Many students believe that editing and proofreading are the same thing. They are not. Editing refers to looking at the the basic structure of the paper, while proofreading refers to verifying the spelling and making sure that commas are in the right place. Both are important. A research paper that contains no grammatical or spelling errors, but is poorly organized, lacks compelling arguments, or uses jargon is equally as bad as a paper filled with spelling errors. Following are some tips for both editing and proofreading your research paper.
Resources that can help
Before You Proofread
NOTE: Do not confuse the act of revising your paper with the act of editing it. Editing is intended to tighten up language so that your paper is easier to read and understand. This should be the focus when you proofread. If your professor asks you to revise your paper, the implication is that there is something within the text that needs to be changed, improved, or re-organized in some significant way. If the reason for a revision is not specified, always ask for clarification.
Strategies to Help Identify Errors
Individualize the Act of Proofreading
In addition to following the suggestions above, individualizing your proofreading process to match weaknesses in your writing will help you proofread more efficiently and effectively. For example, I still tend to make subject-verb agreement errors. Accept the fact that you likely won't be able to check for everything, so be introspective about what your typical problem areas are and look for each type of error individually. Here's how:
In general, verb tense should be in the following format, although variations can occur within the text depending on the narrative style of your paper. Note that references to prior research mentioned anywhere in your paper should always be stated in the past tense.
Cogie, Jane, Kim Strain, and Sharon Lorinskas. "Avoiding the Proofreading Trap: The Value of the Error Correction Process." The Writing Center Journal 19 (Spring/Summer 1999): 7-32; Editing and Proofreading. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Editing and Proofreading Strategies. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Harris, Jeanette. "Proofreading: A Reading/Writing Skill." College Composition and Communication 38 (December 1987): 464-466; Lunsford, Andrea A. and Robert Connors. The St. Martin's Handbook. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989; Madraso, Jan. "Proofreading: The Skill We've Neglected to Teach." The English Journal 82 (February 1993): 32-41; Proofreading. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison; Proofreading. Department of English Writing Guide. George Mason University; Proofreading and Revising. Online Writing Center, Walden University; Proofreading a College Paper: Guidelines and Checklist. Troy University Library Tutorial; Revision: Cultivating a Critical Eye. Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College; Revision Guidelines. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Where Do I Begin? The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University.