Revision or Nah?

College: the land of sleep-deprived, confused adult-child hybrids who are always inches from either having it all together or being shuttled off campus in a fetal position and straight-jacket. To avoid driving ourselves to the very edge of sanity, solving one problem at a time might make things a tad easier, so how about we start by checking out that “revision” thing that’s going around? Some professors demand it. Others gently encourage it. Still others don’t even mention it, so is it really worth our precious time? Yours truly went on a mission to find out what all the hub-bub is and whether it’s an important practice by picking the brains of professors themselves.

First, let’s be clear what we mean by revision because as stated by IPFW’s Assistant Prof. of Secondary Education, Dr. Luke Rodesiler, “editing and revision are often conflated…” which leads us to some clarification:

Revising

Editing

Core ideas

Structure

Thesis

Cohesion of ideas

Supporting ideas

Abstract ideas

Sentence structure

Punctuation

Grammar

Phrasing

Spelling

 

As we look at this concept of revision, it’s useful to remember that writing is a process and ours are all different. Plus, the writing process doesn’t stop until we decide to, so revision is also a continuous process. Dr. Jennifer Stewart, University of Tennessee’s Director of Composition and former IPFW professor, urges that when we write it’s useful to get feedback throughout the entire process—beginning, middle, and end. For those of us who are new to the concept of writing as a process, it’s important to try different revision strategies; hence, Dr. Stewart requires her students to try multiple strategies until they find their niche.

Likewise, IPFW Assistant Prof. of English Dr. Andrew Kopec, encourages students to meet with instructors and tutors during the writing process because revising is so “complex”. Instead of sitting in our rooms reading papers over and over, make it a “social process” where reviewing happens with “…a previous version of yourself, a group of peers, and a projection of the academic audience in mind at the same time”. Dr. Rodesiler also reminds us that when we peer revise to bring specific concerns and questions to the reviewer in order to avoid “…sweating the edits needed to polish up a piece of writing!”

For those of us who thought we escaped the reach of these revision proponents, well…sorry. Even IPFW History Prof. Benton Gates has found that revision is a painful necessity and recognizes “…the immense value of the process”. Not to mention, Prof. Dan Reed from the IPFW Communications department goes so far as to describe a useful order:

  1. “Big Picture”
    1. Abstract qualities
    2. Purpose
  2. “Development”
    1. Supportive evidence
    2. Logical connections
  3. “Structure”
    1. Lead-ins
    2. Clear conclusion
    3. Controlling idea throughout
  4. “Sentence Structure”
    1. Diction
    2. Word order

or-nah4

Yep. It’s official—revision is a thing and, as it turns out, is actually a key element in writing. While it can be painful to part with original ideas, sometimes we have to rework our original creation to make room for something better. But don’t forget…The Writing Center is here to help!

 

Gates, Ben. Personal Interview. 7 September 2016.
Kopec, Andrew. Personal Interview. 6 September 2016.
Reed, Dan. Personal Interview. 10 September 2016.
Rodesiler, Luke. Personal Interview. 9 September 2016.
Stewart, Jennifer. Personal Interview. 9 September 2016.

Do you even revise, bro?

Writing is a process; it’s messy, it’s sometimes tedious, it’s unique for each of us, and it takes TIME. Revision is a vital part of that process and believe it or not, it’s ongoing. Those of you who are new to the idea of revision or haven’t yet found YOUR  personal process, here are some tips, tricks, and hints:

Reading aloud

kid-reading

Regularly used in the Writing Center, reading out loud helps us catch those places that our brain reads over and subconsciously corrects. Darn brain! Break up the reading according to paragraph  and at the end of each paragraph, re-evaluate and re-write the things that didn’t fit or flow. Marking comments in the margins or highlighting will be helpful for when we go back! Things to look for:

  • Awkward phrasing: sometimes we write as things pop into our head (typing make this especially true) which creates conversational and sometimes incomplete language. While this might be okay for some assignments, it makes it harder on the reader to follow our thoughts. Be clear and concise!
  • Was the purpose or thought represented clearly? Every piece of writing has a purpose. Even “Gardner” by Shel Silverstein has a purpose:

“We gave you a chance

To water the plants.

We didn’t mean that way—

Now zip up your pants.”

It’s just hidden…very hidden. Therefore, we need to evaluate what the point in writing is and make sure that everything we write, clearly serves and supports solely that purpose.

Peer-review

help

Advocated for by many professors, peer-review is useful because it gets another set of eyes on our writing. After being consumed by our own writing for an extended period of time, we get used to the language and patterns of ourselves—let’s bring in another perspective and see if they can understand our language. Rules for Peer-Review:

  • Give the reviewer direction! When we hand our work to someone to revise without direction, the process may become too focused on editing groundwork issues like spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. Let’s ask our reviewer to look at specific issues such as cohesion of ideas, thesis, body structure, clarity, strong supporting evidence
  • Revision can be scary—sometimes we might have to re-write large aspects of the work. It’s important to remember that criticism is not always negative but feedback that can be used to make us better! Evaluate what the reviewer says and re-evaluate the work itself; go from there.
    1. This step can be scary because criticism is scary so don’t be afraid to just involve someone who you trust, know, and feel comfortable with.
  • Offer the work for peer-review throughout the writing process. Revision is an ongoing task and whether we only have an idea about what we want to write, an outline, a rough draft, or a polished draft, open it up for review!

 

Thesis evaluation

how_to_write_a_thesis2011-05-24

Believe it or not, thesis statements are present in pretty much every genre of writing. Our thesis should be a strong statement about our topic which we plan to support throughout the rest of our work. It’s our purpose for writing. Some people prefer to write their thesis at the beginning and go from there, while others write it at the end but no matter what, it will probably change by the polished draft. That’s okay! The thesis should be a position or idea that’s always aligned with and proven or represented by the rest of our project. When writing a thesis:

  • Be careful of biases or opinions—this is something that can actually be proven with PROOF.
  • Typically comes at the end of the introduction.
  • Be specific: avoid making generalizations and make a statement directly linked to everything else.
  • Never involves “I think/believe.”

 

Check for cohesion

linking

Everything in a work of writing should be linked, working to serve a purpose. These are some questions to ask ourselves throughout the process:

1) Does my language vary without repetition of phrases and words?

2) Does one paragraph build off of the previous with a strong transition?

3) How is each subtopic connected to each other and to the overall idea?

4) Does one idea flow smoothly to the next one?

5) When I read aloud, did everything seem strongly related based on topic, concepts, agreeing or disagreeing with the other ideas, etc. ?

6) Does the conclusion  tie everything together?

 

Examine Structure

structure

How we structure our writing impacts how the readers read our writing. As we go through the writing process, it’s important to make sure our structure is easy to follow so our ideas need to be in an order which builds to the conclusion. Avoid the high school framework of intro-body 1-body 2-conclusion but play with what works for your topic. Keep closely related ideas together (ideas that contrast with another but are similar can separate). In analytical-style or research papers, avoid jumping from evidence to explanation, evidence to explanation when the evidence is linked. Instead, supply a few pieces of evidence and then explain; this will help readers follow your thoughts easily without getting confused.

 

For more help: type into your search engine whatever you’re working on and then Purdue Owl (“thesis writing Purdue OWL” or “revision Purdue OWL”)—this site is a massive storehouse of knowledge; visit us at the Writing Center—we’re here for YOU ; never be afraid of asking your professor or a trusted professor for advice or clarification; many prestigious schools have a writing center so if you search google for help with revising, pay attention to those kind of sites!

 

written by Amy S.

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