Editing an academic paper is just as important for its overall success as writing it. The first draft of an assignment is virtually never ideal – there are always ways to improve it, ranging from those that add slight polish to fundamental structural changes that dramatically alter the impact caused by the paper. In other words, it is never a good idea to submit the assignment to your professor immediately after you have finished writing it. Let it rest for a while and then get back to it – you will immediately see a dozen ways to improve upon what you have already written. However, it is much better to do this sort of thing using a plan – and in this article, we offer exactly this: a checklist you can use to guide yourself through the process of editing. Here are the questions you have to ask yourself.
When you write an academic paper, you usually have to answer a specific question or carry out a specific task. In the process of writing, especially if the paper in question is large enough, it is easy to gradually steer away from your original direction and go off on a tangent, either failing to give a full answer or forgetting about your initial intentions altogether. Check if you did so in your paper and make the necessary alterations.
The first thing you have to concern yourself with is whether your paper works well as a whole. Is it coherent and cohesive? Do the points you cover follow each other in a logical manner? Does your reasoning add up? Are there any gaps in your logic? Do you have to add anything to better connect the individual parts of your argument?
Despite dealing with a fairly formal aspect of assignment writing, it is one of the most important stages. You may even write it down for yourself somewhere: “When I edit my paper, I have to properly reference every source.” The reason is simple – by failing to do so, you not only make a mistake, but also create grounds for a plagiarism accusation, and it is about the worst thing that can happen to a piece of academic writing. So, go over your paper and carefully check if you placed all the quotation marks correctly and put all the sources into your bibliography list.
The structure of an academic paper may differ according to its genre, topic, the discipline you study, the task you were given, and many other factors. However, usually, it has to have a clearly defined introduction, body, and conclusion, all working together to answer the question posed to you. They should proceed forward logically and be connected to each other by this common goal.
If you have been assigned a word limit, it usually not just means that you should not exceed it, but also that your paper should not be much shorter than it is. Depending on whether your paper is too long or too short, you have to consider adding or removing individual segments, eliminating superfluous words and sentences, fleshing out the points that did not get enough attention, and so on. You may want to either add extra evidence to back up your argument or remove irrelevant pieces of information.
A topic sentence is a sentence located at the beginning of a paragraph that presents its main idea so that the reader understands what the paragraph will be about. Topic sentences are important both because they make it easier to follow the author’s arguments and because they simplify navigation – if the reader wants to find a particular place in the paper, s/he can simply skim through it, reading only the topic sentences, and quickly locate the necessary fragment.
Both writing and editing a paper can be tricky, but it is always easier to perform a task if you have a clear-cut plan. Follow this checklist, and editing will no longer seem like such a cumbersome task to you.