Well Done

This comment represents an affirmative reply. Most students who receive this comment typically write papers that are clearly distinguishable (i.e. in quality, effort, critical thinking) from the other students’ papers in the class, but this is a simplistic explanation.

To best illustrate what your professor means by this comment, I have provided an example on the subject of baking. Study the example and the explanation that follows. The sample is subject to U.S. copyright law and is only displayed here for educational purposes.

Figure 87: Sample Instructions for “JIFFY” Corn Muffin Mix

Yield 6-8 muffins depending on size

Ingredients

1 pkg. JIFFY Corn Muffin Mix (box)

1 egg

1/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grease muffin pans or use paper baking cups.

BLEND ingredients.  Batter will be slightly lumpy.  (For maximum crown on muffins let batter rest for 3 or 4 minutes, restir before filling cups.)

FILL muffin cups ½ full.

BAKE 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Source:  Chelsea Milling Company, www.jiffymix.com

To really understand this example, buy a JIFFY Corn Muffin box and follow the instructions on the box, which are the same above. According to JIFFY, all of the ingredients above are necessary for the mix to become corn muffins. If the egg was not necessary, for example, then other words such as “just add water” would be on the box. One ingredient not added during the mixing process will result in a product that is not completely done.

The batter must be baked at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. If the batter is cooked for only 12 minutes at 400 degrees, then the batter will not be completely done when you take it out of the oven. In other words, you will not have corn muffins. Remember what your mother used to say: Stick a fork in it and see if it is done. You know when a batter is done when you stick a fork into it and there isn’t wet batter on the fork. When it’s done, the mix will be dry. If any of these steps are not followed as instructed, then you will NOT have corn muffins for dinner.

Why offer “cooking corn muffins” as an example for this comment? This is the best illustration because it is important to follow instructions. This is the simplest way we can help you understand the value of instructions. Everything has a set of instructions. If you want to learn a certain computer program, you read the instructions. If you want to program your VCR, you read the instructions. If you want to play video games, you read the instructions on how to hook up the joystick and other controllers. If you want to bake a cake, ride a bike, do your taxes, drive a car, watch a movie, call someone on the phone, do anything on this earth for that matter, YOU READ THE INSTRUCTIONS! You cannot negotiate life without reading the instructions.

Likewise, you cannot write your papers without understanding first your professor’s instructions. If your professor instructs you to incorporate (BLEND) ten reference sources within your paper and you incorporate only eight, then your paper is not done. If your professor instructs you to double-space the paper, and you single-space it, then your paper is not done. If your professor instructs you that your paper must be at least 15 pages (FILL) and you have only 14 pages, then your paper is not done. Last, if you work (BAKE) on a paper that is supposed to be 15 pages for only a day, then your paper is not done. If you do anything other than what your professor instructs you to do, then your paper is not done.

In other words, all of the ingredients you do have cannot mix together to become the paper that the professor has instructed you to make. When you do exactly what the professor instructs you to do, how he or she wants you to do it, for the approximate amount of time he or she thinks it should take, then your paper is done. You have followed the instructions.

Now here comes the “but”! Just because the paper is done, doesn’t mean that it is complete. You can follow the instructions of your professor and mix all of the ingredients and still forget to add analysis. Of course, the instructions on the JIFFY box don’t use the word “analyze” in reference to watching the batter in the oven like a hawk. However, it does use the words “BAKE 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.” The muffins are complete at both the 15-20 minutes increment and at the stage of “golden brown.” In other words, if you choose to take the muffins out at 15 minutes or 20 minutes, you can do this without being penalized from the stove. You can also take the muffins out at “golden brown.” The difference between the two is that at “golden brown,” the muffins are well done!

You can follow the instructions of your professor and write a paper according to the way the professor wants it. You can mix all of the ingredients of thesis, topic sentences, examples, quotes, body paragraphs, conclusion, and anything else that your professor says to mix together and bake, and your paper will be done. However, if you add in analysis to make the paper “golden brown,” then your paper will be well done!

We know that you want to ask this next question, so we will ask it for you: Can we add to the instructions? No. Your professor expects you to do what he or she tells you to do. Don’t take away from the instructions. Don’t add to them. However, at the college level, it is a given that most of your papers will be in the form of analysis in the same way that it is a given that in order for the mix to become muffins they must be placed in the stove to cook. This is a given. If you don’t understand this, then you will not be successful at cooking muffins, let alone homemade biscuits.

Similarly, if you don’t understand that analysis is an important ingredient to your paper, then you will not be successful at finishing a paper, let alone revising it. Make sure that your papers are done. In other words, use the professor’s instructions as a pre-writing to-do list and as a post-writing checklist. Hold the professor’s instructions in one hand and your paper in another and go down each line of both lists to make sure that you have followed instructions, first, and to make sure that your paper is fully cooked (done), second.

Your mother tells you to take out the trash, but instead you wash the dishes. You say to your mother, “I did something extra. I did the dishes.” However, you did not do the first thing your mother told you to do. Just because you do something extra doesn’t mean you have done exactly what mom has told you to do. Follow the first instruction. Don’t substitute. Likewise, just because you add in an extra paragraph with nice and appropriate examples doesn’t mean you have done the job your professor has instructed you to do through the essay prompt. You were supposed to use 10 sources (bibliography), two tales from the Canterbury Tales, two characters from each tale, and two examples of things that “each character” does. Adding one character and an analysis of three tales is not following the first instructions of your professor.

Make sure the paper is done the way the professor wants it. With this in mind, you will garner a “well done” from your professor when you analyze the two tales, when you analyze the 10 sources you incorporate into the analysis, when you analyze each character from each of the two tales, and when you analyze the two example things that each character does. Don’t just analyze two paragraphs and leave the rest of the paper to plot summary.

Therefore, the best way to achieve a “Well Done” from your professor, in addition to the instructions above, is to develop a relationship with the characters you want to include in your paper. What do you like about them? What don’t you like about them? What makes you mad? What makes you happy? Why do you think that these characters are in the right roles within the story? Why do you think they would be better in another role within the story?

Now think about how the author presents them. What do you think is the author’s reason behind placing one character in one position and another character in another position? Do you think the author has been wise in his or her assessment of each character or do you think the author has been wise in presenting how another character thinks about the character you are discussing within your analysis?

Pick at the characters. Pick at the author. Think about the context, the time period, the language, the tone, and the larger implications. Revise your papers to make the professor remember your analysis as different from every other student. For extended explanations, see also the comments “Excellent Synthesis,” “Incomplete,” and “Nice/Nicely Done.”

For extended explanations, see also the comments “Excellent Synthesis,” “Incomplete,” and “Nice/Nicely Done!

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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