General Guidelines for Papers
Improving your ability to write analytically, persuasively, and personally
is important. I will evaluate your papers for both
content and form and will try to help you improve in both.
Many college students benefit from additional writing courses, and most institutions provide additional assistance on writing and other issues. I recommend
Strunk & White's Elements of Style.
In evaluating content, I look at factors such as depth of analysis, inclusion
of major controversial issues, relevance, logic, originality, incorporation
of appropriate class material, and the degree to which you surpass minimal
expectations. You should demonstrate that you can go beyond simple memorization
to the level of analysis. Depending on the nature of the assignment, I expect you to do three things in addition
to following the specific instructions for assigned papers:
1. Critically analyze the topic with appropriate use
of concepts from class and readings. Analysis means more than mere summary,
description, and simple statement of opinion. You must present an argument--for
example, prove a controversial point, critique a flawed assumption,
or answer an important question. You should develop a single theme rather than comment superficially on a wide
variety of topics.
2. Demonstrate that you have an accurate understanding of competing
views. This requires that you discuss the nature, sources, implications,
and possible resolution of significant disagreements about controversial
issues. Don't simply ignore the other side, or merely assert that it
is wrong; instead, try to explain it.
3. Explain the relation between your own views on the issue
and your values and assumptions about human behavior and the society
around us. For example, what is there about your life that has led you
to evaluate the issue the way you do? How might different experiences
lead to different evaluations?
Papers should be long enough to accomplish their purpose without padding:
about 500-750 words (2 or 3 pages) for brief reaction/analysis papers,
5-8 pages for essays and book reviews, and 12-16 pages for term papers.
Papers must be typed, double-spaced, with one-inch margins on all four
Papers with poor grammar, spelling, punctuation, organization, and style
are difficult to read. Avoid jargon, wordiness, needless repetition, and
sexist language. Suggestions:
1. Organize your paper. Before you write, prepare an
outline demonstrating a logical progression of topics. Clearly
state your main point. Make sure each paragraph focuses on one main
idea. Make appropriate transitions from one topic to the next. On long
papers, use subheadings to clarify topics.
2. Get feedback on your first draft. You can exchange papers
with another student to correct each other's obvious mechanical errors
and point out parts that are unclear. Papers should be revised substantially
3. Footnote appropriately. All outside sources must be cited
whether they are directly quoted, paraphrased, or only serve as background
reading. In other words, you must footnote any ideas from an outside source
even if you don't actually quote from it (don't just
list it in the bibliography). Penalties
for plagiarism can range from failing the assignment
to dismissal from the university.
4. Proofread. Then proofread again. Catch mistakes before I
Due dates are arranged for reasons ranging from the relevance of class
discussions to my need to plan my schedule. Although there is no automatic
penalty for an occasional late paper unless otherwise indicated, persistent
and repeated lateness will be penalized. All papers must be submitted
to pass the course.
Grading Standards on Papers
(Adapted from UIS Women's Studies Handout)
A: A superior paper,
well organized and comprehensive, focusing in depth on the central and
relevant topics. It is written well, with correct grammar and spelling
and flowing sentence and paragraph structure. It is precise, clear, and
concise, avoiding vague generalities and ambiguities. The argumentation
is convincing and logical. Controversial issues and the positions of others
are accurately represented; factual errors are absent. Rather than merely
summarizing, describing, or expressing unsupported opinions or conclusions,
it critically analyzes the material, appropriately applying course concepts.
With originality and creativity, it goes beyond the basic requirements,
demonstrating intellectual struggle and hard work.
B: A good paper, containing
no factual errors and substantially meeting the requirements of the
assignment as expected of upper-level college students. However, although
the paper may be better than average, it lacks one or more of the qualities
of the A paper described above.
C: A competent paper. It
develops certain arguments quite well and meets the minimal requirements
of the assignment, but shows definite weaknesses in one or more of the
following: organization; proofreading; precision in reporting factual
data or competing views; ability to focus in depth on the major points;
convincing, clear, and critical argumentation; careful researching of
the topic; proper use of English.
D: An unsatisfactory paper
containing some of the deficiencies of the C paper, but to a greater
degree. It appears to be hastily written or demonstrates little careful
F: A poor paper that shows little
comprehension of the subject matter or little organization. It appears
to have been written by someone who did not understand the material
or the purpose or requirements of the assignment.
Writing is very important. Ask for help if you need
to improve your skills.