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I’m grading graduate student research papers this weekend, from my course “Medieval War and Peace.” It’s a nice change from marking up freshman composition papers. There are fewer egregious grammar issues and more attempts to say something of solid merit.

Sadly, though, not everything is different.

For example, these graduate papers were supposed to be 20-25 pages in length. It turns out that about 25% of them do not meet this most basic requirement (that’s actually quite a bit higher than the percentage among my freshman papers). And two of them are not only short, but short even after font-padding (wherein the student oh-so-cleverly uses a wide-set font to stretch the length).

I take the last point somewhat personal, as it supposes (to my mind) that I’m an idiot who doesn’t notice such things. Alas, it seems I do.


  1. Michael,

    I was wondering about two things: In a non-English class (in this case education), what percent of the grade do you think should be based on the quality of the argument as opposed to mechanics of the paper? The papers that I am currently grading are from master’s students in Curriculum and Instruction. Would the criteria be different in an English class? Thanks for your opinion.

  2. I started to reply to this, then decided it was worth its own post. I’m off to write that now.

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