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After you have completed the long and arduous task of drafting your research paper, you need to get it edited. But what kind of editing does your paper need? And how exactly does editing work?
First drafts almost always need revision, and that is why editing is a necessary step for finalizing your academic work. But to create a research paper that will make an impact on your target readers, authors should understand that editing and proofreading are multiple steps in the process of preparing a manuscript for submission and publication. Here is a brief summary of the process:
- Step 1: Prepare all relevant information from your study (background, methods, results, and other data)
- Step 2: Create a research paper outline
- Step 3: Write your first research paper draft
- Step 4: Get editing (content editing and line editing)
- Step 5: Revise your draft and edit again (line editing and copy-editing)
- Step 6: Proofread your paper (if it hasn’t already been proofread in a previous step)
- Step 7: Submit your research manuscript to your target journal with confidence
As you can see, editing encompasses multiple steps of the revision process. The first round of editing should be done by you (the author) or by an academic peer who can assess the technical content and arguments presented in your work. Following this, you should revise your work to ensure that all the important content is included and then receive additional editing from a third-party editor. Why should you use an editor to revise your paper? Because after writing, reviewing, and revising your own work, you are more likely to miss content and style errors. A professional editor offers a fresh pair of trained eyes and be able to more easily identify and fix any remaining language errors in your paper.
This brief guide to research paper editing provides some of the most useful tips to help you complete the first editing step: self-editing. If this is your first time editing your own research work, or if you would like to learn more about how to effectively revise your work, then read on.
What is the Purpose of a First Draft?
A wise person once said that the purpose of a draft is not to “get it right,” but to “get it written.” Conducting research is difficult and painstaking work—in some ways, writing a paper detailing a study is just as difficult. But the purpose of composing a first draft is to put all your study’s central information into readable and comprehensible sentences and paragraph.
First drafts might differ significantly from their finalized form, but their purpose is to put your important ideas and arguments onto paper. Only then can your writing and language be assessed and improved. And one of the most difficult aspects of writing is putting your ideas into words. Research writing adds an extra layer of difficulty, as you have to turn context-free facts and figures into a written form that makes sense and will be compelling to journal editors and other researchers who will hopefully be citing your work.
Although you can and should create an outline for your research paper before beginning your draft, this won’t prevent your first draft from looking like someone just threw a bunch of data into a sea of words. And that’s okay. When you start writing your research paper, you should put on your “author” hat and leave your “editor” hat at the door. By focusing on getting your ideas on paper first, you can power through and finish your draft quicker. Stopping and going back to analyze and fix minor errors in the paper will only create more work for you to edit later, and you might lose track of the thread of your arguments and research questions.
Just keep in mind that your first draft only needs to present the most pertinent information completely and in a coherent and structured way. Afterwards, during the editing stages, you can take this partially molded text that was created with the raw material of your data and methods and turn it into a strong and impactful research manuscript.
Choose Your Preferred Method of Editing
Whereas most writers have adapted to editing with word-processing programs (the most popular of which is MS Word), others prefer to do it the old-fashioned way, using a pen and paper at the dining-room table. While it might take a bit more time to edit via this traditional method, it helps many feel more focused and connected to their writing.
For the rest of us who spend most of our time working on the computer, editing can feel like just another task. It is easy to get distracted and succumb to eye fatigue from staring at a screen. If you are someone who prefers doing your revisions on the computer, consider printing out the work and trying it the conventional way to see if that improves your concentration and focus. Getting out of your standard composition routine will help you switch into “editor” mode.
Find an Environment Where You Can Focus
Where you choose to edit your paper is just as important as how you edit it. Choose somewhere quiet without a lot of distractions. Cafes and public spaces might seem appealing, but the presence of music and people chatting next to you can make you lose focus of the more minor errors in your writing.
The best place to edit your paper is one that is comfortable, quiet, and familiar. Your home or office is usually the ideal place to do this work, but if you cannot work from home, consider heading to a library or other quiet space where the only other people in the room will also likely be doing academic work. Finding the perfect editing workspace will allow you to revise more effectively and efficiently, so choose your workspace wisely.
Focus on One Editing Task at a Time
Don’t try to do other work while you are editing, and if possible, edit in silence or with soft music in the background. Identifying places where expressions could be improved, better terms used, stronger transitions applied, etc., takes sustained focus. Don’t try to proofread for punctuation errors while you are assessing the quality of your language. Consider making a list of the exact issues you plan on revising so that you don’t move too far afield of your editing objectives.
Here is an example of the editing issues you might want to focus on one-by-one. You don’t need to focus on one editing issue throughout the entire document. Edit one paragraph or section at a time, and focus on whatever issue(s) you are capable of handling at once:
- Substitute incorrect or non-academic terminology and vocabulary.
- Rephrase unnatural phrases, expressions, and sentences.
- Revise transition terms and phrases to tie your paragraphs together.
- Enhance flow and readability by removing unnecessary and repetitive terms.
- Vary the structure and length of your sentences to make reading your work more enjoyable.
To determine which specific issues to focus on when editing, take an overall look at your paper and ask yourself some questions: Is your paper’s structure logical and consistent? Do the sections and paragraphs fit together to form an internally coherent work? Is any content repeated in multiple sections? Is any crucial information missing from the draft?
Next, focus on the individual terms you have used. Go line-by-line and see if there are any nouns, adjectives, and key terminology that needs to be changed. Could a different term or phrase clarify your point more effectively? Are there any words that are improper or which do not convey an academic tone?
If you are proofreading your paper during the same step as editing, focus on elements of grammar, punctuation, and mechanics. Are the appropriate punctuation marks used? Is the formatting correctly applied throughout the document (including the citations and references)? Are there any misspelled words?
As you might have guessed, you probably should not try to edit for all these issues together or in one sitting. If you stare at your paper for too long, your eyes will hurt, your vision will blur, and you will be more interested in getting through the text then ensuring that everything is perfectly revised. Rather, take breaks every hour or so, and don’t try to edit more than 5,000 words (roughly ten pages) per day. Editing takes time, so the more time you allow yourself to revise your work, the better your final polished research paper will be. This means that you should finish your paper at least a couple weeks or more before submitting it to a journal editor.
Make Sure All of Your Work is Accurate
Maybe we should have mentioned this one first since accuracy is perhaps the most important factor in any academic document. Even though you will have already finished conducting your research or study, it never hurts to double-check your data and verify your literature citations to ensure they match your source material. There is very little leeway for incorrect information when it comes to scientific and academic papers.
Use a Professional Editor or Proofreader
Although these tips should prove helpful if you choose to edit your own work, you might consider hiring a professional editor with experience editing academic papers to handle any academic papers you intend to publish. After all, editors spend hundreds of hours per month revising academic work just like yours and have knowledge in subject areas related to that of your paper.
Once you have edited your draft, send it to an expert editor or proofreader who can help you sharpen it up and prepare it for submission to a journal or to another target reader. Wordvice Editing Service has hundreds of qualified editors with an average of over five years of editing experience. We allocate your work to an editor with expertise in your specific academic field. To get matched with your ideal editor and get the professional editing your research paper deserves, visit Wordvice today. Or if you are looking for more helpful guides to writing, editing, and proofreading, check out our academic resources and get busy getting published!
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