Sunday, November 8, 2015

Suggestions for Course Paper

The paper is meant to be formal writing, yet with the intended audience students who will take the class in the future.  I know much student to student communication is quite informal and full of abbreviations, driven by how texting has changed the way we communicate.  So what I mean here is that student readers should find your paper not too difficult to understand, if they put in the effort to read it.  This means that if you use jargon, you must define it in understandable terms.  It also means that you shouldn't take long excerpts from the paper you are reviewing and instead put the arguments in the paper into your own words.  Beyond that, here are several specific suggestions.

Chunk the paper and use section headings for each chunk.

Some specific sections that you should include are (You can have other sections as well and/or have multiple sections associated with any one of these.):

1.  What is the main issue that the paper deals with?  (You should come up with your one section heading for this and the remaining sections.)

2.  What is the contribution of the paper?  If others have also written on this issue how has this paper added to our understanding as compared to what came before?

3.  How do the issue of the paper tie into what we've done in the class?

4.  What are some lessons learned from the paper?

5.  Do you have your own views on the matter or some examples you can bring in that are not discussed in the paper but that might illustrate ideas in the paper?

6.  Conclusion

A big deal issue with formal writing is the sequencing of your presentation.  Even after you know what you are going to say, you need to order your presentation that will make it logical for the reader.  One thought that guides formal writing is that the authors do the work so the readers don't have to.

Each team member needs to own the whole paper.

This means, in particular, that if one team member writes a section of the paper, the other edits that section and makes changes to it in an effort to improve things.  It also means that each team member is concerned with whether one section flows into the next in a smooth way.  Abrupt transitions are to be avoided, because they confuse the reader.

Format of the paper

Please submit a Word document, preferably a docx file.  I may use Track Changes in giving my response.  I will try to give a demo in class of how to use Track Changes, as my prior experience is that some students are unfamiliar with it.

You need a title page.  It has the name of the paper, the team name, the date, and an abstract, which is a brief summary of what the paper is about.

Starting with the next page, the body of the paper should be between 6 and 10 pages, single space within paragraphs, line space between paragraphs.  Font size should be 11 or 12 point.  Margins should be 1 inch.  Since the paper this would be printed out on is 8.5 x 11 inches, this means the writing area is 6.5 x 9 inches.

Please use page numbers as it makes it easier to refer to parts of your paper in an email.  Do not number the title page.  I prefer page numbers to be on the bottom of the page.  If you start a New Section after the title page and you format page numbers so the new section begins with page 1, that will give you the desired result.

After the body of the paper you need a page for references, rather than put footnotes to references in the body of the paper.  My preferred way of doing this is that the first time you refer to the reference in your paper you list authors only, not the title of the piece.  If you make subsequent use of the references you can then repeat the authors names.  Then in the reference area, you can make a full reference.  I like to have those hyperlinked to the source if possible.  And if you are real slick, you can put in internal links in the paper from where you refer to the piece to the reference item.    That makes things quite convenient for the reader.

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