A couple months ago I wrote a few posts that were really addressed to my students. Here is another one.
Writing is the tool most scholars use to think about ideas. You don’t write when you have your ideas figured out; rather, you write to figure out what you think. Writing, revising and rewriting is what scholars do. Completing the first draft of a paper is the beginning of your thinking; it shouldn’t be the end.
To that end, in my FSEM I will give deadlines for first drafts, but not for final drafts. You may revise as many times as you like until they are satisfied with the paper (or the semester ends). Each draft you submit, I will read carefully and provide detailed suggestions for improvement.
When I read drafts, I try to read them as I would a colleague’s paper who is asking for help in improving their work. What that means is I’m not pointing out what’s “wrong” with the paper. Rather, I’m making suggestions about what isn’t clear to the reader, or what I think might make the paper stronger. [Note, though, that sometimes I flag typos or other grammatical errors.] It’s your paper, so you may choose to accept my suggestions or not. But I take my suggestions seriously, so I hope you will also.
You shouldn’t think that if you merely “fix” the things I mention that you will have a perfect paper. Hopefully if you do incorporate my suggestions, the paper will be better, but you should always re-read the paper as a whole once you make discrete revisions. Often, you will then get ideas, sometimes substantial ideas, of how to make the paper even stronger.