Proofreading is the act of searching for errors before you hand in the your final research paper. Errors can be both grammatical and typographical in nature, but also include identifying problems with the narrative flow of your paper [i.e., the logical sequence of thoughts and ideas], issues with concise writing, and finding any word processing errors [e.g., different font types, indented paragraphs, line spacing, uneven margins, etc.].
Before You Proofread
NOTE: Do not confuse the act of revising your paper with the act of editing it. Editing is intended to tighten up language so that your paper is easier to read and understand. This should be the focus when you proofread. If your professor asks you to revise your paper, the implication is that there is something within the text that needs to be changed, improved, or re-organized in some significant way. If the reason for a revision is not specified, always ask for clarification.
Strategies to Help Identify Errors
Individualize the Act of Proofreading
In addition to following the suggestions above, individualizing your proofreading process to match weaknesses in your writing will help you proofread more efficiently and effectively. For example, I still tend to make subject-verb agreement errors. Accept the fact that you likely won't be able to check for everything, so be introspective about what your typical problem areas are and look for each type of error individually. Here's how:
In general, verb tense should be in the following format, although variations can occur within the text depending on the narrative style of your paper. Note that references to prior research mentioned anywhere in your paper should always be stated in the past tense.
Editing and Proofreading. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Editing and Proofreading Strategies. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Lunsford, Andrea A. and Robert Connors. The St. Martin's Handbook. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989; Proofreading. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison; Proofreading. Department of English Writing Guide. George Mason University; Proofreading and Revising. Online Writing Center, Walden University; Proofreading a College Paper: Guidelines and Checklist. Troy University Library Tutorial; Revision: Cultivating a Critical Eye. Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College; Revision Guidelines. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Where Do I Begin? The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University.