Fox Professing
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Dennis Fox's
General Guidelines for Papers

Improving your ability to write analytically, persuasively, and personally is important. I will evaluate your papers for both content and form and will try to help you improve in both.

Many college students benefit from additional writing courses, and most institutions provide additional assistance on writing and other issues. I recommend Strunk & White's Elements of Style.


In evaluating content, I look at factors such as depth of analysis, inclusion of major controversial issues, relevance, logic, originality, incorporation of appropriate class material, and the degree to which you surpass minimal expectations. You should demonstrate that you can go beyond simple memorization to the level of analysis. Depending on the nature of the assignment, I expect you to do three things in addition to following the specific instructions for assigned papers:

1. Critically analyze the topic with appropriate use of concepts from class and readings. Analysis means more than mere summary, description, and simple statement of opinion. You must present an argument--for example, prove a controversial point, critique a flawed assumption, or answer an important question. You should develop a single theme rather than comment superficially on a wide variety of topics.

2. Demonstrate that you have an accurate understanding of competing views. This requires that you discuss the nature, sources, implications, and possible resolution of significant disagreements about controversial issues. Don't simply ignore the other side, or merely assert that it is wrong; instead, try to explain it.

3. Explain the relation between your own views on the issue and your values and assumptions about human behavior and the society around us. For example, what is there about your life that has led you to evaluate the issue the way you do? How might different experiences lead to different evaluations?



Papers should be long enough to accomplish their purpose without padding: about 500-750 words (2 or 3 pages) for brief reaction/analysis papers, 5-8 pages for essays and book reviews, and 12-16 pages for term papers. Papers must be typed, double-spaced, with one-inch margins on all four sides.

Papers with poor grammar, spelling, punctuation, organization, and style are difficult to read. Avoid jargon, wordiness, needless repetition, and sexist language. Suggestions:

1. Organize your paper. Before you write, prepare an outline demonstrating a logical progression of topics. Clearly state your main point. Make sure each paragraph focuses on one main idea. Make appropriate transitions from one topic to the next. On long papers, use subheadings to clarify topics.

2. Get feedback on your first draft. You can exchange papers with another student to correct each other's obvious mechanical errors and point out parts that are unclear. Papers should be revised substantially before completion.

3. Footnote appropriately. All outside sources must be cited whether they are directly quoted, paraphrased, or only serve as background reading. In other words, you must footnote any ideas from an outside source even if you don't actually quote from it (don't just list it in the bibliography). Penalties for plagiarism can range from failing the assignment to dismissal from the university.

4. Proofread. Then proofread again. Catch mistakes before I do.


Due Dates

Due dates are arranged for reasons ranging from the relevance of class discussions to my need to plan my schedule. Although there is no automatic penalty for an occasional late paper unless otherwise indicated, persistent and repeated lateness will be penalized. All papers must be submitted to pass the course.

Grading Standards on Papers

(Adapted from UIS Women's Studies Handout)

A: A superior paper, well organized and comprehensive, focusing in depth on the central and relevant topics. It is written well, with correct grammar and spelling and flowing sentence and paragraph structure. It is precise, clear, and concise, avoiding vague generalities and ambiguities. The argumentation is convincing and logical. Controversial issues and the positions of others are accurately represented; factual errors are absent. Rather than merely summarizing, describing, or expressing unsupported opinions or conclusions, it critically analyzes the material, appropriately applying course concepts. With originality and creativity, it goes beyond the basic requirements, demonstrating intellectual struggle and hard work.

B: A good paper, containing no factual errors and substantially meeting the requirements of the assignment as expected of upper-level college students. However, although the paper may be better than average, it lacks one or more of the qualities of the A paper described above.

C: A competent paper. It develops certain arguments quite well and meets the minimal requirements of the assignment, but shows definite weaknesses in one or more of the following: organization; proofreading; precision in reporting factual data or competing views; ability to focus in depth on the major points; convincing, clear, and critical argumentation; careful researching of the topic; proper use of English.

D: An unsatisfactory paper containing some of the deficiencies of the C paper, but to a greater degree. It appears to be hastily written or demonstrates little careful thought.

F: A poor paper that shows little comprehension of the subject matter or little organization. It appears to have been written by someone who did not understand the material or the purpose or requirements of the assignment.


Writing is very important. Ask for help if you need to improve your skills.

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Page updated September 30, 2007