Some students prefer to edit as they are going along and this might work for you but it went against most advice I was given and never worked for me. The main problem with this approach was a constant search for perfection. Each and every line I had already written was immediately scrutinised and poured over. I was unable to move on and the persistent editing stunted my progression. The alternative was a free writing approach. Write, write and write some more. Spill everything out on to the page and go back and edit later on. The Open University uses the Harvard Referencing system and we will go over some of that later in the article.

Before we go there let’s have a brief look over another aspect of the editing process and focus on cross-checking facts. If there is something you are unsure about while writing then put a series of xxxxxxxxx next to the query and move on. As was previously stated regarding editing, constant fact or statistic checking, although all are vitally necessary they can be covered at the end of the essay. Once you’re in the groove and writing freely then keep going. By noting the queries with an xxxxxxxxx it can be easy to go back and find when gong through the editing process. Simply hit CTRL and F on the keyboard (of a Windows PC at least – Apple programmes may vary) and type in a bunch of xxxxxxxxx and it will find them for you instantly.

If you don’t like the xxxxxxxxx approach then I’ve seen a ????????? or a simple tk as those letters rarely find their way next to one another in conventional words. Finding the characters is unimportant, it’s all about implementing the overall strategy to be more productive.

While we are on the subject of discussing how to keep up to date with cross checking we should give a nod to referencing which is often a taboo subject amongst Open University students. I can almost hear the sighs of discontent just mentioning it! As we have previously mentioned, the OU uses Harvard referencing which can be complicated at first but does get slightly easier with time. The little nuances of noting CDs, Audio references or DVDs can be fairly tricky but practice makes perfect.

Again, you don’t need to reference constantly when going through the initial writing stage of the TMA. Whenever you have included a quote or idea from the text book or audio scripts or wherever then what I suggest to do is put a bracket after it and note down that it is to be referenced and the source it came from, even the page number if you have it to hand and then it will be easier to find at the end whenever you are tidying up the referencing. Highlight the text in red if need be and it will be even easier to find at the end. Here is an example from an A217 essay at the planning stages, where the quote is used but not properly referenced at this point only coloured and noted where to head for full information.


I always have the bibliography section “floating” below my essay as I write so that I can then duplicate the in-essay demarcation with the full reference. This makes it easier to marry the two at the end and make sure that every reference is covered and accounted for. Referencing may seem laborious but it is a vital tool for verifying our work and guarding against plagiarism. Find out more from the Open University website.

Did you enjoy this article or find it useful? Please LIKE/TWEET/SHARE and drop a comment below with your thoughts. Do you have any editing strategies or methods for fact checking or referencing? Let’s get the conversation going and help each other move forward.

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