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To edit your paper effectively, you should ask yourself the 7 questions on these tabsFollow these steps in order. For example, don’t correct small grammar problems (#7) before you rewrite weak paragraphs (#4)!


Check off the things you have done:

1. Did I follow the assignment instructions?
2. Do I have a strong thesis statement?
3. Does my paper have a standard paper format?
4. Does each paragraph have a focus that supports the thesis statement?
5. Are my points well-supported?
6. Do the ideas in my paper flow logically?
7. Is my paper free of style, grammar, and typing errors?

 

Did you follow your teacher's instructions? 

 

1. Re-read the instructions to look for: 

  • A list of steps--Has your instructor given you steps to follow?
  • Suggested topics--Has your instructor provided topics, ways to organize your paper, or resources you should use?
  • Specific sections or aspects that need to be in the paper--Have you noticed every part of the assignment instructions?
  • The grading rubric--Has your instructor provided a rubric that shows how you will be graded? If so, check it carefully.

2. Highlight key words: 

  • Are there any key words like “analyze,” “describe,” “summarize,” or “argue”? Mark these key words by underlining, circling, or highlighting them.
  • Do you see key terms emphasized in class lectures or readings? If so, make sure you include discussion of these terms in your paper.

3. Documentation requirements: 

  • Do you need to follow any specific formatting guideline like MLA, APA, or Chicago? Make sure that the paper meets the formatting requirements, such as spacing, title page and headers, font style and size, and citation style.

4. Turn the assignment instructions into a checklist: 

  • Create a checklist on another sheet of paper by listing each instruction on a separate line. This will help you focus on one point at a time
  • Have you included anything that your instructor did not ask for? After writing the paper, use this checklist to double check that your essay meets all the requirements! 

 


Examining assignment instructions

Look at the example assignment instructions below. What key topics or items should the paper include? What key words can you identify? Then, break down the assignment requirements into a list.

Instructions: Write an argumentative paper on an environmental problem and present a solution to it. Use evidence and details to support your argument as well as a counter-argument. Your essay must have a thesis statement and follow APA formatting guidelines. Please cite from at least one academic article.​ Length: 4-5 pages

 

Requirements:

  • An argument and a counter-argument on an environmental problem
  • Evidence/details to support the argument
  • solution to the environmental problem
  • thesis statement
  • APA formatting guidelines using at least one academic article
  • 4-5 pages long

 

How can I write a strong thesis statement?

 

Do's: 

✔️ Take time to write and rewrite your thesis until it is clear and focused.

✔️ Write a thesis that limits your paper to a specific aspect of the general topic. Specifically state the paper’s unique angle or focus.

✔️ Write a thesis with one main unifying idea that holds together your supporting ideas.

✔️ Write a thesis that is easy to understand as a sentence on its own. 

✔️ Place your thesis at the end of the introduction unless your instructor says differently.

 

Don’ts: 

Don’t use a quotation as your thesis statement. The essay needs to show your analysis of the topic, not someone else's.

Don’t use evidence as your thesis statement. Evidence should be saved for the body paragraphs to support your argument. 

It is often best to avoid language like "I think" or "I will discuss" in your thesis statement, unless your instructor encourages this direct language in papers.

 


Exercise

Rewrite the thesis statement below to make it stronger.

“I expect to argue that public transportation is essential for mitigating climate change by transporting people from one place to another.”

 

Comments:

  • This thesis statement is too general. It doesn’t specify that the paper will focus specifically on Greater Vancouver.
  • It doesn’t identify the specific ways in which public transportation in Vancouver can mitigate climate change.
  • Many instructors dislike “I” statements like "I expect to argue,” so it is best to avoid them. If you are unsure, it is always best to ask your instructor.

The thesis statement could be rewritten as:

  • "Implementing a more sophisticated public transportation system in Greater Vancouver will significantly lower carbon emissions by reducing traffic congestion, idling, and long commute times.”

 

What kind of structure should I have for my essay?

 

Essays are usually structured according to this general outline:

 

1. Introduction (1 paragraph) with thesis at the end

  • Introduces topic
  • Background information/context
  • Thesis statement

2. Body paragraph 1

  • Topic sentence (summary of the main point in the paragraph)
  • Supporting point 1 (Evidence that supports or demonstrates the main point, followed by explanation/analysis, etc.)
  • Additional supporting points, etc.
  • Concluding statement (summary of paragraph)

(The number of body paragraphs will depend on paper length and paper structure.)

3. Concluding paragraph

  • Restatement of thesis statement
  • Summary of main points of the paper
  • General concluding statement(s)

 

How can I know if my paper has a good structure?

A quick way to check paper structure is to make an outline of the paper on another sheet of paper. This outline should list your thesis statement, topic sentences, and supporting points. Making an outline will help you notice if your topic sentences connect to your thesis, if you have enough strong support for each topic sentence, or if any paragraph or support is unsuitable or off topic.

 


Exercise 1

Which topic sentences are appropriate?

Thesis statement: “Implementing a more sophisticated public transportation system in Greater Vancouver can drastically reduce the amount of carbon emissions that gets pumped into the atmosphere by reducing traffic congestion, idling, and long commute times.”

 

Topic Sentence 1: Even though some modes of public transportation (buses) are heavy users of diesel fuel, overall they have less of an environmental impact than the category of private cars also fueled by diesel.

Topic Sentence 2: Even if you drive a minivan, you can only fit maybe 7 or 8 people in the vehicle.

Topic Sentence 3: Private car users also have a tendency to speed, which creates more air pollution.

 

Comments:

Topic sentence 1:

  • This topic sentence is very specific.
  • It links back to the thesis statement.

Topic sentence 2:

 

  • This sentence doesn't prepare the reader for the overall point of the paragraph.
  • This sentence starts providing specific evidence or reasoning that should come later in the paragraph.
  • As a first sentence, it misleads the reader into thinking the entire paragraph will be about minivans.
  • It does not prepare the reader for the contrast between private cars and public buses in relation to diesel fuel.

Topic sentence 3:

  • This topic sentence is not appropriate because it misses the paragraph’s key purpose—to contrast public transportation and private cars.

Exercise 2

List the strengths and weaknesses of the beginning of this outline. 

Introduction:

  • Topic introduction: Public transportation reduces traffic jams and idling time
  • Background information: We have been damaging the environment for a long time.
  • Thesis statement: Implementing a more sophisticated public transportation system in Greater Vancouver would drastically reduce the carbon emissions that get pumped into the atmosphere by reducing traffic congestion, idling, and long commute times.

Body paragraph 1:

  • Topic sentence: Why is public transportation good?
  • Support: Public transportation relieves a city of congestion.
  • Support: “Vancouver drivers take an average of 39 per cent longer to get to their destination compared to how fast they could get there in optimal traffic conditions.” (CBC, 2017)

 

Strength:

The body paragraph links to the thesis statement.

Weakness:

The topic sentence is a vague question (not a clear statement) and not the main point of the first paragraph (it should introduce the first thesis point about traffic congestion).

How can I check if my paragraphs have focus?

 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does each body paragraph clearly build on the thesis statement?
  • Will the reader easily see how this paragraph connects to the thesis argument?
  • Does each paragraph stay focused on only one aspect or clear point about the overall topic?
  • Do all the sentences in each paragraph support the topic sentence?
  • Are there any sentences that go off topic?

 


Exercise

Evaluate the body paragraph below:

What information is relevant to the topic sentence? What other points could you use to better support the topic sentence?

Public transportation is an excellent way to relieve a city of congestion. Vancouver, for example, was the most congested city in Canada in 2016 (CBC, 2017). They did a study that showed that Vancouver drives spend 30.4 hours a year in congested traffic. “Cohn found that Vancouver drivers take an average of 39 per cent longer to get to their destination compared to how fast they could get there in optimal traffic conditions.” (Meuse, 2006)

 

Comments:

  • Although the paragraph in this exercise presents evidence, this evidence does not support the topic sentence or the thesis of the paper because it doesn’t mention public transportation, or how public transportation can relieve congestion.
  • Although this evidence is limited to one clear point (time spent in traffic), it does not show a connection to how public transportation relieves congestion.

List of possible key points for this paragraph:

 

  • More advanced public transportation systems with designated tracks or lanes can greatly reduce the amount of emissions caused by traffic congestion.
  • Many developed cities have public buses, but these vehicles have to fight for space on the road and can easily get stuck in traffic.
  • Transit buses can reduce total tonnes of CO2 emissions per person compared to personal vehicles.
  • Light rail and bus rapid transit are even more efficient.
  • Designated lanes for public transportation can substantially improve Vancouver’s air quality.

 

Note: Although this list has focus, it still lacks proper support and needs to be reorganized. Take a look at steps 5 and 6 for more revisions!

 


Works Cited:

Meuse, M. (2017, February 26). How congested is Vancouver traffic? Depends whom you ask. CBC news. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/vancouver-congestion-rankings-1.3995206.

Vincent, W., & Jerram, L.C. (2006). The Potential for Bus Rapid Transit to Reduce Transportation-Related CO2 Emissions. The Centre for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR), 9(3), 219-237. Retrieved from https://scholarcommons.usf.edu /jpt/vol9/iss3/12.

How can I know if my paper needs more support?

Most academic papers at the college level should provide evidence that comes from trustworthy sources. This approach to “supporting points” in a body paragraph means providing quotations, statistics, expert opinion, or other evidence that shows the credibility of the point being argued.

 

Example claim: The Mayor of Vancouver has publicly advocated for the expansion of the Expo Skytrain Line.

 

This claim needs support because…

  1. I do not personally know the mayor nor did I witness the announcement.
  2. Evidence needs to be explained to the reader. How does this evidence demonstrate or support the main point being made in this paragraph?

 

A good formula for adding support:

  1. Make a claim.
  2. Add evidence. How do you know your claim is true?
  3. Explain how the evidence supports this claim. How or why does this evidence support the point you are making? What can you say to make sure the reader understands how this evidence shows your point?

 


Here are some do's and don'ts for using evidence for academic papers:

 

Do's:

☑ If evidence from a source can be paraphrased, do it!

☑ If you use a direct quotation, use only enough of it to make your argument.

☑ Make sure that the evidence is inserted smoothly, with a transition before or after. The evidence shouldn’t feel sudden, with no context or explanation.

☑ Evidence must always be interpreted, explained, or discussed. A paragraph should not just be full of evidence (facts, examples, quotations, statistics) with no explanation.

☑ Grammar still needs to be considered when inserting evidence. Evidence should fit smoothly into the flow of the paragraph.

☑ Always properly cite evidence. Evidence without a citation is considered plagiarism.

☑ Check how evidence should be cited according to the formatting guidelines you are required to follow (APA, MLA, Chicago). The different guidelines have some key differences!

 

Don'ts:

☒ Don’t insert unnecessary quotations. Don’t use quotations to do the speaking for you. Quotations should never be the majority of your essay. Your instructor wants to see that you, the student, can explain the concepts in the paper.

☒ Don’t start a paragraph with a quotation.


 

Exercise:

Revise the paragraph so that it is well-supported.

More advanced public transportation systems with designated tracks or lanes can greatly reduce the amount of emissions caused by traffic congestion. Many developed cities have public buses, but these vehicles have to fight for space on the road and can easily get stuck in traffic. Transit buses can reduce total tonnes of CO2 emissions per person per compared to personal vehicles. Light rail and bus rapid transit are even more efficient. These designated lanes for public transportation can substantially improve Vancouver’s air quality

 

 

Comments:

This paragraph has a clear focus, but the many good points are not backed up with evidence to support the topic sentence.

 

Rewritten paragraph:

 

More sophisticated public transportation systems with designated tracks or lanes can greatly reduce the amount of emissions caused by traffic congestion. Many developed cities have public buses. These vehicles have to fight for space on the road and can easily get stuck in traffic. Designated lanes for public transportation can greatly improve Vancouver’s air quality. Traditional transit buses produce 294.2 tonnes of CO2 emissions per person per mile (Vincent and Jerram, 2006). Personal vehicles produce 397.89 tonnes of CO2 per person per mile (2006). Light rail produces 209.45 tonnes of CO2 per person per mile. Bus rapid transit produces 66.07 tonnes of CO2 per person per mile (2006).

 

Note: Although this rewritten paragraph now has evidence to support the argument, the information is a little disorganized and could have a better flow. Take a look at step 6 for a revised version of this paragraph that improves the flow!

 


Works Cited:

Vincent, W., & Jerram, L.C. (2006). The Potential for Bus Rapid Transit to Reduce Transportation-Related CO2 Emissions. The Centre for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR), 9(3), 219-237. Retrieved from https://scholarcommons.usf.edu /jpt/vol9/iss3/12.

Does your essay flow well?

☑  Do all your ideas lead clearly to the next idea? Are the connections clear?

☑  Read your paper to a friend. Notice places where they have questions or have trouble following your ideas?

 

What can I do to improve flow?

  1. Make sure that all your ideas are connected to your thesis statement (step 3), each paragraph has focus (step 4), and all the ideas are supported (step 5).
  2. You may need to change the order of the information.
  3. Try to vary the sentence structure and make sure each idea is connected nicely to the next.
  4. Combine individual thoughts/sentences to make longer sentences by using connectors and/or words like “that” ”if,” and “because” to help ideas flow more nicely. Take a look at the tables below.

 


Improve the flow between ideas in your paper

 

Use coordinators:

and nor so but or yet for

Example: She walked up to the man, and he spoke to her.

 

Use transition words:

therefore as a result otherwise consequently
however on the other hand in contrast nevertheless
in addition for example furthermore in fact

Example: It was raining; therefore, she took her umbrella.

 

Use subordinators:

before since when if although
because whereas while as even though

Example: He did his homework before he turned on the TV.

 

Use “who”, “that”, or “which”'

Examples:

“who”

My mother is a painter. She was born in Toronto.

→ “My mother, who is a painter, was born in Toronto.”

“which” 

Vancouver has a lot of great people. Vancouver is a friendly city.

→ “Vancouver, which is a friendly city, has a lot of great people.”

“that”

I like this car. This car is red.

→“The car that I like is red”. (Or “The car I like is red.”)

 

The man paid for your coffee. He is my brother-in-law.

→ “The man that paid for your coffee is my brother-in-law.”

 


Exercise:

Review the body paragraph and try to improve the flow.

     More sophisticated public transportation systems with designated tracks or lanes can greatly reduce the amount of emissions caused by traffic congestion. Many developed cities have public buses. These vehicles have to fight for space on the road and can easily get stuck in traffic. Designated lanes for public transportation can greatly improve Vancouver’s air quality. Traditional transit buses produce 294.2 tonnes of CO2 emissions per person per mile (Vincent and Jerram, 2006). Personal vehicles produce 397.89 tonnes of CO2 per person per mile (2006). Light rail produces 209.45 tonnes of CO2 per person per mile. Bus rapid transit produces 66.07 tonnes of CO2 per person per mile (2006).

 

 

Comments:

  1. The flow of the paragraph can be improved.
  2. The sentences could be rearranged so that there is a clear conclusion to the paragraph.
  3. The separate ideas could be better connected by using connectors, adding context and explanation, and changing the sentence structure.

 

A better way to organize the ideas

The words used for connecting ideas better are underlined for emphasis.

     More sophisticated public transportation systems with designated tracks or lanes can greatly reduce the amount of emissions caused by traffic congestion. Many developed cities have public buses, but these vehicles have to fight for space on the road and can easily get stuck in traffic. Research conducted by Vincent and Jerram shows that traditional transit buses can reduce total grams of CO2 emissions per person per mile to 294.2, which is much lower than the 397.89 grams of CO2 per person per mile for personal vehicles (2006). On the other hand, their research also showed that light rail has the potential of producing 209.45 CO2 per person per mile and bus rapid transit is even more efficient at 66.07 CO2 per person per mile (2006). Designated lanes for public transportation can greatly improve Vancouver’s air quality.

 


Works Cited:

Vincent, W., & Jerram, L.C. (2006). The Potential for Bus Rapid Transit to Reduce Transportation-Related CO2 Emissions. The Centre for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR), 9(3), 219-237. Retrieved from https://scholarcommons.usf.edu /jpt/vol9/iss3/12.

Final Editing checklist

Ask yourself these questions when editing:

☑  Did I cite all my sources in the right format? Is the works cited page correct?

☑  Is the style of the essay consistent with the specified formatting?

☑  Is my essay free of first person language (unless indicated otherwise), contractions, slang, or colloquial language?

☑  Are there any typos, wrong words, or missing words? 

☑  Are there any grammar mistakes like article, parallelism, or verb tense errors?

 

Editing tips:

  • In your word processor program (e.g. Microsoft Word), make sure you turn on the grammar, formatting, and spell check functions. Carefully check each underlined change that the computer is suggesting, and accept the changes that you agree with. Remember that the computer is sometimes wrong.
  • Read your paper out loud to find little mistakes that are difficult to see when you read silently. If possible, read it to someone who can listen to you because a real audience will help you notice places where the reader needs more or better explanation.
  • Read your paper backwards. This means starting with the last sentence of the paper, read it aloud, and then read the next to last sentence, continuing one sentence at a time until you get to the first sentence. This helps you focus on words and individual sentences, one at a time, rather than the overall flow of the paper.

 


Exercise

Check the following APA paper excerpt for style, grammar, and typing errors.

(There is no title page)

I think you will agree that since the dawn of time we have been polluting our Earth. Especially our air. Don’t you think so? Many people takes the bus cause its good for the environment. Cars create a lot of pollution. In Canada, people drive so much. Implementing a more sophisticated public transportion system in the Greater Vancouver area can drastic fall the amount of coal emissions that gets pumped into the atmosphere by addressing the issues of idling, traffic confusion, and long driving to work times. 

 

More sophisticated public transportation system with designated tracks or lanes can greatly fall the amount of emissions caused by traffic congestion. Many developed cities has public buses, but these vehicles literally have to fight for space on the road and can easily get stuck in traffic. Researched conducted by researchers shows that personality vehicles can produce 397.89 CO2 per person per mile. On the other hand, light rail have the potential of producing 209.45 CO2 per person per mile and bus rapid transit even more efficient at 66.07 CO2 per person per mile. (Vincent, 2010) Designated lanes for public transportation can will greatly improve Vancouver’s traffic congestion issue. Vancouverites spend an average of 39% more time in traffics than they do in optimal conditions (Meuse).

Works Cited:

Terefe, Berouk, May 2010. "Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Private Vehicles in Canada, 1990 to 2007." http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/16-001-m/16-001-m2010012-eng.pdf Statistics Canada, Accessed 7 Dec. 2017

Meuse, Matt, February 26th, 2017. “How congested is Vancouver traffic? Depends whom you ask” https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/vancouver-congestion-ran... CBC News, Accessed December 7th, 2017

Vincent, W., & Jerram, L.C. (2006). The Potential for Bus Rapid Transit to Reduce Transportation-Related CO2 Emissions. The Centre for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR), 9(3), 219-237. Retrieved from https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/jpt/vol9/iss3/12

 

Comments:

These types of errors are the last thing to consider when editing an essay. This is because the sentences with errors may end up being eliminated or edited.

 

1. Did I cite all my sources in the right format?

  • There is a missing in-text citation. There are 3 works cited, but only two sources mentioned in the in-text citations.
  • The first in-text citation should be "(Vincent & Jerram, 2006)".
  • Citations should be listed in alphabetical order.

 

2. Is the style of the essay consistent with the specified formatting?

  • The beginning of each paragraph should be indented.
  • Each source in the works cited page should have a hanging indent.
  • APA papers are typically written in 12 pt. Times New Roman.
  • APA papers should be double spaced, including the works cited page. 
  • There is no title page, title, or running head (as required by APA guidelines.

 

3. Is my essay free of first person language (unless indicated otherwise), contractions, clichés, slang, or colloquial language?

  • Use of 1st person language: "I think you will agree.”
  • Use of contractions: "don't"
  • Use of clichés: "since the dawn of time"
  • Use of slang/colloquial language: "cause"
  • Use of "literally" is too informal for academic writing. 

 

4. Are there any typos, wrong words, or missing words? 

  • Typos: "James" instead of "jams”; “tranportion” instead of “transportation”
  • Wrong words: "its", "literally", “personality”, "drastic", "fall", "confusing"
  • Missing word: "People know that idling also bad for the environments.

 

5. Are there any grammar mistakes, such as subject-verb agreement, parallelism or verb tense errors?

  • Subject-verb agreement: “light rail have the potential of producing...”
  • Parallelism: "Vancouverites spend an average of 39% more time in traffics than they doing optimal conditions...”
  • Verb tense: "Designated lanes for public transportation can greatly improving Vancouver’s traffic congestion issue..”
  • Noun error: "traffics"