Working With Your Draft

Learning Objectives

  • Explain revision techniques for improving drafts

Revising your Draft

Revision is the step of the writing process in which you focus on your ideas and organization and rearrange or fine-tune your draft. Revision follows drafting and precedes editing (which is a focus more on the grammar and readability of your draft) and proofreading (which is a final check for surface errors). When revising your work you may rearrange paragraphs and sentences, you may change your wording to make your arguments more clear, or you may add or remove information. Drafting and revising often form a loop as an essay moves back and forth between the two stages; it is not uncommon for professional writers to go through many drafts and revisions before successfully creating a written piece that is ready for the next stage of editing.

Revising Stage 1: Seeing the Big Picture

When you first begin your revision process, you should focus on the big picture or issues at the essay level that might need to be addressed. The following questions will guide you:

  • Do you have a clear thesis? Do you know what idea or perspective you want your reader to understand upon reading your essay?
  • Is your essay well organized?
  • Is each paragraph a building block in your essay: does each explain or support your thesis?
  • Does it need a different shape? Do parts need to be moved?
  • Do you fully explain and illustrate the main ideas of your paper?
  • Does your introduction grab the reader’s interest?
  • Does your conclusion leave the reader understanding your point of view?
  • Are you saying in your essay what you want to say?
  • What is the strength of your paper? What is its weakness?

Revising Stage 2: Mid-View

The second stage of the revision process requires that you look at your content closely and at the paragraph level. It’s now time to examine each paragraph, on its own, to see where you might need to revise. The following questions will guide you through the mid-view revision stage:

  • Does each paragraph contain solid, specific information, vivid description, or examples that illustrate the point you are making in the paragraph?
  • Are there are other facts, quotations, examples, or descriptions to add that can more clearly illustrate or provide evidence for the points you are making?
  • Are there sentences, words, descriptions or information that you can delete because they don’t add to the points you are making or may confuse the reader?
  • Are the paragraphs in the right order?
  • Are your paragraphs overly long? Does each paragraph explore one main idea?
  • Do you use clear transitions so the reader can follow your thinking?
  • Are any paragraphs or parts of paragraphs redundant and need to be deleted?

Revising Stage 3: Editing Up Close

Once you have completed your revision and feel confident in your content, you’ll want to begin the editing stage of your revision and editing process, which we will elaborate on later.

Watch IT: A Three-Step Revision Process

The following video recommends writing three additional drafts to fully revise an essay. In the first revision, you want to focus on the big picture and overall organization of the paper. In the second revision, focus on strengthening each paragraph, and on the third draft, review things at the sentence level.

You can view the transcript for “Three-step revision process” here (download).

Revision Checklist

In summary, the revision checklist found below will help you focus on some key issues as you revise your paper.

  • Have I conveyed the significance of my ideas to my readers? Is my purpose clear?
  • Does my essay meet the requirements of my assignment?
  • Is my focus too broad? Have I narrowed my topic well?
  • Is my organization plan effective?
  • Is there a way to make the concept I am discussing clearer and more focused?
  • Is the voice or style I am using appropriate for my audience?
  • Have I clearly defined any terms used?
  • Have I considered any possible objections to my position, if I take a position in this research essay?
  • Do I provide clear transitions between my ideas? Are there any gaps between my points?
  • Are there any points that need further explanation or detail?
  • Are there any points that need to be cut because they are not related to my focus?
  • Are my sources credible? Have I addressed this credibility in my writing?
  • Have I integrated my source material smoothly and effectively by providing signal phrases and/or context for this information?
  • Have I put some source material in my own words as much as possible and used quotes only when necessary?
  • Have I properly acknowledged all of my source material, including paraphrases and summaries?

Try It


editing: a type of revision that focuses on the grammar, punctuation, and overall readability of a paper

proofreading: the last stage of revision that entails checking for typographical errors such as spelling errors, grammatical concerns, or style

revision: the process of making changes and improvements to a draft of a paper