Thursday, April 8, 2010

Top 5 Tips for College Writers

Now that I am literally only a few weeks from graduating with my master's, I've also almost finished grading nearly 1,000 student writing assignments over the last four semesters. That said, a few key problems consistently emerge when students hand in writing and research papers. Hopefully this helps some people!

1. Cite. It is illegal if you don't cite your work. If you fail to include a bibliography and in text citations/footnotes, you are stealing someone else's work. This applies to data you took from a source as well as ideas that don't belong to you. If you're not putting your own ideas forward, you have to give credit. Your credit should be clear and easy to find if the grader wants to check up on your sources. And people WILL check. I recently graded a paper where a student took the liberty of using word for word phrases from their souce- without even giving credit. This is plagiarism!

2. Include the basics- page numbers, a title, your name, etc. This to me seems so obvious yet I write these words constantly on student papers! Do not give professors easy reasons to knock your grade down!

3. Start each paragraph with a sentence that tells me what you're going to do in that paragraph. Not only does it make reading easier, but sometimes professors in big classes don't have time to read your entire 12 page paper. Getting the main idea in that first sentence is crucial. It also makes you accountable throughout your writing to make sure that what you're saying makes sense.

4. Unless asked for your personal opinion, don't provide it. If asked to write about someone's perspective on a particular issue or law, the assignment doesn't ask you to critique it. Don't share your opinion unless that is clearly part of the assignment! It really detracts from your overall point and makes the paper seem completely unprofessional.

5. Dare yourself at the beginning of each paper to state what two or three things you want to accomplish in the paper. then, tailor your paper to making it readable (as if your reader knows nothing about the topic), informative, and clearly written. TA's and professors are generally very good writers- don't give away easy points!

1 comment:

Amy said...

I appreciate your PO very much the picture with the article. Continues to refuel!!