Welcome to revising the First Draft.
Understanding how to revise the first draft is a task in and of itself. Your instructor will undoubtedly require you to develop a plan for revising shorter and longer papers. The process of developing a revision plan will help you prepare the final paper for submission. The first draft is never a perfect paper.
There are inconsistencies with the language. The logic of the paper is not cohesive. Many grammatical issues flood the paper. In this context, your professor’s objective is to point out areas of your paper where you are ambiguous. Sometimes the professor will write a comment in the margins such as “much more could be said here” or “define this.”
On the other hand, professors who teach junior and senior-level English courses will just use the comment “ambiguous” to describe a particular paragraph or line within a paragraph. Your job is to figure out what the professor means regarding the comment. To help students address problems with ambiguity, professors will require them to develop a revision plan.
A revision plan is simply a detailed outline of how you will revise parts and sections of your paper. With a revision plan, you outline the problems present within your thesis, areas of a paragraph that don’t support a topic sentence, irrelevant quotes, inconsistencies between the introduction and conclusion paragraphs, and related grammatical issues.
The revision plan is a guide that you use to identify problems, describe goals, and establish a rewriting schedule. Table 1 represents a simple essay prompt that professors use to instruct students on developing a revision plan. Review the essay prompt. It will help you understand the exercises and explanations that follow.
By the end of this lesson, composition students and instructors will be able to do the following:
Outline a strategy for resolving ambiguity.
Revise for ambiguity.
Keep these learning objectives in mind as you review the sample feedback comment.
SAMPLE FEEDBACK COMMENT
1.2. Ambiguous (Revision Plan)
Ambiguous is a feedback comment that is appropriate for the first draft. Students often struggle with writing the first draft, choosing to explore ideas that still need further development. Content that is ambiguous usually requires the student to revisit the thesis he or she has created to ensure the clear expression of ideas. The following discussion explores a sample prompt requiring a student to revise their essay. It is useful for any composition instructor who expects students to clarify ideas within their papers, thus encouraging revision of the paper.
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to do the following:
- Define the ambiguity.
- Apply the instructor’s feedback.
- Design a revision plan.
Revision Essay Prompt
Develop an essay that best illustrates how you will achieve revising Homework #2. Refer to the following table for more information on structuring your essay.
Table 1: Sample Essay Prompt
|Section of Paper/Other||First Step||Second Step|
|Introduction||Identify your problem.||Describe your thesis.|
|Research Goals/Methodology||Describe your goals.||Outline a method for how you will complete the project.|
|Writing Schedule||Create a writing timetable||Provide a timetable for rewriting Homework #2.|
|Literature Review||Research more sources.||Revise your source list and provide a description of at least two works you will use.|
|Professional Statement on MLA||Revise errors in MLA use.||Write a statement on how you will incorporate MLA.|
|Conclusion||Identify inconsistencies.||Develop an impact statement by describing how your paper will have an impact on others.|
For the classes we teach in first-year composition, the revision plan essays range from five to seven pages. It is important that students include examples of the mistakes they discover in their essays. The process of identifying problems and developing solutions has a significant impact on both academic and professional studies.
Figure 1 is a sample response to the essay prompt of Table 1. Review the statement. It will help you identify the student’s inconsistencies in developing revision goals. Let us begin.
Figure 1: Typical Response
|My thesis is King discusses segregation and the direct-action program. In my paper, I did not construct a clear thesis. My topic sentences did not support my thesis. I should have added more supporting evidence. A quote I used didn’t make much sense. I should have checked to see if my quotes matched my topic sentence. Therefore, my goal is to create a better thesis. I will devote whatever free time I can to scanning my paper so I can make sure my paper is done and done right. I will spend time looking through my books and looking for good quotes. The reason why I didn’t get a good grade on the last paper was because of my bad scheduling. I should have devoted more time. So, this time I will go over my paper for any mistakes. My paper will be ready by Monday to turn it in on Wednesday.|
There are ambiguities with the above statement. It is important to address each ambiguity separately and provide an explanation. The explanations will be in the form of questions for the purpose of helping students think about the sentence(s).
I did not construct a clear thesis.
Constructing a clear thesis requires forethought and planning. The following are questions necessary to understand the differences between the thesis you initially formed and the thesis you will need to consider for resolving ambiguity issues with your paper.
1) What was wrong with your thesis?
2) What was unclear about the previous thesis?
Resolving ambiguity always begins with the thesis.
My topic sentences did not support my thesis.
The purpose of the topic sentence is to support the thesis and frame the paragraph. When this does not happen, the reader becomes unsure about the purpose of the paragraph and by extension the ideas expressed within the paragraph. The following questions require you to determine if the revision plan will address the thesis or the topic sentence or both.
1) What was your topic sentence?
2) What was your thesis?
3) Now which parts of the topic sentences did not support the parts of the thesis?
The only way you can reframe the topic sentence is by rewriting the thesis. If you do not want to rewrite the thesis, then you will need to rewrite the topic sentence. Just consider the reasons you are using to prove your thesis, and this should help ensure that the thesis and topic sentences align.
I should have added more supporting evidence.
Use of supporting evidence is necessary in academic writing. Considering that use of supporting evidence is not optional, then integration of the supporting evidence must ensure a balanced video of the discussion. Determining whether the supporting evidence supports or opposes your argument takes time, and you should define this clearly within the essay. The following questions address when and where to place supporting evidence.
1) What part of your paper would you need more supporting evidence?
2) What part of the paper already lacks supporting evidence?
3) What ideas within your paper will the supporting evidence support?
4) Will the supporting evidence support or oppose your ideas?
5) Will the supporting evidence support the author’s ideas?
Understanding the role of the supporting evidence will also help you understand when and where to integrate that evidence. Where you place supporting evidence must be strategic and effective. Otherwise, you are just putting something in your paper because the instructor requires supporting evidence. Placement requires understanding the author’s argument and ideas and determining whether the argument and ideas correlate and/or support your purpose for writing.
Therefore, my goal is to create a better thesis.
There is no such thing as a “better thesis.” Instead, a thesis that clearly defines your purpose for writing is one that guides the reader throughout your paper. Each area of your paper should support the thesis. In other words, we should not see areas of your paper that support the thesis and then areas of your paper that do not or there is no indication through language that you present evidence as opposing the thesis. The following question should get you to think about how you are defining “better.”
1) How do you define “better”?
Defining “better” is not necessary. Clarity is the key. Creating a clear, focused thesis is important. Writing the thesis takes time.
I will devote whatever free time I can to scanning my paper so I can make sure my paper is done and done right.
We often write the same way we talk, but in academic writing, we must structure the content and language to ensure the reader gains an understanding of the purpose for writing. This means that areas of your paper that need revision require that you address the details. If something is not “done right,” this means that the writing reflects a hurried strategy. In fact, the writing might indicate that you scrambled to complete the task. In other words, you might have drafted the paper overnight, and it shows up in the language and sentence construction. The following three areas should help you to challenge your revision process.
The word “scan” has two definitions: 1) examine something in detail and 2) look through something quickly. Which of the two will you do to your paper? Will you do both? Which areas of your paper will you devote to examining something in detail? Which areas of your paper will you devote to looking through something quickly?
- Done and done right
The word “done” means concluded. Done right could mean that you have finished your paper, or it could mean that you have finished your paper and have made sure that your paper conforms to the requirements of the assignment. What do you want “done” and “done right” to mean? What do you consider your paper as representing “done”?
- Whatever free time
What is your base schedule? Where are you every day? How will you define your time?
What will you do to your paper on Monday? What will be the block of time?
- Make sure
What does “make sure” mean to you? Can you measure how you will devote your time to making sure your paper is done and done right?
Defining your revision plan requires that you understand your own time schedule. Sometimes revising a paper may take a day. Sometimes revising a paper may take a week. You must know, based on the instructor’s comments, how long it will take to revise sections or the whole paper and what time you can devote to ensuring you meet the requirements of the instructor, the assignment, and the writing task overall.
I will spend time looking through my books and looking for good quotes.
Looking through books and looking for quotes should not be a new undertaking. This means that this is a general requirement, and it goes without suggesting this to the reader. The revision plan, thus, should outline the areas of the books, i.e., chapters, that most define for you the process of revising the paper.
Looking through the books takes considerable time when you are entering the revising process. Instead, you should know the parts of the books that work best for your paper. In other words, you should have read the books prior to drafting the paper to then know the parts that work best for revising the paper. The following questions require you to think about the suitability of the supporting evidence, to think about your reading and pre-writing processes, and to pace yourself when considering the quotes you will use within your paper.
1) How will you “look” through your books?
2) Will you just pick up your book and “look” through it?
3) What will you use to guide this activity? A quote? An idea?
4) What does “good” mean? Does good mean suitable? Will you look for suitable or appropriate quotes?
Permit time to review supporting evidence before writing because when you must revise your paper, you do not always have time to reread the books required for the essay. The previous outlines you create from reading the materials will save you time when revision is necessary.
So, this time I will go over my paper for any mistakes. My paper will be ready by Monday to turn it in on Wednesday.
Outlining the mistakes you have made within your paper will require you to review the instructor’s feedback. You may know and understand your mistakes, but if the instructor requires you to revise areas of your paper, then focus on the mistakes the instructor highlights, review the direction the instructor provides, and then revise the paper based on those mistakes and the feedback. This means that your revision plan must consider time as a factor. The following questions address the need to define your mistakes and address them appropriately.
- Go over
1) What does this mean? 2) When you “go over” will you perform this activity with the purpose in mind to revise sections of your paper?
What type of mistakes will you search for? Grammar? Unclear thesis? Supporting evidence?
Does “ready” mean “done” or “done right” or both?
Determining the types of mistakes will focus your revision efforts and preserve the time necessary to address other areas of your paper before re-submission.
These are questions you should consider as you develop a revision plan for your own essays. As you continue to address the ambiguity within your essays, consider the following checklist. It offers steps to help you determine if your thesis, topic sentence, or any other statement within your paper is ambiguous or has multiple instances of ambiguity.
- Construct a thesis that is attainable, measurable, and clear from ambiguity.
- Since the author is not ambiguous, your thesis should not be ambiguous. Do what the author does.
- Preserve the intent of the author. Accurately convey the author’s viewpoints.
- Reconfigure the topic sentence so that it complements the ideas expressed within the direct quotes. Be careful when using such words as “among” and “between.”
- Make sharper distinctions between what happens first, second, third, and last by using these words. When the author does not provide wording that reflects time and chronology, within your essay you must provide the time-specific words to guide the reader.
- Leave no room for uncertainty. Check each word you write. Even small words such as “scan” and “look” and “done” can mean two or three different things.
The following is the downloadable document for the sample feedback comment. It is useful as a guide for revising the first draft.
1.2. Ambiguous (Revision Plan)
As indicated in the previous lesson, “Ambiguous” is a feedback comment appropriate for the first draft. Composition instructions expect students to revise for clarity of ideas. Download the document for flexibility.
RELATED FEEDBACK COMMENTS
The following are useful as guides for revising the first draft. Use these feedback comments in conjunction with the other comments on this page.
The feedback comment is appropriate to the first draft. Composition instructors expect students to hone their writing skills. Download the document for flexibility.
1.4. An interesting idea, but it doesn’t work in every example.
The feedback comment is appropriate for the first draft. Composition instructors to apply the literary criticism appropriate to the work. Download the document for flexibility.
The following feedback comments represent practical tasks for managing the revision process for multiple areas of the paper and the writing process in general.
Practical Task: Managing for Focus
This lesson module explores practical tasks for managing the revision process in first-year composition courses. It reviews feedback comments and revision considerations. The lesson focuses primarily on revising for focus with the first draft.
Practical Task: Managing for Clarity of Expression
This lesson module explores practical tasks for managing the revision process in first-year composition courses. It reviews feedback comments and revision considerations. The lesson focuses primarily on revising for clarity of expression with the first draft.
Practical Task: Managing for Use of Evidence
This lesson module explores practical tasks for managing the revision process in first-year composition courses. It reviews feedback comments and revision considerations. The lesson focuses primarily on revising for use of evidence with the first draft.
Practical Task: Managing for Affirmative Replies
This lesson module explores practical tasks for managing the revision process in first-year composition courses. It reviews feedback comments and revision considerations. The lesson focuses primarily on revising for use of affirmative replies with the first draft.
SUMMARY OF KEY LESSON POINTS
- A revision plan is simply a detailed outline of how you will revise parts and sections of your paper. With a revision plan, you outline the problems present within your thesis, areas of a paragraph that do not support a topic sentence, irrelevant quotes, inconsistencies between the introduction and conclusion paragraphs, and related grammatical issues.
- 1.3. Ambitious: It is hard to outline “similarities” between assumptions, facts, and beliefs if one person is the only one outlining the assumptions, facts, and beliefs.
- When a professor places “1.4. An interesting idea, but it doesn’t work in every example.” at the end of your paper, he or she is saying that you need to proofread your paper for more than just grammatical errors, but also for relevance, relationships, continuity, transition, and support.
- 1.11. Needs Clarification: When you do not clearly define your ideas, “you” become unreliable. Your job as the writer is to examine each character in relation to what you think.
- 1.12. Awkward: If you receive this comment, review the paragraph where the professor places the comment. Study it in relationship to the other paragraphs. Ask yourself this question: Can my paper function fully without this sentence? If it can, then remove the sentence and/or paragraph.
- 1.23. Explain Exactly What You Mean Here: You must explain new concepts, new ideas, and new ways of understanding the topic before you can move further on into the paper. Otherwise, you will not be equipped enough to do what comes next, which includes explaining how one concept relates to another.
- 1.34. Examine Evidence from the Text: The best method for examining evidence from the text is to evaluate the primary title, secondary title, how the author has structured the information, and if the information is logically organized as it is presented to you. From what verb tense is the work written? Is there a shift in verb tense? What point of view does the author use? Does the author shift between first-person and third-person points of views?
- 1.39. Focus on the Question: This is a four-part process. Analyze the question by separating it into component parts. Determine how many elements the question has by circling key coordinating conjunctions such as “and” and “or.” Write an answer that is formal in structure and that reflects your understanding of each element. Develop an extended discussion section within the conclusion with the purpose of examining the question more extensively.
About the Author
Regina Y. Favors has served as a college English instructor for a community college, teaching first-year composition. Regina has both a B.A. and M.A. in English from San Diego State University. Regina’s current activities focus on developing a digital learning platform for first-year composition studies.
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