Guidelines for Revisions

Guidelines for Revisions 

True revision requires that you look at your essay from a completely different perspective than when you initially wrote it. When you wrote this draft, your first concern was expressing your ideas; now your primary concern is to communicate those ideas more clearly to your reader. Here are some suggestions and guidelines for your revision.

Reread the essay assignment carefully.

Does your draft address all aspects of your prompt? Does your draft fulfill the requirements of the assignment?

Ask yourself the question which your essay answers.

This will help you to determine if your essay contains too much general information or summary without having a real focus. What understanding of the text do you want your reader to have?

Evaluate your thesis statement.

As the most important sentence(s) of your essay, anything you do to clarify or narrow your thesis statement will benefit your entire essay. Remember: It should contain concrete elements and specific names and places rather than vague generalizations. Your thesis should explain the significance of the topic you have chosen to discuss, rather than announce your topic as a statement of fact.

Scan your paragraphs.

Identify the topic sentence or main idea of each paragraph. Each paragraph should contain one complete argument which supports your thesis along with some evidence from the text. If an individual paragraph contains more than one key idea, separate it into multiple paragraphs and be sure to have evidence for each claim.

Make connections between ideas.

What is the connection between the details you've chosen to discuss in your essay? What are the similarities or differences? How are pieces of evidence related? If your thesis is strong, the connection between your examples should be evident.

Define or qualify your terms.

In an essay, nothing is understood; all of your arguments need to be explained. Avoid using general terms which are meaningless without context. Example: "a better life" (What does this mean to the character within the context? There is an implied comparison, so better than what?) Don't assume your reader knows what you mean. Make sure you define your terms and use examples to illustrate.

Polish your mechanics.

An error which has been identified on your first draft should not appear again in the revision. If your essay contains confusing, unclear sentences, rephrase, reorganize, or edit those sentences. Even if you use a Spell Check program, look over your paper for typos which the computer can't recognize (ex. "tow" instead of "two"). 

Handout created by Monica Ng, Student Learning Center, University of California, Berkeley
©1996 UC Regents

Handout revised by Carolyn Swalina, Student Learning Center, University of California, Berkeley
©2011 UC Regents