Monday, October 27, 2008

RBOC: Grading

  • All papers need a thesis statement. One that actually makes an argument and that demonstrates why that argument matters. It is best if that thesis statement actually connects to the body of one's paper.
  • Quoting is great, but when more than half of a paper (think like 3 pages out of 5) is quotations, you need to quote less and write more.
  • Not quoting is not an option, when you're writing about literary texts. Seriously.
  • Dr. Crazy is made to cry by the writing that is characterized by the passive voice.
  • Dr. Crazy also feels disingenuous about the choice of aspects that infer meaning. PRECISE LANGUAGE IS YOUR FRIEND. Imprecise language that sounds high-falutin' is the enemy. ALWAYS.
  • Some of my students are really fucking brilliant. And some of them are amazing critical writers and thinkers. And some of them have clearly learned a ton in the first half of the semester. And some of them clearly worked very hard on this paper.
Two more papers to go (not counting the stragglers who didn't submit them in class, but those students will just have to wait).


undine said...

Oh, but some of the anti-writing textbooks say the thesis statement is a myth. "Just try to find the thesis statement in this piece by Professional Author," they say. "Does John Updike use a thesis statement? Then your students don't need one, either."

I'm with you: work needs a thesis.

Virginia S. Wood, PsyD said...

Oh, lord. Can I forward this post to every single one of my students?? I get so tired of writing over and over, "Yes, dear, but where is your thesis statement?"

Dr. Crazy said...

Ah, Undine, and this is one of my problems with the way that writing has been taught since the comp/rhet revolution. Here's the issue as far as I'm concerned: you can't write something without a thesis statement - consciously - unless you know how to write something with a strong thesis statement first. I'm willing to place a bet that John Updike *could* produce a decent, thesis-driven, five-paragraph essay. That is not the case for many students. You have to know how to do the formal, traditional thing before you can break the rule. That's my feeling.

Also, I'm asking them to write traditional, academic, literary criticism. And we academics use thesis statements.

I will say this, though, in my students' favor: they *almost* get it. And I have high hopes that once they receive these papers back that it will be clearer to them what exactly is required as far as this stuff goes.

Belle said...

My rule: no quotes in short papers. Since I only assign short papers, they must be precise, concise and one's own.

Doesn't mean it works, but it does give me a solid reason for harsher grading.

Dr. Crazy said...

What I tell my students as a rule of thumb is that no more than 25-30 percent of a paper should be quoted or paraphrased material. Some of them take that to heart, while others don't do so. But I give very clear guidelines about expectations in my assignments, so I don't worry too much about grading too harshly. If you follow directions, you do well. If you don't, well, you don't do so well. Of course, I'm widely considered a "harsh" grader. Whatever. They're better writers when I'm done with them.

Brian W. Ogilvie said...

Shouldn't #4 be, "Tears are wept by Dr. Crazy when the passive voice is used to characterize the writing"?

Dr. Crazy said...

Drat! You did it better than I did, Brian. This is what I get for having beaten the passive voice out of myself. I don't even know how to do it properly as an example :)

(Actually, originally that bullet read: The passive voice makes Dr. Crazy cry. I decided to change it to make it reflect the thing that makes me cry, but I am slowly realizing that I just don't think in the passive voice anymore.)

grumpyabdadjunct said...

I hear you sister! Especially on the passive voice. I usually try and get students to write in the first person, too, so that I don't get horribly tortured constructions about "one" doing this and "one" being critical of that. They usually ignore me and I hear about lots of "ones" rather than anyONE in particular, like, you know, the student themselves. Sigh.

negativecapability said...

Negcap is also made to cry by the passive voice, which usually reflects the epitome of a desire to makes ones deep thoughts about life in general objective.