During a discussion of how to improve student writing, a colleague remarked that she gave her students a checklist for each paper and required them to complete it and attach it to their assignments. This checklist included all the formatting guidelines, like font size and margins, that students often forget (or fudge), and some of the paper requirements, like how many primary sources to cite. In some ways, this infantilized students; in other ways, it is a useful and helpful way to remind them about the paper’s requirements. And, possibly most importantly for some teachers, it is a way of minimizing your own irritation with some pet peeves. And if we’re less annoyed by minutiae, we can actually evaluate the students for what they wrote: what they thought and on what evidence and logic these thoughts were based.
Here is an example from when I tried this on a paper (but did not require students to turn in the completed checklist with their paper):
Final Draft Checklist
Before you turn in the final draft of the paper, please make sure you have done at least the following:
- Discussed one quotation from a piece of literary evidence
- Discussed one other piece of archaeological, epigraphic, literary, or numismatic evidence
- Properly cited, in footnotes, at least two secondary sources
- Included a bibliography of secondary sources after the conclusion of the paper
- Proofread your paper for logical consistency
- Proofread your paper for typos and grammatical errors
- Made the font size 12 and Times New Roman
- All margins are 1 inch
- Double-spaced the paper
- Added page numbers in the footer
- Printed and stapled the paper
- Bring a hard copy of the paper to class on Monday, April 7, 2014.