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How to write a graduate-level essay

Step-by-step guidance and resources for planning, researching, and writing essays as a graduate student.

Edit the draft

Lettered tiles that spell out editing tipsNow that you've completed the major revisions in the text, you can focus on polishing the text and fixing the details. See below for some suggestions of how to approach editing your text:

  1. It’s easy to miss errors when you’ve spent so much time on your work that you’re no longer seeing the small details. Try reading the work out loud, but do so slowly enough that someone else could understand you. You could also ask someone else to read the work to you. Reading out loud gives your brain a different approach to understanding the text, and you’re more likely to hear problems or mistakes, such as if your reader struggles with a sentence or if there’s a word missing. Also, if it’s necessary to take a breath before a sentence is done, the sentence is probably too long. For more information, please see Reading Aloud by The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For information regarding technological text-to-speech options, please see the last section of that resource.
  2. To catch grammatical errors, try reading the work backwards by sentences; that is, read the last sentence, then the previous sentence, and so forth. Doing so will allow you to focus on each sentence as a separate unit.
  3. If you are working with Microsoft Word 2007-2013 or Word 2011 for Mac, turn on the “Grammar and style” options in Word so that both spelling and grammar will be included during a spell check. See Check Grammar, Spelling, and More in Word for links to instructions of how to turn on the settings. Whenever you’re using a tool to check your work, please don’t assume the information or correction is correct. Instead, treat the feedback as suggestions and consider them carefully before deciding whether to change your text.
  4. Try the Writer’s Diet Test, which will provide sentence-level feedback on 100-1000 words of text. The tool will assess the conciseness of the text and illustrate where an author may have too many verbs, nouns, prepositions, adjectives/adverbs, or vague pronouns. Another resource that provides similar feedback is Hemingway Editor.
  5. Ensure all necessary copyright permissions have been secured; see Copyright for Students for information.
  6. Use a checklist to help you remember what to check, such as:
    • APA Style (7th ed.) References Checklist
    • Table Checklist (see p. 207 in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.))
    • Figure Checklist (see p. 232 in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.))

While there isn't an expectation by the university that you will use an editor during your program, if you decide to work with one in either a paid or unpaid capacity, please check with your instructor or academic supervisor first to ensure it is acceptable for you to work with an editor. Please also make sure that you set clear expectations with the editor regarding the scope of the edit. Copy editors often make changes within documents to improve flow, grammar, logic, structure, etc., but since you are being assessed on your writing skills, you need an academic editor, not a copy editor. The difference is that an academic editor will note where there are problems within the document, but leave the fixing of the problems up to you. If you don't understand the problem, that's a great time to contact the Writing Centre and ask for information. Remember that accepting the changes of an editor and representing them as your own work can leave you open to charges of plagiarism because you're claiming the work of someone else as your own. For more information, please see Academic Editors.

Once you have completed all edits and have made any necessary changes, you're ready to complete the final draft.

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