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Good Research Writing: A Result of Repeated Revision

By Barbara Gastel | March 2, 2014

Greetings again. I hope that all is going well for you.

As noted in a Resource of the Week post, I recently gave a presentation on editing one’s own work.

Afterward, a senior scientist sent me email thanking me for the talk and noting another point. “The only thing I would add,” he wrote, “is that it often takes many iterations both in writing and in editing.”

I agree with this scientist. For a piece of writing to achieve its potential, it generally must be revised multiple times.

Sometimes young researchers say they aren’t good writers because their first drafts aren’t of publishable quality. Actually, almost everyone's first draft is rough. Good writing usually is a product of repeated revision.

Once a researcher who edited a major journal spoke in a course I taught. This researcher was known as an excellent writer. Journals commonly published his papers with very little editing.

At the end of his talk, the researcher asked for questions. One student said: “Dr. Gastel has us revise our papers. Do you revise your papers before submission?”

The researcher answered: “If I’m lucky, only 10 times.” I think that his careful revision was one reason for his success.

Before giving the presentation on editing one’s own work, I revised it several times. If I'm to give the presentation again, I’ll revise it some more. I’ll be sure to add the point from the senior scientist.

Until the next post—


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