ATTENTION TO DETAIL
Once you have completed your first draft, you can engage in self-criticism. Look over what you have written. Is
it clear in its message? At this stage, you should be able to produce your main thesis in a summary form, say,
150 to 200 words. Can you do this? If so, does the paper lead in this direction? Are some sections too detailed
compared with others? Are there gaps in the reasoning?
Pay particular attention at this stage to proper citation and to referencing. Take time to learn the OSCOLA
system. Do not assume that referencing is simply the icing on the cake to be added at the last minute. The
referencing of your paper is important from the earliest stages of drafting. Meticulous attention to detail at
this stage will save time in the long run.
At this stage, you will, in some cases, be able to receive advice from your supervisor. Use this session wisely.
The role of the supervisor is neither to tell you what grade your paper is likely to get nor to re-write your paper
so that it will achieve a higher grade, but to sharpen your own ability to assess where the paper shows
strengths and where it needs further development. The more you are willing to engage in discussion about
your ideas, the more helpful you will find the supervisor’s comments.
Do not ask your supervisor what mark a draft would receive if it was the submitted work. The supervisor will
not tell you. Supervision is not assessment. It is designed to enable you to be critical of your work and to
improve it, by suggesting avenues of inquiry, by drawing attention to those parts which need development and
to those parts which are good as drafted. You must form your own judgments about the quality of your work
using all the resources available to you.
You should certainly approach the feedback session on your draft with questions of your own. Remember too
that if you are not convinced by your argument, other readers are unlikely to be. The following self-evaluation
questions about your text will draw your attention to important aspects of your writing:
• Are the points well developed and exemplified?
• Is there a clear thread of argument running through the paper?
• Are the introduction and conclusion effective?
• What is the balance between description and evaluation?
• Are there too many or too few quotations?
• Are there appropriate references to authorities supporting the arguments in my paper?
• Which sections are particularly interesting? Why?
• Which parts have been most difficult to express? Why?
• What, in particular, could be improved?
• Do you think it is a good piece of writing?
If you can persuade your friends to read through all or part of your paper, they can be very helpful guides to
the clarity of your writing and your arguments. Friends obviously cannot assist you with the substance of your
work, but advice on the clarity of the writing and argument, or even sounding them out on particular ideas,
can be an invaluable part of the process of self-assessment.