Extracurricular College Activities That Will Get You a Job

ReferalSmallOf course, the best extracurricular activity to improve your chances at a job is an actual job, but when you can’t, or when you want to stay on campus, it’s important to pick extracurricular activities that will pay off in terms of fun, resume building, or network building. But when you’re walking the cafeteria tables at the activity fair, and everyone is earnestly making eye contact for you for clubs ranging from African Dance to Zoophilia (it’s for volunteering at the zoo, you sicko), how can you decide?

Nothing is guaranteed to get you a job, and ultimately, the activities you choose aren’t as important as the roles you take on within them and the ways that you can demonstrate leadership and skill building. Passively attending the Vagina Monologues for Feminist Club is great, but becoming treasurer of the acapella singing group or writing a successful travel grant to help your group compete is even better.

Ultimately, you should sit down and think about what story you want to tell about your skills on your resume or C.V.. Then you should pursue activities that, first and foremost, you value and find fun. Next, infiltrate those organizations and become leader (I mean, join them and become proactive). The important thing is not which activities you choose, but the roles you take on within them, and the . Quirky activities may get you eyeballs, but being able to demonstrate or quantify your achievements will get you further than being able to say you were a warm body in a room: “I started a tutoring program for inner-city youths. By the end of the first year, we matched 10 middle schoolers to tutors and on average, the students’ GPAs improved by half a letter grade.” “After I became treasurer of horseback riding club, I implemented a service program to provide grants to autistic children, and we got a state-level grant for $500 that let us provide 20 hours of lessons to autistic children. I also improved my teaching and speaking abilities while doing this.” See? Even “fun” activities can help you on the job market or at an interview – if you can prove that you developed or honed important skills while doing them. Nothing in life is guaranteed, but demonstrated success and leadership in a few extracurricular activities is far better than simply checking off a list – and in many cases, it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond (i.e., leader of a more obscure club) than just another face in the crowd of a bigger one.

One of our friendly, tweed-wearing Unemployed Professors is happy to help you tame the essay writing monster.

Are you a student with writers block? Five Tips to Boost Your Creativity

Unemployed Professors Student Writing ServicesIf you have writer’s block, you might feel like you have nothing to say. You might barely be able to get your fingers to move on the keyboard. All you can think about is the deadline and the clock ticking ever forward. What should you do in such situations?

  1. Just keep writing. Tape the delete key down if you have to (hey, that’s why God or Bill Gates or whoever invented spell check, right?). Just like time only goes forward, make yourself write. Write even if all you are writing is “Shit. Fuck. My deadline is in 4 hours and I haven’t got anything to say.” Brainstorm and brain dump anything and everything – you’ll be surprised at what you come up with, and once ideas are in text, they are much harder to throw away. Don’t let yourself delete anything, and don’t let yourself take your hands off the keyboard (or page).
  2. Another strategy is to write with two documents open. One is the one that will become your final product: your term paper, grant proposal, fan fiction, whatever. The other is your “text pasture.” Here is where you will put everything and anything you can think of, even if it makes no sense, even if it’s profanity or a grocery list or a profanity-laden grocery list.
  3. You can nip writer’s block in the bud by getting in the habit of writing every day. 750words.com is a great way to start this. If you make writing a part of your daily life, you can train yourself to write more easily, even when you’re “not feeling it.”
  4. Take a walk. Some of the greatest writers took walks. Some of the greatest scientists have found there is a connection between physical activity and creativity. Let yourself take a 10 or 15-minute break for a quick walk, then revisit your blank page. If you’re not into walking, try some yoga or even just stretching.
  5. If you are using a word processor, try the ‘Focus’ view or even try a new word processor that eliminates distractions (such as Ommwriter) and makes the page the full screen with no other visible windows. If you can’t Facebook or Google or whatever, you will get more done.

One of our friendly, tweed-wearing Unemployed Professors is happy to help you with your next writing project.

The Top 5 Money Moves to Make After Graduating from University

imagesK2RQ71JLSo, you’ve graduated. Congratulations! You have a diploma, at least three copies of Oh the Places You’ll Go, and a wrenching hangover. How do you become a financial grown-up when you couldn’t even keep enough money in your meal plan to get a pizza at the end of the semester? These five money moves are a good start.

  1. The first thing you should do is look at your credit report (not just the score). Make sure you know anything that’s on there, and begin the process to dispute anything that you did not initiate. This is just good financial housekeeping and you should get in the habit of doing it quarterly. You should be 100% certain of exactly where you stand with student loans, credit cards, and so on. Get started with your free credit report.
  2. Next, make a budget or spending plan. Consider what your priorities are and if possible, use numbers from your first salary – then plan for living off of less than you earn. Be realistic and know yourself a little bit. If you love going out to restaurants, budget for it. If you would rather drive a nice car, then accept that – and consider living in a cheaper apartment or getting a roommate. If you absolutely cannot function without a morning latte, accept that and get store brand groceries or drink soda when you go out with friends. It’s perfectly OK to leave yourself a few luxuries, with the key words being a few. It is way better to accept you love clothes and plan for it than to deprive yourself, get frustrated, give up and spend too much. Include in your budget a plan to pay off debt. If you don’t want to use a spreadsheet or com, you can try You Need a Budget.
  3. If you are in the USA, start an IRA and begin to contribute to it. Even if it’s just $25 a month, you will begin to set up your financial future – and possibly get a tax break. Quick guide: A traditional IRA will reduce your tax bill in the year you contribute, while a Roth IRA is not taxed on gains. If you’re not making a lot right now, contribute to a Roth since it could mean tax-free growth later; if you’re trying to reduce your tax bill, contribute to a traditional. YMMV, consult a tax pro, etc.
  4. Set goals and save no matter what. Think about what you really want. Do you want to go on a vacation next year with your bros? Do you want to buy a car or a house? Do you want to go to grad school? Have a destination wedding? Don’t let your post-graduation let down get in the way. Make a plan and start to make it happen. Even if you don’t have any specific spending goals, set savings and investment benchmarks for yourself. It may feel boring and abstract now, but you WILL thank yourself when you get an unexpected medical bill or have to buy a new set of tires. Try using an online savings account, such as SmartyPig, which is designed to help you save to reach goals.
  5. Develop a plan for money and get in the habit of doing it. About once a week, look over your spending from the past week and making sure there are no fraudulent purchases. Every month, look for patterns, trends, and things you can do better. Every quarter, check your credit report and score. Every year (or more often if you are thinking of buying a house or car in the near future), check your credit score.

That’s it! These aren’t magical money moves to get you rich, but rather, they are habits you should get into for a less stressful post-graduate life.

One of our friendly, tweed-wearing Unemployed Professors is happy to help you tame the essay writing monster.

UP Sucks

“Unemployed Professors Sucks”

imagesK2RQ71JLA lot of people talk smack about Unemployed Professors. A lot of people think we suck. Of course, it’s important to defend yourself against such attacks. People hate that this site exists and, hey, haters gonna hate. Unemployed Professors is disrupting the educational paradigm, and everyone hates disrupters.

People who say that we suck are locked into the traditional thinking about education. They believe that a faceless committee should prescribe what classes someone should take, and that if, for example, someone just can’t pass an 8 AM section of English 201 no matter how hard they try, because their professor automatically flunks anyone whose APA headings aren’t perfect, they should be denied their degree and doomed to a life of toil. Believing that education is a gatekeeper for the middle class is the source of belief that Unemployed Professors sucks. Yeah, we suck – we suck at adhering to the mainstream ideas about education and who it is for. For every 10 people who claim that our site is somehow evil, we help 100 people stay in the middle class by ensuring that they can get that last credential needed. We help overworked teachers finish up busywork continuing education requirements. We help dyslexic engineers finish required English classes. We help working moms finish the last history paper they need so they can graduate with their nursing degrees. We help cancer patients stay in school. We help veterans who have put their lives on the line for their country finish editing their capstone projects. Behind every paper here, there’s a story. That story is usually of someone who has been failed by the system, whose time and money are being wasted on irrelevant required classes. We are proud of the work we do here, and we are proud of the papers we write, just as we were proud of the work we put our own names on in our own educational and professional careers.

 

People say Unemployed Professors sucks, but they fail to see that in addition to helping students, the site also helps professors. It is a well-known fact that most people who finish PhD’s never get a tenure-track job. It is well-established that adjuncts are overworked and underpaid and graduate students often live off starvation wages. The fields these people are in may be undervalued by the capitalist system, but they are nonetheless valuable. However, these people still have to eat. If partially-employing an Unemployed Professor takes someone off food stamps, can we really say that the site sucks?

So, yeah, as you can see our site really sucks. We suck at maintaining the paradigm. We suck at helping rich people stay rich. We suck at helping universities continue to enrol people in classes they don’t really need so they can keep vacuuming up their money. We suck at maintaining the gatekeeper identity of the university, which is the idea that it can cripple working-class students with debt for degrees they can’t finish while ensuring that the wealthy students maintain their position in the upper class.

One of our friendly, tweed-wearing Unemployed Professors is happy to help you tame the paper monster.

 

 

Unemployed professors review – an insiders opinion

Professors_01A couple of years ago, my company rewrote the unemployed professors website in return for an equity position in the company. Writing a website for equity is a common request in my industry, but not one that I often entertain. After all, I have enough ideas of my own that I do not have time for. I made an exception for unemployed professors because they had a revenue stream and management was very very impressive.

Some of the questions that I get from friends and family are: “Are you worried that your existing clients will look unfavorably on the fact that you created a website that enables students to cheat?” “Don’t you feel that it is morally irresponsible to be part of unemployed professors?”

If you can imagine the look of disbelief on John McEnroe’s face when a ball is called out, I can only answer these questions with: you cannot be serious!

First of all, I am in business to make money and don’t have time for all the kumbaya bullshit that our overpaid Hollywood starlets engage in.

On a serious note, our customers come in many flavors. There is a small minority that literally buys their entire degree. I can only surmise that these people are sent to school by their rich daddies and have no desire to be there. Is this a problem created by unemployed professors? No, it is a problem created by nepotism. These people will probably end up taking a cushy, high paying, no-work job with one of daddy’s affiliates and live happy ever after. It’s good to be lucky; I don’t have a problem with that.

Another reason students use our service is to complete writing assignments for non-core forced elective courses. These students are making the practical choice of spending more time on their core studies in order to elevate their GPA as well as their expertise in their chosen field. These are highly motivated students coping with an enormous workload in a practical manner. In the end, these students will usually graduate with honors and with a deeper understanding of their major. The argument can be made that these non-core courses help broaden your education. A load of crap; life itself is good enough for that, you are in school to get a solid foundation in your chosen field, use every minute wisely.

The most interesting subset of our clientele is the student who has already written an assignment and is asking for advice before submitting it or asking help with a re-write after it was rejected. Truly remarkable; obviously a very dedicated student, but why come to us? If you are a student like I was many years ago, you can understand the frustration of professors not respecting their office hours or caring more about their own research projects when you happen to find them. The fact of the matter is that the professionals at unemployed professors are here for you and care that you get the help and the mark that you deserve and also to learn from the experience.

.… And during the process I truly believe that you will become a better student. – Shadow

One of our friendly, tweed-wearing Unemployed Professors is happy to help you tame the paper monster.

Steven Covey’s time management quadrant

Are you constantly scrambling to get stuff done at the last minute? Maybe the problem isn’t what you do or not do, but how you prioritize it. The scrawled list of things “to do” may work well if you only have a few simple tasks to accomplish, as one of the best Kids in the Hall sketches demonstrates. I used to put things on my to-do list like “drink coffee” and “drink more coffee.” This made me feel productive, but it didn’t get my important tasks done.

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(Source: Kids in the Hall, “Things to Do,” via YouTube.com)

When you have to do important, complex tasks, and figure out how to best implement the Pareto Principle, it is best to implement a system. Steven Covey’s time management quadrant is an easy way to prioritize things. You don’t even actually need to fill in all the quadrants. For the purposes of this blog, we’re considering a to do list that only contains academic things.

Quadrant I is important, urgent items. Your house is on fire? Quick, write it into the quadrant (actually, don’t) and get out. Gotta pee? Quadrant I. That 14 page paper you have been putting off for 2 months and that’s now due tomorrow? That’s important and urgent, now. Quadrant II is important, but not urgent. That’s where you put stuff like calculus homework due next week, a paper due in a month, and so on.urgency

(Source: SidSavara.com)

Quadrant III is where you have to make some choices: these are not important, but urgent things are ones you can’t get out of. They might be homework assignments for classes you hate, or conversations with that roommate who never shuts up. It might be scheduling an appointment with your advisor because you know you have to do it this term. They might include eating before you pass out.

Quadrant IV is for not important, not urgent stuff. Just thinking about what might go here can help you focus your energies. Tragically, reading hilarious Wikipedia articles is not going to get your important, urgent tasks done. Neither will re-watching every episode of your favorite childhood cartoon on YouTube. Someday these things may ec=-

The trick with this system is doing things before they become important and urgent, because most things eventually become urgent if you do not attend to them. Not important and not urgent – those might be things you want to do, like Facebook, or things that otherwise do not improve your life. I used to put “Return library books” on there because even though it was not important (at least before they were overdue), and not even really urgent, it made me feel productive. Don’t do that.

I used this system for years and it helped me become a top student in high school, college, and graduate school. Here are my tips:

  1. Break down big tasks into smaller tasks. “Dissertation” was important, but putting it on my to do list was, obviously, useless. “Add suggested sources to dissertation prospectus” was not, and it was both important and urgent.
  2. Appointments are important and urgent, because flaking out is shady, and having an appointment in your day affects how much of your time is left to do other things.
  3. Put categories of unimportant, not-urgent stuff in Quadrant IV. Don’t write in specific timewasters, but keep your eye on it and ask yourself if you are getting distracted or if what you are doing is contributing to the big picture.
  4. Consider each item in Quadrant II to be a ticking time bomb. If you don’t deal with it, after a while it will become urgent. And urgent, important tasks are no fun.
  5. Only you get to decide what is important. Sometimes, school gets so intense you have to make tough decisions, and this might mean that a worksheet for art history isn’t as important as, say, a business exam. This might mean that you need to outsource or ask for help.

Have you let an important task become urgent? Are you trying to delegate your work flow so that you can work smarter, not harder? Try letting an Unemployed Professor tackle the task so you can focus on other important things.

The Pareto Principle

ParetoYou’ve probably heard the saying that 80% of the work gets done in 20% of the time. But what does that even mean, especially for the less mathematically inclined? Simply put, this mantra means that 80% of people’s work time is spent on trivial tasks. It is only in 20% of the time that the real work gets done. Why? Just think of all the distractions that compete for your time.

There are 5 workdays in a week. 4 of them are totally wasted on busywork. Think about this in terms of school: Maybe 1 day a week you have classes for your major. The rest of your time might be lectures, worksheets, web post discussions, quizzes, reaction papers about your feelings, dioramas, group projects, and so on, needlessly, sucking at your time like a vampire.

The Pareto Principle was named after Vilfredo Principle. Just kidding, his real name was Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923). An early 20th century Italian economist, he observed both that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population and that in his own garden, 80% of the peas were on 20% of the plants (it remains unclear as to whether his garden was located in the 80% or 20% of his own research), he also observed that The principle applies to a great deal of life today, and is at the center of a great deal of management theory, business research, and even psychology. However, you can use it, too, in your everyday life. (Source: 4plebs.org)

He looks a bit like an Unemployed Professor, which means you should totally listen to his advice about time management. In other words, the Pareto Principle tells us that we need to work smarter, not harder. That might mean turning off your phone when you study, or deleting Facebook. It might mean managing your time ever more effectively: for example, do whatever you can to ensure that you shore up important tasks before they become both important and urgent (use a Covey time management graph, the subject of a forthcoming blog post).

Or it might mean looking at your list of dismal, mediocre assignments designed to fluff the ego of your Employed Professor, and outsourcing the job to an Unemployed Professor while you spend your time focusing on what matters to you.

Top 10 Tips For Writing a Professional Research Paper

faq_overHow do we do it? How do we at Unemployed Professors manage to produce so many top-quality research papers in so little time? The answer is that we each have our own method that is designed to create efficiencies while not compromising on quality.
Although there is no single right way of producing a professional research paper, here is one possible approach:

  1. Follow the rubric precisely. If the essay question calls for a ten-side paper divided into two parts addressing two different themes, then write a paper that does just that. Do not imagine that eight or twelve sides is acceptable, or that you can get away with covering only one theme, or that the paper will somehow be enhanced by addressing three or more themes. If the instructions stipulate that Harvard referencing must be used, do not use MLA. It’s basic stuff, but essential.
  2. Search for relevant sources. Sometimes the sources to be used are indicated in the instructions. Most research papers, however, require the writer to conduct independent research and to find appropriate sources him/herself. Click here to find out how to do this. Finding the relevant literature should be one of the first things a writer does. Most are available electronically through university libraries and Google Scholar.
  3. Do the reading. This is often the most time-consuming task, as it can take many hours, if not days, to read the relevant literature. There are some ways to save time: in the case of journal articles, for example, read the abstract first, then the introduction, then the conclusion. That way, you will know the key points the author is trying to make and may also get a sense of where in the article to find other important information. Another option is to use a keyword search in the case of electronic sources.
  4. Take notes. Whenever you come across something in the literature that seems relevant, note it down. If often pays to copy exact quotations together with their page numbers. If you have any thoughts about the literature while reading, especially critical ones, write those down, too. Put your notes for each source in a separate Google Drive document to begin with. Once you have finished reading each source, go through that document and add in the author and year before each page number. This can be done quickly by copying and pasting, and it means you will have a ready-made array of in-text citations to choose from when it comes to the writing stage.
  5. Create a bibliography. Counter-intuitively, the first part of the essay to be finalized will (if you follow this advice) be the bibliography. As you take notes, create a separate bibliography tab on Google Drive and add in the full bibliographic references, organized alphabetically by surname. By the time you have finished note-taking, your bibliography will be complete.
  6. Organize your notes thematically. Once you have done all the reading – and only then – divide your notes into themes or categories. Those themes will probably have suggested themselves to you over the course of the readings; if not, look for common themes as you go through your notes. Using separate Google Drive tabs for each theme, copy and paste the most relevant parts of your notes from their “author” tabs into the new “theme” tabs. Do not cut and paste, as you may potentially need your notes in their original form later on.
  7. Think about structure. The structure of the essay will largely depend on the themes you have identified and the argument you intend to make. It is at this point that you must be clear in your own mind what your thesis statement will be and how best to go about arguing your case given the material and knowledge you now have available. The different themes will likely correspond to different sections of the essay, but you will also need to have something original to say in each section that can form the “red thread” of your argument.
  8. Write up each section in turn. Now that you have a good sense of the overall shape of the paper, go through each section, turning the ready-made array of relevant thoughts and quotations into beautiful flowing prose. If the referencing style requires footnotes rather than in-text citations, be sure to use footnotes as you write up. Style is not something that can be easily taught; it develops over many years. Nevertheless, the professional writer can be relied upon to produce lucid, unambiguous sentences as well as touches of stylistic flourish. Plagiarism is unacceptable. Collate the various sections into one document so as to produce a single flowing argument.
  9. Add the introduction and conclusion. Just as the bibliography comes first in order of completion, so the introduction comes last (along with the conclusion). For only once the body of the essay has been written up does it become absolutely certain what the argument is. Only at this point can a punchy introduction be written that confidently announces a thesis statement and offers a “roadmap” for the rest of the essay. Similarly, only at this point is it absolutely clear what the sum findings of the argument are, making it easy to summarize those findings in the conclusion.

Format the paper and proof read. Once the body of the paper has been written, add the bibliography and format the paper according to requirements. Usually this involves the Times New Roman font, size 12, double-spaced with 2.5cm margins. Be sure to include page numbers, and make sure the page count (or word count) is correct. Perform a spelling and grammar check using your word processor. Finally, proof read the entire paper to make certain that its quality is as good as it can be.

If you need help with an essay or term paper post your project on unemployed professors today!

How To Find And Evaluate Credible Sources For Your Research Paper

birthThe essence of writing a research paper is engaging critically with a particular scholarly debate and making an original intervention of some kind. Key to writing a top-quality research paper, therefore, is making sure that you draw upon and critically evaluate the right sources. This involves two stages:

Finding Credible Sources

The sources you use must, in the main, be recognized scholarly sources, principally journal articles, academic books, and book chapters. Other allowable, if less common, sources include (but are by no means limited to) government websites, reports published by NGOs, academic conference proceedings, and media pieces of special significance. This means that you must resist the urge to include newspaper and magazine articles, blog entries, and random internet sites unless absolutely necessary for some reason. Wikipedia must definitely not appear in your research paper. The key principle for determining whether or not something should be deemed a credible source is usually (though not always) whether or not that source has undergone some form of academic peer review. You might also consider whether or not the author of a particular text is a reputable scholar working within the Higher Education sector, rather than, say, an ideologue, a journalist, or a talking head. Remember, the intervention you are aiming to make must be a scholarly one, and to that end you must target scholarly sources.

The best place to start when looking for credible sources is your university library. Virtually all university libraries today offer physical and electronic access to an enormous range of scholarly resources. Start with the library’s search engine, and think very hard about the key terms you wish to search for. Be as narrow and specific as you can, otherwise you risk being inundated with thousands upon thousands of results, and finding your credible sources becomes like looking for a needle in a haystack. Most library search engines offer the possibility to refine your results by, for instance, books that are available in the university library and “peer-reviewed journal articles only.” Such filters are using for eliminating newspaper and magazine articles, which might otherwise also be thrown up. You can also usually filter results by “relevance” (how closely the item corresponds to the search terms) and by “date: newest first.” One useful tip is to begin by sorting by date and to read the most recent literature first. The reason for this is that the most recent literature will not only reflect debates that are ongoing, but it will also refer back to previous literature and give you a clear indication of what has already been said so that you do not necessarily have to read all the older literature yourself. Of course, searches by date should be accompanied by searches for relevance to make sure you are not missing a very relevant but older text, and the fact of starting with newer texts does not mean that older texts should not be read. It does mean that you will develop an overview of current debates more quickly, however.

Provided you have the relevant login details (normally your student ID and password), you should be able to download the vast majority of the electronic resources that appear in the search results from your university library. In practice, however, this is not always easy, especially if you do not have much experience with the process. Different university systems have different ways of accessing the texts that appear in the search results. Usually there is a link to “view online” or similar, which then takes you to database such as EBSCO Host or JStor, where you have to click again to access the text you want. Even when the text finally comes up, typically in pdf format, you still have to find a way of downloading it, and that will depend on the specific website to which you have been redirected by the database (e.g. an academic journal website). Other variants of this somewhat convoluted process are possible. The key point is, however, you should be able to access virtually every text that appears in your search results. Do not be put off by the practical challenges of doing so. Ask a librarian for help. It is important that you get hold of the right texts.

Another useful source for locating and accessing scholarly literature – though nowhere near as good as your university library – is Google Scholar. Sometimes you get lucky and authors have posted their articles in pdf format online somewhere (e.g. academia.edu), in which case Google Scholar often has a link to the article and you can download it for free. Often, however, Google Scholar will direct you to a journal website that requires a paid subscription to be able to access the article, in which case you need to make use of your university’s subscription (if it has one) by going through your university system.

It is also worth making use of Google Books: it never lets you see the whole book, and sometimes it does not let you see any of the book, but it certainly beats carting books back from the library or waiting for books to come through on interlibrary loan. Of course, you may still want to get hold of a physical copy, either because you cannot see the pages you need or the book is so important to your research that it would be easier simply to own a copy, but in many cases you can find what you need on Google Books.

Evaluating Credible Sources

Once you have the texts you need, the next step is to evaluate them critically. In order to do so, you need first to understand the argument the author of an individual text is making. To that end, it pays to take notes as you read so that you can go back through those notes and glean an overview of the key points of the argument, along with any key quotes. It also helps to read secondary literature: other commentators may be able to shed light on the text, or point out things that you did not see yourself. Having said that, do not feel obliged to consult secondary literature, and be wary of over-relying on others’ opinions. The aim is to develop your own critical analysis of the text, not to regurgitate what others have written.

When you feel as though you properly understand what the text is trying to convey on its own terms, you need to approach it a second time, only this time with a good dose of scepticism. You need to ask some probing questions. For example, where are the logical inconsistencies in the argument (there are usually some)? What important facts has the author neglected to mention that might run counter to his/her argument? What is the author’s ideological bias, and how does it affect the quality of the argument? What rhetorical techniques does the author use to mask the deficiencies in his/her argument? And so on. The aim of this second reading is to understand the text in your terms, not the author’s. Of course, it may be that you think the text is virtually flawless, which is fine provided you can justify that opinion (but remember: no text is completely flawless).

If, for each credible source, you are able to outline the argument, identify its strengths and weaknesses, and weigh those strengths and weaknesses against one another, then you are critically evaluating that source. By repeating the process for multiple sources, you will find that your own voice emerges strongly and authoritatively and that you have something interesting and original to say when it comes to making your own argument.

If you need help with an essay or term paper post your project on unemployed professors today!

Top 10 Term Paper Writing Mistakes

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Despite the fact that most university assessments take the form of essay writing, relatively few professors bother to explain the fundamentals of essay writing to their students. As a result, the same mistakes tend to recur in students’ essays.

Here are ten of the most common:

  1. Not following the rubric. All essays must meet certain basic requirements, such as an appropriate number of sources to include, the word count, the correct referencing style, and so on. They must also meet the deadline. Failure to follow the rubric will result in automatic deductions from the final grade.
  2. Not answering the question. Some students begin by answering the question directly, only to drift off topic part way through the essay. Others change the essay question without permission in order to make it easier to answer. Other, more industrious, think they need to show off as many aspects of their extensive reading as possible, even if it has little or nothing to do with the question asked. In each case, there is a failure to stick to the question asked. This can be avoided by paying close attention to the precise wording of the essay question and checking at the end of each paragraph that it answers the question in some way.
  3. Little or no evidence of independent research. Doing the reading is normally the most time-consuming part of producing an essay. Often students simply cannot be bothered. This results in essays that fail to situate their arguments with respect to the relevant academic literature. Such essays consequently tend toward mere expressions of opinion rather than critically scholarly analysis. The antidote is, of course, to take the time to do the reading and to make sure you refer to relevant texts in your essay. Only texts that are referenced in the body of the essay should appear in the bibliography.
  4. The student’s own voice gets lost. The opposite tendency to not doing the reading is to read too widely and to get lost within the arguments of other scholars. Such papers often amount to: “scholar X say this, scholar Y says that, and scholar Z says something else.” The student’s own voice is absent, drowned out by the opinions of others. The trick is to evaluate the literature critically – to say what you think about it in the context of your own argument, not simply to cite the literature for the sake of citing it.
  5. Poor presentation. This can take a variety of forms. For example, the essay may become increasingly illegible as the printer ink runs out. It may be printed using the wrong font type and font size (Times New Roman, size 12 is the default option), or it may inconsistently use a variety of font types and font sizes. The line spacing and the margins may be wrong (double-spaced with 2.5cm margins is the norm). There may be a large blank space in the middle of the essay because of a word-processing error. The essay might display the student’s name instead of a student number (most universities prefer the latter so as to facilitate anonymous grading). In most cases, a simple proof-read of the final copy of the essay before submission is enough to detect presentational errors so that they can be eliminated.
  6. Poor spelling and grammar. Good spelling and grammar are like good manners: they make it easy for the reader to follow the flow of the essay without having to pause in order to ask: what is the student trying to say here? There is no excuse for poor spelling and grammar, because all reputable word processors have a tool to check for spelling mistakes and grammatical inconsistencies. Non-native English speakers are advised to have a native English speaker proof-read their essays prior to submission in order to make sure that their English flows properly.
  7. Poor referencing. For most Arts and Humanities and Social Science subjects, referencing nearly always falls into one of three styles: MLA, Harvard, or APA. Within each style, students generally only need to know how to reference books, book chapters, and journal articles, as well as how to format a bibliography. Yet, a sizeable minority of students fail to invest the short amount of time needed to learn correct referencing. Consequently, they get a lower grade than they need to even if the quality of their argument is high. Referencing style guidelines are easy to find online: it pays to familiarize yourself with them.
  8. Failure to grasp key concepts. Where students start work on an essay at the last minute, do not read enough secondary literature, and/or fail to invest enough time in thinking through what they have read, they run the risk of not grasping key concepts. This reflects a basic failure of understanding. Usually the best remedy is simply to do the work in the first place, or else to make use of your professor’s office hours if you are still struggling to understand.
  9. Poor structure. Essays that have not been properly thought out tend to exhibit poor structure. There is no obvious rationale as to why ideas have been arranged in the order they have been. This makes it hard to follow the argument. There is little or no logical progression to poorly structured arguments, and their hallmark is always that the reader never knows what to expect next. Good structure is put in place at the planning stage of the essay. Do not start writing as soon as you have finished the reading; instead take a moment to be clear about what it is you want to argue and how you intend to argue it. Clearly structured essays might make arguments for and against a particular thesis (rebutting counterarguments along the way). Or they might work through material/events in chronological order. Or they might proceed topic by topic or text by text. There is no single right way of structuring an essay, but a sensible rationale must be inferrable.
  10. Plagiarism. This is passing someone else’s ideas off as your own. In its crudest form, students simply copy and paste parts of another author’s writings from the internet. Professors usually spot this immediately, because the writing style suddenly changes. A more subtle form of plagiarism involves paraphrasing someone else’s ideas and presenting them as your own without giving due credit to that person. Again, professors often recognize when students are stealing someone else’ argument. Sometimes students plagiarize unintentionally by not including enough references to make clear that another person’s ideas are being invoked. Paying someone else to write your essay for you also counts as plagiarism and carries severe penalties if detected. Most universities these days offer guidance on how to avoid plagiarism, and resources are also freely available online. The simplest way, however, is to make sure you include a reference every time you invoke an idea that is not your own.

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