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Revise, edit and proofread

Revising and editing your work

Writing is an iterative process, which means that you may produce several drafts of a piece of work.

When you write your first draft you need to be free to explore, develop and try out new ideas and approaches. Your work will grow naturally and will be less structured and more expansive. Worrying too much about making your first draft perfect may slow your progress and restrict your thinking. You can refine your writing later on.

It is important that you leave time to revise, edit and proofread your writing. We suggest that you:

  • build it into your overall plan and timings
  • leave a day between each stage of the process so you can look again at the content with fresh eyes
  • try to read your writing from your audience's point of view.


Revising is about checking the overall structure and coherence of your work, and making sure the contents are relevant to the topic.

First of all, you should read your work from start to finish, to help you think about the structure of the argument. You might find that you want to move paragraphs or sections to a different place to make the argument flow better.

This is also when you should check that each paragraph helps answer the question and contains some critical analysis.

Ask yourself:

  • Have I answered the question?
  • Is there a coherent and logical argument?
  • Does it stay focused on the topic?
  • Is it structured to help guide the reader smoothly through your argument?
  • Are the introduction and conclusion clear and focused?

Reverse outlining technique

To make revising easier, we recommend the “reverse outlining” technique.

Write the main idea from each paragraph in a numbered list (or on separate sticky notes). Look at the list you have created and check for repetition, coherence, relevance, and whether the ideas are in a logical order. If they are not, rearrange or remove ideas until you reach a structure that makes most sense to you. You can then adjust your written work to match the new structure.


Editing is about checking for sense and accuracy. It is a positive rather than a destructive process, as you are perfecting what you have already written.

When you edit your work, ask yourself:

  • Is it clear and readable?
  • Does it stay within any word counts?
  • Are my sentences in a logical order?
  • Have I used signposting vocabulary to show the structure of my argument?
  • Have I used the correct academic voice and tenses?