Saint Mary's University Writing Centre

Halifax, NS


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What do students think about the five-paragraph essay?

Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care

by Jennifer P. Gray, Ph.D.

Do you ever wonder what students think about the writing assignments they do for school? Lately, I am hearing about how assignments fit into Common Core areas or how assignments match up with general education requirements, and I’m curious about the students’ perspectives. What do the students think about our assignments? How do they experience them, and what are the lingering effects from our assignments?

To get a better sense of what students think about their writing, I interviewed several first-year writing students at college for a qualitative study, and asked them about their past and present writing experiences. Not surprisingly, every single one of them talked about the five-paragraph essay.

Much of the published work on the positive aspects of the five-paragraph essay focuses on the support for developing structure and the solid beginning model that the format provides (Seo, Smith). The research…

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Lessons Learned: One Writer’s Experience with Revision

Sheelagh Russell-Brown, SMU Writing Centre

“The good news is that your paper has unanimously been recommended for publication”—these are the words that every researcher looks forward to reading. But then comes the proviso—“with, however, a few points that need revision.”

As teachers and tutors, we are advised to always precede the negative comments we may be forced to make on our marking with some positive remark. Sometimes we joke about this well-intentioned recommendation, but with this last piece of revision, I wasn’t laughing so much. The process of revision, especially when driven by the comments of three distinct reviewers, is a useful education in what our students experience during their years of university education—the frustration they feel in deciphering exactly what we mean with our contradictory demands and in attempting to retain their intentions in the face of our more authoritative advice.

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Why Not Finally Answer “Why?”

Taking the time to talk with students about why they’re learning something – especially when it comes to writing skills – can make a world of difference.

Kaplan University

Kyle Harley, Kaplan University Tutor

In the world of higher education, much more than we would like to admit, excuses become commonplace for both student and professor alike. From an educator’s perspective, I need not dive into the laundry list of excuses we have received and will continue to for years to come. Likewise, from listening to students’ perspectives, particularly when frustrated with writing assignments, I find myself just as perplexed to hear these individuals openly wonder why they are learning a particular concept. Even more astonishing is their response: “The professor never really explained it.”

Now, before assuming, I tend to prod these students a bit more and, as we will all be happy to hear, these excuses turn into responses, and they all tend to be the same. Instead of pointing fingers at the professors, more often than not I am finding that students are pointing fingers at…

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