First Draft, Revisions, Final Steps

Once you have completed your literature review and outline, writing the text of your paper is now a matter of putting all of the pieces together. All writers (no matter how good or experienced) need to write more than one draft to produce a quality written work. Be prepared to do so from the beginning and make sure you leave enough time before the paper is due to write revisions of your paper.

Don't be too concerned with the right word or saying things just perfectly when you write your first draft. The general guideline is to simply write and revise later. With the use of computers, the mechanics of revising papers is a snap; so don't be afraid to make some early mistakes. It is a good idea to print the first draft using double or triple spaces so that you have plenty of room to edit and revise.

 

Revisions

Once the first draft of your paper is complete, the most difficult part of writing a paper is over. Now comes the fun part. First of all, make sure you carefully read the paper word for word. Sometimes it helps to read the paper out-loud. Let some time pass between the first draft and revision (at least a day). Check the organization of the paper with the outline. The two should be consistent. Check for style, organization and clarity. Does the paper make sense? Does it flow smoothly from one section to the next? Ask someone who is not familiar with the topic to read the paper and summarize what they have read. Request that they "be tough" on you and inform you of things that are unclear (their job is not to feed your ego, but instead to help improve your paper). If they are lost or confused, the paper needs to be revised. Don't be afraid to discard material when it doesn't fit or is redundant with an earlier section (I know this is difficult to do, but more writing is not necessarily better writing). As difficult as it sounds, sometimes you may need to take a completely new or different approach. Sometimes a section needs to be moved to another part of the paper. With the use of a word processor (don't even consider using a typewriter to prepare your paper), this can be done in seconds. Don't be afraid to ask your professors to proof read your paper. However, be sure to give them plenty of time to do so before the paper is due.

There is absolutely no excuse for spelling errors. Not only do they detract from the quality of the paper, but they also reflect poorly on you.

When revising the first draft, pay special attention to the paragraphs. These are the basic building blocks of your paper. Make sure they are not too long or too short (guideline: the paragraph should be at least 5 sentences long, but typically no longer than ten). Make sure each sentence is consistent with the main theme of the paragraph. Make sure that the material presented in each sentence is consistent with both the sentence that preceded it and that which comes next. Make sure that you support your statements, even when the ideas are your own. Go to the "Tips for Technical Writing" section for a number of suggestions for improving your writing.

Last Step

Once you have made the revisions, the last step is to proof read the paper one more time before you submit it. You should be checking for grammar, spelling, errors, clarity and general flow of the paper. MAJOR POINT: NEVER (repeat), NEVER HAND IN A PAPER WITHOUT PROOF READING IT FIRST. You run the risk of jeopardizing your grade.