Apply Now
Information For

Revise Your Work

Revise Your Work

Put your first draft aside in order to get distance from it, so that when you return to it you will see it as much as possible from the objective viewpoint of your audience. Then read the draft aloud, perhaps to a friend who can help you evaluate it, but at least to yourself. On first reading, look and listen only for problems with its content. Does it achieve its goal of persuading the audience? If not, why not? Perhaps some points need more examples or explanation to make them clear and persuasive, or perhaps some assertions need further backing by expert opinion or statistics. This might be the time when you discover that you need to do more research. If you do, it’s time to make a list of the information you must find, and head back to the library.

When your argument is as fully developed and persuasive as you can make it, write your thesis statement at the top of a piece of paper. Then reread the draft and, as you go, make an informal outline by jotting down the topic of each paragraph.  Even though you worked with an outline as your wrote your first draft, try this retrospective outline. It will tell you much about several facets of your paper:

  • Paragraph unity. As you made your retrospective outline, did you have trouble determining the topic of any paragraph? If so, you might need to rework that paragraph to make sure it addresses a single clear subject.
  • The paper’s focus. Check each paragraph’s topic against your thesis statement in order to make sure that your draft sticks to its thesis. Any topic that doesn’t relate to the thesis represents a digression that you should cut.
  • The paper’s organization. Check your informal outline to make sure it reflects a clear, strategic organization.

Next, scrutinize each paragraph. If you’ve cited sources in it, have you coherently integrated each source into your text? In the body of the paragraph, does each sentence connect clearly and logically to the next? Do you have a coherent transition from each paragraph to the next? When you’re satisfied with your paragraphs, tackle sentence-level revision:

  • Replace unnecessary passive verbs with active ones.
  • Cut wordiness.
  • Vary sentence length and structure.
  • Replace vague words with specific ones.
  • Substitute well chosen words for misused ones.

When you’ve finished revising, edit. Carefully look for and correct errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Avoid the temptation to rely solely on your computer’s grammar checker and spell checker; lots of problems escape them.

This material courtesy of and copyrighted by Tufts University.

Elizabethtown College