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Drafting your assignment

Drafting and proofreading your assignment can significantly improve your overall marks but it also provides you with the opportunity to better engage with your topic. Writing and re-writing is itself a way of learning.

Experienced writers know that good writing doesn’t just happen – it is crafted over time.

After writing your first draft, you will need to revisit your writing several times, refining your ideas and editing your work as you go. The final proofreading of your assignment will ensure that you don’t submit any careless errors that could have been easily avoided.

Between drafts, it is a good idea to take a break and not look at your assignment for a day or two. Some distance can help you to view your work more objectively – and sometimes it is exactly during these breaks when everything finally falls into place!

But to do this, you will need time and to gain time, you will need to plan ahead:

In these videos, students and staff share some tips on editing and proofreading your own work.

Checklist for drafting and proofreading - Deakin Study Support

Language tips for editing your assignment

When planning and writing your assignment, try to focus on different elements of the assignment at each stage. We suggest four stages for drafting your assignment. In reality, you may do more or less drafts for an assignment – it will depend on the length and type of task, how much time you have to complete the task and how organised you have been!

Drafting stages of assignment

At each stage of the writing process, from planning to proofreading, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have I directly and fully addressed the assignment question and the assignment criteria?
  • Does the evidence I have selected support my ideas?
  • Have I applied critical thinking in my selection and analysis of these sources?
  • Is there a logical flow to my main points?
  • Do I sound convincing? Does what I am saying make sense?
  • Do I understand the sources I am citing and why I am citing them?
  • What feedback did I get from my previous assignments? How could my writing improve by incorporating this feedback?

Before you begin, review the appropriate guide on your assignment type, for example: essayreportoral presentation or reflective writing.

For further tips on drafting and proofreading, drop in on a writing mentor or make an appointment with a Language and Learning Adviser. Please note that Study Support will not proofread your assignment.

Draft 1: Developing your ideas

  • Focus on the content of your response to the assignment question and how you will use supporting evidence.
  • Get your ideas on the page – don’t worry too much about grammar and punctuation at this stage!
  • Focus on the main points that make up the body of your assignment, rather than the introduction or conclusion (you can write these in a later draft).
  • Create your citations from the very first draft, as it may take more time than you think! You can check the fine details of the referencing style later.
  • Share your ideas with classmates, your tutor and even with family and friends. Talking through your ideas can really help you to refine and consolidate them.

Draft 2: Refining the structure

When reading over your assignment to begin your second draft, you may need to review many of the points above. This second review, however, focuses on the following:

  • Is there a clear structure? For example, essays require a clear introduction, body and conclusion, while different type of reports have clearly labelled sections.
  • Check the paragraph structure in more detail. Does each paragraph require a topic sentence, supporting ideas, your own analysis and a concluding or linking sentence? How might you better link your ideas/paragraphs to more strongly express what you want to say?
  • Is there a logical flow to the writing that supports your response to the assignment question? Try reading out aloud to yourself to listen for any inconsistencies.
  • Draw a mind map based on this draft to get an overall picture of what you are saying. You can also use this to draft an outline for your introduction.
  • Ensure that each paragraph is supported with examples and explanations, as well as your own analysis.
  • Are the sources well integrated into the writing with your own critical analysis?

Draft 3: Refining your language

Academic style refers to a broadly accepted style of writing at university, however also be aware that different disciplines have different ideas about what makes good writing style. Remember that the goal in all academic writing is to communicate your evidence-supported ideas clearly and succinctly. In this draft, review the following:

  • Writing should be clear and easy to read. Simple sentence structures are preferable to long complex sentences.
  • Academic writing should be formal, objective and tentative.
  • Language should be appropriate to your discipline. Look closely at readings recommended by your lecturers for good writing models.
  • Check grammar and punctuation. Read this list of Common errors (University of Winsconsin).
  • Check that all citations are correct. Ensure that you are aware of the difference between a summary, a paraphrase or quotation of a source and your own ideas. Be aware that getting this wrong can lead to accidental plagiarism.

Draft 4: Proofreading

Don’t let a few careless errors lose you any marks! Allow at least one day to proofread your assignment. This needs to be done slowly and carefully. It does not involve making any major changes and should only include minor refinements.

Proofreading tips:

  • Proofreading requires a strong attention to detail over a period of time. Avoid distractions – log out of your email, social media and turn off your phone.
  • Do a spell and grammar check of your document (set to Australian, not US), but remember that a spell checker will not necessarily identify all errors.
  • Print your document – you may find it easier to proofread away from the screen and to mark notes on paper.
  • Use a blank sheet of paper to cover up the lines below the one you are reading. This technique keeps you from skipping ahead and missing possible errors.
  • Read the final draft of your assignment aloud. This is a really effective technique for picking up errors in grammar and flow (readability).
  • Ensure that you have used quotation marks, commas, colons and semicolons correctly. Read the Rough guide to punctuation (UNSW)
  • Use the Deakin guide to referencing to check the accuracy of your references. If you still have questions about how to reference, you can email Study Support and get a reply within one weekday.
  • Ensure that your citations (in-text or footnotes) match your bibliography or reference list.
  • Are there any other formatting requirements for your assignment? e.g. margins, page numbers, sections and heading styles, tables and figures?

Contact us

Book an appointment with a language and learning adviser; or First Nations students can book with the First Nations academic support links