Revising Content

Once you have your first draft, it will require revision. To determine what needs reworking, read the entire paper—preferably aloud! As you’re reading, consider: What works? What doesn't? Is this content necessary for understanding the larger topic? Now, get more specific. Working through paragraph by paragraph, ask yourself the purpose of each in terms of the thesis.

During the revision stage of the writing process, you have the opportunity to step back from your text and make changes so readers can more clearly understand. Revision typically means you are making sure your information is well organized, appropriate and complete. This is your opportunity to remove unnecessary text, rearrange paragraphs, or add sections/paragraphs. You may even find it necessary to do more research for a particular part of your paper. That is all part of the process.

Revise for content first. If you have received a rubric for the assignment, take some time to look it over side-by-side with paper to make sure you have fulfilled all the requirements. Do not do any other revisions until the content revision is complete. Ask yourself the following questions:

Have I

  • Explained why I conducted this research?
  • Clarified how this research fits into other research?
  • Provided all necessary details and contextual information?
  • Reported results?
  • Confirmed the logic of my reasoning and inference?

If your answer to any of these questions is no (or even maybe), focus on developing or revising your content before moving on.

Next, revise for organization. After you feel comfortable with your content, consider the organization of your draft. See Revising for Organization to learn strategies for improving the structure of your paper and the logical presentation of your ideas.

Finally, focus on the surface level. After you've revised for content and organization, turn your attention to the surface level of your paper. In this final stage of revision, you should look for ways to improve the clarity, consistency, and correctness of your writing at the sentence- and word-level. Edit for grammar, word choice, correct citations, and similar errors in this stage. Use the following list to fine-tune your language.

Improve clarity and consistency by:

  • incorporating strong, active verbs
  • replacing nominalizations (nouns made from verbs) with strong verbs
  • reducing "there are" and "it is" constructions
  • deleting excessive and unnecessary phrases (I believe, in order to, etc.)
  • replacing vague words with precise words or phrases
  • reducing wordiness
  • maintaining appropriate verb tense
  • using parallel structure

Revised: 04/19

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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