How to Refine Your College Reports


Copyediting isn’t just for journalists. College students, who typically write several papers each semester, must do likewise or risk being penalized for academic or grammatical sloppiness.

What is the best approach to take when writing? Is it best to edit “on the go” or simply write everything out first and make those edits later? Either option can work, but there is one thing that should always be considered by students as they do their work: time. Time, as in allowing for enough of it to do your research, to confirm your facts, review your writing and prepare your drafts before making and submitting a final copy.

Unlike journalists, college students work without the benefit of an editor, unless you consider the professor grading the assignment to occupy that role. However, by the time your professor reads your work, you’ll have no chance for a revision which means that your grade will be based upon that final copy.

There are certain steps you can take to ensure a good grade on your report or paper:

Just the facts — Use facts to prove your points instead of relying upon conjecture. Stating “people say” or “studies show” will result in a lower grade. Instead use, “according to…” or “Joe Miller says…” or “the Wine Institute states…” to demonstrate credibility. Consider interviewing someone personally if they are in expert in the topic at hand.

Use citations — Whether included in footnotes or end notes, citing sources properly is the only way to go. There are five academic citation methods out there, but only one is mandated by your professor. Use that style and make use of an online tool such as Son of Citation Machine ( to help you list yours correctly.

Review a style manual — Some professors require that students follow style guidelines when writing their papers. If you’re a journalism major, then that would be the A/P Stylebook. Your college or department may have its own guidelines — if so, follow those precisely.

Make use of technology — Every word processing program includes a spell checker — use it! If a grammar checker is available, use it too. However, there is nothing available that can substitute for the human eye — when you’re done with your paper put it down and sleep on it. Review it the following day when your perspective is fresh.

Confirm that it passes copyright — Are the words in your paper your own? Did you cite everything properly? Use a plagiarism checker to confirm that your paper is clean ( — your professor certainly will!

Final checks — When your final draft is ready for review, read it aloud. There is something about “giving voice” to your edits which can make a difference in how your paper reads. Consider asking a roommate to check your paper too — a second set of eyes can make a huge difference for you.

By following the previously mentioned six steps carefully, you can raise your grade accordingly. Your professors will base their grade on a number of factors including research, style, citation and grammar. Allow for plenty of time too because a rushed paper invariably results in a lower grade as mistakes crop up.

Adv. — If you’re heading off to college next fall, you’ll need to plan carefully now in order to make sure you meet your application deadlines. has free planning tools to help you track you stay on track.


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Categories: Study Tips