Friday, December 04, 2009

A Basic Checklist for Turning in Papers

Sometimes, I just get so tired of telling students the same thing over and over, so I'm thinking of handing out a basic checklist. Here's the first draft.

1) Name. Put your name on the paper. Don't put just your first name, but also your surname. If you want to put the instructor's name, the class, and the date, too, yay you.

2) Title. Your paper should have a title, and that title should not be "Essay #2" or "Title of a Famous Piece of Art." Think of a title that communicates something about your paper. Unless otherwise instructed, center your title near the top of the page, not too far below your name. Don't put your own title in quotations marks, or italics, or in 24 point font.

3) Format. Use reasonable margins. 1 inch is good. Number your pages. Left justify your paper unless otherwise instructed.

4) Font. Use a reasonably sized font, say a 10, 11, or 12. Use a readable font, one that will inspire confidence in your reader.

5) Paragraphs. Indent paragraphs.

Don't add an extra space between paragraphs. If you have the latest version of Word, and it's set to add an extra space, change the setting.

Here's how to change that setting:

a. Open Word. (I start at the beginning.)
b. Click the "Page Layout" tab at the top.
c. About 2/3rds of the way to the right, find the "Paragraph" box. Set the "before" and "after" spacings to 0 pt.
d. Celebrate with me!

6) Sources. When you use a source, introduce it in some way, even if you're paraphrasing. Cite your sources at the end of the paper, in foot or end notes, or in whatever way is appropriate to your class. If you're in a literature class, it's likely that you need to use MLA. If you're in a social or natural sciences class, it's likely that you'll need to use APA. If you're not sure, ask your instructor!

Cite any source you use; give people credit for their ideas, words, and cultural productions (art, graphs, and so on).

If you didn't know something before the term began, then figure out how you know it now, and cite that. You can cite your textbook or a lecture.

7) Titles. In typescript, use underlining or italics for the titles of journals, magazines, newspapers, books, plays, films, TV series, long poems. Use quotation marks for the titles of articles, short stories, television series episodes, short poems. The general rule is that if something is published in a stand alone format, it gets underlined or italicized. If it's published as part of something else, it gets quotation marks.

Your own title doesn't get either.

8) Punctuation. If you're in the U.S., periods and commas go inside quotation marks, and we use double quotation marks unless we're quoting within a quotation.

9) Staple. Staple your paper in the upper left hand corner unless otherwise instructed. (With thanks to MommyProf [see comments]. See, even on a blog you can acknowledge other peoples' ideas!)


  1. Anonymous2:26 PM

    I have an inkling that they will understand this part:
    "d. Celebrate with me!"


  2. It sounds like you had the same kind of day I did, though I would like to add a number nine. If you found your paper with Google, so can I.

    Also, do you have the students who decide to capitalize random words in the middle of sentences? I've never had a problem with that before, but this semester I have a handful of them.

  3. Isn't it awful the way the new Word adds all that extra space between paragraphs? Hugely annoying.

  4. Great advice - I just forwarded on to my kids. Thanks!

  5. I would add "Staple in the left hand corner." Plan ahead so that you have time to do this. Under no circumstances should you do that annoying fold the corners together thing and pretend it is a staple.

  6. Thanks for the encouraging words, folks.

    EmmaNadine, you made me laugh, thanks.

    MommyProf, OH, Thank you; I'll add that, if I may.

  7. If you don't stop, you are going to write an entire section of my next syllabus! And I will properly cite you. :)

    To #1 I would add: Put the professor's name on the paper. Spelled correctly. No matter how long or hyphenated or weird to pronounce it is. It's printed on nearly every piece of paper you get in the class, for crying out loud.

  8. Anonymous8:29 AM

    I actually started using a checklist like this for my history students about a year ago. I found that I really needed to tell them to spellcheck!


  9. Yes, I'm getting the random capital letters mid sentence, too, AND the odd non-capital proper nouns (including the student's own name).

    It has to be related to texting, no?

    And the staple thing: I've given up and now bring a little one to class on paper due dates. Yes, I've capitulated. It's quite sad really. But at least I make THEM staple their own damned papers.

    Bardiac: this list is precious. Thank you!

  10. I think three of my students actually stapled their papers this year. The rest used cutsie paperclips, binder clips, or folded/torn corners. Why is the staple idea so hard to figure out?

  11. A line space between paragraphs really doesn't bother me. In fact, I find it easier to read essays with lots of white space (assuming they use paragrahs at all, of course).

    But then again, we use word counts as word limits (e.g. a 2000-word essay), not page counts, so putting an extra line in isn't an attempt to make the essay reach the minimum length requirement. I can see how it might be annoying if that's what they are doing.

  12. Bardiac -- THANK YOU for telling me how to get rid of that extra space between paragraphs! (I am celebrating!) I'm absolutely tech-ignorant and have been trying to figure it out ever since my charming university installed the new version of Words on my computer over the summer.

  13. I've always wondered about requiring word length for papers. How do you verify that they have made length? Do they submit electronically or something?

  14. That blank line between paragraphs has been a burr in my side for a long time -- but I eventually gave up berating students about it because they would look at me blankly, say "but, that's how my computer does it" and expect me to know how to fix it -- which I didn't -- until now.

    Watch out students! Now I'm armed with information.