What needs to be revised?

Feedback helps writers to improve their writing. Before asking someone else to read it, however, writers need to go through their text carefully themselves. Here we provide checklists for

Reading your own text

Although it may be difficult to spot mistakes in one's own texts, the following advice might be helpful:

Read the text aloud

When reading your text aloud, you will be in a better position to identify problems such as inaccurate sentence structure and inaccurate use of punctuation. It is also easier to get a grip on the flow of the text when it is read aloud. Missing transitional devices will become apparent, for instance, as will repetitive use of certain words and phrases.

If there is time, wait a few days

If you can leave your text for a few days before revising and proofreading it, you might find it easier to spot mistakes and incongruences. 

Look at the text from different perspectives

Do not read your text only from beginning to end, but make sure to check that the structure is coherent, that your argument is logical and that your conclusions are based on your analysis.

Use your experience

Look at previous essays and texts on which you have received feedback. What kinds of problems have been identified by teachers and peer reviewers? Check your new text for these problem areas.

Reading someone else's text: Peer reviewing

Peer reviewing and other collaborative types of editing

Many writers submit their text to peers for feedback of different kinds. For instance, in courses students work in peer groups, and papers and chapters by PhD students are scrutinised in departmental research seminars. Although writers might feel intimidated by the idea of submitting their texts to other people, texts usually improve as a result of being questioned and commented on.

The task of the peer reviewer is to help the writer sharpen his or her argument and improve his or her texts. By reviewing other writers’ texts, peer reviewers also train their own analytical abilities. Encountering different ways of structuring a paper, of presenting facts and arguments, etc., gives the peer reviewer an increased understanding of the possible ways of composing an essay.

An example of peer-review guidelines is provided below. These guidelines can also be used by writers themselves as guidelines for revision, of course.

Sample instructions for peer reviewers (click to expand/contract)

The following sample guidelines can serve as a starting point for peer group discussions of texts. Depending on discipline and text type, there may of course be other aspects that are relevant.

Focus

Is there a clear focus in the text? If not, what is lacking? Mark passages you think need to be clarified.

Structure
    • Is the overall structure of the text good? If not, what changes would you suggest?
    • Are the paragraphs well structured (are there topic sentences, for instance)? If paragraph structure is a recurring problem in the text, comment on one or two paragraphs in detail to help the writer revise his or her text.
    Fluency/readability
    • Sentence level: Are there any sentences that are difficult to follow?
    • Paragraph level: Are there any paragraphs that are difficult to understand and do paragraphs follow in a logical order?
    Argument
    • Is the argument clearly stated?  
    • Does the writer need to provide more information or develop his/her argument in some direction? If you find the argument weak or lacking in some other respect, make sure to mark this in the text (for instance by posing questions to the writer, for instance 'why?', 'can you give examples?' or 'could you clarify this?')
    Referencing skills
    • Does the writer follow the required reference style?
    • Are the sources used relevant for the topic and have they been used in a correct way?
    Word choice
    • How would you rate the vocabulary used – are any words overused or 'flat' (in the sense that they do not add anything to the argument)? If the writer is prone to repetitiveness, mark words that recur frequently.
    Grammar, etc.
    • Have you detected any spelling mistakes or grammatical mistakes?
    • What about punctuation?
    • Any run-on sentences or sentence fragments?
    Summing up: Strengths and weaknesses
    • What are the strengths of the text you have read?
    • What does the writer need to work on – what parts of his or her writing need to be improved?