Simple Steps to Writing, Revising and Editing an essay
Writing a good essay requires refined critical thinking, which can be improved by experience. But one of the key elements to a good essay is form, and we are here to help you with it. There are numerous forms of writing that we face everyday. The following is an explanation of the process of writing in a simple and understandable way.
An essay can have many purposes, but the basic structure is basically the same. You may be writing an essay to argue for a particular point of view or to explain the steps necessary to complete a task.
Either way, your essay will have the same basic format.
If you follow these simple steps, you will find that writing an essay is easier than you had initially thought.
- Select your topic.
- Choose the thesis, or main idea of your essay.
- Prepare an outline or diagram of your main ideas.
- Outline your essay into introductory, body and summary paragraphs.
- State your thesis idea in the first paragraph.
- Finish the introductory paragraph with a short summary or goal statement.
- In each of the body paragraphs the ideas first presented in the introductory paragraph are developed.
- Develop your body paragraphs by giving explanations and examples.
- The last paragraph should restate your basic thesis of the essay with a conclusion.
- After you followed these easy steps your writing will improve and become more coherent. Always remember, form is only a part of the process. You become a better writer primarily by reflecting and analyzing rather than memorizing.
Guidelines on how to revise an essay
The best writers revise. And they revise again. Then they revise yet again. So, given that professional writers revise, it would be wise for beginning and intermediate writers to revise, too. One Professor, when asked how students could improve their writing, said these three words: "Revise, revise, revise." It's such a common mantra for writers and artists that a recent online search came up with over 16,000 hits for the phrase!
Revision means, literally, to see again. There are several stages to revision.
The first thing to consider is the goal of revision: Writing to communicate.
In order to communicate well, here are some guidelines to consider while you revise:
- Don't necessarily include everything
- Especially for academic writing, include a thesis, which is your answer to a (researched) question or your (reasoned or researched) position on a debatable topic.
- Include clear markers or transitions, citation of sources, and other help so readers can follow you along the path of your thoughts (argument, analysis, critique)
- Include the main points and the highlights from your research or reasoning that which supports your thesis, and that which might appear to contradict your thesis except that you, as a "tour guide," will explain why the material doesn't fit or why the contradictory material is wrong, and that which readers might reasonably expect, given your subject matter
- Include support and evidence for each main point, which might be logical reasoning, explanations, data, and arguments of your own; or evidence, arguments, and theories from other sources (properly credited)
- Often you should include answers to these questions: who, what, where, when, why and how about the whole topic; about major sources, theories, concepts; and about major developments related to the topic
- Make sure the result is clear communication that will be understood by your intended audience
Revision gives new life to your writing. The first stage involves going through the draft and reorganizing main ideas and supporting ideas so that they are grouped in a way that is understandable to your reader. Your organization will usually first put forward stronger points (in an argument), earlier information (for a narrative), or background (in many cases). However you organize, your readers need to understand what you are trying to communicate.
After that, refine your arguments and evidence, your descriptions, and all of the details, so that they give a sense of the writing being of one piece, or a whole. Let one description arise from another, or one piece of evidence support the next. Put all of the pieces in that are needed, and remove those that are not.
Even the most experienced writers make inadvertent errors while revising--removing a word or adding a phrase that changes the grammar, for instance.
Here are some tips to help focus your revision:
- Have other readers looked it over? A professor, boss, classmates, colleagues, roommates or friends
- Explain to a few different people what you've written, same group as other readers
- Read more on the topic (new sources, but also revisit already cited sources)
- Make an outline or highlight your draft as though it were a reading
- Set it aside for a day or two (longer, if possible) and then re-read it
- Read aloud to yourself
- Read it backwards
- Make a presentation. Presenting your paper orally to others often helps shape and focus your ideas
- Write a new introduction and conclusion, and then see if the paper fits the new introduction and the new conclusion
- The final stage or revision is copy editing, or proof reading.
Tips for editing a paper or an essay
Good editing or proofreading skills are just as important to the success of an essay, paper or thesis as good writing skills. The editing stage is a chance to strengthen your arguments with a slightly more objective eye than while you are in the middle of writing.
Indeed, editing can turn a good essay or paper into a brilliant one, by paying close attention to the overall structure and the logical flow of an argument. Here we will offer some tips on how to edit a paper or an essay.
Tips for editing a paper or essay:
1. Read over other things you have written, to see if you can identify a pattern in your writing, such as problematic punctuation, or repeated use of the same adjectives.
2. Take a break between the writing and editing.
3. Read by sliding a blank page down your lines of writing, so you see one line at a time. Even in editing or proofreading, it is easy to miss things and make mistakes.
4. Read the paper out loud to get a sense of the punctuation, and make any changes to parts that feel unnatural to read.
5. Allow someone else to read over your paper, fresh eyes can see things you will not see.
Revision Process: Improving the Strength of Your Paper
Now that a few days have passed since your sigh of relief after completing your rough draft, take a deep breath, and dive into the revision process. If you have not taken a few days off, do so before beginning your revisions. The break gives you better perspective on how well you convey your message.
The revision process involves several steps:
- Deleting information
- Adding information
- Clarifying sections
- Examining your content
- Looking at sentence structure and syntax
With so many steps, you want to tackle each area individually. Do not try to barge through your research paper during the revision process to fix everything at once. Instead, take each aspect of the process on its own. Read your paper out loud slowly to pinpoint areas that need improvement more easily. As you read, ask yourself a series of questions that help you identify areas that need changes.
Revision process question #1: What is your main point?
Making sure your main point is clear during the revision process involves examining your thesis statement. Read your introduction paragraph, and set the paper aside. Can you summarize your thesis and the main points to support it? Does the introduction let you know what you can expect to read in the rest of your paper? If you cannot answer yes to those questions, spend some time clarifying your thesis and reworking your introduction paragraph.
Revision process question #2: Does your paper address your audience appropriately?
Part of the revision process is ensuring your paper addresses your audience in the right way. When considering your audience, look at both the vocabulary you use and the concepts you introduce.Can someone who is unfamiliar with your topic understand your paper? If you cannot answer yes, spend some time explaining confusing concepts and using easier-to-understand vocabulary, or define the vocabulary you do use.
Revision process question #3: What is the purpose or goal of your paper?
This step in the revision process involves easily identifying the goal of your paper. This should be clear while reading your paper. Are you arguing for or against a position, evaluating existing research, comparing your research to existing research, applying the research to a particular situation and attempting to draw conclusions or something else? You know the answer before reading your paper while revising, but does the content of your paper give you the right answer?
Revision process question #4: Is your thesis supported with evidence?
This step in the revision process involves looking at the supporting evidence in the body paragraphs of your paper. Is your thesis supported by the evidence you present? Is there sufficient evidence to support the position you take or any claims you make? Is all information that requires in-text citations properly cited? If you cannot answer yes to these questions, work on supplying more evidence and ensuring it is properly cited. This is the step where you can incorporate more evidence and supporting details if you did not include them while writing the rough draft.
Revision process question #5: Is supporting evidence relevant?
Looking at the evidence during the revision process is also about making sure it is relevant to the thesis. If you find pieces of information or ideas that do not relate to the thesis, omit that information. If it is a large portion of your paper, revise and clarify your thesis statement to reflect the change. Ultimately, you should be able to answer “yes” when you ask yourself this question: Is everything in my paper relevant to my thesis?
Revision process question #6: Is your vocabulary appropriate?
The revision process also involves examining your vocabulary choices. Do you use consistent vocabulary throughout the entire paper? Do you use the same word repeatedly where a synonym works just as well? Do you leave words undefined that should be defined? Are you descriptive enough? Do you use too many pronouns? Are there portions that are wordy, vague or contain words that are used incorrectly? Is anything confusing? Use this step in the revision process to make sure you can answer these questions correctly, and make revisions until your vocabulary is clear, free of awkward pauses and strong.
Revision process question #7: Are there grammatical and spelling errors?
Reading to correct grammatical and spelling errors is an important part of the revision process. If grammar is not your strong suit, consider asking someone else to proofread it for you, or take it to a writing center for review. You want your final revision to be free of both types of these errors. Make sure you are checking the spelling of all words because most spell checkers do not catch all misspelled words, missing or duplicate words or erroneous words that result from typos. Also ensure your grammar, mechanics and punctuation is up to par.
Revision process question #8: Do you wrap up the conclusion effectively?
Looking at your conclusion is also part of the revision process. When looking at the conclusion, consider whether it is backed up by the content of your paper? Does it summarize your thesis and the main points? Does it leave your readers with something to think about after reading the entire paper? Is the thesis resolved in some fashion? Remember your conclusion is the last chance to leave an impression with readers, so make sure it is powerful and appropriate while it draws your topic to a close.
You should engage in the revision process over a longer period of time. Trying to pinpoint all the areas that need improvement in one read-through of your paper is not only difficult, it is almost impossible. Remember to read slowly and carefully while reading your words out loud. Make notes where improvements are needed. After working through one revision, set the paper aside, and then go through the process again. Expect to complete several revision drafts as you work to finalize your paper, always remembering to take your time and think critically.