How to Check an Essay

Student reading over essay in library.
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You’ve done it. You’ve completed your essay with some time to spare before turning it in, exactly as you had planned. Don’t let that time go to waste. An easy way to improve your final grade on any written assignment is to go back over it before turning it in. Each error that you find and are able to correct will save you points when your teacher looks at it. It is best to start with the most important parts, content and organization, and work your way down to the smaller grammatical and spelling errors.

1 Effective Thesis

Gallaudet University advises students to begin checking their work with the thesis statement. Compare your thesis to the assignment sheet to make sure you follow your instructor’s guidelines. Make sure your thesis is general enough that the entire paper supports it, but that it is not so general that it says nothing. A thesis like, “There are both advantages and disadvantages to using solar power” is too general. Something like “Solar power is worth the initial expense if you plan to stay in your home for years because it could save you money in the long run and it is better for the environment” would work better.

2 Supporting Details

Once you’ve gone over your thesis, consider how it is developed. Ask how each body paragraph works to prove your thesis, and then make sure it does so. Pretend like you do not agree with your position, and then read your essay to see if your points convince you. Within each paragraph, make sure you use compelling evidence and that you cite all information taken from sources that is not common knowledge. Gallaudet University also recommends that you explain each point you make. You may think it’s obvious that solar power is better for the environment, but you have to provide specific examples and data to prove it.

3 Organization and Transitions

Next, make sure your paper is easy to follow. Your body paragraphs should be in the most effective order. Your point that is easiest to accept and least important should be your first body paragraph. Build up to your final, most important point in your last body paragraph. Next, make sure each body paragraph begins with a topic sentence that states the main idea of the paragraph and clearly relates back to the thesis. Check to see if you need to add transition words, such as “first,” “second,” "furthermore" and "however." If you come to a point where there is an abrupt shift in thought, use a transition there. Finally, make sure your introduction and conclusion fit with the rest of your paper.

4 Grammar and Style

Proofreading in the last checking stage. Start with glaring errors such as repeated or missing words or sentences that sound awkward. Read out loud to catch more errors. The Spell-checkers and grammar-checkers will miss many spelling and grammar errors, so you should not rely on them. Then, look for other errors such as run-on sentences and fragments. Run-on sentences have two or more complete thoughts, or independent clauses, but aren’t punctuated correctly. A fragment is an incomplete sentence because it lacks a subject or verb or does not express a complete thought. Finally, look at your verbs. Make sure you use the correct tenses throughout the paper and that you avoid subject-verb agreement errors by using singular verbs with singular subjects, for example.

Residing in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Buddy Shay has been in higher education since 2003 with experience in the classroom and in academic support. He holds a Master of Arts in English. Shay is also a certified practitioner of the MBTI personality instrument and has previous experience working with secondary students.