Paper 3: Revise-Rewrite Assignment of Paper 2

Length: 1800 - 2100 words (6-7 double spaced pages) — same as for the original submission of Paper 2

Grade: The rewrite does not replace the existing Paper 2 grade: it is an independent grade. The initial submission and the rewrite are each worth 15% of your final grade. The standards are much higher for the rewrite than for the original paper. If you make only superficial revisions (e.g. fixing typos, adding occasional sentences in response to TA's comments), your grade will drop. If you dutifully respond to most comments, but show no initiative, your grade will likely stay the same. To get a better grade, you must use the feedback and time to produce something fundamentally better.

Revising — even rewriting — a paper, as part of MIT's Communications Intensive (CI) requirement, can be an enormously valuable exercise, but only if you invest the time needed to make it worthwhile. Revision means to see again, to take a fresh look at the overall product and to improve the work in a substantial way. You take the opportunity provided by this assignment — you have as much time for the revision as you did for the original paper — to re-think your paper from top to bottom. Any paper, no matter how good initially, can be improved dramatically with enough thought and effort. These guidelines should help.

How to proceed? Look again at the original assignment and how you answered it. Look at the comments from your TA and then speak with your TA about them. Brainstorm more about the topic in light of new material that has been presented in the course. Revisit the readings. Once you have done this, think about the best possible answer to this assignment. You might be able to work with your existing material, working it over into something much better. But you might also choose to do something entirely new: reconceived, restructured, making new and better arguments, with more complete and relevant data.

At the very least, follow this process:

  1. What is the thesis? Clarify it. Avoid overgeneralization or a thesis that merely states the obvious. What can you say about this material that gives the reader new insight?
  2. Is there a clear introduction? Does it state the thesis and give a sense of the structure of the paper? Delete any waffly, redundant, or unnecessary parts.
  3. Can you, in a single line, identify how each paragraph contributes to the overall thesis? If any paragraph has two or more significant contributions, split it into multiple paragraphs. If a single point is pursued in several paragraphs, combine them. If any paragraph is merely additional, unnecessary material, delete it.
  4. Organization: what is the argument of the paper? How is that argument structured? Is there a way to make the argument stronger? Consider rearranging sections, paragraphs, or sentences to make the essay's argument more effective. Identify additional points that need to be addressed, and points that can be deleted.
  5. Transitions: once the organization is settled, ensure that the flow of the paper is clear, and that each paragraph fits smoothly into the paper.
  6. Evidence: are the points backed up with evidence? Is every key piece of evidence addressed, and every point at least illustrated? Are obvious counter-examples considered and managed appropriately? Is everything cited accurately? Note where additional evidence would strengthen the essay, or where the evidence given is not a good match for the point being made.
  7. Logic and analysis: does the essay make the most of its evidence? Is it fully interpreted? Do the interpretations convince you, or is there illogic, an absence of analysis, or other problems?
  8. Tone: is the tone appropriate? Is it too stiff? Too casual? What phrases or words would you change?
  9. Sentence level check: are any sentences unclear? Mark them, and try to clarify. Remove weak phrases, chop out any extra words, reduce long sentences into more brief ones, and make sure there are no sentence fragments.
  10. Conclusion: is it strong? Does it restate the thesis and make a stronger claim than the introduction does? Does it leave the reader thinking "wow, what an interesting way of thinking about the problem?" It should.

One of the best ways to ensure success with the rewrite is to force yourself to be ruthless in your revisions. How to do this? Do not simply revise your existing document. Instead, start from scratch with a blank document and do not cut or paste anything. This will force you to reconsider every idea, sentence, and phrase. Even if you want to use a similar sentence or paragraph, having to retype the material always leads to better prose. Since you have as much time to work on the rewrite as you did on the original, and since you will hopefully improve not just the writing but also the thinking behind the paper, similar sentences and paragraphs should be rare. This will produce a rewrite that is fundamentally different and improved.

As the paper approaches its final form, be sure to take the time needed to improve its production values: edit carefully, use citations correctly, etc. Anything else is unacceptable. For instance:

  1. Check spelling and grammar (commas, semi-colons, ellipses, quotations, the works). Make sure each sentence has a subject, and that subjects and verbs agree with each other. Check the verb tenses of each sentence, and make sure they don't change randomly.
  2. Read essay again to make sure everything makes sense and that no words are missing. One of the best ways to do this is to read the essay out loud. This will (1) slow you down, so that you detect errors, and (2) allow you to hear your prose and recognize awkward or confusing phrasings and constructions.
  3. Check footnotes and bibliography – are they in the correct format?

We encourage everyone to meet one-on-one with their TA (and/or the professors) to make sure that expectations are clear and that you have a viable plan. Make good use of our class writing tutor and the MIT Writing Center to produce the best possible paper.