Revising the Big Picture of Your Essay Help

Updated on Sep 6, 2011

Introduction to Revising Your Essay

This lesson deals with the revision process. It shows you how to revise for three important "big picture" issues: fulfilling the assignment, stating a clear thesis, and providing strong support.

From the Latin revisere, meaning to visit or look at again, revision is the most general re-examination of your essay. But it can also seem like the most overwhelming; it's harder to step back and look at your entire essay with fresh eyes and ears than it is to correct spelling and punctuation errors. But this is a critical step in which you make sure you have achieved your goal, and see if any sections of the essay need improving.

Revision takes place on a couple of levels: the "big picture" or essay level, and the paragraph level. It makes sense to look at your writing on these levels first, before jumpig into editing or proofreading. Think of it this way: Why take the time to correct grammatical errors and reword sentences if you might delete those sentences later in the revision process?


You can look at your essay with "fresh eyes" in two ways—literally, by giving your work to a trusted reader for feedback, and figuratively, by examining your own work as if you've never seen it before.

If you think professional writers work alone, think again. They know how important it is to get feedback before they send their work to the publisher—it's not uncommon for them to share their work with a number of trusted readers first. That strategy is important for your essays, too. Readers can help you pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of your writing. They can tell you what works well, and what doesn't; what comes across clearly to them, and what confuses them.

When you share your writing with people you trust to give you honest feedback, ask them:

  • What do you like about my essay?
  • Is there anything that seems confusing or unclear?
  • What do you think my purpose was in writing this essay?
  • Is there anything you need to know more about, or that needs more explanation?
  • What do you think I could do to improve this essay?

These questions can also work when you direct them to yourself. But before you reread for revising, take a break. The best revisions take place a day or two after you've completed your draft. That time lets you approach your work with the "fresh eyes"we mentioned earlier in this lesson.

Try reading your essay aloud. Read as if you are presenting it to an audience, and listen to your words. This technique can help you find places where your wording sounds awkward, or where your sentences are confusing or too long. You can also hear where your writing simply doesn't convey what you intended it to. Mark those areas that sound as if they should be revised, making notes of ideas for how to improve them. Remember to keep in mind the following:

  • Does my essay fulfill the assignment?
  • Is my thesis statement clear? Is it easily identifiable?
  • Are my ideas well supported with examples, evidence, and details?
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