get good grades

Writing the Research Paper: Interview with Amanda Christie

 

This week we interview Amanda Christie, academic writing coach and editor at PFAU Academic Writing, about what it takes to write a solid research paper. We thought this topic would be helpful to our listeners who are currently working on their term research papers and feeling a bit overwhelmed. While writing can be stressful and time-consuming, a well-thought out and detailed research, note-taking, and planning process can make writing much easier.

Screenshot 20201129 125306 1 1 e1611451922988 283x300 Writing the Research Paper: Interview with Amanda Christie

 

Amanda comes from a family of teachers and professors, but she also is no slouch herself. She has a BA (Hons) in Global Development and Gender Studies from Queen’s University, and has worked on research projects with the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women, Newcomer Women’s Services, and Singing Out. She also presented at several conferences throughout Ontario as coordinator for a youth drop-in centre, and has a real passion for the education of young adults – helping them to edit essays, improve assignments, enhance university applications, and polish up English as a second language skills.

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What do you think is the value of feedback from other people on research papers?

No matter how good a paper might be, it is always nice to have a second set of eyes on it to make sure that someone else can understand you. It is really easy to make assumptions about what you mean when you are reading your own work. When you wrote it yourself, you know what you mean, but someone else might not understand your argument. In addition, it is great to have an outside perspective because you might be asked questions that you did not think about and given suggestions on how to expand your argument. Sometimes other people might even have extra resources for you that are helpful for the paper. Generally, it is just great to exchange ideas with others.

 What do you think is the most challenging aspect of writing a good quality research paper?

I think the most challenging thing is keeping the paper organized. Often, people have a lot of really great ideas, but they do not always communicate them clearly, which results in the effect being lost. You can have the best argument in the world, but if it is not coming across to your readers, it is ineffective. I think that it is important to remember the flow of your essay and that each paragraph should have strong arguments that related to your main point. You should back those arguments up in a logical way and building upon each new idea. Ideas should not come out of the blue and you should not be jumping back and forth between topics or ideas. It is key to also have transition sentences. The ability to link your ideas into a coherent argument or logic is what takes a paper from a C to an A.

What is the most common error you see when providing feedback on research paper drafts?

I think the most common error is the lack of specificity and evidence, for example, insufficient supporting evidence like statistics and quotations. I find that a lot of people do not always back up or prove their claims, and they just stick them in their papers as assumptions and reality. On the flip side, sometimes people use evidence incorrectly or in a way that is not as impactful. For example, you may be plopping a quotation into an essay without any subsequent analysis. I think that goes back to taking the time to do detailed research notes to help you figure out which evidence you want to use and which is no longer relevant.

What are the top three tips for students who are adjusting to university-level writing?

First of all, I want to remind everyone to not take their grades personally. Your worth is not tied to your grades; it is merely a measure of skill assessment. Second of all, work on developing strong thesis statements. The thesis statement sets up the argument and structure of your paper. Third of all, ensure that your essay structure and flow works to support the argument that you outline in your thesis statement. It is essential to ensure that your ideas connect to and build off of each other, and not just merely floating island on the page.

 

Recommended Books

Decolonizing Methodologies by Linda Tuhiwai Smith

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks

Thank you, Amanda, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

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For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

The Art of Proofreading: Podcast Live!
PFAU 36 panel 4 01 290x300 The Art of Proofreading: Podcast Live!

 We interview Daina Sparling, an editor and proofreader at PFAU Academic Writing, about something students often take for granted – editing! Good writers know that the first draft is never going to be their best work. They need to put aside time to revise, edit, and proofread their work. The best writers have colleagues or professionals to provide them with insights on their work and to fix any issues. Like all art, writing takes multiple drafts to reach a level of greatness.

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

The Value of Editing

Skills and Knowledge of a Good Editor

The Essay-Editing Process

Common mistakes made in essays and how to avoid them

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To get more help with academic writing, application coaching, or professional development, book a 20 minute discovery call with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


All the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Grade Appeal: Interview with Lisa Pfau

 

This week PFAU Academic Writing Creative Marketing Assistant, Jingyi (Jane) Miao interviewed Lisa Pfau, the founder and CEO of Pfau Academic Writingabout how to successfully appeal a grade. Sometimes students work really hard on an assignment, but they do not get the grade they are expecting. This is usually because of a misunderstanding between the marker and the student. In these cases, it is often helpful to meet with your TA or professor to discuss the grading. These discussions are more challenging during Covid-19 because of social distancing; however, it is possible with strategies to successfully negotiate a better grade.  

DSC05821 edited 300x300 Grade Appeal: Interview with Lisa Pfau

 

Lisa has over 20 years of experience helping students with essay writing, application support and career development. Jane first met Lisa three years ago as a first-year International student at the University of Toronto. Lisa has helped her with the transition from high school to university, especially understanding the best way to talk to professors and TAs about assignments and grades. 

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In what kinds of situations would you recommend students appeal their grades?

It kind of depends on how you feel about the assignment or exam. Did you feel that you put a lot of effort into the work? Do you feel like you prepared well? Do you feel like you took the time to read the question and talk to the TA and talk to the professor? Is it a huge surprise when you receive this grade? Maybe students thought that they did a good job and were expecting a grade in the 80s or 90s, but only got 60-something. Then, I think it’s worth going to talk to the professor or TA. On the other side, if you are aware that you might have made some mistakes, then I don’t think it’s worth appealing your grade. It is really when your expected outcome is very different from the actual outcome then it is worth appealing your grades.

 Could you please provide us with an overview of the grade appeal process?

It is actually a very elaborate process that is kind of similar to going through the civil court system with a complaint. First, I would caution that not many individuals are going to go through the formal process, and it worth avoiding unless you really feel you’ve been treated unfairly. In a case where you feel that the professor or TA has a bias against you or has expressed some dislike of you, and you feel mistreated, I would suggest a formal appeal. Or, if your exam or paper being lost by the grader and you ended up receiving a zero would also be a situation when I’d recommend a formal appeal.

The first and best step regardless of your situation is to go and speak directly to your teacher, TA, or professor about the grade. Now, before you ask them to regrade your exam or assignment, take the time to clarify what you did wrong and why you received the grade that you did. If after that discussion, you still disagree with the grade that you received, then I would suggest requesting them to regrade it. However, I suggest you don’t do that on the spot, but take some time to think and prepare your grade appeal request. In many cases, in order to have an exam or assignment regraded, even by your Professor, you need to submit a request in writing. Students should prepare an argument to point out where they think the markers made a mistake and what they believe they deserve for their work, and submit this along with their official request.

If students think that the re-graded assignment is still unfair, then they can appeal to the department through another formal request. It is important to document each step through email and notes as much as possible, especially if you feel you have been discriminated against or are dealing with a missing assignment/exam. Students can go see their undergraduate advisors and talk to them and find out the specific process to appeal to a higher level. It is always good to have additional support and familiarize yourself with all the procedures before you proceed. As I said, I can be a lengthy process if you take it all the way to the top.

As you proceed, the process becomes more formalized, much like a court case. You will need to submit forms, provide documentations or proof, and meet submission deadlines. Usually, after the department you would appeal to the Faculty of Arts, for example, and then the University Senate, if you are very serious. This would be similar to taking a case to the Supreme Court of Canada in that it is your last resort and the final decision about your grade appeal. Students will often times appear before the Senate, and give some sort of statement. After which, the Senate would vote on your grade appeal, along with many other areas of administrative business. Very few students who come to me to ask about appealing an assignment or exam grade go that far. Most grade appeals are resolved after a simple conversation with a Professor.

What tips would you give students before they talk to professors about their grades?

I encourage you to take a growth-mindset. That means going to talk to your TA or your professor about why you received a certain grade, rather than simply claiming – “I deserve a higher grade!” There are a couple of reasons why I encourage students to approach with the intention to learn, not defend.

First, you will be more successful in your grade appeal if you have a clear understanding of what the grader was looking for and can demonstrate to them in concrete terms that your assignment or exam did in fact fulfill that criteria. If you can point theses areas out to the grader, it makes their job much easier too and they are more likely to understand your perspective if you can show that you also understand theirs. Thus, it is useful to gather more information about the grading process and where you might have gone wrong, before you go in guns blazing.

Second, no one likes to deal with complaints, especially TAs and Professors. Teacher’s are motivated by students’ passion for learning, and put off by the clamor for higher grades. If you can show that you actually want to learn and improve, you are more likely to get a positive response from the grader.

Third, it is possible your grade may decrease through the regrading process as you are risking the grader picking up on another mistake that they may have missed during their first review. Therefore, it is essential that you review your work and determine that there are actually areas that the grader missed and deserve marks before handing them your work again. They will pay much closer attention the second time around and do not want to be shown up by a cocky student, so make sure you know what you’re talking about before you accuse someone of making a mistake.

 

Recommended Books and Resources

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy

Slack

Trello

Thank you, Lisa, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

_

_

For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

_

To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Creating an Introvert Friendly Educational Environment: Podcast Episode Live!
Comic 25 panel 4 e1601490165649 300x268 Creating an Introvert Friendly Educational Environment: Podcast Episode Live!

 We interview Julia Burdajewicz, also known as the Germann Introvert, a health psychology student and digital content creator, about understanding introversion and breaking down barriers that often hold introverts back. The student experience as an introvert can also be challenging, especially in large educational institutions with tens of thousands of students.

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

Common misconceptions about introverts

How does introversion impact performance at school

Tips for students who identify themselves as introverts

How to maintain a healthy balance in life as an introvert

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To get more help with academic writing, application coaching, or professional development, book a 20 minute discovery call with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


All the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

The Art of Writing: Podcast Episode Live!
Pfau pfau Essay Writing Workshop photo 245x300 The Art of Writing: Podcast Episode Live!

We interview, Laifong Leung, Chinese Language and Literature scholar, about the art of writing, a process that can bring a lifetime of joy, frustration, and inevitably fulfillment.

HIGHLIGHTS

Career paths available with a degree in literature

The rewards and challenges of becoming a Professor

A glimpse into the process of writing books and academic articles

The benefits and transferable skills of a liberal arts degree

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To get more help with academic writing, application coaching, or professional development, book a 20 minute discovery call with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


All the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Making the Transition to University: Podcast Episode Live!
PFAU 30 Pfau pfau cartoon icon 01 300x297 Making the Transition to University: Podcast Episode Live!

We interview, David Zarnett, the Undergraduate Student Advisor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto, as well as an experienced lecturer on global security, human rights, international cooperation, and war and peace, about how to make the transition to University.

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

The difference between writing essays in high school vs. university

Getting over fears of talking to Professors

The role of an Undergrad Advisor and why it’s important to get to know your own

The most important thing a first-year undergrad needs to know

 

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To get more help with academic writing, application coaching, or professional development, book a 20 minute discovery call with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


All the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Resilience Boosting During COVID-19: Podcast Episode Live!
PFAU 31 panel 3 290x300 Resilience Boosting During COVID 19: Podcast Episode Live!

We interview, Sarah Lang, a certified coach, who supports people to dream big, launch new projects, and bring creative visions to life, about how to boost your academic resilience during COVID-19.

HIGHLIGHTS

The importance of resilience in finding your dream career

The link between resilience and academic performance

Advice on preparing for the Fall term in the midst of the pandemic

Tools and resources for students to boost their resilience

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To get more help with academic writing, application coaching, or professional development, book a 20 minute discovery call with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


All the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Scared that you are missing something?
The Student Experience: Podcast Episode Live!
PFAU 12 panel 4 1 300x300 The Student Experience: Podcast Episode Live!

We interview, Lisa Meng, a recent Bachelor of Psychology graduate, about the what she has learned after reflecting on her four years of undergraduate experience.

HIGHLIGHTS

Things to think about when transitioning from high school to university

The importance of accessing campus resources

What to avoid during your first-year

The pros and cons of roommates

The biggest challenge going from high school to university

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To get more help with academic writing, application coaching, or professional development, book a 20 minute discovery call with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


All the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.