Chapter 12: Peer Review and Final Revisions

12.2 Editing and Developing a Final Draft of a Research Paper

Learning Objectives

  • Edit your paper to ensure that language, citations, and formatting are correct

Given all the time and effort you have put into your research paper, you will want to make sure that your final draft represents your best work. This requires taking the time to revise and edit your paper carefully.

You may feel like you need a break from your paper before you edit it. That feeling is understandable, so you want to be sure to leave yourself enough time to complete this important stage of the writing process. This section presents a number of opportunities for you to focus on different aspects of the editing process; as with revising a draft, you should approach editing in different stages.

Some of the content in this section may seem repetitive, but again, it provides you with a chance to double-check any revisions you have made at a detailed level.

Editing Your Draft

If you have been incorporating each set of revisions as Mariah and Jorge have, you have produced multiple drafts of your writing. So far, all your changes have been content changes. Perhaps with the help of peer feedback, you have made sure that you sufficiently supported your ideas. You have checked for problems with unity and coherence. You have examined your essay for word choice, revising to cut unnecessary words and to replace weak wording with specific and appropriate wording.

The next step after revising the content is editing. When you edit, you examine the surface features of your text. You examine your spelling, grammar, usage, and punctuation. You also make sure you use the proper format when creating your finished assignment.

Tip: Editing takes time. Be sure to budget time into the writing process to complete additional edits after revising. Editing and proofreading your writing helps you create a finished work that represents your best efforts. Here are a few more tips to remember about your readers:

  • Readers do not notice correct spelling, but they do notice misspellings.
  • Readers look past your sentences to get to your ideas—unless the sentences are awkward, poorly constructed, and frustrating to read.
  • Readers notice when every sentence has the same rhythm as every other sentence, with no variety.
  • Readers do not cheer when you use there, their, and they’re correctly, but they notice when you do not.
  • Readers will notice the care with which you handled your assignment and your attention to detail in the delivery of an error-free document.

Being Clear and Concise

Some writers are very methodical and painstaking when they write a first draft. Other writers unleash a lot of words in order to get out all that they feel they need to say. Do either of these methods match your style? Or is your composing style somewhere in between? No matter which description best fits you, the first draft of almost every piece of writing, no matter its author, can be made clearer and more concise.

If you have a tendency to write too much, you will need to look for unnecessary words. If you have a tendency to be vague or imprecise in your wording, you will need to find specific words to replace any overly general language.

Identifying Wordiness

Sometimes writers use too many words when fewer words will appeal more to their audience and better fit their purpose. Here are some common examples of wordiness to look for in your draft. Eliminating wordiness helps all readers, because it makes your ideas clear, direct, and straightforward.

  • Sentences that begin with There is or There are
  • Wordy. There are two major experiments that the Biology Department sponsors.
  • Revised. The Biology Department sponsors two major experiments.
  • Sentences with unnecessary modifiers
  • Wordy. Two extremely famous and well-known consumer advocates spoke eloquently in favour of the proposed important legislation.
  • Revised. Two well-known consumer advocates spoke in favour of the proposed legislation.

Sentences with deadwood phrases that add little to the meaning. Be judicious when you use phrases such as in terms ofwith a mind toon the subject ofas to whether or notmore or lessas far as…is concerned, and similar expressions. You can usually find a more straightforward way to state your point.

  • Wordy. As a world leader in the field of green technology, the company plans to focus its efforts in the area of geothermal energy. A report as to whether or not to use geysers as an energy source is in the process of preparation.
  • Revised. As a world leader in green technology, the company plans to focus on geothermal energy. Researchers are preparing a report about using geysers as an energy source.

Sentences in the passive voice or with forms of the verb to be: Sentences with passive voice verbs often create confusion because the subject of the sentence does not perform an action. Sentences are clearer when the subject performs the action and is followed by a strong verb. Use strong active voice verbs in place of forms of to be, which can lead to wordiness. Avoid passive voice when you can.

  • Wordy. It might perhaps be said that using a GPS device is something that is a benefit to drivers who have a poor sense of direction.
  • Revised. Using a GPS device benefits drivers who have a poor sense of direction.

Sentences with constructions that can be shortened

  • Wordy. The e-book reader, which is a recent invention, may become as commonplace as the cell phone. My over-60 uncle bought an e-book reader, and his wife bought an e-book reader, too.
  • Revised.  The e-book reader, a recent invention, may become as commonplace as the cell phone. My over-60 uncle and his wife both bought e-book readers.

Choosing Specific, Appropriate Words

Most essays at the post-secondary level should be written in formal English suitable for an academic situation. Follow these principles to be sure that your word choice is appropriate. For more information about word choice, see Chapter 2: Working with Words: Which Word Is Right?

  • Avoid slang. Find alternatives to bummerkewl, and rad.
  • Avoid language that is overly casual. Write about “men and women” rather than “girls and guys” unless you are trying to create a specific effect. A formal tone calls for formal language.
  • Avoid contractions. Use do not in place of don’tI am in place of I’m,have not in place of haven’t, and so on. Contractions are considered casual speech.
  • Avoid clichés. Overused expressions such as green with envyface the musicbetter late than never, and similar expressions are empty of meaning and may not appeal to your audience.
  • Be careful when you use words that sound alike but have different meanings. Some examples are allusion/illusion; complement/compliment; council/counsel; concurrent/consecutive; founder/flounder; and historic/historical. When in doubt, check a dictionary.
  • Choose words with the connotations you want. Choosing a word for its connotations is as important in formal essay writing as it is in all kinds of writing. Compare the positive connotations of the word proud and the negative connotations of arrogant and conceited.
  • Use specific words rather than overly general words. Find synonyms for thingpeoplenicegoodbadinteresting, and other vague words. Or use specific details to make your exact meaning clear.

Now read the revisions Mariah made to make her third paragraph clearer and more concise. She has already incorporated the changes she made to improve unity and coherence.

Finally, nothing is more confusing to me than choosing among televisions. It confuses lots of people who want confuses buyers more than purchasing a new high-definition digital television (HDTV), with a large screen to watch sports and DVDs on. There’s and with good reason. for this confusion: You face decisions you never had to make with the old, bulky picture-tube televisions. The first big decision is the involves screen resolution, you want. Screen resolution which means the number of horizontal scan lines the screen can show. This resolution is often expressed as 1080p, or full HD, or as 768p, which is half that. The trouble is that if you have on a smaller screen, 32-inch or 37-inch diagonal screen, viewers will not you won’t be able to tell the difference between them with the naked eye. The second other important decision you face as you walk around the sales floor is whether to get a plasma screen or an LCD screen. Along with the choice of display type, a further decision buyers face is screen size and features. Plasma flat-panel television screens can be much larger in diameter than their LCD rivals. Plasma screens show truer deeper blacks and can be viewed at a wider angle than current LCD screens. However, large flat-panel plasma screens are much more expensive than flat-screen LCD models. Don’t let someone make you by more television than you need! Only after buyers are totally certain they know what they want should they open their wallets.

Self-Practice Exercise 12.8

H5P: Understanding Word Choice

Answer the following questions about Mariah’s revised paragraph.

  • Read the unrevised and the revised paragraphs aloud. Explain in your own words how changes in word choice have affected Mariah’s writing.
  • Do you agree with the changes that Mariah made to her paragraph? Which changes would you keep and which were unnecessary? Explain. What other changes would you have made?
  • What effect does removing contractions and the pronoun you have on the tone of the paragraph? How would you characterize the tone now? Why?

Now return once more to your essay in progress. Read carefully for problems with word choice. Be sure that your draft is written in formal language and that your word choice is specific and appropriate.

Self-Practice Exercise 12.9

Return once more to the first draft of the essay you have been revising. Check it for unnecessary words.

Try making your sentences as concise as they can be.

Brief Punctuation Review

Throughout this book, you have been presented with a number of tables containing transitional words. The list below Punctuating Transitional Words and Phrases shows many of the transition words you have seen organized into different categories to help you know how to punctuate with each one.

Punctuating Transitional Words and Phrases

Joining Independent Clauses (coordination)

  • 2 IND: IND; IND
  • Coordinating conjunctions: FANBOYS: IND, ____ IND
    • for
    • and
    • nor
    • but
    • or
    • yet
    • so
  • Conjunctive adverbs and other transitional expressions: IND. _____, IND or IND; _____,IND
    • accordingly
    • after all
    • after a while
    • also
    • anyhow
    • as a result
    • at any rate
    • at the same time
    • besides
    • consequently
    • for example
    • for instance
    • furthermore
    • hence
    • henceforth
    • however
    • in addition
    • indeed
    • in fact
    • in other words
    • in particular
    • instead
    • in the first place
    • likewise
    • meanwhile
    • moreover
    • nevertheless
    • nonetheless
    • on the contrary
    • on the other hand
    • otherwise
    • still
    • then
    • therefore
    • thus

Forming Dependent Clauses (subordination)

    • after
    • although
    • as
    • as if
    • as though
    • because
    • before
    • if
    • in order that
    • since
    • so that
    • that
    • though
    • unless
    • until
    • when
    • whenever
    • where
    • wherever
    • *which
    • while
    • who
    • whom
    • whose

* This column contains relative pronouns, which may be punctuated differently.

Joining Independent Clauses

There are three ways to join independent clauses. By using a mix of all three methods and varying your transition words, you will add complexity to your writing and improve the flow. You will also be emphasizing to your reader which ideas you want to connect or to show things like cause and effect or contrast. For a more detailed review of independent clauses, look back at Chapter 3: Putting Ideas into Your Own Words and Paragraphs. Option 1 By simply using a semicolon (;), you can make the ideas connect more than if you were to use a period. If you are trying to reinforce that connection, use a semicolon because it is not as strong of a pause as a period and reinforces the link. Option 2 When you want to link two independent sentences and increase the flow between ideas, you can add a comma and a coordinating conjunction between them. With coordinating conjunctions (FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so), you do not use a comma every time: you would only do so if what is on either side of the conjunction is a complete sentence not just a phrase. You would not put a comma if you are only giving a list of two items. For example:

Comma: It is cold outside, so I wore an extra warm coat.

No comma: It is cold outside. I wore an extra warm coat and gloves.

The first example contains a complete sentence (independent clause) on either side of the conjunction so. Just the conjunction by itself or just a comma by itself is not strong enough to join two independent clauses. However, if you put the two together with so, you can link the two. In the second example, and is simply connecting two noun phrases: warm coat and gloves. What comes after the conjunction is not a complete sentence, so you would not add a comma. To check if there is a complete, independent clause, ask yourself, “Can that part stand by itself as a complete sentence?” In the case of the no comma example, gloves is what comes after the comma. That is not a complete sentence, only a noun: that means it is part of a list and is not a complete sentence = no comma. The point of these examples was to show you that you have to be careful how you use commas and conjunctions. As easy as it would be to just always toss in a comma, doing so would confuse your reader as what is and is not part of a list and what ideas are joined. Option 3 Your third choice is to join two independent clauses with a conjunctive adverb or another transition word. These words are very useful because they clearly show your reader how you would like your ideas to connect. If you wanted to emphasize contrasting ideas, you would use on the other hand or however. If you wanted to show cause and effect, you could use as a result. Refer to the tables you have seen in other chapters to make sure you are using the transitions you actually mean to be using; then, check Punctuating Transitional Words and Phrases above to confirm how you should punctuate it. After your first independent clause, you can choose to either use a period or a semicolon, again depending on how much of a link you want to show. You may also want to consider how many long sentences you have used prior to this. If you use a lot of complicated sentences, you should probably use a period to allow your reader to take a break. You must also remember to include a comma after the transition word.

Period: It is cold outside. Therefore, I wore an extra warm coat.

Semicolon: It is cold outside; therefore, I wore an extra warm coat.

Joining Dependent Clauses

If one of the clauses in a sentence is independent and can stand on its own, but the other is not, you have to construct the sentence a little differently. Whenever you add a subordinating conjunction or relative pronoun to an independent sentence, you create a dependent clause—one that can never stand alone. In the examples below, notice that when the independent clause comes first, it is strong enough to carry the dependent clause at the end without any helping punctuation. However, if you want the dependent clause first, you must add a comma between it and the independent clause: the dependent clause is not strong enough to support the independent clause after without a little help. In the examples below, the independent clauses are double underlined and the dependent clause has a single underline.

IND first: I wore an extra warm coat as it is cold outside.

DEP first: As it is cold outside, I wore an extra warm coat.

Tip: If you want to start a sentence with Because, you need to make sure there is a second half to that sentence that is independent. A Because (dependent) clause can never stand by itself.

At the bottom on Punctuating Transitional Words and Phrases you can see a list of five dependent markers that can be used a little differently. These are relative pronouns, and when you use them, you need to ask yourself if the information is 100 percent necessary for the reader to understand what you are describing. If it is optional, you can include a comma before the relative clause even if it comes after the independent clause.

Nonessential: As it is cold outside, I wore an extra warm coat, which was blue.

Essential: My coat which is blue is the one I wear when it is really cold outside.

In the nonessential example, the fact that the coat was warm was probably more important than that the coat was blue. The information that the coat is blue probably would not make a difference in keeping the person warm, so the information in that relative clause is not terribly important. Adding the comma before the clause tells the reader it is extra information. In the essential example, the use of the same clause without a preceding comma shows that this information is important. The writer is implying he has other coats that are not as warm and are not blue, so he is emphasizing the importance of the blue coat. These are the only five subordinators, or relative pronouns, for which you can do this; every other one needs to follow the previous explanation of how to use these dependent transition words. If you do decide to add a comma with one of the relative pronouns, you need to think critically about whether or not that description is completely essential.

Using any of these sentence joining strategies is helpful in providing sentence variety to help your reader stay engaged and reading attentively. By following these punctuation rules, you will also avoid creating sentence fragments, run-on sentences, and comma splices, all of which improves your end product.

Given how much work you have put into your research paper, you will want to check for any errors that could distract or confuse your readers. Using the spell checking feature in your word processing program can be helpful, it should not replace a full, careful review of your document. Be sure to check for any errors that may have come up frequently for you in the past. Use Checklist 12.4: Editing Your Writing to help you as you edit.

Checklist 12.4: Editing Your Writing

H5P: Editing Your Writing

Reread your paper and use the list below to check your grammar.

  • Does every verb agree with its subject?
  • Is the antecedent of every pronoun clear?
  • Is it clear which word a participial phrase modifies (eg. no dangling modifier)?
  • Have you ensured there are no run-on sentences?
  • Are subject, object, and possessive personal pronouns used correctly?
  • Do all personal pronouns agree with their antecedents?
  • Are all sentences complete sentences (eg. not fragments)?
  • Are independent clauses joined with conjunctions?
  • Are tense forms, especially for irregular verbs, written correctly?
  • Are the correct comparative and superlative forms of adjectives and adverbs used?
  • Are who and whom used correctly?
  • Is every verb in the correct tense?

Reread your paper and use the list below to check your sentence structure.

  • Is my parallel structure accurate?
  • Have I chosen the best coordinating or subordinating conjunctions to join clauses?
  • Are my sentences clear?
  • Do I vary my sentence structure?

Reread your paper and use the list below to check your sentence structure.

  • Have I used apostrophes correctly to write all singular and plural possessive forms?
  • Have I used quotation marks correctly?
  • Does every sentence end with the correct end punctuation?
  • Can I justify the use of every exclamation point?

Reread your paper and use the list below to check your mechanics and usage.

  • Have I corrected any spelling errors?
  • Have I used capital letters where they are needed?
  • Have I written abbreviations, where allowed, correctly?
  • Have I corrected any errors in the use of commonly confused words, such as to/too/two?

Tip: Be careful about relying too much on spelling checkers and grammar checkers. A spelling checker cannot recognize that you meant to write principle but wrote principal instead. A grammar checker often queries constructions that are perfectly correct. The program does not understand your meaning; it makes its check against a general set of formulas that might not apply in each instance. If you use a grammar checker, accept the suggestions that make sense, but consider why the suggestions came up.

Tip: Proofreading requires patience; it is very easy to read past a mistake. Set your paper aside for at least a few hours, if not a day or more, so your mind will rest. Some professional proofreaders read a text backward so they can concentrate on spelling and punctuation. Another helpful technique is to slowly read a paper aloud, paying attention to every word, letter, and punctuation mark.

If you need additional proofreading help, ask a reliable friend, classmate, or peer tutor to make a final pass on your paper to look for anything you missed.



Your finished assignment should be properly formatted, following the style required of you. Formatting includes the style of the title, margin size, page number placement, location of the writer’s name, and other factors. Your instructor or department may require a specific style to be used. The requirements may be more detailed and rigid for research projects and term papers, which often observe the American Psychological Association (APA) style guide, especially when citations of sources are included.

To ensure the format is correct and follows any specific instructions, make a final check before you submit an assignment.

Self-Practice Exercise 12.10

With the help of Checklist 12.4, edit and proofread your essay.

Checking Citations and Formatting

When editing a research paper, it is also important to check that you have cited sources properly and formatted your document according to the specified guidelines. There are two reasons for this. First, citing sources correctly ensures that you give proper credit to other people for ideas and information that helped you in your work. Second, using correct formatting establishes your paper as one student’s contribution to the work developed by and for a larger academic community. Increasingly, American Psychological Association (APA) style guidelines are the standard for many academic fields. Use Checklist 12.5: Citations and Formatting to help.

Checklist 12.5: Citations and Formatting

H5P: Citation and Formatting

Reread your paper and check whether you have achieved the following goals in working towards proper citation and formatting.

  • Each in-text citation includes the source author’s name (or, where applicable, the organization name or source title) and year of publication. I have used the correct format of in text and parenthetical citations.
  • Within the body of my paper, each fact or idea taken from a source is credited to the correct source.
  • My paper includes a running head.
  • Each source cited in the body of my paper has a corresponding entry in the references section of my paper.
  • My references section includes a heading and double-spaced alphabetized entries.
  • Each entry in my references section is indented on the second line and all subsequent lines.
  • The margins of my paper are set at one inch. Text is double spaced and set in a standard 12-point font.
  • My paper includes a title page.
  • Each entry in my references section includes all the necessary information for that source type, in the correct sequence and format.

For detailed guidelines on APA citation and formatting, see Chapter 9: Citations and Referencing.

Writing at Work

Following APA citation and formatting guidelines may require time and effort. However, it is good practice for learning how to follow accepted conventions in any professional field. Many large corporations create a style manual with guidelines for editing and formatting documents produced by that corporation. Employees follow the style manual when creating internal documents and documents for publication.

During the process of revising and editing, Jorge made changes in the content and style of his paper. He also gave the paper a final review to check for overall correctness and, particularly, correct APA citations and formatting. Read the final draft of his paper: Beyond the Hype: Evaluating Low-Carb Diets.

With the help of Checklist 12.5, edit and proofread your essay.

Although you probably do not want to look at your paper again before you submit it to your instructor, take the time to do a final check. Since you have already worked through all of the checklists above focusing on certain aspects at one time, working through one final checklist should confirm you have written a strong, persuasive essay and that everything is the way you want it to be. As extra insurance you have produced a strong paper, you may even want someone else to double-check your essay using Checklist 12.6: Final Revision. Then you can compare to see how your perceptions of your paper match those of someone else, essentially having that person act as the one who will be grading your paper.

Checklist 12.6: Final Revision

H5P: Final Revision

Although you probably do not want to look at your paper again before you submit it to your instructor, take the time to do a final check. Since you have already worked through all of the checklists above focusing on certain aspects at one time, working through one final checklist should confirm you have written a strong, persuasive essay and that everything is the way you want it to be. As extra insurance you have produced a strong paper, you may even want someone else to double-check your essay using Checklist 12.6: Final Revision. Then you can compare to see how your perceptions of your paper match those of someone else, essentially having that person act as the one who will be grading your paper.

Reread your paper and use the list below to check your organization.

  • Are your paragraphs organized in a logical manner?
  • Focus: Have you clearly stated your thesis (your controlling idea) in the first paragraph?
  • Check whether your paragraphs are organized according to a specific pattern.
  • Unity: Write your opening and closing paragraphs and place each topic sentence in between. You should have a “mini essay”
  • with several different main points supporting your thesis.
  • Have you provided a comprehensive conclusion to your essay? Does it summarize your main points (using different words)?
  • Do you show you understand the assignment: purpose, audience, and genre?
  • Does your thesis statement catch the reader’s attention?
  • Does each topic sentence (per paragraph) logically follow the one preceding it?
  • Do you have several points to support your thesis?
  • Are your paragraphs organized in the best way to support your thesis?

Reread your paper and use the list below to check your paragraphs and sentences.

  • Does each sentence logically follow the preceding one?
  • Are there several sentences giving details, facts, quotes, reasons, and arguments in each paragraph?
  • Is each supporting detail specific, concrete, and relevant to the topic sentence?
  • Have you used transitional words to help the reader follow your thoughts?
  • Does each paragraph have only one main point?
  • Does your essay have an appropriate tone and point of view?
  • Does each paragraph have main points and supporting details?
  • Is each sentence is relevant to the main point of the paragraph?
  • Is your approach or pattern used to develop your paragraph’s main point followed?
  • Are your paragraphs all an appropriate length?

Reread your paper and use the list below to check your sentences and usage.

  • Verb tenses are consistent.
  • Weak adverbs (may be) are replaced with strong verbs (is).
  • Pronoun referents are clear.
  • Wordiness has been eliminated.
  • Subject and verbs agree.
  • Subjects are person are consistent.
  • Sentence structure is varied.
  • Repetition has been eliminated.
  • Fragments, splices, and run-on sentences have been revised.
  • Each sentence has a subject and a verb.
  • Lists are written in parallel.
  • Wordiness has been corrected.
  • All verbs are active.
  • Modifiers have been checked for clarity.

Reread your paper and use the list below to check your documentation.

  • Reference section is complete.
  • All references are documented.
  • In-text citations are formatted correctly.
  • In-text citations are present for every reference.

Reread your paper and use the list below to check your mechanics.

  • All spelling and typographical errors have been corrected.
  • All words and sentences are punctuated according to common usage.

Reread your paper and use the list below to check your content.

  • I have provided enough background information. The details I have provided are relevant and necessary.
  • I believe what I have written.
  • My controlling idea and the development of my argument make sense.
  • I have primarily used paraphrasing (not direct quotation).

You should now be confident you have produced a strong argument that is wonderfully constructed and that you will be able to persuade your audience that your points and point of view are valid.

Key Takeaways

  • During revising, you add, cut, move, or change information in order to improve content.
  • During editing, you take a second look at the words and sentences you used to express your ideas and fix any problems in grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.
  • Remember to budget time for careful editing and proofreading. Use all available resources, including editing checklists, peer editing, and your institution’s writing lab, to improve your editing skills.
  • Organization in a research paper means that the argument proceeds logically from the introduction to the body to the conclusion. It flows logically from one point to the next. When revising a research paper, evaluate the organization of the paper as a whole and the organization of individual paragraphs.
  • In a cohesive research paper, the elements of the paper work together smoothly and naturally. When revising a research paper, evaluate its cohesion. In particular, check that information from research is smoothly integrated with your ideas.
  • An effective research paper uses a style and tone that are appropriately academic and serious. When revising a research paper, check that the style and tone are consistent throughout.
  • Editing a research paper involves checking for errors in grammar, mechanics, punctuation, usage, spelling, citations, and formatting.


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