Writing the final draft of any research or term paper includes editing for major and obvious errors in sentence and paragraph construction. Then the paper should be proofread for grammar and spelling errors, followed by a final read through and tweaking for minor problems. Finally, the paper should be double-checked for correct citations and correct format on the bibliography or list of works cited.
By Joan Whetzel
You’ve done all the research, you’ve completed an outline, and you’ve written the rough draft of your of your research or term paper. It’s now time to edit, proofread, and tweak that rough draft into a finished final draft. When finished, the final draft should be a polished paper, something you’d be proud to turn into the teacher.
Things You’ll Need
You will need a dictionary to double check spelling and word usage and a thesaurus to infuse your writing with the most luscious verbs and nouns. The writing manual for the style you are using to write your paper will insure that you maintain the proper style throughout the research / term paper. A computer with word processing software makes the writing process easier, and a printer will allow you to print out a copy of the paper for your teacher and a second copy for yourself.
Now let’s get ready to write the best term/research paper possible. First, take a break after finishing the rough draft. Spend a few minutes getting something to drink or a snack, stretching your legs, whatever you need to clear your head so you can come back to the paper with fresh eyes and a refreshed brain. Next, don’t stay away too long. You need to have enough time to complete the corrections and final draft without rushing through the process. Read your paper aloud. This enables your ear to “hear” what the paper sounds like, allowing you to hear mistakes that your eyes might not see. Have a trusted friend or family member read your paper, which will give you another perspective on your paper and topic as well as a fresh set of eyes to point out any problems that you may not have considered. Now that you know what needs fixing, it’s time to edit for major mistakes, proofread for smaller mistakes, and tweak for flow and creating a final paper that makes sense.
Refine the Introduction and Conclusion
Start with the introduction. Correct any spelling, grammar and sentence structure problems. Reword as necessary to make it an exciting opening to the body of the paper. The idea of the opening paragraph is to excite your readers and make them want to keep reading. Use your thesaurus to help come up with the best, most creative word choices. Do the same for the conclusion, which should bring the paper to a close in the same vivacious manner as the intro opened it.
Edit for Ideas, Organization and Writing Style
Check the topic sentence for each paragraph. Do these sentences adequately introduce the point each paragraph makes? Read the rest of the sentences for flow, to make sure they support the topic sentence, and to make certain the sentences and paragraphs flow well. Correct all obvious errors in topic sentence, supporting evidence and flow.
Edit for Grammar and Spelling Errors
The word processing program on your computer should have a grammar and spell check. Run your edited rough draft through the grammar and spell check. This will clear up most, but not all of the problems. Read the paper again with an eye for additional grammar and spelling problems that may have been missed. Check for grammar mistakes such as: missing words, double words (places you may have written the word twice in a row), run on sentences, sentence fragments, inappropriate and unnecessary comma or semi-colon splices, subject / verb agreement, pronoun / reference agreement, and correct use of apostrophes (for words that are contractions, show possession, and plurals).
Next, check for spelling problems in the following areas: those pesky “ei / ie” words, and homonyms. Homonyms are words that the spell check will miss every time. They’re spelled correctly, but they aren’t the correct word choice. Some of the problem words include: they’re / their / there; write / rite / right; here / hear; steal / steel; affect / effect; allusion / illusion; capitol / capital; cereal / serial; click / clique; climactic / climatic; defuse / diffuse; eminent / imminent; faze / phase; flair / flare; flew / flu / flue; formally / formerly; forth / fourth; hardy / hearty; ingenious / ingenuous; lead / led; liable / libel; loose / lose; miner / minor; peak / peek / pique; plain / plane; principle / principal; role / roll; troop / troupe; veil / vale; who’s / whose. These are only a few of the most common homonym problems. Every time you see a word that could be spelled more than one way, use the dictionary to look up the word you chose, and determine if it’s the correct selection.
Tie all Quotes, Paraphrasing and Summarizations to the Bibliography
Check all quotes, paraphrasing and summarizations of another author’s work to be sure they are properly cited. All parenthetical citations as well as footnotes and endnotes should be properly formatted according to the style in which you wrote your paper. They should all be properly tied to the bibliography or list of works cited.
Double check the Bibliography / List of Works Cited
All entries in the bibliography or list of works cited should be written in correct format for the style used to write the term or research paper. Entries should then be placed in alphabetical order.
Let the paper rest a few minutes again. Then go back to read the entire paper, tweaking it where necessary for spelling, grammar and flow problems. If you need help with writing, style or editing problems, keep in mind that most colleges and universities have great resources that are helpful in these areas. Check out the resources offered by the Purdue University Online Writing Lab at: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/682/1/