Revision – the Basics


Revising comes before editing and proofreading and is more subjective. Revision takes place throughout your writing process and involves a thoughtful second (or third, fourth) look at the content of your paper.revise


As you review and revise your draft, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you saying what you mean to say?
  • Does your essay build in some coherent sequence?
  • Have you provided all the necessary details for your reader?
  • Have you avoided the inclusion of unnecessary or irrelevant “fluff”?
  • Are your arguments clear and logical?
  • Have you addressed the assignment instructions?

Revision requires a focus on the big issues in your paper – a critical re-examination of what you are saying, making changes along the way as you make new discoveries and gain new insights. Chances are, you already do this to some degree with everything you write but you may not be consciously thinking of it as “revision”. So, become more aware of this as a central part of all writing and try these strategies:

Revise as you go.

Sometimes we make discoveries and gain insight simply by writing. So, see all of your writing as subject to change.

Come back later.

Revision is often best when we see our own writing with fresh eyes after some time has passed. Come back later and read your paper with a critical new perspective.

Reviewing Your Thesis

Focus on your thesis, or your central idea. Do you still feel the same way? Has your perspective changed as a result of doing research? Does your writing/thinking still support the central idea? Do your sources support your central idea? Or do changes have to be made? Remember, your thesis is always evolving.

Look for balance.

Does your paper include a balanced approach? Does it include what needs to be included? Have you overemphasized one section at the expense of another?

Check for organization.

If there are distinct sections to your paper, are they organized in a way that makes sense? Do the various parts of the paper do what they intend to do? Do they adhere to a coherent pattern that will make sense to your reader?

Be ruthless.

Some people find it very difficult to throw things away. And once you have spent time thinking hard and writing something down, it can be very difficult to part with them. But, if something no longer fits, have no hesitation to toss it out. It’s part of the process and your paper will be strengthened.

Don’t be a perfectionist.

Writing is messy and rarely “finished”. Your aim is to produce something interesting and it doesn’t need to be perfect. It’s just your attempt at an idea. Remember, the word “essay” comes from the French word meaning to try.