How to Write A Revision Plan


by Anoka Ramsey

The purpose of revision plans is to make your revision simpler and cleaner. Instead of just starting at the beginning of the essay and racing through to make changes, you need to decide which tasks are most important, and approach them in that order. Remember, “revision” is not merely “proofreading” or “correcting. Proofreading takes place separately, as the final act, after revision, just before submitting the essay. Revision, on the other hands, involves clarifying your ideas by moving things around, adding material, and cutting. Your job in a revision plan is to decide specifically what you need to add, cut or move. And you need to be specific about your tasks.

For example, if I ask you to list your top ten revision tasks, and you write the following:

1. Revise my thesis

2. Develop my solution

3. Add more examples

4. Correct my citations

5. Cut out some unneeded material

6. Fix grammar

This list is no good. Anyone could write out these tasks. They are not specific and do not refer to the specific essay. They are general statements. So, and this is critical, the revision plan needs to be specific. I need to see that you can see the choices you are making. Basically, with detail, I am able to see that you are making sound, controlled revision choices. Here is a good revision plan:

1. Revise my thesis. Right now, my thesis argues and issue, that not recycling is immoral. Since this is a proposal, I need to make the topic a problem to be solved rather than an issue to be argued. Here’s what I’m thinking: “In order to solve the problem of consumer waste, consumers should be given incentives to recycle . . .”.

2. My solution is clear, “Consumers need to be given incentives like tax breaks,” but the details need work. How can I make this solution happen? How can legislators be convinced? What kind of tax breaks am I talking about? How would the breaks be applied (no pun intended)?

3. I need to give more examples of how the problem has been solved in the past, and failed. I admit I need more focused research on the history of the problem.

4. My in-text citations seem to include years of publication, which aren’t needed, and I need to remove author’s last names from citation markers if I have the author’s names in the signal phrases, and then put the article titles in the citation markers instead. I also need to set off a couple of long quotes (of more than four lines).

5. I have a whole section after the problem that repeats a lot of the information in the intro. It defines the problem more as the conclusion of the essay, but I already defined the problem, so I think I can cut most of this material. I was just padding space to meet the page count requirement, but I’ll meet the requirements by adding in good, purposeful information to develop the solution by adding more details to my solution and giving more examples alternative solutions (see 2 and 3 above).

6. [There would be no “correct grammar” statement; that’s a given for everyone! And fixing grammar and spelling and punctuation should take place AFTER you revise]

This revision plan better shows me that the writer is taking general rhetorical principles and applying them to the specific assignment. This is the kind of revision plan I want you to write up, too. Be detailed; refer to the specifics of your essay a lot.


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