Creating a rough draft and seeking feedback on the draft should be seen as a necessary stage in the research process. In practice, academics often create numerous drafts of a paper or book manuscript, submitting them to colleagues informally and presenting them at conferences prior to publication.

After writing an initial draft, and prior to submitting a final version, you will want to read through the paper carefully. There are are least four general steps to consider. The first step is to focus on the big picture. Does the paper accomplish what you want it to? Is your overall intent and message clear to the reader? Second, consider: does the overall structure of the paper make sense? Are all of the sections useful and necessary for the paper? One of the more difficult tasks in revising can involve cutting out material that is no longer relevant to the primary purpose of a paper. Third, you should proofread the paper. Check for spelling, grammatical, and typographical errors. But don’t do that until you have already addressed the first two steps above. Finally, have someone else read the paper and provide feedback. Ask them to consider the points above, perhaps guided by the form provided below. Most schools have writing centers that can facilitate this process. (See, for instance, the Monmouth College Writing Center).

Below is (1) a Guide for Revision and Editing that can be downloaded,  (2) further resources on revision, and (3) some further tips for revision.

Guide for Revision and Editing

Below is a brief guide as well as a downloadable version for criteria you may want to consider while evaluating your written work.

Peer Editing Worksheet [docx] [pdf]

Criteria Notes
The best thing about this paper is…
–        Can you find it?  Does it make a clear argument?
–        Is the argument focused enough to be covered in the paper?
–        Does it accurately voice the main idea of the paper?
Follows General Instructions
–        Uses outside sources and sources from class readings
–        Uses concepts from the course
–        Topic is appropriate for class
–        Is the thesis supported in the body of the paper?  Is any evidence or support missing?  Is all of the textual evidence clearly related to the thesis?  If some information is not relevant, can it be cut?  Is there any information that contradicts the thesis?
–        includes counterarguments/alternative arguments
–        Is the paper interesting?  What are the most interesting points?  Can the writer expand on those to improve the paper?
–        creative and original ideas?
–        Coherence. Do any of the ideas seem vague?  What can the writer explain more thoroughly that would help the reader?  Is the purpose of the essay clear?
–        Is the structure apparent and easy to follow?
–        Is there a logic to the structure?
–        Adequate introduction?
–        Are there adequate transitions to help connect ideas?
–        Adequate summary of findings and reasonable conclusion?
Style, Grammar & Spelling
–        Is the style appropriate (formal and academic in this case)?
–        Is the reader too tentative about their thoughts?  Does s/he rely too heavily on phrases like “I think” or “It seems…” or “approximately”
–        Does the paper engage the reader?
–        Are some sections better written than others?
–        Are sentences well formed? Appropriately varied in length and style? Used for different effects?
–        Do the paragraphs hold together?
–        Is the paper generally free of spelling, typographical, and grammatical errors?

Resources on Revising

Further Tips

  1. Don’t wait until the last minute to revise and proofread. Indeed, it is best to take a short break between writing your initial draft and beginning the revision process.
  2. Try reading the first sentence of each paragraph. The overall structure and message of a paper should be apparent and somewhat easy to follow when doing this.
  3. Try reading the entire paper aloud. This is a great way to catch grammatical and typographical errors.
  4. Try to put yourself in the position of the intended audience. Pretend you have never looked at the paper before and reread it. Does it still make sense? What are the best and worst parts of the paper?
  5. If your paper addresses a clear research question, does every part of the paper clearly relate to that question? If you read a passage and can’t find a direct relationship, it may be that you can cut that passage.
  6. Use headings to organize major sections of your paper, especially if the paper is long.
  7. Use the grammar check and spelling check capabilities of software such as Microsoft Word. They are not perfect, but can catch many mistakes.
  8. Try to find ways to simplify the language of your paper. Aim to be concise.
  9. Try to avoid common pitfalls in undergraduate writing. These include:
  10. Take the time to appreciate what is best about what you have written!


updated July 14, 2017 – MN