Editing Essay Comparative Studies
Editing Essay is not optional
Editing essay is over 50% of the writing process. Even geniuses don’t sit down and write a brilliant essay, starting at the first word of the introduction, and finishing with the last word of the conclusion all in one session. Planning, Drafting, and Editing essay are three separate writing stages, and unfortunately the first and last stages, which are the most important are the most often rushed or skipped.
Editing essay is best done a few days after the draft, with a fresh eye. Come back at least a few hours later, having watched a movie or something in between, and type the draft on a computer. Then, using your guide to essay writing and the assessment question, fix the structural problems: keywords to the front of sentences, make sure paragraphs have topic and conclusion sentences that address the question, and so on. This is called a ‘structural edit’ and is of course the most important kind of editing essay.
Then, do a ‘fine edit’, looking at sophisticated language and grammar. When you think you’ve made it perfect, show it to a teacher or tutor. Listen to their feedback, and then apply the feedback in another edit. Keep this process going until you feel your essay really is perfect.
As an added bonus, the more time you spend editing essay and reviewing your language and ideas, the better you become at writing – so the drafting stage, and your exam essays become more sophisticated too.
Cut out any words or sentences you don’t expressly need
Anything that you think sounds good, but doesn’t contribute a real point to your argument should go. There is an old saying in editing essay that you need to ‘kill your darlings’ which means that we sometimes get attached to a line or phrase just because we’re really proud of it – not because it contributes to the argument.
Have one, focused train of thought
Does your essay branch off into a few different ideas, and then veer back to the major point? Do you ever say anything which is slightly contradictory to other ideas that you’ve raised? Prune back your essay so that it is one sleek, logical, reasoned argument.
This is really easy to do in Comparative studies. If you have provided a sentence which describes what happens in the text but doesn’t contribute a quote or technique, cut it. Likewise, if you have started rambling about what life was like in the historical context and have not linked it directly to your text, cut that too.
Avoid repetition of techniques, ideas or quotes from the text – you want to show off your diversity. Also avoid repeating the same conjunctions ‘however, similarly, thus’ in order to join your sentences – use variety. Don’t repeat adjectives either, especially ones like ‘engaging’ and ‘insightful’ to describe your text.
However, you must repeat words which were key terms in your question.
It is important not just to focus on one or two of the words from the question but to engage with all the ideas. Key words from the question must be used in the introduction, the conclusion, and in each paragraph’s topic and conclusion sentences. It also does not hurt to reference them in the ‘explain’ part of SES analysis if you have room.
What to add: Thesis
If your essay doesn’t say anything strongly, that is something that you need to fix! Ideally, a thesis should already be a part of your essay. Your thesis should be part of your introduction, conclusion, and in every paragraph’s conclusion sentences.
Your Module A thesis should may be about what we can learn from your texts’ contextual values, connections and perspectives, or more broadly about what comparative studies can teach us, linking the ideas of your module and elective together.
What to add: Buzzwords and Jargon
If you’ve learned some new impressive terms about the historical context, such as ‘nobles oblige’, or ‘renaissance humanism’ feel free to work these ideas into your text. Likewise, if you’ve learned a fancy new English term like ‘German expressionism’ since you planned your essay, include it if relevant.
Substitute in more specific terms for general ones, such as ‘extended metaphor’ or ‘pathetic fallacy’ instead of just ‘imagery’.
What to add: Techniques and quotes
Go back through your texts and notes and see if you can pack some more detailed or relevant techniques and quotes in. For comparative studies, it’s less about shoving more quotes in, and more about choosing better and longer quotes.
However, if you find you have room in your essay for more techniques and quotes, by all means provide them – just make sure you’re attending to all the other requirements of the paragraph too.
What to add: Phrasing
You can tell a boring story in an interesting way if you present it well enough. With this in mind, you should use language to make your essay interesting to read. Use exciting adjectives, keep the main points towards the start of sentences, and paragraph for new ideas so your essay has a rhythm to it.
Vary the length of sentences – short sentences for emphasis, long sentences for building to a point. You should alternate between these sentence types, especially if you tend to favour one or the other. If in doubt, use a short sentence – it keeps you clear and easy to understand.
What o add: References to the rubric
Keep in mind that although not all rubric ideas may be mentioned in the essay question, you are expected to interpret your questions in the context of the rubric, so it’s a good idea to use some key terms like context, values, shaping and reshaping meaning, etc, to direct your markers towards your awareness of the rubric.
What to add: Grammar: dashes, colons and semi-colons
See if you can make your work more sophisticated by adding in some grammar devices to help you control language better. If you’d like help learning to use more sophisticated grammar, ask your tutor for some exercises.
What to add: Vocabulary
It can be dangerous to just throw in terms you’ve picked out of a thesaurus or dictionary. Keep in mind that no two words mean EXACTLY the same thing, and the difference between many words is subtle, so even if the thesaurus says they’re synonyms, that doesn’t mean you’re using it right.
Complicated is not necessarily better. Think how much you dislike having to read a long boring paper with lots of clunky unfamiliar technical terms in it. Clear expression is actually a better mark of sophistication.
- Address the essay question using keywords and use some words of your thesis to answer it.
- Name Text One, with the year it was published in brackets after it.
- Indicate the genre, text type and composer of the text.
- Give a brief summary of Text One’s cultural context – no more than a sentence.
- Name Text Two, with the year it was published in brackets after it.
- Indicate the genre, text type and composer of the text.
- Give a brief summary of Text Two’s cultural context – no more than a sentence.
- Identify why the two texts are to be studied together – mention the most important commentary they have to share that links them etc.
- Identify the main connections/perspectives you are going to discuss, and introduce them in the order they will appear in the body of your essay.
Body Paragraphs: (x 3 or 4, usually arranged in a hierarchical order)
- Topic sentence: introduce the connection/perspective which is in both texts.
- What Why and Fact of Text One, explaining how contextual values shape this connection/perspective.
- Name a technique and a long quote from Text One to support this.
- What Why and Fact of Text Two, explaining how contextual values shape this connection/perspective.
- Name a technique and a long quote from Text Two to support this.
- Comment on the similarity or difference between the texts, and what has been revealed.
- Conclusion sentence: Thus, link that revelation to your question and thesis.
- Use some words such as ‘finally’ or ‘ultimately’ to create a tone of finality. Don’t use ‘In conclusion.’
- Refer back to the question using keywords, and make sure you’ve answered it.
- Explain the ultimate message of each text.
- Explain the texts’ continued effect or influence on today’s audience or literature.
- Identify the continuing significance of the connections/perspectives.
- Confirm why the texts should be studied together – their synergistic value.
- Give a mature comment on the consequences of the social issues of these texts for society, and leave your marker with something deep to think about – a ‘beard stroking’ moment.
Editing your essay
Edit on a computer
Save several drafts so you can cut and paste, embellish and cull without destroying the original. You can then compare which version reads better. Another idea is to edit using the track changes option in Word, so you can see what you’ve done as you go. Turn on Grammar and Spell checks too!
Read academic essays to familiarise yourself with the essay text-type
This will help you get a sense for how formal argument is usually structured and made persuasive. If you choose essays that deal with your prescribed texts, you can be learning about structure and content at the same time.
You will learn about tone and phrasing from these writers and will likely increase your own academic vocabulary too.
Read a lot of your friends’ essays
I don’t mean you should go hunting for better ideas in your friends’ work – that’s called plagiarism. But looking at many different friends’ approaches can be helpful in finding your own expression, and make you see the argument from many different angles.
It is also good to have a look at any exemplar essays your schools might offer you to read.
Practice a lot of different structured questions
Analyse, annotate and plan answers to as many varied questions as you can. Be aware that you may be asked to write an essay in speech, interview, feature article or letter format too.