Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Eh Paper and the A Paper

By: Alex Tammaro

Wanting to pass, regardless of what anyone says, is a noble pursuit. However, once you’ve reached your page limit, there’s still some work to be done. While it’s nice to think you could turn in a paper and get a decent grade, taking your paper to the next level requires a bit more time, although perhaps not as much as you’d think. Here are some things to keep in mind as you revise your masterpiece:

1. Specificity is Key. General statements (i.e. “It has been said,” “for many years…,” “It is interesting that”) almost always mean nothing. Avoiding these commonplaces not only removes clutter from your paper, but also keeps you as a writer on track. For example, what is interesting and how is it interesting? Sometimes these overused phrases are just us as writers still trying to sort out our ideas.

2. Long trails of thought are exhausting. If you have trouble reading over one of your own sentences, chances are your professor will too. Making your paper easy to follow means your ideas are conveyed clearly, and if your ideas are conveyed clearly, your professor is much more likely to look favorably on your paper.

3. Wordiness is the worst. Long chains of prepositional phrases sound laborious. Rearranging sentences to get rid of some prepositions makes a sentence sharper and more specific. For example, “members of the chess club” can simply be “chess club members.”

4. Most importantly, make sure you not only have a point but are also arguing that point. Engaging actively with evidence and showing how it supports your argument is easy to say but a bit more difficult in practice. If you use a quote, be sure to explain it thoroughly. If I use a five-word quote, I take a sentence or two to show how it supports my argument. The same theory applies to your thesis. Saying “Hamlet is the best piece of literature ever to exist” is not the same as saying “Hamlet is the best piece of literature because it shows the futility of vengeance.”

Making sure your thesis is sharp, your examples are specific, and your arguments are engaging is the best way to create a solid paper, and the difference between an acceptable paper and a great one may simply lie in one more revision.

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