Step Eight: Revision (The Longest Step of the Writing Process)
This is the most important step; well, they are all important. But this one is where the magic happens. Revision is the real work of writing and is the most time consuming step of the writing process. With this step, you will have had time away from your writing and thoughts about the topic, you will have read your peers’ papers, and you will have received feedback. Now, the fun, and work begins!
Please be careful not to fall in love with your writing. We all do it from time to time because we spent time and energy creating and perhaps are not able to envision the paper from another perspective. Yet as you embark on your journey with revision, take Don Roff’s advice. He shares, “I’ve found the best way to revise your own work is to pretend that somebody else wrote it and then to rip the living shit out of it.” Oh dear, we are not going to be as vicious as Roff, but with the help of our peer feedback techniques and the writing process, hopefully, you will be able to spend time with your writing to re-vision and re-shape it.
When you revise your work, consider the feedback you received from your peers and professor to implement what resonates with you and restructure or develop your ideas in your paper.
Revision is working with the content and rhetoric of the essay — what you are sharing and how you are articulating your argument. Give yourself permission to make significant changes to your writing. Many students fear this will take too much time. How much . . . an episode of a show on Netflix, maybe two? Certainly not an entire series. However, please keep in mind the work you complete in your classes will be the riches that live inside of you for the rest of your life. As American politician and attorney Christine Gregoire posits, “education is the foundation upon which we build our future,” and what you do now, in this class, is that foundation for your future.
Please continually consider if your essay fulfills the assignment’s task and expectations. To do so, read through your essay and compare it to what you have been asked to do, making notes to yourself, either on a hard or digital copy of your essay or spoken aloud and recorded for yourself.
Explore whether or not your paper has a clear thesis statement that addresses the assignment’s task and topic sentences that prove a portion of the thesis statement while relating directly to it. Think Dr. Evil from Austin Powers as your thesis statement and Mini-Me as your topic sentences—not identical but related.
Whatever you remove or add, whatever feedback you consider, you will be seeing you writing with new eyes, which allows you to express yourself more fully and clearly to your audience, in ways that you could not imagine. Please keep in mind that you can revise your essay as often as necessary to make it clearer and more fully developed. You are in control of your writing, so make the changes that you feel are going to improve your ability to articulate your message to your audience based on the assignment’s task and expectations.
Since revision is both an arduous and a fun process, we will use different revision techniques to support you as you look at your writing again and again. Here they are…
The Reverse Outline
Once you have a draft of your essay, this technique is helpful to see the structure and organization of your paper, so you can see what you have and what you need to include. It is called a reverse outline because you turn your essay into an outline, which is the opposite of using the technique of outlining as a writing plan. Since re-vision means to “see again,” the reverse outline helps you see your paper again with new eyes, if you will.
You may use the reverse outline as a peer response technique as well which can be helpful to look at your paper from your peers’ perspective.
So how does it work? First, please watch Reverse Outlining (3.18 minutes) before you follow the steps below to create a reverse outline.
Steps for Creating a Reverse Outline
Step One: The Quick Version
- Either print or open the file of your paper.
- Go through the paper and number each paragraph.
- On a separate sheet of paper or in a new document, write the thesis statement of your paper at the top of the paper or document.
- On the same sheet of paper or document, write #1 and read the corresponding paragraph. Then, write down the main point for that paragraph, which may or may not be the topic sentence. Continue to do this until you have outlined the main points of each paragraph of your paper.
- Now, compare your thesis statement to the assignment’s task to see that you are addressing it. From this comparison, you may need to revise your thesis statement to clarify your argument or to more accurately address what you are being asked to write about. You may also find that you can make the language of your thesis statement clearer.
- Based on your thesis statement, look through your outline to compare the main points of you paragraphs with your thesis statement, to see if they relate to one another. If they do not, this will alert you to revise either your thesis statement to encompass your argument in your paragraphs or the main point of your paragraph so it proves an aspect of your thesis statement.
- As you look at the outline of your main points, use the assignment to see if:
- your paper is on topic
- each paragraph is coherent and focused on one main idea (following the TEA structure even if you are proving your topic sentence over more than one paragraph)
- the paragraphs are not repeating main points
- the paragraphs focus on one main idea
- the organization of the body paragraphs are in the best or most effective order based on your thesis statement and progression of your argument
- the thesis statement or topic sentences need to be revised to better reflect the actual content of the supporting topics and relevant evidence as they are developed throughout the body paragraphs
- the introduction is balanced and based on the essay’s topic
- introduction introduces the topic of your thesis
- the conclusion continues the paper’s discussion rather than repeating the thesis and/or main points
- Based on what you discover, you now have information to work with to create a revision plan and revise your essay, so it expresses your thoughts and follows the assignment’s task and expectations.
Using the Reverse Outline for Peer Review
If you are using the reverse outline as a peer review strategy, you may use it one of two ways. First, your peer may create the reverse outline of you paper for you, which will give you a clear idea of your audience’s understanding of your work.
Second, your peer and you may create an outline and you can compare them, discussing what works and what could work better.
Step Two: The Deeper Dive into Revision
When you have a later draft of your essay, follow the steps of the first version of the Reverse Outline. Then, verify the TEA structure is intact for each paragraph by examining one paragraph at a time, checking if:
- each piece of evidence is coherent and relates to the topic in the topic sentence
- any piece of evidence requires more analysis by developing and connecting your opinion to the topic in the topic sentence, or needs to be developed in a new paragraph, keeping in mind the 30% evidence and 70% analysis recipe
- the evidence and analysis are relevant to each topic sentence and the thesis statement
- any evidence needs to be cut from the paper, or if any new evidence needs to be added to the paper
- each piece of textual evidence is properly cited and used effectively following the textual evidence sandwich and the rules for summary, paraphrase, and direct quote
Remember: writing the first draft and employing sources will often lead to unplanned changes and different directions than those we intended before writing. Therefore, the reverse outline is a helpful strategy to help your ideas get back on track and refocus the main idea. Creating a Reverse Outline after each draft is highly recommended to keep track of all changes in content and organization.