1 – Make sure you answer the question/respond to the prompt. Even if the prompt is broad or vague your paper should begin by referencing the prompt and, to a degree, at the end demonstrate how you have responded to the prompt.
2 – Balance broad observations – about the topic or where the topic fits into the broader class – with specific examples. This may be obvious but in writing you want to demonstrate that you understand the broader points of the topic and can apply them to specific examples.
3 – Offer your analysis but don’t confuse this with your personal feelings. These are reaction papers – your reaction and thoughts about the material are important. However, just writing “I like” is not analysis. These papers are about what you think – and that should be at the center of the paper.
4 – Make connections. Papers gain depth – and you show that you are thinking about the class – when you link the specifics of one topic to other material from the course. You should feel free to be intellectually creative and share your ideas – you will not be dinged for thinking outside the box.
1 – Write a descriptive paper that summarized the material in question. There is a big difference between synthesizing a topic in order to back up your own points and summarizing that material – do not write a book report. These papers do get credit. Remember, I put these presentations together and don’t want to read summaries of what I have put together.
2 – Aggressively use outside material. References to other things are fine, but people go overboard. As a teacher it is very frustrating to read work where people have found other sources (generally after a quick google search) and start to reference it in a paper when A – the material includes the same exact information that is already in the course, which makes it seem as if the student has not reviewed the course material B – some of the material is of low quality. So use outside material carefully and make sure it is high quality.