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Revising for Organization and Coherence

After you have revised for content, your next step is to revise for organization. In this step, you will examine your paper to see if the organization is logical. First, re-read the paper. Ask you read, ask yourself these questions.

Do you need to:

Reverse Outline: If you are unsure of your paper's organization, it can be useful to create a reverse outline. Do this by writing one - two word descriptors in the margin next to each paragraph. Then you can step back and decide if the paragraphs move in a logical order, or rearrange them until you are satisfied.

Re-arrange: You can also take a print-out of your paper and cut apart all of the paragraphs and mix them up. Next put them in the right order. If you are not sure where a paragraph goes, consider revising or removing it. At this point you have the option of moving, deleting, or adding sentences in order to ensure you have strong paragraphs.

Revise for coherence. Here you are looking to see that all the parts fit together logically in a sensible and pleasing way. Improve coherence by reading only the first and last sentences of each paragraph. Do they move smoothly from one to the next? If not, revise them or add sentences to accomplish that goal.1

Look to make sure that everything in each paragraph directly relates to the topic sentence. Ask yourself if there is anything you might say to make your point stronger. Improve your organization by inserting transitional phrases or paragraphs, or by adding clarifying and elaborating information. Use this tool to strengthen your transition.

  • Do you offer a road map of your paper in your thesis statement and through your headings (if you use them)?
  • Do you use smooth transitional sentences that lead from one topic to the next?
  • Does the paper stay consistent within the various topics?
  • Have you used pronouns and repetitions within paragraphs to indicate continuation of the topic?
  • Do you comment in the document about the significance of the information you have introduced to your argument (especially direct quotations)?
For more help revising your organization, make an appointment!

Revised: 07/11

1These revision tips incorporate suggestions from Donald Zimmermann and Dawn Rodrigues's Research and Writing in the Disciplines. (Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publisher, 1992.)

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