Stage one: Big picture

At Stage One (Big Picture) editing you’ll focus on the content, context and meaning of the draft you’ve written. You’re editing to ensure that the piece communicates ideas clearly, whether that be at paragraph level in relation to a section, or a section in relation to a complete assignment or chapter, or a chapter in relation to the thesis as a whole. At Stage One editing, you’re editing what you’ve written.

Guidelines for Stage one: big picture

The key question to keep in mind is: How does the content, context and meaning in this draft relate to the piece of writing as a whole?

You can break down this question by considering the following:

  • Is my purpose focused, clear and consistent?
  • Have I presented a clear position on the topic?
  • Have I given clear and relevant reasons and explanations?
  • Have I referenced key ideas, arguments and concepts associated with the topic?
  • Have I incorporated and defined key vocabulary?
  • Have I incorporated and explained relevant evidence, data, examples, etc.?
  • Have I provided relevant, convincing context or background?
  • Have I maintained a consistent focus on the topic?
  • Have I addressed all of the assessment/task criteria?

Visualising the big picture

Are you a visual learner? You might like to visualise the Big Picture of your writing. A visual diagram can often help us arrange our thoughts in response to these questions.

Think of your writing as a tree. The example below assumes that the piece of writing is a thesis, but the tree image can be adapted to other types of academic writing.

Your research is shaped by your defined gap in the literature to create a research question, or an assessment topic assigned in a unit. This is the tree trunk. The research question is developed into a series of chapters/subtopics or major branches that examine and answer the research question. Each chapter (or subsection of your essay) contains a major argument (made of a series of minor branches or sections, containing paragraphs (or leaves) that contribute to the overarching argument of your thesis (or assignment) - the canopy of the tree. Each paragraph should clearly support the section, chapter or essay it is part of. For a thesis, every chapter should clearly support the thesis as a whole. For an essay, every paragraph should clearly contribute to the essay argument.

Image of tree where research are at the roots, the trunk is a question addressing a gap, the branches are chapters and the overall tree is a thesis.

How might your own thesis (or assignment) look if you now tried to reimagine it from the outside in? Use the questions and space below to try and get a sense of how your writing project is built.