Strategies to synthesize reduced graphene oxide (rGO) abound but, in most studies, research teams select one particular oxidation-reduction method without providing a methodic reasoning for doing so. Herein, it is analyzed how diverse oxidation-reduction strategies commonly used can result in considerable performance differences of rGO for supercapacitor applications. Depending on the graphite oxidation method followed, the surface chemistry analysis of the products confirms that there is a marked disparity in the degree of oxidation and the nature of the oxygen functional groups present. Subsequent reduction of the oxidized graphite (using three different methods) showed that the maximum specific capacitance of rGOs produced from the classical Hummers' method was 128 F g−1 whereas an analogous material obtained from an improved Hummers' method reached ∼274 F g−1 (both via an hydrothermal reduction route). Besides showing that the improved oxidation method results in superior capacitance performance, explained by the higher number of structural defects allied to a surface chemistry where residual hydroxyl and epoxy functional groups predominate, this study highlights the need to rationalize the oxidation-reduction strategies followed when investigating applications of rGO materials.