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Self-Editing: What Is Self-Editing?

What Is Self-Editing?

Part of successful self-editing is knowing how to look at the document and prioritize tasks. Often, earlier stages of revision and self-editing will require attention to broader, “global” or “big picture” concerns. These concerns are things that might relate to the overall organization or cohesion of a chapter or section. These affect the draft overall and require abstract thinking and critical assessment of a student’s own work. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the document address all requirements?
  • How is the document organized? Is there a logical structure to the ideas?
  • Is the document coherent? Are the main ideas clear?
  • Do you see any patterns of things you want to fix or change?

In addition, “local” or “small picture” concerns might only affect specific phrasing or the flow of a single sentence, but these smaller refinements are no less important. These concerns affect sentence- and paragraph-level clarity, consistency, precision of meaning, and academic integrity. Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Are the citations correct?
  • Are the grammar and sentence structures correct? How about the punctuation?
  • Is the wording precise? Is the style formal enough?
  • Does the text follow all formatting requirements?

Addressing global concerns is often associated with what is called revising, and addressing local concerns is often thought of as proofreading. Being a strong self-editor means being able to revise a passage to address global or “big picture” concerns of a draft (organization, focus, content/idea development, and flow/cohesion). Mastering self-editing also means being able to proofread thoroughly to address local or “small picture” concerns of a draft (grammar, citations and references, sentence construction, and word choice).

With a document the length of a dissertation or doctoral study, it is nearly impossible to address all concerns at once in a single readthrough. To balance revising and proofreading, doctoral writers should develop a plan based on specific objectives each time they read through their draft.