Process Knowledge: Understanding Revision

All writers know they need to revise, but many student writers wonder, “What does revise mean exactly?”


What would you say if someone you just met in one of your classes said, “Get in the car, I’m going to take you somewhere—it’s going to take a long time and I need you to pay close attention to every detail on the way.”

I know I would say, “Uhh…I’m really busy today. But where are you going?” If the person replies:”‘I’m not going to tell you and I’m going to make you go there.”

I know I wouldn’t waste another minute deciding: “No thanks.” Every writing project takes the reader on a journey, and every reader wants to know where they are headed before they invest the time and energy to embark on that
journey. By the time the reader leaves the introduction, they should know where they are headed. I call this the roadmap. Effective roadmaps clarify the aim and direction of the paper. Academics call this sentence a thesis. In a
persuasive essay, this is the claim— an arguable roadmap statement that makes clear the purpose. No matter which term you prefer, it is important to know that many academics consider this the most important sentence in the paper.

Of course, the roadmap is not the only sentence that matters in the introduction. The reader needs information to understand the roadmap. Journalists answer the 5Ws: Who? What? When? Where? Why? Experts use the 5Ws as guides to set up the reader. Since the process of writing includes thinking deeply about your topic and formulating important connections with your reading and research throughout the process, then it only makes sense that both the roadmap statement and the 5Ws should continue to be scrutinized throughout revision. Revision in these areas insures the reader’s first impression is a good one.