Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Big Picture

By Travis Willmore

The big picture is often difficult to see when revising a paper. It’s easily obscured by minor spelling and punctuation issues that need editing—little distractions that get in the way of your concentration on improving the content of your paper. But wait…aren’t revision and editing basically the same thing?

Actually, no. Revision is something much more urgent than the red-underlined spellchecker stuff crying out “Edit me!” Revision should be applied in liberal doses before you even start to think about line-by-line editing. It means taking a look at that Big Picture we mentioned and asking yourself big questions like:

-Do the facts I mention in my paper support my main point?
-Do I, in fact, have a main point?
-Are my arguments adequately supported and my examples sufficiently explained?
-Is the information presented in an order that lets the reader clearly follow my thought process?
-Do my introduction and my conclusion complement each other?

Feel free to move major sections around or take out entire paragraphs if they don’t fit your overall vision. Swap your conclusion with your introduction if it makes for a stronger intro. Remember, nothing in your original draft is locked in. Any component can be modified or discarded in the interest of creating a more coherent whole.

This is why the editing, the nitty-gritty i-before-e-except-after-c work, can wait until revision is done. No need to obsess over the punctuation of a sentence in your first draft when you might cut out that sentence’s whole paragraph during revision. It’s better to save the final coat of proofreading polish until the larger form underneath is something worth polishing.

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