How to Receive a Paper Back from Assessment
One of the most important and, alas, overlooked aspects of learning in college is the appropriate receipt of a written assignment that the instructor has graded, commented upon, and returned to the writer. Sometimes, a student will immediately open to the last page, check first their grade, giving less attention to the marks, comments, and questions the reader has prepared for the author. Often, the author will never work through the comments, correct the mechanical errors, or follow up the return of the paper with a visit to the reader during office hours. The following is a list of suggestions designed to help writers learn the most from their marked papers.
1) When first you receive your paper, put it away until you are out of the classroom and in a quiet place; you are about to do serious reading and need to be free of distractions.
2) Take out a pencil and piece of paper to make your own notes.
3) Read you title. Is there one? Does it reflect your main argument?
4) Read your first paragraph. Has the reader questioned your thesis, case for importance, or methodology? Have you properly written the main text’s title?
5) Check each first sentence of the body paragraphs. Do they explain how the interpretive idea of the paragraph contributes to the paper’s thesis?
6) Is the quotation format correct? Is it properly cited? Do you discuss the use of language in each quotation?
7) Write down questions the author has written in the paper. Can you provide answers to them?
8) Be extra sure to write down any corrections of grammar, punctuation, syntax, and usage. If you do not understand the error, make a note to ask your reader about those, or refer to a good college handbook to correct each error.
9) Where did your paper shine? Where did your reader compliment a phrase, idea, or paragraph? What do you notice about those parts of the paper? How do they differ from other parts?
10) Read the comments at the end carefully. Jot down any questions you have about them to bring to the reader during office hours.
11) Imagine the paper with all the questions addressed, all the errors corrected. What would that paper look like? sound like? Believe that you are able to construct this paper!
12) Commit yourself to addressing all issues in the next paper. Be sure you do not repeat errors! Nobody expects your papers to be perfect, but your reader and you expect each paper to improve upon the weaknesses and strengths of the earlier papers.
13) Review your notes on this process and the reader’s comments on this paper before submitting your next paper.