing help you figure out how to start improving it.
Write out for your reviewer a short list of questions about your essay draft to help guide the review process:
- What is your overall impression of the essay? Thumbs up or thumbs down?
- Did it interest you or bore you? (Be honest.)
- Were there places in which you wished for more explanation?
- Did you get confused anywhere?
- Were you convinced by my thesis and conclusion?
During the peer review session with your friend, take careful notes on the feedback you get. (And remember to say thank you.)
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