DO YOU WANT TO REDUCE GRADE
MAXIMIZE YOUR SCORE ON A TERM PAPER OR CLASS PROJECT? IF SO, FOLLOW
HINTS AND AVOID TIME TESTED (& STUDENT TESTED) METHODS TO LOSE
The following list of methods to lose points was
compiled to help
students identify common errors in term papers, class projects and
types of reports submitted. This is not an exhaustive list, other
are, of course, possible. This is, however, a good checklist to start
to ensure that your presentation does not include these very common
An additional excellent, short summary of common writing errors can be
found at "The
Elements of Style".
For each method to lose points, THE COMMON ERROR IS
LISTED IN CAPITALS,
followed by suggestions to avoid the error in lower case.
The following list is not in any particular order of
severity or frequency
EXCESSIVE USE OF QUOTES. Quotes should be used very sparingly (if at
all) and only when needed for special emphasis or to relay the emotions
or unique thoughts of the source. Virtually all of the quotes I have
in reports should have been rewritten in the authors own words, then
source of the original thought cited within the sentence.
LACK OF CITATIONS. Every idea or fact which you did not think up or
generate in your own head must be cited within the sentence it is
in to indicate the source of the idea or fact. Yes, this will result in
a HUGE number of citations within the text of your paper, but it is
OMIT THE USE OF SECTION HEADINGS, IF REQUIRED BY THE ASSIGNMENT. In
technical writing (i.e., science, health) it is standard style to break
up the report into sections using section headings. These section
act like topic sentences and force you (the writer) to focus on only
topic within that section. This, hopefully, reduces the occurrence of
which contain multiple topics.
BE SHORTER THAN THE REQUIRED NUMBER OF PAGES. Do more research.
BE LONGER THAN THE REQUIRED NUMBER OF PAGES. Determine the key points
of what you want to communicate, and write only those points. Pretend
have only a few minutes of a person's attention, and decide what is
important for that person to know.
DO NOT USE THE REQUIRED METHOD TO PRODUCE A CITATION LIST AND CITE
REFERENCES WITHIN THE TEXT OF THE REPORT. If you don't know the
method to cite references , then learn it. Do not copy some unknown
from a book or article you are reading. Do not make up your own style!
MIX UP THE USE OF THE WORDS "CITE", "SITE" AND ""SIGHT". e.g., I will
cite the web site that discusses sight impairements.
Do not expect the spell check of your word processing
program to find writing errors such as this. Human proof reading of the
paper is essential.
Effect. As noun, means result; as verb,
means to bring about, accomplish (not to be confused with affect,
which means "to influence").
MIX UP THE USE OF THE WORDS "AFFECT" AND "EFFECT". You could instead
use the following guide (from "The
Elements of Style: Misused Expressions").
USE "HOWEVER" AT THE BEGINNING OF A SENTENCE, WHEN IT SHOULD BE PLACED
WITHIN THE SENTENCE. To decide how to correctly use the word "however"
you could use the following examples (from "The
Elements of Style: Misused Expressions").
However. In the meaning nevertheless,
not to come first in its sentence or clause.
|EXAMPLE OF INCORRECT
The roads were almost impassable. However, we at last succeeded in
|EXAMPLE OF CORRECT USE:
The roads were almost impassable. At last, however, we succeeded in
When however comes first, it means in
or to whatever extent.
|However you advise him, he will
probably do as he thinks
|However discouraging the
prospect, he never lost heart.
WRITE IN THE FIRST PERSON. (e.g., I think..., We see...). Change out
of first person (e.g., It is clear that..., This review has
While writing in the first person is almost always a mistake, there are
a very few exceptions to this rule. For example, the community
report in Dr. Chalmers' PE 410 class may be written in first person if
you wish, since it is a record of what you did, often in a dairy
Check with your instructor before writing in the first person.
WRITE ABOVE THE LEVEL OF KNOWLEDGE THAT YOU REALLY KNOW AND UNDERSTAND.
You must be able to discuss your paper and answer questions at the
level that the paper has been written at.
HAVE THE HEADING FOR A SECTION OF A PAPER ALONE AT THE BOTTOM OF ONE
PAGE, THEN THE FIRST PARAGRAPH OF THE SECTION ON THE NEXT PAGE.
the heading of a section is followed on the same page by at
one line of the following paragraph. (Word will do this
if you format the header line using the "keep with next" paragraph
Example- The heading "Treatment" and at least the first
line of the
following paragraph are together on the same page:
If prostate cancer is suspected, because
of elevated levels of PSA in the blood or an abnormal digital rectal
the next step is often the transrectal ultrasound and biopsy of the
area to verify the presence of cancerous cells and to grade the
The extent of spread will guide treatment recommendations5,6.
MIX UP THE USE OF THE WORDS "THAN" AND "THEN". e.g., Joan said "Becky is a better athlete than I", then she walked out of
Use a dictionary to understand the use of "than" and