Your last task may seem trivial, but for a good many of your professors, it will determine whether they judge you to be a careful, thoughtful, and mature writer, or sloppy, careless, and thoughtless. You have to proofread your paper to be certain that you have no spelling errors, that your grammar is acceptable, the sentences are correctly punctuated, and your paper is in the right format.
At least run your spell-checker. Put your paper aside for an hour or so, then return to it to catch the kinds of errors that spell-checkers can’t find: wrong words, sentence fragments, mish-mashes of sentences and paragraphs that you created when you were deleting, cutting, and pasting. Do your subjects and verbs agree? Perform global searches for these sorts of words and be certain that you are using them correctly: there/their/they’re, its/it’s, your/you’re, affect/effect, etc. You might consider reading your paper line by line, starting at the last sentence of the paper. Here, you are reading not so much for meaning, but simply for correctness. If you find this too cumbersome, you can print out a copy of your paper and with another sheet of paper, cover everything except the first line. Then read the paper sentence by sentence, moving that sheet down the page. In addition to seeking out errors, ask yourself: “Judging by what I say in this sentence, what will readers expect to happen in the subsequent sentence, and does the subsequent sentence meet that expectation?” This is a test for coherence and cohesion. Each sentence prepares for the sentence to follow as it links back to what’s been said just before. If one sentence doesn’t logically follow another, do you need to supply cohesion markers (for example, to put this differently, as a contrast, to illustrate, etc.) Or, do you need to revise in a more substantive way, or change the progression of sentences? Would it be useful to add section headings to signal your changes in topic or focus? A list of terms that assist in cohesion can be found here.
Have someone else (a roommate, classmate, or friend) read your paper. It is not dish