Between Tuesday and Thursday, I reviewed the rough (or very rough) drafts
of some of your research papers. My reviews were somewhat cursory: I tried to
look at the overall structure of your paper, the flow of ideas, and support
for your thesis. At the same time, I tried to identify some common
problems that I hope to see resolved in the final versions. This document
reports on many of those problems.
- Make sure your primary text is double-spaced. I realize double-spacing uses more paper, but double-spaced papers are much easier to edit.
- Make sure your papers are numbered. It is much easier for others to discuss y our work if it has page numbers.
- When you distribute work to the class, please use plain text, HTML, PDF, Microsoft Word .doc format, or rich text format.
- Put your name and the date at the top of your first page.
Form and Structure
- You are writing formal academic essays. Please don't make your writing sound chatty or like yellow journalism.
- Please avoid meta writing like
The last paragraph brings up an important point. If you have trouble finding ways to lead the reader through your essay, please talk to me or the writing lab (or both).
- Think about your essay in terms of combining building blocks to support points.
- Each paragraph has a point and the sentences of the paragraph build to or support that point.
- Each section has a point and the paragraphs of the section build to or support that point.
- The essay has a point and the sections of the essay build to or support that point.
- Use an outline to help yourself reflect on flow and the use of these building blocks.
- Feel free to include section headings. Section headings clarify your structure for most readers.
- Be careful with the way you use terms. Many terms have widely accepted meanings, and you can't change them. Terms that I've seen misused include
- Many of you write paragraphs that are much too long. Try to stick to one central point per paragraph.
- A few of you write paragraphs that are much too short. Make sure that each paragraph provides enough evidence to support your point.
Citations and Sources
- Since all of your essays will be joined together, you should all use the same format. You must use APA style for the final version of your essay.
- Use APA style for citations.
- Use APA style for the bibliography that ends your paper.
- Separate your bibliography into two parts: (1) Everything other than court cases; (2) Court cases.
- In case that wasn't clear, make sure to cite court cases.
- When you discuss the law, you should cite and quote the law directly (or a court's explicit interpretation of that law in a ruling) and not someone else's summary of the law.
- In-text citations should be relatively precise. Don't cite a whole book or the top level of a Web site; Cite a page in a book or a page within a site.
- When you make broad claims (
The number of copyright violations doubled between 1990 and 2000;
People will boycott companies that use copyright to remove works from the public eye), you need to support those claims with evidence. For your papers, evidence will generally be a citation of someone else's study about the matter. For many papers, evidence requires a lot of research and careful presentation of that research.
- It is hard to provide negative evidence (
No suits that reached the courts have discussed this matter). A footnote or endnote (or perhaps even in-text discussion) should suggest how you reach such conclusions.
More Writing Bugaboos
- Avoid double negatives
- Make sure that you use words that mean the right thing.
- A number of papers refer to the four aspects of fair use. I expect that we'd be better off with an appendix on fair use that goes into a little more depth.
- Similarly, a number of papers refer to the first sale doctrine. An appendix on first sale would be helpful.
- An appendix that summarizes DMCA would be helpful.
- Summaries of important cases: The Betamax case, the Pretty Woman case, ...
If no one volunteers to write these appendices, Ms. Green or Mr. Rebelsky will probably write them.
Wednesday, 5 November 2003 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]
Thursday, 6 November 2003 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]
- A few minor updates.