Does the assignment sheet tell you anything about your teacher’s expectations?
- Can you tell if the paper needs to cite outside sources? If so, can the sources include interviews, field research, or just library sources?
- Does the assignment indicate whether you can use personal experiences? Personal (critical) analysis?
Use these two questions to help you determine how much of yourself you need to include in a paper. Most professors who expect to see personal experience or personal thinking on an issue say so pretty clearly in the assignment sheet.
- Does the paper have to follow a specific format? If so, what are the labels for parts of the paper? (Experienced writers use these labels to help generate material for the paper.)
- Does the assignment note specifically the level of formality of the paper? Does it, for instance, note that you should write it for possible publication in a journal?
- Does the assignment specifically note expectations about proofreading? (Often, a prof who reminds students about taking care with punctuation and spelling is asking for a more formal as well as a carefully edited paper.)
Use these questions to help you determine how formal or informal your reader expects your paper to be.
A professor who goes to the trouble of telling writers what to do expects to see those elements in a paper and is usually annoyed when writers violate those expectations. So always use the information your professors give you to meet their stated expectations in a paper. Don't assume all profs are the same!