Revision

Revision is the process of revisiting your work to make sure it says what you want it to say. You need to be flexible and prepared to make major structural and organizational changes. It takes time and is a circular process, which means going back over your work several times throughout the writing process.

What is the difference between revision and proofreading?

Proofreading is the final stage in revising and editing your writing, whereas revision looks at more global aspects of your writing such as the argument, flow, logic, evidence, and organization of your work. Only when you are satisfied with these larger aspects of your writing is it time to proofread.

Note that the Writing Centre will not proofread your paper and make changes for you. We will help you determine your personal problem areas and teach you to proofread your own work.

General strategies

  • Get some distance
    • Take a break. Go for a walk. Give yourself at least a few hours between finishing a draft and picking it back up again for revision.
  • Print out a hard copy of your work and revise from a hard copy.
  • Read your work out loud
    • Your ears are better at finding problems than your eyes are, especially when you have been working on a piece of writing for a while.
  • Revise and proofread in stages
    • Don't try to review all your work at once. If you do, you'll likely become frustrated and miss what you want to change.
  • Review large elements first
    • Pay attention to large, overall concerns like content and structure. Work on smaller items like grammar and punctuation last.
  • Keep re-reading
    • Keep re-reading your work to make sure your entire paper makes sense as you make changes.
  • Get feedback
    • Give your work to others for feedback. Seeing how your work is understood by a reader can help you improve your writing in new ways.

Specific strategies

Content

When reviewing your content, make sure your information is presented clearly, at the right time, with sufficientdepth,detail, andrelevancefor the purpose of your work. Check that there is no extra or irrelevant information. It's hard to let go of ideas and thoughts, but if they don't fit, they must be cut.

Questions to ask:

  • Is mypurposeclear?
  • Is mymain idea/thesisstated early?
  • Do I have sufficientevidenceordatato support my ideas?
  • Is all my materialrelevantto my purpose?
  • Have I addressed my readers'potential questions?

Structure

The shape and flow of your paper or assignment is very important. Your reader should be able to follow thelogicandpathof your argument, easily and without feeling surprised, confused, or lost.

Questions to ask:

  • Are my ideas presentedlogically?
  • Do I introducenew informationby connecting it to what I've already said?
  • Do I connect back to mythesisorpurposeto show how pieces fit into the overall paper?
  • Is my informationeasy to follow? Does the writingflow?
  • Have Irepeatedany ideas in more than one place?
  • Are any partstoo longortoo short?
  • Does my organization follow thestructurerequired for the assignment?

To see whether your paper presents information in a logical order, make a reverse outline:

  • Summarizeeach paragraph in a single sentence.
  • Arrangethese summaries according to the order of your paragraphs.
  • Evaluatethe outline. Do you notice any gaps in information or places where the content should be rearranged?

For more information, take a look at our reverse outline resource.

Paragraphs

Each paragraph or section should be a well-organized, self-contained unit that focuses on amain ideaand/or servesone purpose. Check to see whether each paragraph is cohesive by ensuring that all of your informationflowsand is connected, like a chain, from beginning to end.

Questions to ask:

  • Does the paragraph focus on asingle idea?
  • Does the idea clearly relate to mythesisorpurpose?
  • Do I begin with atopic sentenceto summarize the paragraph?
  • Do I provideevidenceand otherdetailsto support any argument/claims I make?
  • Do I provide sufficientexplanationandanalysisto connect the paragraph's main idea, the evidence, and my thesis?
  • Do I finish the paragraph with asummary?

Clarity

Sentences can be different lengths, but each sentence should focus onone pointorideaas clearly and concisely as possible.

Questions to ask:

  • Are any sentencestoo longwithtoo many ideas?
  • Do any sentences havemore words than needed?
  • Can I replace vague words with morepreciselanguage?
  • Do I use theright word(not the biggest word) for what I want to say?
  • Can I state an idea moresimply?

Read your sentences out loud. If you find yourself losing interest, or having to reread to make sense, it's time to rewrite.