Students who reviewed the advice and guidelines on this site highlighted the following frequently mentioned faculty concerns as especially important:
1. Be Clear, Concise, Coherent, Correct. These 4 C’s are the qualities of a good paper that faculty members mentioned most frequently.
2. Be sure you take time to proofread carefully. All professors want clear, carefully thought-out, error-free papers.
3. Be sure you understand the purpose and evaluation standards for each assignment. Some assignments will ask for “just the facts”—from library research or lab experiments. Other assignments might require papers as different as your reflections on personal experience or your research-based evaluation of specific texts. Some professors will be looking for analysis while others will expect a carefully argued interpretation. Beware of creating an information dump that does nothng more than report what you found on a couple of Web sites. Most professors want to read papers that make a point.
4. Talk to your prof! Ask your professors about their specific goals and criteria. Most professors will be glad to discuss your writing plans and problems, or even a draft of your work. Go to office hours prepared with ideas or questions, though. Faculty do not want to play “what do you want me to write?” games.
5. Check the reliability of all sources, especially Internet sources. Faculty members are becoming increasingly impatient with papers that uncritically present information found on the Internet. The library offers help by providing guidelines for evaluating information sources, links to reliable research starting points (organized by disciplines), and a list of selected Internet sites (also organized by disciplines). For step-by-step guidance in evaluating sources in fields unfamiliar to you, check out the Signpost. Under "Evaluate," you'll find specific criteria for evaluating articles and Web sites.
6. Be scrupulously accurate when you cite sources. Provide a source for all quotes and paraphrases, and for any information that is not common knowledge, including statistics and summaries of someone else’s ideas. If you have any doubts about whether you need to cite a source, look over the information on this site about avoiding plagiarism and talk to your instructor.
7. Learn to build revision into your composing process. Many students arrive in college proud of their ability to crank out a paper in a single draft. But nearly all of us discover that our papers (and grades!) improve when we take time for a careful second look at a draft, and then for some re-writing.
8. Avoid jargon and pompous or inflated language. In the survey, professors often mentioned these as pet peeves. Use a thesaurus only rarely, and avoid embarrassment by using a dictionary to double-check all meanings of an unfamiliar word. For additional advice about getting rid of jargon and inflated language, visit the Plain English page on this site.
9. Use inclusive, gender neutral language (also known as nonsexist language).
10. Read your paper out loud. Even if you just read it to yourself, this process can be surprisingly helpful.
Double-check this Web site’s guidelines and suggestions with your professor!