Editing your research

Now that we have spent some time thinking about the structure of an academic paper and theory, the structure of the paragraph, and see how different people write different papers down to sentence structure level, we can get to the next level of writing a paper: thinking about each sentence and each word.

Editing papers is the most critical part of the writing process. There are many quotes about editing. In fact, most authors believe that editing is most important part of writing is editing.

Thankfully, today we have many excellent tools to help us write better without being formally trained as copy editors.

My first paper as an assistant professor was titled “the mechanics of social capital and academic performance at Indian college.” this paper was written well before I had many of the tools that I do now to write academic papers, and thus was at a much earlier part of my training to be academic.

The paper went through five or six rounds of review at the American sociological review. I’m grateful to the editors, the reviewers, and whoever they were for letting this paper get published. It is a beautiful paper, and I worked very hard on it, but it could have been substantially better if I knew what I know now. However, the editors suggested near the very end of the review process that I have the paper formally copyedited. I was slightly offended; I’d always considered myself a decent writer. Most of my college papers are philosophy majors, and the professors often commented on how good my writing was. Now, hear someone saying, you sound like a foreigner, get your paper edited. I talked to one of my colleagues about this, and they recommended that the University have a copy editor on a contract that would be able to. Further, I should not be ashamed to have my papers copyedited because even the most significant writers have their papers edited dozens of times.

This paper was written before Grammarly (I used Microsoft grammar check and software called Grammark). However, today, you can have a high-quality read-through of your paper with software such as Grammarly. I use it for everything.

Here are the first few paragraphs of my paper, “The Mechanics of Social Capital and Academic Performance.”

Here is a screenshot of what Grammarly highlights.

Here is a very first cut of an edit.

You will notice that there are significant small opportunities to improve the quality of your writing and that using the software may help you do this exceptionally well.

However, what Grammarly could do better is to help you think about the broader structure of your argument. This is what the exercises you went through in the previous two sections helped you do. You understand the point you’re trying to make and structure those points at the individual paragraph and section levels in the manuscript.

In addition to using Grammarly, consider having your manuscript professionally copyedited. Finding a copy editor is easy. I have done it in various ways, including using my collaborators, a copy editor that works on contract for my own University, and hiring a copy editor on UpWork. Copyediting services range from $150 (on UpWork) two sometimes $300-$500 if you use a professional copy editor on contract with University. This may seem expensive, but the paper will last forever. Spending money making it as good as you can is worth it.

In addition to using Grammarly and hiring a copy editor, it may be worth investing in improving your writing quality. There are some very excellent books out there that can give you some insights into how to write better sentences. Indeed, this part of writing is something that I struggle with the most. Some people write beautiful sentences. My sentences could be more beautiful.

I found a fantastic book called “The art of styling sentences” that I worked through as an assistant professor. It is a Zipfs Law toolkit for writing sentences that sound good. Here is another link to the examples of sentences in the “Art of Styling Sentences.”

I also took two classes on Udemy to help me improve my writing.

[insert links to classes here]

Both were incredibly useful.

In some ways, I still write like I used to, but I understand better when my writing isn’t clear. On the margin, this can make a big difference.