Dear students,

Discussion in 'Education and Academia' started by chad, Nov 8, 2005.

  1. Howard Zinn

    Howard Zinn Member

    Aug 9, 2005
    Brookline, MA
    Club:
    Manchester United FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States

    I've done this before. :D :p


    On the long paper vs. short paper debate, I prefer medium. I can usually put just about everthing I need to in an 8 page paper. If it's 12-20 pages, the professor better prepare for the layers of BS I'm going to be forced to apply on top of my actual paper. I honestly can't imagine writing this much and still having all of the content be meaningful. Just a poor writer I suppose. If it's 4-6 pages, then I'm forced to cut out some of my good stuff and the paper just doesn't flow like an 8 pager. The 8 page paper is the answer to all of society's woes. :cool:
     
  2. needs

    needs Member

    Jan 16, 2003
    Brooklyn
    I think the problem is that too often, profs throw out long papers without preparing students how to write them. I assigned a 30 page paper in one of my classes this semester (a fact I'm paying for now with 300 pages of grading), but we spent half of the semester working on developing a topic, writing about various primary and secondary sources, discussing what the various sections of the paper should be and how to tie them together. You can't just sit and write a 15 page paper through the same way you can a 3 pager, when you try, you get the layers of bs approach.
     
  3. YankHibee

    YankHibee Member+

    Mar 28, 2005
    indianapolis
    25-35 pages was the norm for my law school papers. Usually, I would divide them into sections, essentially turning them into two shorter papers. If I was really in a pinch, I would write an overly detailed intro to take up space.
     
  4. alliu23

    alliu23 I'm a Yank til I Die

    Jul 28, 2004
    Williamsport, PA
    Club:
    San Jose Earthquakes
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    so you baby feed your students?
     
  5. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    I always treated length requirements as minimums. There's no maximum for a good paper. Unless it was under 5 pages, which is different.
     
  6. uclacarlos

    uclacarlos Member+

    Aug 10, 2003
    east coast
    Club:
    FC Barcelona
    Nat'l Team:
    Spain
    Hells no. My essay topics act as a study guide. They act as an essay guide or a jump starter. They act as a stimulus for group study outside of class.

    And I've go no problem w/ that, primarily b/c of my field of study.

    I teach Spanish lit and culture. Most of the students (around 90%) are interested in Spanish as a language and not a literature, per se. English and comp lit majors shine above all others in lit/culture courses in a foreign language.

    So my poli sci, history, chemical engineering, biology, etc. students struggle w/ metaphoric language and cultural/aesthetic analysis. They need to be trained not just linguistically but w/in the parameters of the discipline of literature. Essentially, I've got students that think they are "majoring/minoring" in Spanish as a language but they are really studying literature... that happens to be in Spanish.

    I make it a point that the skills that I teach in my class are transferable to their majors and prepare them well for more advanced classes.

    These "essay starters" are actually more of an intro to the discipline, truth be told. I take students that 3 months earlier were ecstatic that they could say what they did this past weekend in coherent sentences and all of the sudden are going to be in a class w/ students discussing the deficiencies of Habermas as a theoretic lens in understanding shifts in cultural production in late capitalist, neo-liberal economies of the third world. Just one of those classes makes students pine for the days of "Yo bebi mucha cerveza."

    Me thinks they need a lil' guidance. (btw: this ain't LAG/SJE boards, so drop the 'tude.)
     
  7. YankHibee

    YankHibee Member+

    Mar 28, 2005
    indianapolis

    Somehow this isn't surprising;)
     
  8. uclacarlos

    uclacarlos Member+

    Aug 10, 2003
    east coast
    Club:
    FC Barcelona
    Nat'l Team:
    Spain
    Yeah, I forgot about reports, which are just summaries and very little analysis. It's a different beast.

    Again, it depends on the level. If the student really is pushing the next level... go for it.

    And, one thing that hasn't been brought up, is that perhaps the topic is too broad to begin w/, given the scope of the class. Oftentimes students want to skip to the next level but need to practice the basics. If the norm for the class is 5 pages and a student comes to me w/ a paper idea that we *both* know will take 10 pages, more often than not if they go for 8 pages they take on too much and fail to analyze anything well.

    I find that length suggestions when used properly force students to be more concise.

    I also recommend writing for a student newspaper if it's not too much of a commitment and the rag is half-way decent. If it sucks... don't bother. I wrote for the student paper one semester, and after my second straight article got butchered, I quickly learned to tighten up my writing to the point where my editors could NOT chop anything. (I would always throw them a bone, a gimme so that they would feel very... editorial.:D)

    But they loved me b/c I always had good things to say.
     
  9. Ismitje

    Ismitje Super Moderator
    Staff Member

    Dec 30, 2000
    The Palouse
    Club:
    Real Salt Lake
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I almost always assign maximum lengths, or somehow limit the eternal expansion of information. It all depends (to expand on what uclacarlos wrote) on the type of assignment. I do this for the most part because their future employers won't appreciate or encourage expansiveness as we in the social sciences or humanities tend to. I also think that appropriately prioritizing information is an important skill to develop. Depending on the class, I can be pretty firm about it. In other settings, less so.
     
  10. alliu23

    alliu23 I'm a Yank til I Die

    Jul 28, 2004
    Williamsport, PA
    Club:
    San Jose Earthquakes
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    there's no "tude" at all, I just asked a simple question, by all the stuff you explained that you give your students it seemed like you were making it cake for them

    I see where you are coming from now, Spanish papers require more background and details of what the professor is looking for, IMO
     
  11. alliu23

    alliu23 I'm a Yank til I Die

    Jul 28, 2004
    Williamsport, PA
    Club:
    San Jose Earthquakes
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    so let me ask the teachers/professors in here..

    how do you prefer students to write their thesis? one of my recent professors told us to come right out and say "in this paper I will talk about..." or "I will discuss..."

    I don't know what it is, but that drives me crazy, it just seems so damn tacky. I think that's the first professor that's ever asked me to do that.

    so how do you do it?
     
  12. chad

    chad Member+

    Jun 24, 1999
    chicago
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I'll join in on the "not surprised" chorus.

    Anyway, my student owned up to her cheating when she met with the dean, so she got off with a written reprimand instead of a harsher punishment.

    And she got an F in the course, of course.

    P.S.: I think seniors in college should be able to write 100 page or so theses. But then again some colleges are colleges and some are years 5-8 of high school.
     
  13. Chicago1871

    Chicago1871 New Member

    Apr 21, 2001
    The City
    By sophomore year of high school if you turned in a report that was mostly a summary your best possible grade was a C.
     
  14. needs

    needs Member

    Jan 16, 2003
    Brooklyn
    Sometimes, in my lower division classes, I have my students write an "In this paper, I argue ..." thesis into their first drafts (this is a class that requires revisions) to make sure that they have an argument. As part of the revision process, we do some "Why is this argument worthwhile/important," "What do I use to support it," in class writing.

    If I saw "talk about" or "discuss" I'd worry, because those statements don't lend themselves to a thesis that does anything.

    I then leave it up to the students whether they want to leave the "I" in the paper for their revisions.
     
  15. alliu23

    alliu23 I'm a Yank til I Die

    Jul 28, 2004
    Williamsport, PA
    Club:
    San Jose Earthquakes
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    interesting, I guess everyone does things differently. In my AP English class my senior year, my teacher told us never to us "I" in a paper, unless it was a position paper or something similar

    everyone has their own method of madness, I suppose
     
  16. uclacarlos

    uclacarlos Member+

    Aug 10, 2003
    east coast
    Club:
    FC Barcelona
    Nat'l Team:
    Spain
    O.k.; i've never taught high school (I subbed for a couple of years, though) and I honestly don't recall w/ precision the assignments, but I did go to an excellent high school that more than prepared me for college.

    It's been quite a while, but I vaguely recall "research papers" and "book reports", but there's a reason why we force students to take College Writing 101 and 102: to learn how to write an essay, starting off at 3 pages roughly.
     
  17. uclacarlos

    uclacarlos Member+

    Aug 10, 2003
    east coast
    Club:
    FC Barcelona
    Nat'l Team:
    Spain
    The beauty of becoming a better writer is that you become much more familiar w/ the subtleties of language and the message conveyed. A novice allowed to use "I" or the passive voice, for instance, abuses it to no end. They read a good writer who does that and confuse this stylistic recourse as the reason for the effectiveness of the writing.

    Force the novice to think about the message conveyed and how to deliver it. Once that's ingrained, and once the writer has vast experience as a reader, then the language begins to open up for her/him and they can reincorporate those writing "taboos"
     
  18. HeadHunter

    HeadHunter Member

    May 28, 2003
    Your briefs must look amazing then :)
     
  19. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    Most of my papers were history papers. Those tend to run longer, I've found. That, and as some here have correctly surmised, I have so many important things to say. ;)

    Heh, I only got 70 pages on mine.
     
  20. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    God forbid; my indentures, however, are on the short side. No benefit in writing legal documents longer than they need to be.
     
  21. Caesar

    Caesar Moderator
    Staff Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Oztraya
    Easy, tiger.
     
  22. HeadHunter

    HeadHunter Member

    May 28, 2003
    Hey I already got by summer job- but then the reflexes from interview season might still be kicking in :)
     
  23. Mel Brennan

    Mel Brennan PLANITARCHIS' BANE

    Paris Saint Germain
    United States
    Apr 8, 2002
    Mid-Atlantic States
    Club:
    Paris Saint Germain FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States

    I tell my students to never use "I" in a paper unless my question(s) have elicted their opinion. Forcing them to re-shape their thinking from "I found that..." to "Studies tell us that," or the like, forces more rigourous research from more sources. Of course, they also learn on day one in my courses what a primary secondary and unacceptable source IS. These are mostly juniors and seniors in university, and most of them tell me they've NEVER had to actually get on EBSCO or the like and read journal articles or stuides or the like...I'm like "How did you write anything worth anything then?" Astonishing.

    Then I tell them that they PAY for these tools, and how serious summer $$$ flows from being able to use them, go the dept. chair, and propose research in some area, and they START to pay attention...
     
  24. minorthreat

    minorthreat Member

    Jan 1, 2001
    NYC
    Club:
    Real Madrid
    Nat'l Team:
    Spain
    Sure there is. More time to bill to the client. :D
     
  25. minorthreat

    minorthreat Member

    Jan 1, 2001
    NYC
    Club:
    Real Madrid
    Nat'l Team:
    Spain
    I REALLY hate that. Just looking at it makes my flesh crawl. It's stylistically awful.
     

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