Excellence in Writing
Resources for & Expectations of
BASICS: When writing any paper, keep in
mind the following:
- Written assignments are statements of your point of view with an
aim to persuading the reader. Simply making assertions is not
persuasive; give your evidence and rationale. E.g., cite sources you
have read, argue from practical experience, give sociological or historical
data. Answer the questions of the critical reader: Why should
I agree with this? Why is this a convincing interpretation of the issue/situation?
- Know the meanings of the terms you use. Provide definitions of key terms.
- Watch grammar, punctuation, spelling—all the rudiments of writing.
If you are unsure of your skills, ask a friend or teacher who writes well
to proofread for you—or consult a writing tutor.
- Avoid contractions and overuse of colloquialisms in formal prose.
- The standard expectation in college courses is that all papers and take-home
assignments will be typewritten, double-spaced, with one-inch page margins.
If a set number of pages is indicated, and unless otherwise specified, 12-point
Courier font is the standard used for determining the length
Features of Acceptable Written Assignments:
- Inclusive language, including God-language
(see, e.g., Casey Miller and Kate Swift, The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing.
New York: Barnes and Noble, 1980)
- Clear organization
argumentation in support of the thesis
- Clarity of style (see, e.g.,
William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style)
- Grammatical accuracy (see., e.g., Perrin, Smith, and Corder, Handbook
of Current English; Webster's Guide to Grammar and Writing)
- Appropriate format (see Kate L. Turabian,
A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations)
- Accurate & complete citations of
Additional Notes for Research Papers:
- Follow the Chicago
Manual of Style for headings, footnotes, etc. (do NOT use endnotes;
use parenthetical notes ONLY for Biblical citations)
- Show evidence that you have used a minimum of 6–10 solid, print
- NOT internet resources, although you may or may not be permitted
to use such materials to supplement your print sources; check with the
instructor on this point.
- Note that dictionary or encyclopedia articles
may provide a starting point for your research (in terms of an overview
of the topic, e.g., or a preliminary bibliography) but they cannot
replace real research. They are not substantive scholarship, but
rather summaries of common perspectives, and are more or less accurate
depending on the caliber of the scholar(s) who wrote the article.
In "open-source" encylopediae like Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org),
this is compounded by the fact that there are multiple authors of any
given article, each ranging in skill and qualifications from professional
to rank amateur and/or ideologue. See this brief essay by Purdue University
professor Lawrence Mykytiuk for the issues raised by this "prediction
to aggregating information: Lawrence J. Mykytiuk, "Wikipedia:
Unreliable Source, Useful Heuristic Tool," SBL Forum,
Article 612 (posted January 2007).
- IF internet resources are permitted:
- Have at least twice as many solid print resources as on-line resouces.
- Provide annotations for each internet resource you use to demonstrate:
- Why this site is a reliable source of information for your topic;
- Why this site conveys material appropriate for college-level research
- NOTA BENE: If internet resources are permitted for your research
assignment but you fail to provide annotations justifying your use of one
or more of the sites on which you rely, your paper will be returned to you
ungraded. The assignment will be recorded as incomplete and a re-write required.
If the re-write is submitted after the due date for that assignment, the
grade will be discounted according to the late assignment penalty schedule
(typically a reduction of one letter grade for each calendar day late). Regardless
of what grade any individual assignment will earn, all assignments required
for a given course must be submitted to earn a passing grade.