Writing About Literature: Revision

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 12882

Great essays don't just pour out of great authors like fresh water from a tap; they revise their work just like water is purified before you get it. Learn why and how to revise and purify your work!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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"I just finished my essay! You mean I have to go over it again?" Why is it important to revise an essay?

Revision is an important final step for any essay writing.

This step gives the writer a chance to polish a paper and make any final changes to make the paper as perfect as possible before it is evaluated. Sometimes, you may have to revise a paper on your own, and other times you may turn in a rough draft to a parent or teacher for feedback that will help you revise for the final draft.

If you need to review, or completely overlooked, the previous Related Lessons in our Literary Response Paper series, find them in the right-hand sidebar.

One tool that can help you revise your paper is a rubric. Often, a paper will be assessed on a rubric that provides specific categories of evaluation. It helps students understand by what criteria their papers will be evaluated, and helps teachers clearly communicate what they are looking for in an essay and how they will grade a paper. Rubrics can come in many shapes and sizes, from very simple to very complex, but much of the time, they have categories and scores assigned to those categories.

All essays contain the same general components. Try to name as many you can think of before looking at the list. There are five components with an optional sixth element. They are:

  1. Focus This category explains how well the essay stays on topic and how well the paper fulfills the type of essay. For example, if you are asked to write a compare and contrast paper, it would lose focus if you only described one topic and did not explain how it was similar to or different from another topic.
  2. Content This category is the detail or the "meat" of the essay. This includes the specific examples used to support the main points of an essay.
  3. OrganizationThis category is how a paper is structured.
    • Does the paper have a thesis to set up the paper's topic and how the points are organized?
    • Is each point in the paper clearly explained and placed in clear paragraphs?
    • Is there a separate conclusion that summarizes the same material as presented in the body paragraphs?
  1. StyleThis category explains the language and sentence style of a paper. This is the "tone" of the paper how it sounds to the reader. It is like the voice that is reading the paper. Academic essays should have a formal tone and use varied vocabulary. Sentence structures should be varied and use different types of sentences.
    • Is the paper supposed to sound funny, intelligent, sad, or cheerful?
  1. ConventionsThis category explains the grammar and formatting of the essay. Some types of essay writing have specific rules about the way a page must be formatted, so these requirements would fall in this category.
    • Does the essay use punctuation correctly?
    • Does the paper look formal in the way it is presented on the page?
  1. Research and citations (optional) If a paper requires outside research, this category is included. This category looks at the quality of research that a paper uses and whether the sources used in the paper are cited correctly so the reader knows where the sources came from.

A literary response essay may have all six categories, but since your essay did not require outside research, you only need to be concerned with the first five categories. Knowing that these categories are used to assess a literary response essay, take out your rough draft and review it yourself. Answer the following questions as you review your rough draft:

  • Does my essay have a clear thesis that gives the paper focus and organization? Can the reader tell what the topic of the paper is just looking at the thesis? What can I do to make the thesis more specific?
  • Does my paper stick to analyzing or explaining my claim? What can I do to make the explanation of the claim in the body paragraphs more precise? Can I summarize my supporting points from the body paragraphs more exactly in the conclusion?
  • Are all the details in my body paragraphs specific? Can I add any more details to explain the supporting points in the body paragraphs? What can I do to more thoroughly explain how the details prove the supporting points in the body?
  • Does the order of the supporting points in my thesis statement match the order of the supporting points in the body paragraphs? Does the order of summary in the conclusion match the order of the supporting points in the body? Can I make any changes here?
  • Am I using the most-formal language, widest vocabulary, and most-varied sentence style possible? Is the meaning of my paper clear in the sentences I'm using? What can I change to make the tone of the paper as formal and professional as possible while keeping the meaning clear for my reader?
  • Did I use commas, quotation marks, periods, semicolons, and question marks correctly? Do I need to change any punctuation?

When you have reviewed your essay and have answered all of these questions for yourself, move on to the Got It? section to use a formal rubric to help you revise your essay further.

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