Fresh Ideas for Working on an Academic Essay: Polish Your Paper Up
You’re putting the final touches on your essay, and it looks good. But you don’t just want a good paper, you want a great paper. You want a paper that sounds professional, academic, and well-written. What are some things you can do to polish up the paper, make it really stand out?
- Read your paper aloud to yourself. You might sound a little silly speaking aloud in your room, or muttering to yourself in the library, but reading your paper aloud to yourself is the best way to pick up on errors and weak spots. A lot of the time when we’ve been working hard on something for a long time, we develop a “lazy eye”, meaning we skip over mistakes and don’t notice them. When you take the time to focus and read the paper aloud to yourself, slowly, you won’t be able to miss those little errors or strange sentences that need fixing!
- Re-write your paper. Not the whole thing, of course. Close the essay (saving it first!) and then open up a new document. Create an outline of the major points of your paper (such as your topic sentences), and write a brief summary of how you support each point. You should be able to summarize each point, easily and quickly, if the paper is strong. If you find yourself having trouble summarizing your evidence from a specific part of your paper, it might be necessary to go back and see if you can make that part of the paper stronger. When you’re done summarizing the paper, look at each topic sentence and see if they all support your thesis. Are they all relevant? Does the order in which they appear make sense, logically? You might realize that your paper will flow better, and thus be better, just by switching the order of two paragraphs!
- Re-visit your introduction and conclusion. A strong introduction and a strong conclusion can really bring a so-so paper up to a higher level. Make sure your opening and closing sentences pack a real punch – it helps to imagine that your paper is a speech. Would the first sentence draw the crowd in, or would you start seeing people file out? Would the last sentence leave your crowd breathless, or wondering if the speech was over or not?
- Look for redundancy. If you have a sentence where you say something like, “is both clear and obvious”, you should delete one of the words. They mean the same thing, so while including both gives your paper bulk, it takes away from its readability and strength. You can also delete words like “very”, “really”, “practically”, “actually”, and similar words that don’t add anything to the sentence.