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Proofreading the Final Draft of Research Paper

The final stage of the editing process is proofreading. It is the process of looking for errors before one can submit his or her research article/paper. Either grammatical and/or typographical errors can be there, but there can be issues with the sequence of thoughts or ideas that are logical, problems with precise or say concise writing i.e. using unnecessarily complex or abstract words, and finding other errors as well for e.g. different font types and font sizes, paragraphs that are not indented properly throughout the paper, spacing between lines, margins that are uneven, etc.

Why Proofread?

We know that the main thing is content that really matters. But others will judge your paper the way it looks to them. After working hard on developing your ideas and present them, you may not want any errors that can distract the readers from what you are actually saying through your paper. So you need to pay full attention to the minute details which will definitely help you in making a good impact or impression on others. This may take a little more time of yours but your paper will look good without any errors.

Separate the process of editing and proofreading. During the editing of your first draft, you must not want to get bothered about spelling mistakes, punctuations and grammatical errors. That will not let you focus on the relatively more important work of developing your ideas.

Strategies for Effective Proofreading

Before you start proofreading your paper you need to keep in mind some points that are as follows:

  • Make sure that you have done the revision of the broad aspects of your paper – Corrections should not be made either at the word or sentence level if your work on editing and revising is not yet over and you still need to work on editing or change specific sections i.e. revising.
  • Take a small break between writing and proofreading – Take a break of one or more days between writing and proofreading your paper so that you can identify the errors more conveniently. Give yourself enough time to correct your mistakes.
  • Remove unnecessary words before checking for mistakes – Try to use simpler phrase. The language should be simple and precise which is relatively easier to proofread than hard and complex sentences. Also you should identify and change phrases that have repetitions.
  • Look for mistakes in your draft – Note down the mistakes you should look for based on the comments you have got on early rough drafts of your paper which will help you in identifying repeated mistakes.
  • Review your list of references or bibliography – You need to review the sources that you have used in the paper. They need to be cited properly in bibliography page.

Tips for Proofreading Your Paper

  • Using a printout rather than a computer screen – Proofreading from a printout is better than doing it on computer screen since it allows you to find out the errors that could be repeated more than once throughout the paper.
  • Reading out loud – Read out loud. This will make you realize the difference between what you have in your mind and what you have actually written in the paper.
  • Placing a ruler under each line while reading – Using this process you will be able to go through even minor mistakes in each line without skipping. Also you will be able to focus on a particular line at a time.
  • Circling or highlighting of each and every punctuation mark – By doing this, you will be able to focus on each and every punctuation mark that you have used in your paper and also you will know why that punctuation mark has been used in that particular sentence of your paper. This helps in avoiding misuse or repeated use of a punctuation mark, for e.g. a comma, a full stop, a semi-colon or a question mark in your paper.
  • Using the search feature of the computer in finding mistakes – By using search feature that is present in your computer’s word processor, you will be able to find common errors faster. You can search the words or phrases that are used repeatedly in your paper and try to look for synonyms of that word or you can remove it also.
  • Proofreading one type of error at a time – Check for most frequent problem at one time, be it a comma or another error. Then proofread for another problem which is the second most frequent problem. Keep on doing that.
  • Proofreading backwards – Start at the end of the paper and proofread the paper as you go through each paragraph or line until you reach the first line of your paper.
  • Reading your paper backwards, one sentence at a given time – Backward reading will help you in focusing on a particular sentence at a time rather than the content of the paper.
  • Knowing your mistakes – You should look for mistakes that you have done repeatedly in your previous papers. Your instructor will help you in finding errors that you have made most often while writing your papers. Then you can pay attention to them and fix them accordingly.
  • Reading your paper several times – You need to look for one error at a time like spelling at a time, then punctuation at a time, and so on. This will keep you focused.
  • Asking for help in reading your paper – This will help you find sentences that are not clear and any other errors as well. Another person looking over your writing will be able to spot errors more easily that may have been missed by you.
  • Using of spell checker on your computer – Computer spell checker cannot differentiate between words that sounds similar such as to, too and two or their, there and they’re. It often makes errors as it may suggest a word that you are not looking for. So you need to do your own spell checking and carefully review the text for any errors.
  • Getting help – Ask your professor or instructor for help if you don’t know whether to use or not comma or other punctuation marks in that place and whether “affect” or “effect” should be used in a particular sentence.

Additionally, you will also get to know drawbacks in your writing by keeping some more points in your mind which will help you in proofreading your paper more efficiently.

Here is how it can be done:

  • Think about the errors that you make most often – You need to review the comments of your instructor about the mistakes in your writing. Look for those errors.
  • Learn to fix errors – Talk to your professor and ask for help in understanding why you are making the same errors repeatedly and also what should you do to avoid making those errors again and again.
  • Use certain strategies – You should develop certain strategies that will help you find specific errors in usage of punctuations, spelling errors, and errors in structure of sentence and correct them subsequently.
  • Finding an appropriate place for proofreading – To get effective and efficient proofreading of your paper you need to be focused and avoid losing your concentration. You should proofread in a silent place, such as a library or your personal space where you will not get disturbed by outside noise.
  • Proofreading in more than one attempt – You should avoid proofreading your whole paper in your single attempt, else, it will be quite difficult for you to maintain your focus. Start proofreading your text each time from the beginning of your paper. It may take some time to correct your mistakes, but you'll be surprised to know how many mistakes you have been able to find in your text that you have reviewed already.

Generally, verb tense of each section of your paper should follow the format given below, though there can be variations:

  1. Abstract of your paper – This is the summary of your paper and it should be written in past tense.
  2. Introduction to your paper – This is the description of the present study and it should be written in present tense.
  • Review of Literature – This includes the studies, which have already been done in the past that you have reviewed in your paper. It should be written in past tense.
  1. Methods and Protocols used in your paper – This is the way in which you have collected and incorporated your data, which has already been done. It should be written in past tense.
  2. Results/Findings of your paper – This includes the findings that have already been discovered and it should be written in past tense.
  3. Discussion/Interpretation of your results – This involves interpretation of your findings and it should be written in present tense.
  • Conclusion of your study – This includes the conclusion of your entire study at the end and it should be written in present tense.
  • References/Bibliography – This section includes references to studies that have been reported in the past, which you have mentioned within the text of your paper.

Remember that editing is looking for errors as well as to make your sentences smooth, interesting, and clear to understand. You should use short sentences rather than long ones, since shorter sentences are easy to understand as they are more specific. Pay attention to the way you are writing your paper. Look for phrases that have been used unnecessarily, also repetition of words or sentences, and awkward lines that does not make sense.

At the end you will learn to recognise those particular areas in your writing that should be given more attention. After getting a sound knowledge about finding mistakes or errors, you will be able to focus more on how you should develop your ideas during drafting of your research paper. So next time when you start writing a research paper, make sure to keep in mind all the above mentioned points.

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