Part 5: How to Finalise and Polish Your Essay
Before handing in any assignment, you must take the time to carefully edit and proofread it. This includes checking that:
Below, these pre-submission checks are explained in more detail.
Look again at the notes you wrote when you analysed the essay question (see ‘How to Begin’), as well as the final essay plan (see ‘How to Finalise Your Essay Plan’). Now, compare these to the essay you have written. Does your thesis statement correctly answer the question? Have you followed your final essay plan? If not, why not? Is every point made in your essay directly relevant to the essay question? Does each section link back to your answer to the essay question?
Is your essay within the word limit? If your tutor or lecturer provided a checklist of elements to include in your essay, or an essay marking rubric, does your essay meet all requirements? Did you read and refer to all the required readings? Does your essay use the required referencing style? Does it contain a sufficient number of references?
Does your essay have a clear introduction and conclusion? Have you followed the rules for what your introduction and conclusion should contain, as outlined in ‘How to Begin’? Does each paragraph have a clear topic sentence, linking each point to the thesis statement and ensuring that your essay is well structured? Do the ideas in your essay build on one another, so that your argument gains strength with each paragraph? Do you correctly use words and phrases to emphasise connections throughout your essay (e.g. ‘in addition to’, ‘similar findings’ and ‘conversely’)?
Looking at your body paragraphs, does each paragraph develop only one main idea? Are the body paragraphs ordered in a logical way (e.g. most to least important)? Does each begin with a topic sentence that clearly states the point you will be making in that paragraph? Do the other sentences in the paragraph directly relate to that topic, supporting it with literature-based evidence, explanation, elaboration or examples?
Are all your sentences complete? That is, does each make sense by itself, express one clear idea, and contain a subject and at least one verb? Are your sentences of various lengths, but with none too short or too long? Is each sentence grammatically correct? For example, have you used verb tense consistently; have you used singular/plural verbs with singular/plural subjects; and have you checked your article usage with singular nouns? Have you carefully checked your punctuation?
Have you used formal language, as appropriate for academic writing? Have you avoided using colloquial language, idioms and contractions (which are features of spoken and informal language)? If you read your text aloud, does it sound smooth and elegant, or are there ‘clunky’-sounding parts? Have you used inclusive language? (You must not use sexist or racist language or gender-specific terms, for example, ‘spokesman’ rather than ‘spokesperson’.)
Are there any words or phrases that appear a lot in your text that you could try to vary by using synonyms? Have you used conjunctions (e.g. ‘however’, ‘although’ and ‘further’) correctly, and is it necessary for your meaning to use a conjunction? (Sometimes novice writers think they must start every sentence with a conjunction, but they should only be used when helpful for conveying your meaning.)
Have you performed a spell and grammar check and carefully checked your work for typing mistakes or missed or misused words?
Have you included an in-text citation every time you have used the ideas or words of another source (e.g. by quoting, paraphrasing or summarising)? Is there a corresponding reference list entry for each of your in-text citations? Have you correctly and consistently followed the referencing guidelines recommended by your department (or selected by you)? Is your reference list or bibliography ordered correctly following the guidelines?
Finally, ensure that you have:
If you have followed the steps outlined in all five articles in this series, you should now have a well-structured, fully researched and polished essay that is ready for submission. If you did not do so while working through these articles, we also recommend reading our articles ‘Simplicity in Academic Writing’ and ‘How, When and Why to Reference’.
If you need any further assistance, Capstone Editing is always here to help.
This guide will explain everything you need to know about how to organise, research and write an argumentative essay.
Organising your research effectively is a crucial and often overlooked step to successful essay writing.
The key to successful essay writing is to finalise a detailed essay plan, carefully refined during the research stage, before beginning to write your essay.
By this stage, you will have a clear plan and all the information you need to write a well-structured essay, in a fraction of the time it would otherwise take.