Friday, May 14, 2010

A Confession of an Unhappy Professor: Essay Writing

“Here we go again”, I think every time that a new pile of turned in essay papers falls onto my table. I’ve been teaching English in this university for ten years, and still there are only a few students that surprised me with their essay writings. The rest of them seems to discover new and extremely exiting ways to irritate me and turn essay paper reading into a nightmare.

I take the first paper. Go thought it. No, I’m not reading yet. The reason I’m not doing it is because it’s not labeled. I mean, there is not even a small attempt to tell me who this unknown author is, what class he belongs to, and what his topic is. And I’m sitting here, staring confused at the paper…. I start feeling like that Greek hero trying to solve Sphinx’s puzzle. If you want to get an unsatisfactory grade, this is the perfect beginning for it. I’m not even going to read this paper. It’s not like something is going to pop up to make me understand who the ultimate genius of this eternal writing is.

I take another essay paper and realize that my happy essay checking evening has only just begun. A wonderful mixture of fancy typefaces looks right at me, and there is no way I’m going to understand something (or at least a heading) from all these italics and bolds. I bet that even Picasso’s paintings are easier to comprehend. Whatever this essay paper is about, I don’t feel like pretending to be Sherlock Holmes: “It’s simple, Watson! This essay paper is about monkeys that love bananas. How did I come up with such a smart conclusion? Because I’m one smart guy”. Give me a break.

Even though I gave this paper a chance, it failed on the next stage – plagiarism check. And this is something I’m not able to forgive under any circumstances. Every student has a chance to make several essay drafts. Is it so hard to come up with something that can be called “personal opinion”? Why do so many students prefer to take quotations, but don’t feel like providing references? And here’s one more thing about quotations – an essay paper that is made of them on more than a half can not impress any professor. I’m not an exception.

Next essay paper goes to a trash bin, too. No, not because I’m “cute and cuddly”, but because it is full of slang and contractions. Never, please, never use contractions and slang (the last one especially) in your academic writing. Do I look like a jolly uncle that comes to visit and asks his nephews about their trip to Rollercoaster Park? If I do, than… I don’t know what to say.

And here’s one more thing that makes me want to cross an essay paper over with a red marker. A page-long Introduction that is written to impress me and make an essay paper look bigger is worse than bad breath and republicans. If you don’t know what to write about to fit into my requirements for amount of words, try to use your head for a change.

Similar to long Introductions are vague explanations. You probably wanted to make a point. But after that you felt tired, or had to go and water the flowers, or you work as a Superman and have to save the world at nights instead of writing essays for my class… whatever it is that stopped you from writing good explanations, it doesn’t make me feel happy. Maybe, your intentions were different, but I got it this way, and this is the way I grade it.

Why do students want to use the word “believe” instead of “agree”, or “think”? Believe means to have faith, to hold something true on the basis of feelings, without evidence. You are writing as a scientist, so you think, argue, accept, and hold on the basis of some evidence. The rest concerns your religion and believes.

Another thing that irritates me is using “we” instead of “I”. Did Madonna help you on writing this essay, and you feel like giving credit to her? Unless it is a group activity, please use “I”.

And finally – why do you use “its” as possessive, when you mean “it’s” in the meaning it is (which is a contraction, remember)? Can’t you be just a little more attentive?

With respect,

Your grumpy professor.

Jennifer Burns is the head of customer care center at, help essay. Having completed a number of academic assignments himself, Jennifer uses her knowledge to provide individualized customer support to students, who order academic essay and essays writing

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