Dan Lindley

Diagnosis of Paper Problems, v. 1

November 18, 1999


1.         Grading Criteria:

            a.         Match of theory to event

                        i.         good, supple use theory

            b.         Good knowledge of event

            c.         Good writing

            d.         Extras: ambitious topic, great history, great writing

            e.         General sense of mastery; the smile vs. the frown


2.         No Theory

3.         No argument

            a.         What causes what?

            b.         Frame problem/topic as question and answer it.

            c.         Arrow diagrams: X —> Y

4.         Too many theories

            a.         avoid shotgun; simple is clearer and better; most related theories will come up in text

5.         Inappropriate use of theory

            a.         mismatch or too broad

            b.         Authors say things like: acted in accordance w/thy; is an example of; illustrates; actors react to theory... but these aren’t causal statements. WHAT causes what?

6.         Assertion

            a.         facts vs. adjectives; delete: this is good; prove: X caused Y. See my handout on cover letter advice for advice (and a rant) against assertions.

7.         Overstatement

8.         Awks, misspellings, weird usage, etc.

9.         Colloquial language: butted heads, harsh, got wind of, etc.

10.       Tentativeness: will try to show, hope to demonstrate

11.       Quality of evidence

            a.         good nuggets: quotes and facts

            b.         causation vs. correlation: does the evidence really prove the point

            c.         look to turning points to distill causal factors

12.       Amount and quality of evidence

            a.         Knowledge of cases

            b.         Feedback w/ accurate use of theory

            c.         Web sites vs. books vs weird sites vs. encyclopedias.

13.       Citations

            a.         please decode website citations to fully indicate authorship

14.       Overall structure

            a.         some post-hoc theory (ie present facts and case history, then end paper discussing the theory). Better to weave in theory from the start and use it as a theme to drive the argument all the way through