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SPARK: Reviewing

A resource for students wanting to improve their academic and research skills.


Reviewing a whole paper can seem like a daunting task, especially if it's long or if you are really unsure of what you have written. One thing you can do if you have some time left between when you finish your paper and when it's due, you can try to review several times, each time focusing on a different problem.

For example, you might want to review:

  • Once to assess the draft as a whole. You should ask yourself the following questions, and make changes if the answer to any of them is 'no':
    • Is there a clear focus?
    • Are the points related to that focus sufficiently developed?
    • Are the main points clearly connected to the assignment instructions?
  • Once to assess the draft’s paragraphs. You should ask yourself the following questions, and make changes if the answer to any of them is 'no':
    • Does each paragraph have a clear focus?
    • Are the transitions between paragraphs clear?  
  • Once to assess individual sentences for understandability and word choice. You might also want to ask yourself:
    • Is the connection between one sentence and the next clear?

Sometimes it is helpful to begin your reviewing (or review at least once) starting the with final paragraph and working your way to the beginning.

Many writers also find it helpful to read their draft out loud. Often you will notice things that you missed when reading silently.

Reviewing the Whole

Reviewing your draft as a whole means reconsidering its purpose and organization.
Start by reviewing the assignment instructions to identify any elements of the assignment that are not yet fully addressed in your draft. 
  • Sometimes we notice elements that the assignment asked us to address that we missed before.
  • Sometimes we have new ideas that can be linked very easily into our essays.



There are three major aspects of a good argument. You will need to make sure your argument contains:

  • A Claim or Claims: The claim is what your essay is arguing. Your claim should be a point that is debatable, and is usually contained within your thesis statement. If your thesis statement does not contain an arguable point, you will want to revise it. 
  • Counterclaims: One of the things that makes an argument strong is that it acknowledges that there are possible objections to it. You will want to make sure that your essay acknowledges the logical, possible objections to it.
  • Rebuttals: Once you have acknowledged counter arguments, you want to make sure you state why you believe that your argument is right and that counterclaims are wrong.

Review the Essay Editing module for information on other types of essays that may not involve arguments.

Reviewing the Paragraphs

It is a good idea to try to read each paragraph in isolation to make sure that it has a central point that relates clearly to the overall purpose ofthe essay.

  • You might need to add in a sentence to explain how your paragraph connects to the rest of the essay.
  • You might need to add in a sentence more of analysis to better explain what you are proposing. 

If you paragraph seems to be making two different points:

  • break it into separate paragraphs.
  • make sure that all the information you've proposed is necessary.
    • if you have a paragraph that does not seem like it belongs in your paper, remove it


Reviewing the Sentences

Each sentence of your essay should communicate its central idea clearly and hold the reader’s attention. 

The good thing about sentences is that, if they have gone wrong, they are usually easy to fix:

  • If you've used "it" or "this" or "they": make sure it's clear what you are referring to with these words. If it isn't, take them out and use proper names or name the concept instead. 
  • If your sentences are fragmentary (they begin with a capital letter and end with a period, but they are missing a subject or a verb), try joining them with the sentences before or after to make a complete sentence. 

The Essay Editing module describes sentence level revision in more detail.