Meeting your readers’ expectations – a revision strategy


There are multiple ways to revise a paper. If you’re revising, you’ll find a load of strategies on this blog, just search using the key word revision. While none of these is The One Way to sort out your writing, all of them provide A Way to tackle drafts.

Having more than one way to tackle a writing problem is good. The more options you have – the more revision, and other, writing strategies you can call on – the better. Building up a repertoire of strategies that work well for you is an integral part of becoming the writer you want to be.

This particular revision strategy can help you to check whether you have included all of the bits that need to be in your text. You can see what’s left out. It’s a strategy that is designed to position you as the reader you hope to have.

When is this strategy useful? Well, at any time in the redrafting process, but there are two places where it can be particularly helpful.

  • Early on. Once you have a decent draft, definitely not the first crappy one but early, then it helps to run a check to make sure you have included all the bits that need to be there. Checking for missing content usually comes before examining structure,
  • At the end. A read through as the reader works equally well as a last check over the piece, before you send it out into the world.

So here goes.

First of all, imagine your ideal reader. Or perhaps the reader you know you will have – your supervisor, your examiner. Next, think about the disciplinary community they are part of. What have they been reading, writing and talking about? What do they already know about your topic?

Now, bring these understandings of your reader to your draft. Read through your text answering the following questions. What are your reader’s expectations about:

The type of text you are writing? 

Does your reader expect your writing to follow a particular format? What heading, paragraphing and syntax conventions do they expect you to follow? Will they be happy to see some variation to a standard format? If you are writing something other than the expected genre, have you signalled this early on and explained why? What do they really not want to encounter in your or any text?

What you are writing about?

What will your reader already know about your topic? Will they expect you to cite particular texts or people? Will they expect you to use particular terminology? Are there any key debates where you need to state your position? Are there some sources and people that they wouldn’t see as credible? If you are challenging a core premise or understanding, have you explained why, anticipated objections and spelled out the benefits from doing so?

The trustworthiness of the research you have done?

What will readers take as sufficient information about methodology and methods? How much and what kind of evidence do you need to insert? Do you need to include pointers to full data sets and/or reports? Is it customary in your discipline to use diagrams, charts or images? What will be seen as too little to be trustworthy?

You as author and researcher?

What kind of writer/researcher do you want readers to meet in the text? ( neutral, expert, advocate etc) Do readers expect you to make your particular connection with the topic clear? Do you need to state your position as a researcher? Do readers expect to see ‘you” in the writing? What might be too much you? Where and how do you appear – where do you evaluate and use evaluative language? Where and how do you interpret and explain? Do readers expect to see you use some inventive categories? Literary techniques?

What they will do after reading your paper?

What do you want to accomplish as a result of writing this paper? Have you signalled this aim clearly at the start? Have you made the implications of the paper – the So What and Now What – clear at the end? Have you made your original and novel take on the topic clear to the reader?