The notion of “revision” is tied to the word’s very meaning, and that is to see again, to take a fresh look at something. This stage of the writing process is most often skipped over or rushed through in the interest of completing the paper and turning it in. The life of an undergraduate is a busy one, and whether you are the kind of person who can only allot a certain amount of time for a given assignment, or prefer to put the assignment off until hours before it is due, it is important to allow yourself a sufficient amount of time to proofread and revise your paper before you turn it in. The rewards are a stronger paper, a more interesting and coherent paper, and possibly a higher grade.
Depending on how much time you have to spend revising your paper, following these points will help strengthen your final product. Remember, the more time you can allot yourself for this activity and the more steps you can go through, the better the paper can be.
If you have minutes to an hour before turning in the paper . . .
Slowly read the paper through out loud making sure sentences make sense and flow together smoothly. Reading the paper out loud will make errors and incorrect word usages more obvious to you. When reading, pay careful attention to spelling, remember that your computer’s spell check does not pick up everything and you may have used the wrong word in a given instance. Print out your paper and mark any errors you see with a pen, correct them on the screen before printing out your final clean copy. It is often easier to read a hard copy of a paper than one on a computer screen.
If you have a few hours to spend revising . . .
Print out the paper and read it aloud backwards. Begin with the last sentence and read each sentence which comes before it. This way you can isolate each sentence and find grammatical mistakes on a sentence level. After rereading the paper, highlight your thesis statement and where in your paragraphs you have your major support sentences for that thesis. Ask yourself if you have sufficient examples and proof supporting your various statements. Be sure your important sentences are at the tops of paragraphs and not buried within them; be sure your thesis statement is present and clearly stated. Feel free to move sentences and paragraphs to better organize your paper, computers make this easy. Outline the paper you have written and be sure it is organized in a clear way. Again, move ideas and paragraphs, or cut them altogether if they don’t work the way you want them to.
If you have a day or more to revise . . .
Ask a friend, your instructor, or a writing consultant to read your paper and let you know what does not make sense to them. Often, what makes sense to you in your paper may not be clear to someone who has not been involved with your topic like you have. This will insure you paper is clear to everyone who reads it. Put the paper in a drawer for a few hours, a day, or as long as you can allow. Often, letting time pass puts some distance between you and your paper and helps you have a fresh pair of eyes when reading it again. Things which once made sense might seem less clear after time, highlighting what aspects need to be reworked.
By allowing yourself more time after you finish you paper for revisions, you might realize that you need to make major changes to your thesis statement, or find a new topic altogether because this one did not work. The more time you have to rework the paper before handing it in, the better paper it will be for it.