Common faults that will drop your grade

After reading close to 50 term papers the last couple of weeks, I see that there are many small things that have an impact on 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 is 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 a 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 to 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 content of the paper, 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.