You’ve received your draft back from your instructor full of line comments. There seems to be too much advice and, at the same time, too little. What do you do? How do you revise this paper to ensure it meets academic standards?
Interpreting the amount of Commentary
Most instructors provide three to four key areas for students to focus on because pointing out every little spot that can be improved is likely to be overwhelming for an author. So if your commentary seems sparse, it’s merely because your instructor is letting you know what is most important for you to focus on at this time. As you improve and begin writing more complex theses or learning how to find a scholarly secondary source, your instructor will move on to pointing out other areas for you to revise. This means, of course, that you may revise everything your instructor asks you to and still won’t earn an “A” simply because there are other areas that still need improving. (Or you tried your best to revise and, frankly, your thesis still wasn’t that complex. But that’s okay. Learning is a process. It takes time.)
Focusing Your Revision
If your instructor provides a rubric for essays, you can, of course, simply refer to it and focus on revising the parts that will earn you the most points (if getting a high grade and not learning how to best express yourself is your main goal). If there is no rubric provided, you should focus on larger issues like writing a clear and complex thesis statement, providing sufficient and convincing evidence and analysis, using scholarly secondary sources, and structuring your essay in a clear and logical manner. Fixing your grammar is not as important as is making a logical argument.
Using Office Hours
Arrive prepared with one or two larger issues you would like to focus on such as how to make your argument more complex or how to add analysis to your work. You may also find it productive to email your instructor ahead of time with the concerns you would like to address so they have time to review your essay beforehand.
Expect your meeting to be about 20 minutes. This will allow you time to cover your concerns and allow allow other students to have access to the instructor. Also make sure you arrive with a copy of your assignment so you can refer to it.
If the issue is not a minor one, you will probably find it more productive to discuss the issue in person, if possible. Either ask for a short meeting with your instructor or take your paper to the Writing Center. You can also email your classmates if you have smaller questions about due dates or word counts.
Using Other Resources
If you would like someone to keep rereading your essay you should schedule an appointment at your university’s Writing Center. They have trained tutors who will help you try various writing strategies and processes. They may also be able to help you decipher instructor feedback.
Also take advantage of your in-class workshops and your peer reviews. Your instructor expects you to be revising with these workshops and additional commentary in mind. They understand that you don’t want to go to the Writing Center or use peer review because you really just want to know what they, the grader, think. However, if you use your other resources, your grade will likely go up anyway. And you’ll impress your instructor with your resourcefulness.
Try to take advantage of the multiple resources available to you. Revision can be difficult and may take a lot of time. However, you can do it!