Common faults that will drop your grade

After reading close to 50 term papers in the last couple of weeks, I see that many small things impact the grading. So to all students out there, here are a few hints to what will most certainly improve your grade (next time):

  • Spelling errors: using modern word processors, there is really no need to have any spelling errors in your documents at all. A few are acceptable; several per page is too much. This will most likely irritate the reader, and your grade will certainly drop.
  • Division of words: this has become a huge problem in Norwegian in recent years. As we get
    more influenced by the English language, more people have started spelling words apart. Sometimes this is semantically harmless; other times, it ends up being involuntary funny, but it may also change the meaning entirely. Anyways, dividing up words still counts as spelling errors.
  • Style: it is always more pleasant to read documents that are well written. I am not a particularly good writer myself, so I am constantly trying to remind myself that it is OK to think about writing as a tool to convey a message. If you are struggling with writing, write shorter sentences. Then check that the sentences make up a logical structure.
  • Informal: a term paper is a formal document, like a research paper or a book, and the language used should be formal. Informal language, which is often acceptable in e-mails or blog post, should be avoided.
  • Punctuation: there should be no space before a punctuation mark and one space after. Parentheses, on the other hand (like this), should have space both before and after. This is really a part of the basics of writing, so I am very sorry that I have to mention this…
  • Layout: a nice-looking document will certainly always give a good impression. Receiving poorly formatted documents, e.g. with 1 cm margins, ugly looking and odd-sized fonts, etc., does not help your grade. Remember to use the same font type and size throughout the document.
  • Line breaks: use either double line breaks or one line break and indention. Mixing them makes for a chaotic visual impression.

Of course, the most important is the paper’s content, but that is a totally different story. Here I would just come with one advice:

  • Clearly state what you want to say, and then say it.

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Alexander Refsum Jensenius is a music researcher and research musician living in Oslo, Norway.