AND REVISING ... AND REVISING ... AND REVISING
For most writing, it is normal to have to revise, not just once but several times. You will use a similar process for editing presentations, posters, websites, and other projects. The process and questions below may be easily adapted regardless of the format you use to share your research.
The first time you revise, try to focus on big picture, global edits. Now is not the time to worry about making each sentence perfect, although you can certainly fix any errors as you notice them. Ask yourself these kinds of questions:
- Do you have a clear and meaningful purpose that your audience will care about?
- Is the organization logical and effective? Is it the best organization to support your thesis? Do any sections need to be reordered?
- Do you have sufficient evidence and arguments to support your claims?
- Are there any sections that need more development?
- Are there any sections that do not support your thesis and should be deleted?
- Is the point of view consistent and appropriate for the assignment?
Once you are happy with the overarching content and structure of your draft, then it's time to focus on specific language choices.
CHECKLIST FOR CONTENT AND STYLE
The following checklist can help you or an editor evaluate your research paper draft:
- Does the introductory section:
- Provide appropriate background information?
- Validate the importance of the topic? (E.g., can you answer, "So what?")
- Tell the reader where you are going?
- Avoid using cliched, overly dramatic, or otherwise ridiculous "hooks"?
- Is the thesis statement clear, original, and focused?
- Does the organization follow logically from your introduction and thesis statement? Can the reader easily follow along?
- Does every main idea or claim relate back to your thesis statement or purpose?
- Are the sources sufficiently varied throughout the paper?
- Are all ideas and information taken from sources cited correctly, whether summarized, paraphrased, or quoted directly?
- Are all ideas and information taken from sources clearly introduced and explained?
- Are all quotations:
- Integrated smoothly into your text?
- Reproduced exactly as they appear in the original, with any modifications indicated with brackets and ellipses?
- Important enough to include (i.e., be careful you are not using too many, which can overshadow your own voice and arguments)?
- Do you have a conclusion that synthesizes the whole, reinforces your thesis, and leaves the reader with a sense of closure?
- Is the point of view consistent and appropriate for your audience and purpose (e.g., in most academic writing the first person is not acceptable, but in a "three-search" paper it may be expected)?
- Is tense consistent and appropriate for your discipline (e.g., literature is usually discussed in the present tense whereas historical events are discussed in the past)?
- Is your voice confident and engaging?
- Is your word choice powerful and precise? Is your sentence structure varied and well constructed?
- Have you observed all rules for grammar, punctuation, and mechanics?
CHECKLIST FOR MLA FORMATTING
Before you submit your paper, make sure it meets all the guidelines for MLA formatting.
This is one of the easiest things to get right, which is why it is one of the most frustrating to your teachers when you get it wrong. When the format of your paper is sloppy or incorrect, it undermines your overall credibility as a researcher: the reader can't help but wonder what other corners were cut.
Check your paper for the following:
- Did you use 8.5 x 11 white paper with black ink?
- Are your margins one inch on all sides?
- Did you use a 12 point standard font, preferably Times New Roman?
- Did you double space the entire document, with no extra spacing between any sections and no sections single spaced? This includes the title of the paper and the Works Cited page.
- Did you include a heading with your name, your teacher's name, the name of the class, and the date in European format (e.g., "21 January 2015") at the top left of the page, also double spaced?
- Did you include a header with your last name and page number at the top right of each page? Watch the MLA Format in Google Docs screencast to see how.
- Is your title capitalized and centered above the body of the paper, with no other special formatting?
- Did you italicize the titles of longer sources and put the titles of shorter sources in quotation marks? There should be no underlining in your paper, though you may italicize a word or phrase for emphasis if necessary.
- Did you follow the rules for formatting your Works Cited page:
- Is your Works Cited a new page in your paper?
- Did you give it the title Works Cited, centered at the top of the page, with no additional formatting?
- Is it double spaced with no extra spaces between citations or the title?
- For each citation, are all lines after the first indented?
- Are all entries alphabetized by the first letter of the citation?
- Did you staple your paper at the top left corner? Did you resist the uncanny temptation to use a report cover or title page unless specifically requested by your teacher?
If you cannot answer YES to these questions, go back and fix it! If you can, your paper is finished. :)