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FAQs for a Writing Assignment

Do I risk losing marks for mistakes in my initial submission?

I do not know how to write a certain component of my paper. Am I at risk of losing marks if I do it wrong? No. If we perceive that your best effort was put into the original manuscript, the initial grade will be 6/10. We expect mistakes on the initial submission. The assignment is not designed to be punitive, but to provide an opportunity for students to improve their writing quality between the initial and revised submission. In cases where numerous concerns are present, such that the TA does not perceive the best effort was put into the paper, the student does risk receiving a lower grade.

If everyone receives the same grade on the initial submission, I can just write and submit anything? No. The initial aim should always be to give your best effort. If there are numerous concerns and errors with the paper, the student risks a 4/10 grade or, worse, a 0/10. Additionally, more effort in the initial submission will likely result in fewer edits and revisions for the revised submission.

Are part marks given [or] am I still at risk of losing some marks if certain aspects of the paper need a lot of improvement (e.g., results are not properly listed)? No, the grade brackets are 0, 4, 6, or 10 out of 10. As long as we perceive your best effort is given, you will likely receive a 6/10 on the initial submission. If numerous concerns are present (e.g., no formulas/figures/tables in an Appendix) you risk being in a lower bracket. The only case where a grade different from one of the four brackets will be given are in the event of late deductions. Instances of plagiarism will obviously result in a grade of zero.

Is it possible to get a 10/10? How many students have received 10/10? Of the hundreds of students who have participated in this assignment format throughout other courses, none have received 10/10 on the initial submission, but quite a few do receive 10/10 after the revisions. The purpose of this assignment is to provide an opportunity for students to improve their writing and interpretive logic. Given this, it is not impossible to attain 10/10 on the initial submission. However, this is highly improbable. Nonetheless, a paper that demonstrates high quality revisions and improvements can still receive 10/10 even if the final manuscript is not “perfect”.

Can I get a 10/10 on my initial submission?

What does a 4/10 or 0/10 look like on the initial submission? To the TAs, a 4/10 would look like it was put together the previous night, have had few (or no) read-throughs by the student, or generally lack depth or substance. To the TA, the paper would not look like what is expected by a second-year undergraduate student. There may be a lot of redundancy, superfluoustext, logical inconsistencies, or missing elements of a section. A 0/10 would contain substantial concerns, or an extenuation of those present in a 4/10. There could be too little text in each section, or be missing entirely, the text may be convoluted and uninterpretable, among other reasons. In essence, there would be no way for the TA to give feedback for improvement, making a resubmission moot and ungradable.

Is it not unfair to give all students 60% on an assignment? You are not actually getting 60%. Your grade is broken down into two parts, one part out of 6 (the initial submission) and one part out of 4 (the revised resubmission). It is possible to get a perfect score (i.e., 10/10) on this assignment even if your final paper is not perfect, insofar that its revisions took into account all feedback. This differs from traditional single-submission assignments, where a perfect score is nearly unattainable.

Can I get an example of what a 10/10 paper would look like after resubmission? The final aim should be to provide the quality of writing present in any published textbook. As long as all suggestions and revisions are completed, a 10/10 is attainable on the final submission.

I cannot fit all the information into the page limit, can I go over? Going over will result in us requesting you to reduce it for the resubmission. You also risk a 4/10 if you overly surpass the page limit. Writing can be verbose for numerous reasons including superfluous sentences, redundancy, and drawn-out sentences, all of which can clutter up the paper. Learning to compact your writing so it is dense and coherent is important. Brevity is a major writing skill. Prevent sentences that exist only to setup the next (see below for an example), have empty statements, or reiterate something that the reader may already know (i.e., trust your audience).

I received many comments. Almost every sentence is highlighted with a comment. Should I just rewrite the resubmission? You will most likely receive comments on at a time and revise the paper, even if the final paper ends up being completely different from the original. Yes, this means entire sentences or paragraphs may be rewritten. However, if you rewrite from scratch, it ignores the original comments making it very difficult to add revised grades. You also may introduce new problems into the paper that were not in the original. Your revision demonstrates an improvement, not a second attempt.

What do 4/10 and 0/10 grades look like?

Do I lose marks for improper APA format? As said above, the initial submission falls into one of four grade brackets. There are no part marks given or lost. It is expected that students will make some APA mistakes, particularly when it comes to describing statistical values, so theseusually do not impact the grade for the initial submission. However, considering we made an APA template available for all students, we do expect the general page layout of the submission to follow APA guidelines.

Some of the feedback on how to change sentence structure appears to be based on the TA’s preferences (i.e., they want me to describe something a certain way). Should I do this? A big part of writing is placating your audience. In all forms of published writing, the author’s original work is remolded to fit the generalaudience. This includes everything from scientific manuscripts, fiction novels, and media outlets. Unfortunately, this important aspect of writing is rarely taught to science students.

How can I improve my writing on the initial or revised document? Some ways to improve include avoiding redundancies and superfluous text. For example, a common mistake is using what can be called a “setup sentence”, which merely states what a following sentence willsay. For example “We completed a study comparing apples to oranges (sentence 1). This study found no differences between apples and oranges (sentence 2)”. The first sentence is superfluous due to the second sentence, andcan be simply combined to “A study comparing apples and oranges found no differences”. Be sure to read your drafts aloud, and judge whether it verbally makes sense. should be someone willing to give you critical feedback and not merely reply “yeah, it’s good”.

Are there any benefits to citing outside sources? No, the point of this assignment (and thiscourse in general) is not to see how well you can integrate published literature into a paper, but how well you can interpret numerical data into meaning. To that end, citing outside sources will merely take up limited space in the paper. The topics we choose are common knowledge and arguable using basic and reasonable assumptions about the natural world.

The TAs often speak of having good flow for my narrative. What is a good definition of flow? A good definition of flow is “the ability to predict what the writer will say next based on what they are saying now”. In other words, good flow means that the reader can keep up with the paper as if a conversation was taking place. This means that the next sentence logically follows from the previous, and topics do not change abruptly. Note, you do not fix flow by use of transition words, but by discussing ideas clearly, letting the reader know the path you intend to take them through your manuscript.

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