Should You Edit Your Own Research Paper? The Pros and Cons
As any student or researcher knows, writing a research paper is no easy task. But the research is only part of what makes writing research papers difficult. Writing itself is a skill that takes time and effort to develop. Even great researchers are not always great writers. So what can you do to make sure that the quality of your writing doesn’t negatively impact your chances of publication success? There are many different tips and tricks that students and researchers can use to improve their writing. Editing is a key step in the writing process, but hiring a professional editor can be expensive and difficult. Is self-editing a good alternative? What are the pros and cons of self-editing? Let’s take a look.
Writing a Research Paper: The Process
While it can seem like doing research and gathering evidence and relevant sources is the hardest part of writing a research paper, these steps in fact are just the beginning. Writing is its own process that requires strategy and time. A research paper usually consists of an introduction, literature review, methodology, data analysis and results, discussion, and conclusion. But no researcher simply sits down and writes a research paper from beginning to end.
Every researcher eventually develops their own writing strategy and style, but if you are just starting out, it can help to look up some tips for how to write a good research paper. One good tip is to begin with an outline to organize your research data and thoughts before you begin the writing process. Once you have arranged your thoughts and figured out where your data and sources belong, you can begin writing each section. Remember, there is no need to write your sections in order. You can begin with the conclusion or the methods or the introduction. It’s up to you.
Once you have written the first draft, it’s time for the next big phase of research paper writing: editing. Many writers are tempted to skip this step, thinking they can do one round of spell checking and be finished. While you can do that, it is not a good way to get published. The best writing is revised and revised again for clarity, structure, spelling, grammar, and overall quality. Does your paper say what you want it to say? Can someone who has never heard of your research understand what you’ve done? Editing makes sure that the answer to both of these questions is yes. However, hiring a professional editor can be expensive and time consuming. Can you just edit your own work?
What is Self-Editing?
Self-editing is just what it sounds like—editing your own paper yourself. Of course, it is normal and common for most writers to edit while they write. Many researchers reorganize paragraphs or add or delete sentences as they develop their research papers. As you write and review your paper, you will catch spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. So in this way, self-editing is a normal place to start with the editing process.
However, a substantive and thorough edit of a paper cannot be performed while writing. If you choose to self-edit, you will need to distance yourself from your paper by not working on it for several days at least. This way, when you read your paper, you can look at it with fresh eyes, which makes it easier to catch mistakes. Many writers find it helpful to use an editing checklist when reviewing their own work. In addition, writing tools that are specifically designed for academic writing like Trinka can catch technical errors as well as common writing mistakes. If you choose to self-edit, even for one round, it is always a great idea to take advantage of this type of AI tool to make sure you get the best results.
Self-editing Vs. Professional Editing Services
Even with the help of AI spelling or writing tools and editing checklists, self-editing is a challenging task. One big reason for this is that you, the writer, know what you want to say. This means your brain often fills in gaps and makes assumptions that an objective reader cannot. It is easy to skip over your own mistakes because you see what you intended to write, not what you actually wrote!
Both ESL writers who are writing in English and native English speakers struggle to effectively self-edit for the reasons mentioned above. However, ESL researchers writing in English often have a particularly difficult time editing their own work for writing quality. Not only that, it can be difficult to find a native English-speaking colleague who is both a good editor and familiar with your topic. This is one reason why online academic editing services like Enago are so popular.
What does a professional editor do that you cannot do yourself? A professional editor will review your work with a fresh, objective set of eyes and identify any deep organizational problems your paper has, highlight passages that are unclear or redundant, and generally make suggestions to improve your paper. Even if you don’t want to hire a substantive editor, a professional copy editor can make sure your sentences are clear and concise. Professional proofreaders catch mistakes like inconsistent fonts or misspellings that are still actual words (form instead of from, for example). In other words, if you can afford it, professional editing is always preferable to self-editing.
So, Should I Self-Edit?
If you are running short on time or resources, self-editing is certainly an option. If you choose to self-edit your research paper, follow tips from other academic writers for how to do so effectively. Tricks include taking a few days off before editing, using an AI grammar and spelling checker designed for academic papers, and using an editing checklist. However, if you can afford it, it is preferable to engage the services of a professional editor. Professional academic editors improve the quality of your research paper and your chances of getting published. If you are aiming for publication in a well-known journal, professional editing services are even more important. Either way, never underestimate the importance of editing your writing!