Paper guides

Tips for Dummies: How to Proofread an Academic Paper

Proofreading and editing are conceptually similar which explains why the two are often used interchangeably. While both of them deal with making changes to a document that improve it, editing tends to be done for style reasons while proofreading is more of a necessity to obey the rules of the language. In academic writing proofreading is particularly important so that a paper appears well thought out and researched. Here are some simple tips that anybody can use to proofread their papers.

Don’t do it immediately

This may be a hard one to manage if you have a deadline or your paper is already overdue. It’s still a good idea because you will not notice all of your mistakes soon after creating them. The idealized version of your paper will be too fresh in your mind. Give yourself time to forget what should be there so you can see what’s really in front of you.


Read to yourself aloud. There may be times when your brain would tell you the correct word is on the screen or page in front of you but your mouth will still say the wrong thing because it’s what your eyes see. Use this as a backup method of checking.

Reverse the sequence

Sometimes the tendency to correct the error subconsciously without noticing it can be counteracted by reading backwards. This takes away the meaning from your work so you can see it as a collection of jumbled words that are either accurate or not. This is also a method of checking that you can use even if you’ve just finished writing.

Ask for a second opinion

If you’re unusually attached to this particular academic paper you might benefit from a second opinion. As a friend to help you proofread. Their ‘fresh’ eyes will be more observant. Better yet, you can also hire someone to do your proofreading.

Bonus tip: Make sure you know the correct spellings of any names or terms you have to use. Your teacher will be less than pleased if you hand in a paper on the works of Sigmund ‘Froid’.

Proofreading gets easier the more often you do it so take the time to develop your skill. Lend your services out to your friends if that helps. That way when you need to proofread under stress, you’ll already be comfortable with the rules of the process.