Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bryce has the expected problems

Bryce began planning his paper 16 days before it was due but didn't actually write it until the day before. He felt he spent enough time on it, but perhaps would have benefited from time to "consider what [he has] written."

His paper's length falls in the first quartile. His rate of surface error is in the third quartile, and his problems with evidence are the highest rate in his class. This is pretty much what one would expect from a procrastinator--not enough time to fill the length requirement, to proofread, or to find and effectively use evidence. But so far he's the only procrastinator to fit the stereotype.

Every single one of Bryce's surface errors could be fixed by adding or deleting a comma. They are not the kind of errors he'd be likely to notice in proofreading since he probably isn't quite sure what the rules for comma usage actually are. In fact, Bryce reports that he proofread his paper. He doesn't say what specific kinds of changes he made, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of his errors were introduced as he was proofreading while others were corrected. I don't think procrastination causes students to unlearn punctuation rules, although it might make it harder to apply rules they have to think hard about.

Bryce's top two problems using evidence are weak lead-ins and using quotations where paraphrase would be more appropriate. Bryce mostly introduces his quotations in the sentence before but fails to set them off with signal phrases. As I said before, I doubt that this problem would be fixed with more proofreading. I can't imagine being too rushed to type "X says" and yet having time to explain the relevance of the quote.

Bryce has more trouble using unnecessary quotations than Otis. The fact that he sets off titles of competitions in quotation marks suggests to me that he is sensitive to issues of plagiarism, so he errs on the side of caution. I don't see any reason this fear would be more common in procrastinators, but they could feel it more intensely if they don't believe they have time to put evidence in their own words.

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