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DO YOU WANT TO REDUCE GRADE GRIEF AND MAXIMIZE YOUR SCORE ON A TERM PAPER OR CLASS PROJECT? IF SO, FOLLOW THESE HINTS AND AVOID TIME TESTED (& STUDENT TESTED) METHODS TO LOSE POINTS.

The following list of methods to lose points was compiled to help students identify common errors in term papers, class projects and other types of reports submitted. This is not an exhaustive list, other errors are, of course, possible. This is, however, a good checklist to start with to ensure that your presentation does not include these very common errors. 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 of occurrence.

Method 1:
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 read in reports should have been rewritten in the authors own words, then the source of the original thought cited within the sentence.

Method 2:
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 written 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 correct.

Method 3:
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 headings act like topic sentences and force you (the writer) to focus on only one topic within that section. This, hopefully, reduces the occurrence of paragraphs which contain multiple topics.

Method 4:
BE SHORTER THAN THE REQUIRED NUMBER OF PAGES. Do more research.

Method 5:
BE LONGER THAN THE REQUIRED NUMBER OF PAGES. Determine the key points of what you want to communicate, and write only those points. Pretend you have only a few minutes of a person's attention, and decide what is most important for that person to know.

Method 6:
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 required method to cite references , then learn it. Do not copy some unknown style from a book or article you are reading. Do not make up your own style!

Method 7:
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.

Method 8:
MIX UP THE USE OF THE WORDS "AFFECT" AND "EFFECT". You could instead use the following guide (from "The Elements of Style: Misused Expressions").

Effect. As noun, means result; as verb, means to bring about, accomplish (not to be confused with affect, which means "to influence"). Method 9:
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 USE:
The roads were almost impassable. However, we at last succeeded in reaching camp.
EXAMPLE OF CORRECT USE:
The roads were almost impassable. At last, however, we succeeded in reaching camp.

When however comes first, it means in whatever way or to whatever extent.

However you advise him, he will probably do as he thinks best.
However discouraging the prospect, he never lost heart.

Method 10:
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 demonstrated...). While writing in the first person is almost always a mistake, there are a very few exceptions to this rule. For example, the community instruction 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 format. Check with your instructor before writing in the first person.

Method 11:
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 knowledge level that the paper has been written at.

Method 12:
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.  Ensure the heading of a section is followed on the same page by at least one line of the following paragraph.  (Word will do this automatically if you format the header line using the "keep with next" paragraph command).

Example- The heading "Treatment" and at least the first line of the following paragraph are together on the same page:
Treatment 
     If  prostate cancer is suspected, because of elevated levels of PSA in the blood or an abnormal digital rectal exam, the next step is often the transrectal ultrasound and biopsy of the abnormal area to verify the presence of cancerous cells and to grade the cancer.  The extent of spread will guide treatment recommendations5,6
 
 
Method 13:
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 the room. 

Use a dictionary to understand the use of "than" and "then".

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