Revising Research Papers
Congratulations! You've completed a first draft of your research paper, pouring your ideas out onto the pages. Take a short break, or at least a long breath. Now that you have a first draft, you have something to work with. Some parts may be great just as they are. Some parts may need more details, or better wording, or rearranging, or rewriting. That's okay! Revision helps you improve your first draft in major ways. The following activities will guide you.
Revising to Elaborate Details
In the warm-up to this unit, you discovered that basic research answers questions like who, what, where, and when, but rigorous research moves on to deeper questions like why, how, could, would, and should. You can answer basic questions with facts. To answer deeper questions, you'll need many other types of details: explanations, statistics, anecdotes, quotations, reflections, and even visuals. You need to elaborate your ideas.
In the following paragraphs from "The Man Writ Large," note how the topic sentence introduces the key event. Afterward, the writer uses a variety of details to fully elaborate the event, helping readers understand the why, how, could, and should of the situation. Click on the callouts to view each part.
Topic Sentence That indomitable spirit would have its greatest test a week later on July 1. Explanation While most of the regular army troops focused on a siege at Santiago, the Rough Riders, the Buffalo Soldiers, and a few regular army regiments sought to dislodge Spanish control at El Canarey. Doing so would prevent attacks on the American flanks during the siege ("Spanish"). Roosevelt would once again lead his troops uphill into the face of an entrenched foe with superior weaponry. Statistic Roosevelt, however, had a 10 to 1 advantage of soldiers against the 500 Spanish defenders. Just as he had done at the docks at Tampa Bay, Roosevelt jostled his Rough Riders forward to bypass the regular-army regiments and begin the assault on Kettle Hill. Anecdote A Buffalo Soldier asked, "Who do you think you are?" and was told, "Rough Riders going to take that hill. Get out of the way or fall in with us." The Buffalo Soldier replied, "I'll be damned if those Rough Riders will get ahead of me!" Roosevelt thus ended up effectively commanding his own men and that of the separate regiment. Quotation A Rough Rider said of that sudden battlefield brotherhood, "I most positively assert that every face I looked into, both white and black, had a broad grin upon it"(Gardner 161).
The regiments ground forward, eventually taking Kettle Hill, but gunfire still rained down on them from San Juan Hill. Amid the withering fire, Roosevelt raised his pistol and shouted, "Now by God, men! Let's charge 'em!" He jumped a fence and ran down Kettle Hill toward San Juan Hill, but in the noise and confusion, only five of his own men followed. He had to retreat to gather the others, as Roosevelt remembered it: "Even while I taunted them bitterly for not having followed me, it was all I could do not to smile at the look of injury and surprise that came over their faces" (Gardner 167-169). Mounting his horse Little Texas, Roosevelt led his soldiers in the charge up San Juan Hill, and to victory. Diary Entry In his July 1 diary entry, Roosevelt scribbled in pencil, "Rose at 4. Big battle. Commanded regiment. Helped extreme front of firing line. Under shell and rifle fire."Reflection Later, he would dub the charge up San Juan Hill "the great day of my life" ("T.R."). A battle that had been expected to take two hours stretched to twelve, with 300 Spanish casualties to the 500 U.S. casualties ("Spanish").
Photo and Caption Roosevelt and the Rough Riders atop San Juan Hill. Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site.