If your title analysis, planning and researching skills are good, then your content should also be of good quality. Editing for content should ideally happen as you draft and critically evaluate your ideas. However, you could check at the end of the process that your final draft does in fact reflect the quality of your previous work.
- Factual and interpretative accuracy is vital, as your evidence will not otherwise support your argument. Check that you can support factual references (for example, historical, literary or biographical facts) with a valid reference, and that you have not made any sweeping statements. Critically evaluate your interpretation of quotations to ensure that your analysis is valid.
- Analysis and critique should be a prominent feature of your work, rather than simply description or narration of what literary or secondary texts contain. Check to make sure that you are analysing and critiquing rather than just describing, and also assess whether you are clearly signposting your own analysis in the way you write, rather than presenting it as if it were narrative description. See the page on being aware of your own position in the resource on Academic Style for more suggestions.
- Irrelevant material can be difficult to cut, as you may have invested time and energy in researching and writing it. Such work is not wasted, as it adds to your learning and may be called on in future essays or exams. The planning stage is where much irrelevant material is omitted, but depending on your own preferences for managing the writing process, you may have areas in your draft which need to be considered again. Ask yourself how these passages contribute to answering the question, whether other sections depend on them, and how your argument would be affected if they were taken out.
- Missing references could potentially be very serious, as they constitute plagiarism. Keep good records of where you obtained information when you make notes, including whether it is a direct quotation or your own paraphrase, and manage your references as you write.
Many of the ways to check your own content are the same as the critical reading strategies you might apply to secondary works when researching your essay. Put yourself in the position of your supervisor, and read through your work with a critical eye, as if you were marking it.