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How many times you should read your completed paper to guarantee it was properly proofread

Jul 31, 2013 - Posted to  Writing in General
Throughout your academic career you will be required to write many different types of papers. Depending on the course, and the subject, what you will be assigned to write will be different. The one thing that all assignments will have in common is that they need not only to follow a certain structure, they need to be grammatically, and contextually correct. Before you hand in any assignment in your academic schooling, it is imperative that you read over your work and proofread it. Whether you to it yourself, or you ask someone else to do it, you have to check to make sure there are no mistakes before you give it to your instructor to grade.

What is proofreading?

Proofreading is a general term for reading over a paper to check for errors. Errors can be in many forms in academic writing. You can have mistakes in your paper that relate to the context, or the grammar. There can be spelling, punctual, or pretense errors. Most importantly, and those which sometimes are the hardest to pinpoint are the errors in logic, or argument. When you are writing specific types of writing, there are times when you will need to form and prove an argument. When proofreading, you have to make sure that your assertions, the proof that you provide, your thesis statement, and conclusion are all valid. The components of your paper must all work together coherently to form and prove whatever you intend the purpose of the paper to be for.

Who should proofread your paper?

For some individual's proofreading your own work may not be appropriate. There are times when it is hard to see your own mistakes. When you read the text, sometimes you can read what you think is there, or what is supposed to be there, instead of what actually is. Sometimes it is best to call on a friend or colleague for some help in checking your work. They can give you an unbiased opinion and may be able to catch errors with far greater accuracy than you can yourself. There are often times when you will have a mentor, or someone in your field, to turn to. Use them when you can to help you. It is much better to ask and hand in a paper that is A worthy, than to spend all the time writing the paper to end up with a C.

What is the amount of time that you should spend

Although there is no set time that you should spend on proofreading, you should definitely plan for time to not only read it over, but to make any corrections that may be to be made. On average it will take you about ten minutes per page to read and then time to fix it. When doing a research paper, the time needed may be more because you will have to check your references, and when appropriate, find new references that support your assertions better. If you are scheduling time you should have a minimum of a day to proofread and to make corrections before handing in your paper. If you are having someone else proofread you will need more time. Not only will you have to read it, but after you make corrections you will have to reread it. It is recommended that you proofread your paper as many times over until you don't find any mistakes. If you didn't find any to begin with, you should reread it over again just to make sure.
You don't want to spring the paper on the person, so giving them a couple of days lead time to proofread and to hand it back is considerate, from there you will need time to make corrections as appropriate. Although time consuming, it is necessary to make sure that you have taken the time to do it thoroughly.

Why is proofreading essential?

Professor assign papers for two reasons, one is to show that you have a command of the subject matter, two is that you have the professionalism and the discipline to hand in a paper that has taken time, thought, and precision on your part. When you hand in a paper that has mistakes or errors, you are telling the professor that you don't really care about your grade, or that you aren't professional. With so many software packages which have spell check and grammar checks, to hand in anything with those kind of errors is just sloppy and lazy. At a very minimum you should run any spell check program that you have and correct your work. Proofreading must be done to check for:
  • Spelling errors
  • Punctuation errors
  • Argumentative validity
  • Structural or time errors
  • Phrasing or tense errors
  • Grammatical errors
Most of the software programs will not catch all the errors in your work. Many students make the wrong assumption that if they run those programs they have proofread their work. Unless you read over your paper you will not be able to catch all the mistakes that are possible. There are often times when you will type a word which is not misspelled, but is not the word that you meant to type. If you don't reread your work, those mistakes will not be caught. Another thing that those programs can not look for are argumentative mistakes, errors in your citing, or mistakes in the validity of your argument. Only someone who understands the structure of the paper you are writing will understand when the argument is not formed, or proven validly. Although a friend may be able to catch your spelling, grammatical, or phrasing errors, only a professional in your field may be expertise enough to catch citing, or proof mistakes made.

Conclusion

The amount of time that you spend proofreading, or the number of times you proofread it, is not as important as how thorough you are. There are many different types of mistakes you can make when writing a paper, some which are easy to catch, while others are more complicated. The one thing you can rely on is even if you don't catch it, your professor will. They are looking for errors in your logic, your argument, and although they expect you to be too professional for them, your grammar, spelling and punctuation. You should at a minimum expect one full day for proofreading and revisions. Even if the paper is perfect, having the additional time is always better than being caught without enough time to check it over or to correct it.
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