Imagine finishing the first draft of your paper and realizing it does not fit the prompt as well as you had expected, or your professor tells you to rewrite a part or even most of your paper. Do not let this get you down. Your college likely has an academic writing center that can assist you, but you can begin to right the ship by following several tips.

Top Tips for Rewriting

  1. Do not take the criticism as a sign of failure

Nobody likes to hear that their paper requires major revisions. But do not conclude that you have failed and have to start over from scratch. Okay, sometimes you will be asked to start over again (see tip #2), but not always. Either way, consider the reasons for why the revision is necessary. Did your thesis statement lack focus? Did the research, even if the idea is interesting, fail to fit with the prompt? Or perhaps everything was fine with your thesis itself, but you need to rewrite one or two of the body paragraphs. No matter the problem, avoid thinking that everything you have written so far was a complete waste of time.

  1. Starting over from the beginning is not necessarily bad.

So you have spent a week or two working hard on your paper, choosing your words carefully, and refining your main points, only to have your professor write “fix this!” all over it. It is always tempting to ignore their suggestions since you poured so much of your heart and soul into the paper. But do not fall for this way of thinking, commonly called the Sunk Cost Fallacy. In other words, avoid comparing the amount of time you spent writing a paper that, ultimately, will not be acceptable anyway against the time required to revise it. Remember that the purpose of the paper is to successfully demonstrate your ability to convey information. If this means going back to the drawing board, so be it. The time spent rewriting your paper will be worth it if it means getting a higher grade.

  1. Confused about the revision request? Do not be afraid to ask your professor.

Does your paper require significant revisions but you are not sure what exactly your professor wants? Set up a meeting and clarify this. It could be that your ideas, research, and thesis are strong, but there are issues with the flow of the paper. Perhaps you did an excellent job with supporting your arguments in two of the body paragraphs, but the third one is weak. If you do not ask for clarification, you might end up wasting time and energy making unnecessary revisions. The last thing you would want to do is make your paper even worse.

  1. Think back to when you were writing the first draft

What was going on in your mind when you initially received the assignment or prompt? Think about your attitudes as you were completing the first draft. Did you ever get the feeling that parts of your paper were weak, but you charged along anyway? Or did you feel rushed to get it done due to time constraints. There are many factors that influence the way a student writes or edits their paper, and being able to align your working attitude with your writing will make it easier to determine how to fix your assignment.

  1. Use this rewriting experience to help you with your future papers

While thinking ahead to your next paper when you have not even begun rewriting your current assignment might seem silly, but keep in mind that rewriting makes it possible to revisit our writing process and develop ways for making subsequent assignments better. Are you focusing too much on making revisions at the sentence level at the expense of the larger flow of your paragraphs? Is your thesis unclear? Are the body paragraphs incoherent? Are you devoting your conclusion too much to summarizing your paper when it should be discussing the wider implications? Rewriting your paper allows you to better gauge your overall writing abilities versus simply making little edits to your draft. For this reason, you definitely ought to keep the revising process in mind as you prepare for your next paper.