It is often ineffective to read for both content and grammar at once. So, in the first two phases of revision, try to focus only on content, on the quality of your ideas and on how well they are developed and expressed. Once you are pleased with what your paper says, it is time to proofread the grammar.
In the final examination and assessment of the essay, check for grammar, mechanics, and style. Use rich, imaginative prose, and avoid unnecessary words, cliches, redundancy, and pronouns (it, this, there, they) that don't refer clearly to a noun. Incorporate into your writing a variety of sentence lengths and patterns. To keep from slipping back into reading for content, begin with your final sentence and read your paper backwards.
If grammar is not your strength, don't be afraid to ask for lots of outside help. Refer to a grammar book. Use the computer's spell-check and grammar-check (if either is available, but don't trust them to catch all errors). Ask a friend (one who knows English grammar) to help you proofread, but be certain that he or she can explain your errors to you.
Make the best use of your research efforts by incorporating reference information smoothly and systematically into the text and citing your sources accurately and in a consistent fashion. Weave the research through the paper rather than patching a paper together with bits of research. Use quotations of credible references with citations to strengthen your argument.
Putting the Information in Your Own Words
Unless the reference is best stated and most effective for your purposes as a quotation, paraphrasing or summarizing is one way to use research to make your argument. Both require restatement of the material in your own words, while conveying the same ideas or conclusions as the original that you are citing. Remember, you need to cite the source for all material that you have paraphrased or summarized. Even if the words are your own, you must give the author credit for the specific idea.
Using Direct Quotations
Weave quotations into your own writing by clarifying the quote's significance to the topic. Avoid stacking quotations on top of each other. Incorporate them into the writing instead of inserting writing into the quotations. Introduce the quotation, comment on content, explain its significance, disagree with it if necessary, but do not drop a lengthy quotation in the middle of the prose with no comment.
Quotation marks are used to indicate material that is borrowed verbatim and should be followed by a citation. Sources should be cited for all borrowed material, whether direct quotations or ideas. Citation conventions vary by discipline; see Citing/Documenting Your Sources for your specific citation formatting style.
Citing Reference Sources
To avoid plagiarism, cite everything you borrow in the text unless that information is common knowledge.
Sometimes, however, common knowledge is difficult to determine. Consider information common knowledge if:
- reliable authors refer to it without citing its source,
- most people knowledgeable in the field accept it as a fact,
- few experts would dispute it,
- it is reported in most introductory textbooks or basic reference books on the subject.
In addition, keep in mind that the ultimate test is whether your audience can access your research by using the material you have provided. If in doubt, cite your source.