Red Pen Editorial

Refining your draft dissertation

Hands typing on a laptop

1. Never edit on screen

It’s well known in publishing that even really experienced editors cannot proofread on screen. You’ll need a printout and a red pen – and you’ll need to print it out multiple times as you go through refining it.

2. Read it right through

The first time you read through your draft, resist the urge to stop and mark corrections – read it right through before changing anything. Scribble in the margin if you must, but try and read it right through to check the flow of the argument.

3. Read it again!

Read it through more slowly, noting in the margin the good bits and bad bits. Have you repeated yourself? Does each paragraph sit in the right section or does it need to be moved?

4. Keep saving multiple copies and back them up

As you start to edit your draft, make sure you keep saving multiple copies and backups.

5. Check your argument

Does each paragraph engage with the key issues in your argument? Are the stages in your discussion clearly signalled? Is there anything missing?

6. Check your sections

Keep the section headers for now as they’re really helpful in helping you see the shape of your discussion. Move them around if you need to.

7. Drafting your conclusion

Leave this till last – by all means, sketch it out, but it will evolve as you work through your draft, so you can avoid having to re-write it several times if you leave it until the end of your drafting process to finalise it. It should have no new information, but summarise what you’ve already argued (and supported by evidence) in your discussion.

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