How to Edit and Proofread an English Research Paper

Editing and proofreading occur in the final steps of writing your English research paper, once you’ve gotten through a few drafts and revised at least once. Proper sentence structure, grammar, spelling, punctuation and consistency are crucial to your paper, as any one of those flaws will stand out like a sore thumb and greatly reduce your credibility and how you are perceived by the reader. Editing and proofreading may seem like the same thing, but they are two difference steps.

Edit first for style, consistency and common errors you make

Editing entails looking for mistakes in consistency, style, sentence structure errors, runoff sentences, and so on.

It would be a good idea to find a few papers you’ve written before and see what kind of errors you frequently make. Then, read your paper out loud, sentence by sentence. If there are any errors in sentence structure, this step will make them glaringly obvious and you will know exactly what to correct. Make notes on your paper as you go, or else you may forget what it was you were going to fix. It may be embarrassing, but even better if you read your paper to someone else. Another listener may catch things even you don’t realize you’re saying.

Have a reference for grammar rules handy as you do this, whether that be a textbook, simple list or Internet resource.

After you’ve done that, take a break, just fifteen minutes or so, in which you don’t read, talk about or think about your paper. Then come back to it. Giving your brain a break will keep you alert enough to continue to find errors. Take this break occasionally throughout the process.

Upon your return, reread through your paper with your notes and corrections from reading it aloud. Comb through each sentence, looking for errors in structure, style and citations. Keep your reference materials handy for all of this. If your friend is still around, have him or her read through it, too. Once you are satisfied with these elements, move on to proofreading.

Proofread for occasional mistakes, typos, and misspellings

Proofreading entails more of a word-by-word approach. Look for simple typos, misplaced commas, incorrect word choice, and misspelled words. You’re looking more for mechanical errors than how the whole paper reads -- in fact, a tried and true method for effective proofreading is to read through your paper at least once from the last word to the first so that you’re focused on each word instead of the paper as a whole.

After this, again, have someone else edit and proofread. Once you feel you’ve done all that you could, you are ready to submit.

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