Resources for Writers:  Quick Revision Questions

  The uses of revision The revision outline Revision questions

Peer revision questions for:
  Summary papers and 
.......papers using summaries
  Synthesis papers and
.......papers using synthesis
  Comparison papers and 
.......papers using comparison
Analysis papers and 
.......papers using analysis
  Research papers and 
.......papers using sources

See also:
Writing and revising  theses Developing drafts Editing and proofreading papers

The Uses of Revision

It has been said that the difference between a mediocre writer and a good writer is revision.  This is very different than editing.  It is about seeing the paper in a whole new way:  re-vision. To see again.  Many students line-edit papers for surface-level errors but never try to see the paper with fresh eyes and think about how it might be radically changed.  This is the most important aspect of drafting because it is in the revision that a paper is strengthened.  Editing is important, but it is important because a well edited paper is easier to read, does not leave readers confused or unsure of what the author is trying to say, and shows that the author cares about the paper.  A well edited paper raises the ethos of the writer because readers have a higher opinion of those who avoid grammatical, syntactical, mechanical, or typographical error.  In this sense, editing can make an essay more effective.  Editing cannot, however, fix larger problems concerning structure, logic, the use of evidence, or the overall cohesion of a paper.  For these, you need revision. 

All professional and academic writers revise, and for many the revision process takes longer than it took to write the first draft.  Some writers, such as Toni Morrison, say that they revise a piece to make it shorter and more focused; others revise a text to make it longer, adding examples, evidence, and descriptive detail to help the reader follow the discussion, argument, or narrative.  One of the authors of this text revises to make her papers shorter, while the other revises to make her texts longer.  The challenge for every writer is to understand what kind of revision he or she typically needs, and the way to reach that understanding is through practice and dialogue with readers.  Readers are an essential part of this process because the writer is making a transition from a first draft, which is written to allow the writer to know what he or she wanted to say, to a final draft, which is written to communicate with readers.  For this reason, we emphasize the importance of peer review.  As you get used to asking reader-focused questions of other people's texts, you will also find it easier to ask reader-focused questions of your own texts.

While there are specific reader-focused questions one can ask to help revise specific kinds of papers (comparison, synthesis, etc.), there are also general questions that you can ask to help you revise any paper.  These questions work for self revision and peer revision. 

The Revision Outline

Revising your own writing or that of your peers

 Read the paper carefully and answer the following questions: 

  • Does the paper have a thesis?
    • If you answered "yes," what is it? (Write it out for the author to review.)
    • If you answered "no," does it have a focus?  If so, what is it? (Write it out.)
  • Does the paper have a clear introduction?
    • If you answered "yes," does it do all of the following (although not necessarily in this order):
      • Introduce the topic of the paper showing us why we should care about this topic (i.e.: why we should want to read the rest of the paper).  This can include what some people call a "hook" to arouse our interest in the topic.
      • State or indicate the thesis or topic
      • Indicate how the paper will support the thesis or develop our understanding of the topic.
    • If you answered "no," does it have a two or even three paragraph introduction that accomplishes all of these things? (Such an introduction is perfectly acceptable, and often necessary, for longer papers.)
  • Does each paragraph have a topic sentence?
    • If you answered "yes," does each topic sentence do all of the following:
      • Connect this paragraph to the main idea/focus of the paper.
      • Identify the topic of the paragraph it introduces.
      • Make a transition from the last paragraph to this one
    • If you answered "no," does the preceding paragraph introduce this one as well by, for example, setting up a comparison of which this is the second part?  If so, is that clear as you move into this paragraph? 
  • Are there clear examples to support each claim?
    • Are those examples correctly cited within the text and in a works cited, reference list, or bibliography at the end of the paper? (This is necessary for texts of any degree of formality from class presentations to persuasive papers, it does not only apply to formal research papers.)
  • Does the conclusion conclude the paper that the introduction introduced?
    • If it introduces new material or suggests future research, is it clear why it does so or should that material be discussed earlier in the paper?
    • Now that you have reviewed the introduction and the conclusion together, does the material in the middle actually seem like the paper that was promised and concluded?  (if you answered "no," explain what is out of place, missing, or not introduced.)
  • Does any of the information in the paper seem irrelevant to the thesis or topic
    • If you answered "yes," identify what and why it seems irrelevant so that the writer can either cut it or explain its relevance?
  • Is there anything that seems to you to be missing from this paper?
    • If you answered "yes," identify what and why it seems to be missing so that the writer can either add it or clarify the reason for its absence.
  • What other advice do you have for the writer?

A not so gentle hint:  it is an utter waste of time to edit a paper before you revise it!

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 C.  Sandra Jamieson, Drew University. 2002
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