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Writing Centre Resource Guide

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Evaluating your Essay

You must always keep your audience in mind while you are writing.  What do you want them to learn from your assignment?

1) What is the main idea in your paper?

2) What is your position on this idea?

3) What evidence (subtopics) do you provide to support this position?  Does it provide adequate justification for the position?

Adapted from Shelagh Crooks’ “Critical Reading/ Structured Writing,” presented at the Connections Across the Curriculum conference at Dalhousie University, May 4, 2005.

Structural Revision: the Reverse Outline

Purpose: to identify structural and organizational difficulties in your writing

Reverse outlining is a technique that is used after you have written a draft of a section, chapter or entire paper. It is a method of examining the structure of your paragraphs to check for coherence, flow, organization and support of your ideas.

One approach is to number each paragraph in a section, then to write down the main point of each paragraph. Longer points may take several paragraphs to develop, but several ideas should not be presented in a single paragraph. 

When complete, you should be able to identify the unifying idea of each paragraph (or short section). If it is difficult to do this you may need to develop the idea further, or you may be presenting too many ideas in the paragraph. Perhaps the paragraph does not belong in the section at all and could be eliminated or could be moved and developed elsewhere in the paper.  Ask yourself whether the idea of each paragraph flows logically into the next.

Reverse outlining can also be used as a tool to examine and learn from the writing of others – to break good writing down into components for structural analysis.

For more detailed advice, please see our guide on reverse outlining in the Word document below:

Revising, Editing and Proofreading Your Own Work

The key to revising your own work is to be able to step away from the product, ‘get out of your head’ and approach your own writing as if it was the work of another person.  This is not always an easy process, but the following tips will help you to edit your work as objectively and productively as possible:

·         Allow enough time to revise

·         Break your work down and review it in stages

·         Reverse outline to assess structural issues (see below)

·         Do not rely on spelling and grammar checkers

·         Read aloud

·         Work from a printed copy

See the following files for more detailed explanations of these approaches.

Parallel Structure

Parallel structure involves using a consistent pattern of words when:

  • providing a list of ideas or examples
  • showing that two arguments have a similar level of importance
  • highlighting the difference(s) between two arguments

For more details on parallel structure, please visit this guide from the Purdue Online Writing Lab.

Finding the Right Words

Common Grammar Concerns

The revision phase is a good time to check your writing for errors in grammar and punctuation. Here are some resources to help you address common concerns. For more detailed advice, please see this guide's Grammar and Punctuation page.

Resources for Revision