11: Revision -The Reader’s Draft

After you’ve gone through the draft that you write for yourself, you’ll want to start working toward a draft for other readers. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you’re working on this draft.

  • Be ruthless; if it doesn’t make sense or work, throw it out or revise completely. Remember, there is always more than one way to say something.
  • Keep it brief and use short paragraphs; break down elaborate or complex ideas or thoughts into manageable chunks. Aim for simplicity the first time around.
  • Don’t try to adopt a completely new “dissertation writing” voice, use your own academic voice.
  • Establishing and going back to key words can help keep your argument consistent.
  • Give yourself some time to rework sections as needed. Take some time off in order to look at your writing with fresh eyes.
  • Try chopping off first sentences or opening paragraphs. Sometimes your opening words are just your warm-up—what you really mean to say may take several pages to emerge.
  • Back everything up, at least twice in different locations. Be sure to save your work on both a hard drive and a portable storage devise (flash drive, CD-R, external hard drive, etc.). Consider keeping copies of drafts and disks in a safety deposit box or at a friend or relative’s house. The idea is to keep these copies in a separate building in case of a fire or other disaster. You may also want to keep your work on your AFS space through MSU or another online location such as with Drop Box or in your email account.
  • Keep copies of old drafts so that if you lose your most recent copy, you will have a fairly recent version to revise.
    Use your network space (‘p’ drive) on the MSU server. Connecting to the server is simple on an MSU computer but can also be achieved on a home or personal computer. Visit http://help.msu.edu for specific details. Click on “AFS” under “Useful Links” to get directions for your operating system.