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Research Planning Guide

Use this guide to learn about the research process and plan your research project.

Step 12: Revise, Rewrite, and Proofread

If you've finished writing your paper, congratulations!  BUT WAIT! You're not finished, yet.  There's still more work to do. 

Look at it this way: Suppose you are a woodworker, and a client has ordered a custom-built chair.  You've made the parts and put the chair together, but it's not ready for delivery yet.  You need to test it, to make sure it can hold up when someone sits on it.  You need to sand it, to make sure there are no splinters or rough edges that will injure your client or ruin his clothes. You need to stain or seal the wood to protect it, and then polish it until it shines.  After this important work has been accomplished, you're finally ready to deliver your product. 

The same is true with your paper.  Before it's ready to turn in, you need to:

  • Test it - does it make sense? Have you supported your arguments? Is your research adequate?
  • Sand it - are there spelling, punctuation, or grammar errors that could interfere with the smooth communication of your ideas?
  • Polish it - format your paper in the style recommended or required by your professor. 

Your paper is not ready for "delivery" until all these steps have been accomplished.  For the first two steps, see the boxes below.  To put the final polish on your paper, see Step 13 in the Research Planning Guide.

Here are some links to other websites that discuss the importance of revising and rewriting your original draft:

Why Write Several Drafts? - great advice on editing and proofreading, from DeMontfort University.

Revising Drafts - strategies for effective revisions, from the University of North Carolina.

Revising the Draft - from Harvard, this site offers excellent suggestions for revising, plus a great example of revisions from E.B. White.

Proofreading

Proofreading is essential!  You've worked so hard on your paper up to this point—why would you waste all that time and effort by skipping the step that will help to make your paper the best it can be? 

Written communication is much harder than most people think.  When you're talking to your friends or family, you use words, of course, but you have other tools to help get your message across.  Your facial expressions, vocal inflections, and gestures help convey your meaning to your listeners.  But when you write, you only have your words.  You need to make sure that you have said what you mean to say.  That's when proofreading can really help.

There are several ways to proofread, and usually it's best to use more than one:

  • Start by running the spelling and grammar check program installed with your word processing software.
  • Read your paper out loud to yourself.  Many times you will hear when something's not quite right.
  • Ask a friend or family member to read your paper.  Encourage them to mark any mistakes they find, and let them ask questions about your topic.  Their questions may help you identify any weaknesses in your argument.
  • Better yet, read your paper out loud to friends or family members.  Ask for their HONEST opinions.  Ask them if they understood your arguments.  Discuss the topic and ask for any suggestions.  Above all, don't get your feelings hurt if your listeners are critical.  Their criticism can help you craft a better final product. 
  • Take your paper to the DBU Writing Center.  It's best to call ahead for an appointment.  The consultants in the Writing Center won't "fix" your paper, but they can point out common mistakes or faults in your logic that will help you produce the best paper possible. 

Remember this saying: "You don't run like you walk; you don't write like you talk."  Your professors expect a certain level of professional or academic tone (see "Using Academic English" in Step 11).  One purpose of writing papers in college is to help you learn to write like an adult—or like a professional—rather than a kid.  Take advantage of this opportunity to gain skills that will help you in any career you choose.

Last Minute Research

When you go through the proofreading process, you may discover that one or more of your points need further substantiation or support.  If that happens, here are two courses of action that can help:

  1. Go back through the books, articles, and websites you used for your original research.  Is there something else in these resources that you could use to strengthen your arguments?
  2. Conduct some additional research.  Perhaps there are databases you haven't tried yet, or a book that was originally unavailable.  Don't be afraid to add to your research, if necessary.  If you need suggestions for finding further resources, ask your friendly DBU librarians!


For quick questions, use the "Ask a Librarian" form.  For more comprehensive assistance, call 214-333-5221 or email us at lib_ref@dbu.edu