Reading Papers Takes Too Long? Don’t Read Them (Straight Through)

So, you teach composition, and it takes much, much, much, much, much too long to read papers? You spend your mornings, afternoons, evenings, and weekends slogging through essays until you are cross-eyed and drooling, your shoulders slumped and your back aching.

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Well, don’t read them–at least not straight through from beginning to end–at least not at first. I recommend going through your stack of papers one by one, looking for a pyramid of priorities. First you look for a thesis statement in all the papers, then topic sentences, and finally evidence, in the form of facts, statistics, names, dates, places, titles, summaries, quotes, and anecdotes. As you check each of these items, make a quick comment in the margin or at the end of the paper or on your rubric. Usually, you will see enough of the grammar and use of source material to make a couple quick suggestions about these as well. You will find that you have written plenty before you read the entire paper.  On the fourth and final round, quickly scan the paper and finish up the comments with something positive and encouraging.

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Worksheet for a Research Paper

I. Thesis:

A. State your central issue as a question, for example, “Should smoking in certain bars be legal?”

 

B. Answer that question; be as specific as possible: “Smoking should be allowed in certain clearly designated smoking bars.”

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