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Academic Writing

Revising and Editing


Revising Your Essay

"To revise" literally means "to see again". Revision involves reviewing your ideas and their organization in your essay. You may rewrite some of your sentences to clarify ideas, and add, delete, or move sentences and paragraphs to strengthen your arguments.

Here is a checklist for revision:

  • Does the introduction clearly articulate the goal of the essay?
  • If it's an argumentative essay, is there a strong, clear thesis statement?
  • Do the paragraphs support the thesis statement? If not, the essay may not withstand a critical reading.
  • Is there enough information from sources such as books, journal articles and statistics to support the ideas and engage readers?
  • Are your points organized in a logical order that is easy for readers to follow?
  • Would the impact of your essay be stronger if the order of the paragraphs is rearranged? Some writers save their strongest points for the end.
  • Is there anything in the paper that should be deleted because it is not relevant to the purpose of the essay or is inconsistent with the points made?
  • Does the conclusion concisely summarize the key findings in your essay?
  • Pretend someone is reading just the conclusion—would they know what question you asked and how you had arrived at your answer?

After you improve the ideas in your essay, edit and work on the mechanics of your writing. This includes word choice, sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Reading the essay aloud or printing a copy of it for editing on paper may be helpful. Consider asking a classmate, friend, or family member to proofread your assignment. You can use a grammar and spelling checker to identify any errors, but remember that these software solutions may not be completely accurate and may provide bad suggestions. Use your own judgment when proofreading an essay.


It is common for writers to use grammar checkers to identify errors and edit their writing. However, these programs are not foolproof. They may miss grammatical and spelling mistakes or provide wrong suggestions. Knowing the basic rules of grammar can help you clarify ideas in your essay and improve your daily communication and writing skills.

Find tip sheets on grammar in the Downloadable tip sheets section.

Referencing Sources & Formatting Your Essay

Citing sources is a crucial part of academic writing in order to avoid plagiarism, acknowledge contributions of authors and experts in the field, help readers locate the materials if they wish to consult them, and demonstrate credibility in your analysis and arguments on the topic. Many courses at Sheridan require a citation style such as APA or MLA for referencing sources. Refer to the assignment or check with your professor on the citation style you need to use for an essay.

Sheridan Library has created Citation Style Guides to assist students with referencing sources in their assignments.

A clean and consistent look to your essay helps your professor and readers focus on your writing. Here are some of the common expectations for an essay:

  • A standard font such as Times New Roman in 12-point size.
  • Double-spacing of the text.
  • A reference list or bibliography on a separate page at the end.

The format of your paper generally depends on the citation style, if required by your professor.

Summary video: Revising your essay [1:19]