5.1 Finishing touches

5.1.3 Proofreading

Proofreading is concentrated, painstaking work. It is recommended that you read through your entire essay at least three times, giving yourself a break of a day or two in between reads. 

Proofreading can be difficult because you are very close to the work. Sometimes you read what you meant to say rather than what you actually wrote. The examiner, seeing your work for the first time, will see your mistakes. This is one reason why proofreading is so important.

So how does one proofread? Here are some tips: 

  1. Print it out - Although its not environmentally friendly, you will see more, literally, when your words are printed in front of you. 
  2. Read it out loud - As strange as this might feel, reading out loud helps you 'hear' the flow of the essay and work on the readability of your essay.
  3. Highlight the main ideas - Every paragraph should have one. If it is too difficult to find the main idea of a paragraph, it may need rewriting. If a paragraph has two main ideas, split it up. 
  4. Ask yourself: 'So what?' - After each paragraph, ask yourself why it matters. Is the answer to this question clear? If not, make the implicit explicit and continually return to the research question. 
  5. Random checks - Try placing your finger on any random part of the essay without reading what comes before or after the paragraph. On its own does this paragraph make sense? 
  6. Global scan - Check for the length of each sentence and paragraph. If a paragraph is longer than a page, cut it up. If a sentence runs on, insert a full stop.
  7. Quotations, paraphrases and summaries - Are your quotations clearly indicated by use of quotation marks or indented paragraphs? Is all use of other people's work clearly attributed, either in the text or in parenthetical citation? Is it clear how your use of evidence or other people's work relates to your argument, or helps answer your research question?