Monday, September 15, 2008

"Mary"'s paper pretty average

"Mary" reports that she'd been planning her paper for a few weeks before she actually drafted it three days before it was due. She says she "rewrote" the final draft because of computer problems, but it's not entirely clear whether she means that she had to start over or whether she merely had to retype it from an earlier printed draft. She doesn't think she spent enough time on it, mostly because of the computer problems she had at the last minute.

Mary's paper is right at the average for her class. Her rate of surface errors is in the first quartile. She's not writing grade-school level sentences, but she could use more sentence-level transitions. She'd probably run into more errors if she were writing more complex sentences, but she's not clearly avoiding challenges either. She didn't report proofreading.

Mary's rate of problems with evidence is the median for her class. Her top two problems rank one and three among non-procrastinators: weak lead-ins for quotations and lack of follow-ups. Where Mark's quotations fit clearly in the context of the paragraph but lacked signal phrases, Mary's quotations have signal phrases but neglect any explanation of how they fit in the paragraph. She's learned the rule against dropping quotations in, but she still doesn't really use her evidence, she just tosses it in and puts "According to X" in front of it. But she doesn't really do this more than her non-procrastinating peers.

If she'd spent more time on her paper, she might have been more able to explain the relevance of her quotations. I know that when I'm rushing to finish a paper, it's usually my explanations that suffer. I find myself hoping the reader knows where I'm going with my point. But it's also possible that Mary would not have noticed this problem in her paper, since she already understood the point she was trying to make and might not have realized that someone else wouldn't follow.

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