Revising Your Draft Help (page 2)
Revising Your Paper
Now that you have done all the hard work, the rest is relatively easy. At this point, you should have a solid rough draft in front of you, and you should be ready to revise. Even if your rough draft seems to be too rough, and not a finished product yet, don't worry! This lesson will help you revise and polish your work and make it the best piece of writing that it can be.
If you are like most writers, your first draft is almost always a work in progress. This is normal. Gathering together all your written pages for the first time and looking at them as a finished product can be nerve wracking but also fun and exciting. It is important, however, especially at this stage in the writing process, not to be too judgmental or overly critical of either yourself or your work. You need to remain open-minded and flexible enough to allow your work to take form without editing it yet. At this initial stage, you should read through your material and ask yourself the following questions based on this checklist and criteria:
- Does your paper have a recognizable beginning, middle, and end?
- Have you presented a solid thesis?
- Have you provided ample evidence to support your thesis?
- Structure and Writing Style
- Do your ideas and writing flow?
- Are there smooth transitions from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, and from page to page?
- Is your analysis easy to follow and understand?
- Vocabulary and Tone
- Is your tone professional?
- Is the writing persuasive and compelling?
- Are there any unnecessary words, sentences, paragraphs, or pages that need to be omitted or rewritten?
- Are the paragraphs and sections of your paper in the right order?
- Are there places where information should be changed and shifted?
- Meaning and Content
- What is the overall effect or lasting impression of your work?
- What do you want the reader to take away after reading your paper?
Steps toward Revision
After you have gone through this initial checklist, it becomes much easier to see which parts of your paper you have targeted and what areas, specific pages, paragraphs, sentences, or words really need work. The first and most important thing that you want to do is to arrange all your pages one after the other, so that they make sense. If you need to cross out some material, go ahead and draw great big "X's" through any pages, paragraphs, sentences, and words that impede or interrupt the logical flow of your ideas. You next step is even easier. Use connecting and transitional phrases and words that you have learned to make sure that each paragraph is linked logically to the one above it and the one below it. If you have trouble connecting sentences or paragraphs, reword them slightly and see if that helps. As far as vocabulary and tone are concerned, use a red pen and take out or circle any conversational, slang, or colloquial words. If you need help thinking of more formal ways to express yourself, consul t a thesaurus or synonym dictionary.
The next step, sequencing, is one of the most fun parts to correct in your paper. If you have printed out a draft of your paper, take out a pair of scissors. If a paragraph seems out of place, simply cut it out and tape it where it belongs. In fact, another good way to visualize your paper that helps in sequencing is to tape your pages up against the wall. Stare at them in sequence. Do they belong in that order? If they don't, take a page, lift it off the wall and tape it next to another page. If you have your draft on a computer and prefer to work on the screen, simply cut and paste your paragraphs wherever you like.
Finally, in regard to meaning and content, pay careful attention to the end of your paper and your conclusion. Now that you have done all this work and are thoroughly knowledgeable about your topic, writing your conclusion should be much easier. Your conclusion, like your introduction—which included your thesis statement—is the second most important part of your paper. After all, your conclusion is the last thing your reader will see. What final impression do you want your readers to have about your work and subject matter? Take this time as you revise to rewrite your conclusion. Make it perfect and look over each word. Is your conclusion as powerful as it could be?
Toward a Final Revision
The beauty of revising is that you already have your material in front of you. You are no longer writing from scratch, you are simply refining and polishing. Take your time. Sit back and read your paper from beginning to end. Go through your checklist and allow yourself to take the time to perfect your paper. You can break your paper into manageable pieces during this revision process. Look at each paragraph and study each page. While this task may seem time consuming and needlessly slow at first, remember that revising, like writing, is a process. The more time you take revising your thoughts, the less you will have to edit. By thinking of the revision process as a puzzle you are completing, you will enjoy the challenge of putting all the final pieces into place.
The Final Draft
When you have gone through all the steps on the checklist and you have tinkered with all the words, sentences, paragraphs, and pages by changing, shifting, or rewriting them, put your paper away in a drawer. If you can leave it for a day or so, that's ideal. If you are working under a tight deadline, then just put your paper away for a few hours. This is important. It allows you to take some time and gain some distance so that when you come back to your paper to read the final draft, you can look at it critically and with the expertise of an informed but impartial observer. If you read your final draft too soon after reassembling it, you may not have adequate perspective to view your work as a whole. After a couple of hours or a day has passed, look at your new final draft. Print it out and make any necessary changes, but make sure that you keep your old draft or drafts as well. You might need to refer to them later. It's always good to look at those old drafts to see just how far you've come!
Revising a large work that has taken a while to write can seem like a daunting and unpleasant task. How do you revise a paper that has taken so many weeks to write? Break the process down into manageable pieces, work slowly and systematically, and have fun. If you work on your paper in sections, one piece at a time, your final draft will emerge all by itself before your very eyes.
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