Many students tell us that they don't know what to check for once they have finished their essay. They usually know to check for grammar, punctuation, and spelling, but other details are often seen as less important because of the high emphasis placed on these problems in their early education.
Writing experts generally agree, however, that while details such as grammar and punctuation are important, they are far less important than solid organization, fresh writing, and creative content.
The following guidelines are designed to give students a checklist to use, whether they are revising individually or as part of a peer review team.
- Is there a clear introduction, body, and conclusion?
- Does the introduction provide sufficient background for the reader? Are the "who," "where," "why," "what," and "how" questions addressed?
- Is there a thesis sentence? Is the purpose of the essay clear?
- Does the essay move from general to specific?
- Are there sufficient transitions between related ideas?
- Is the overall organization murky or clean? In other words, does the writer avoid introducing new material in the conclusion or switching subjects in the middle of a paragraph in the body?
- Does every paragraph address the subject matter of the thesis in some way?
Content and Style
- Does the essay show that the writer has a knowledge of the audience?
- Is the length appropriate and adequate?
- Has the writer used sufficient examples and detail to make his or her points clearly?
- Has the assignment been addressed?
- Is the tone of the essay appropriate?
- Has the writer avoided insulting the reader?
- Is the tone of the essay professional and appropriate?
- Is the language convincing, clear, and concise?
- Has the writer used fresh language and a creative approach?
Research and Sources
- Are all sources credible?
- Is the research accurate, unbiased, and complete?
- Has the writer fully interpreted the findings?
- Has the writer commented on each source used?
- Is the analysis based on hard evidence?
- Is the analysis free of faulty reasoning?
- Is the documentation in the Works Cited page and body of the essay correct?
- Have all quotations been checked against the original?
- Are all quotations introduced? Is the flow of the essay seamless?
- If material was paraphrased, are the sources still mentioned?
- If necessary, are limitations clearly spelled out?
- If included, are recommendations based on accurate interpretations?
- Have all facts been checked for accuracy?
- Have any potentially libelous statements been eliminated?
- Has the writer checked grammar and punctuation?
- Has the writer spell checked the essay?
- Has the writer checked for his or her particular pattern of error?
- Are the page numbers correct?
- Is the title capitalized correctly?
- Has the writer used the correct margin and font?
DUE: Monday, March 6.
PURPOSE: to give you a chance to improve your essay (and your grade) by rewriting it
FORMATTING THE ESSAYOne of the things good writers know is that the heart of good writing is almost always revision. I won't say always, because Cooper boasted that he hadn't even read his manuscript of The Pioneers before sending it to the printers, and Stowe claimed that the holy ghost inspired Uncle Tom's Cabin, that she just wrote it down as fast as the vision was unfolded to her. But in my case, as I've said before, I don't even know what one main point I most want to organize an essay around until I've written a first draft. And words and passages that seem really clear to me as I'm writing them the first time (because I know what I'm trying to say) often strike me, when I re-read them a few days later, as hard to follow, unpersuasive, or off the point.
So for this assignment, I want you to think of the essay you handed in last week as a draft. The comments I've put on it you can think of as one reader's response. With luck they'll help you identify the various strengths and weaknesses of what you've done, and give you cues about how to revise -- but I don't want you to think of the revision as simply "fixing" the places I marked as problematic. In some cases, for example, you'll probably want to reorganize the essay from scratch; in others, leave out parts of the draft and add new sections; in others, elaborate what you say about certain passages, &c.
Two things I want you to do before writing the revision. One is look back through the essay and my comments and start deciding for yourself how you can best reshape it to develop the idea that most interests you. The other is come see me to talk for about fifteen minutes about your plans. To that end, I'll be in my office these additional office hours this week:
THURS. 3/2 -- 12-3
I'll also be around during my regular hours. If you want to sign up for a specific time, I'll bring a sheet to class both Monday & Wednesday, or you can e-mail me a day or two ahead of time, and I'll let you know if the time is free.
I'll give the revised essay a new grade based on both how good I think it is, and how much work you seem to have put into improving it. I can't promise it'll get a higher grade than the original essay, but in either case, I'll only record the highest of the two grades as your grade for the first formal essay. Good luck!