It’s tough to crack the code to awesome grades on writing assignments. They’re somewhat subjective, and every professor has their own way of grading them. Despite these challenges, there are a couple of errors you can fix to IMMEDIATELY start seeing your grades improve. If you’ve been struggling with research papers and can’t seem to get the grades you want, read on to see how you can improve:
If your paper looks sloppy and unorganized, then you have set yourself up for a lackluster grade right off the bat.
On the bright side, formatting is something you can easily fix. Professors often specify which type of format they want you to use. You can easily Google the particular format required for your paper (APA, MLA, etc) and mimic what you see in the examples.
Once you’ve written your paper, print it out and thumb through it.
Does this LOOK like an A+ paper to you? If you had to grade it purely on appearance, how would you grade this paper?
2. Not Answering the Question that was Asked
When I was an SAT instructor with Princeton Review, the biggest problem with the essays students wrote was that they would often neglect to actually answer the question they were asked to write about.
You can be an excellent writer with an expansive vocabulary and compelling arguments, but if you get distracted and forget to answer the question, you will lose major points.
For example, an essay prompt may ask a student to describe whether you believe high school curriculums should require students to take 2 years of a single foreign language or 1 year of 2 different foreign languages.
In this example you, should choose a side (one foreign language or two) and begin listing reasons you are an advocate of that type of curriculum.
Unfortunately, in this situation, many students would immediately start listing the benefits of learning a foreign language, and get to the end of their paper without ever stating ” I THINK HIGH SCHOOLS SHOULD REQUIRE XYZ”.
If that statement is missing from the paper, in this example, the paper will lose points, because it does not answer the question that was posed. The prompt asked the student to describe which requirement they thought was better, not to describe the benefits of foreign language study.
You will encounter similar situations throughout your college career. Be sure to always be mindful that you are answering the question that is posed to you.
Misspellings, run-on sentences, and misplaced punctuation can be extremely distracting to a reader. And when that reader is your professor, these mistakes can result in a significant grade reduction.
You do not have to be an expert in English Grammar to do well on research papers. But, you do need to make sure grammar errors do not distract the reader from the overall point of your paper.
The best way to rid your paper of grammar mistakes is to read your paper aloud. Read the paper as if it is your first time seeing the document. Remember, your professor does not know what you MEANT to say. Judge the paper as if you’re a reader with no prior knowledge of the contents.
Where you encounter awkward wording or blatant errors, be sure to correct them before turning in your final draft.
4. Lack of Organization
In your introductory paragraph, you describe the goal of your paper. You’re going to prove a point, describe a problem, compare and contrast two ideas, respond to a prompt, review a piece of literature, etc…
Every paragraph that follows should be building on the goal you set in your introduction. Often, when students are completing longer writing assignments (over 5 pager), they begin to wander and start including extra, irrelevant information.
A reader should be able to read your paper from top to bottom and never lose site of the point of the paper. Each paragraph should clearly state an argument and present evidence to substantiate that argument. And all paragraphs should build upon the introductory paragraph.
We will not go too deep into the mechanics of research papers here, but a good way to make sure your paper is well-organized is to create an outline before you begin writing. An outline lays out the main points of your paper in the order you plan to present them.
Once you have completed your outline, make sure that every paragraph you right coincides with one of the subpoints in your outline.