by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., 7/17/17.
Students often ask me if I will read their papers before they are due and give them feedback. Though I would like to do this, it is impractical because fairness would dictate I offer this to all students. In essence I would be grading their papers twice: a rough draft and a final draft.
But, I have structured many of my courses so that students do write rough drafts. Yet of course, I can’t do this all the time and for every assignment. Therefore in the syllabus I outline in significant detail the requirements for all assignments.
Here are a six areas that I have noticed students inadvertently lose points on their submissions.
First, reread the syllabus instructions carefully. Notice the various “sections” required in the paper and make sure all of the sections of the paper are included. I often find students err by overlooking a section that it is required in the syllabus.
Second, review the paper for APA compliance. Make sure you have an abstract and that you use appendices for extra material, process models, figures and charts. Also make sure that the abstract is like an executive summary: e.g. something you could give to your denominational leader as an “executive summary” of the entire paper. Be sure this is not a introduction. An abstract should also tell your conclusions. Also watch APA formatting in punctuation, the somewhat limited use of footnotes, parenthetical citation’s, etc.
Third, make sure your paper reflects a significant percentage of the books and articles you have read in preparation for the course. If you’re required to read 2000 pages for a course, then probably at least half (and most likely more) of those readings would be relevant to your paper. They should therefore may their way into the paper with citations.
Four, when you use sources make sure that you just don’t use them once. Sometimes it can feel like students are trying to puff-up a paper by using one citation from each book in order to include more books. But if the books you are reading are relevant to your topic, then they will be relevant in your paper at many different points. Therefore most references will occur in citations at multiple points in the paper.
Five, be sure and check your grammar. You can use the online grammar checker called Grammarly to check your paper. So make sure your grammar is correct, for though you only you lose a percentage of a point due to grammar, recurring grammatical mistakes increase that loss.
Six, be sure and check the naming conventions (as described in the syllabus) for the title of your paper and the title of your file. Thus, not only should the paper have an APA compliant header (with the paper title and page number) but your “file name” should also meet the naming convention described in the syllabus. This will help you and the professor keep your hard work sorted correctly.
I hope this helps you in your learning journey. I know students understand that while I can’t give feedback on papers before they are due, the instructions I have outlined in detail in the syllabus will help towards that end.