See also Drafts, Edits, Revisions in the Writing section of the Teaching Guide for GSIs.

Some students mistakenly think that good writing is supposed to happen in a single sitting. Professional writers and academics learn otherwise. As one science professor has said, “A first draft confronts you with the nature of your own confusion on the subject. Revision gives you a chance to recover from the confusion” (quoted in Gottschalk and Hjortshoj, 64).

To produce good academic papers, students need to know how to revise drafts — and to differentiate this activity from mere proofreading. While proofreading eliminates surface errors, revision addresses structures of thought and presentation. One effective teaching tool for this is to show a page of a former student’s marked-up first draft along with the next draft, with substantive changes. (Of course, you need permission from the student, preferably in writing, to use his or her work, and it’s best to present it to the class anonymously.)

Explain to students how to evaluate papers based on a rubric that places global-level issues first (elements such as a thesis or overall argument; relationship among sections; overall coherence), mid-level issues next (such as paragraph construction), and small-scale issues last (word usage, sentence-level correctness, faulty parallels). Give them class time to practice on their own papers individually, and on classmates’ papers in peer review pairs. Then give them a few more minutes of class time to process the comments they have received.

An example of a peer review worksheet organized this way is available. There are two pages to the worksheet. The first is for the reviewer to write an evaluation of his or her partner’s paper; the second is for the writer to sift through the reviewer’s comments and make a revision plan.

A fuller discussion of managing drafts, revisions, and proofreading appears in the Writing section of the Teaching Guide for GSIs.


Gottschalk, Katherine and Keith Hjortshoj (2004). The Elements of Teaching Writing: A Resource for Instructors in All Disciplines. New York: Bedford/St. Martins. Available at the GSI Teaching & Resource Center.