Every online course requires weekly written assignments and at least one, sometimes more, two-five page papers. All too often, students seem to see weekly course assignments in terms of “once and done,” meaning they write the assignments and then submit for a grade without going through the drafting, editing, proofing, and editing process. Based on comments by online instructors, it seems that most students do not proofread weekly assignments, instead relying on Grammar Check to catch writing mistakes. Students who take the time to follow the writing process for weekly assignments, and then proofread effectively, earn higher grades than do those who see assignments as a quick writing activity. Following an effective proofreading process has the added advantage of providing a schedule for completing assignments so that you are not rushing through an assignment at the last minute on the due date. The proofreading process includes five basic steps.
1. Check your resources. Most assignments require resources to support your writing. Do not use websites if your professor has asked for library sources. Make sure you have used the proper documentation format (usually APA) for citing sources within your writing and for the reference list.
2. Check the list you made of each requirement in the assignment. Read through your paper to make sure you have addressed each point required. Read again to make sure you have an introduction and that each paragraph following that is organized in a logical sequence. The concluding paragraph should summarize what you wrote in the preceding paragraphs. Each paragraph should cover one point and stay on topic.
3. Check paragraphing. Paragraphs should be usually 5-8 sentences, with resource information in the middle of the paragraph. The general rule is to write 2-3 of your own sentences both before and after the quote or paraphrase that explains the relevance of the resource information. Be sure each paragraph has evidence (material from a resource) to support the point in your paragraph.
4. Proofread for grammar and mechanics. Grammar Check is okay as a start but it is better to search online for a free grammar program. Grammarly is a great program that marks and explains errors.
5. Read the finished assignment out loud, beginning with the last paragraph and working forward, one paragraph at a time. This may sound like a waste of time; however, more errors are caught this way that just reading the assignment through from beginning to end.
The final step before hitting “send” when submitting your work is to double check the paper format (usually APA) and the name of the file you are submitting for a grade. Most professors have specific file-naming conventions. Do be sure you have named the file as indicated in the assignment. The usual file convention includes your last name and first initial, the week number, and either the assignment number or the name of the assignment. If you can’t find instructions for naming files, ask your professor.
Following these steps allows for taking breaks from reading and revising assignments and this is important so you can see each revision with fresh eyes. Always allow at least two days, three is better, for drafting and revising written assignments. When students write assignments on the due dates, there is not enough time to do a thorough job of proofreading and this will inevitably result in lower assignment grades.