Archive for category Affirmative Replies

Brilliantly Done

Essay Section: Topic Sentences

Professors are not typically eager to write this comment on your paper. First, you must understand that when you receive such a comment, the professor is saying to you that you have “earned” the assigned grade. The grade of “A” does not represent a gift in any form. Yes, “Brilliantly Done” corresponds to the receiving of an “A.” These two go together. No professor will unconsciously assign an “A” and immediately imply “brilliance.” However, not every paper that receives an “A” represents brilliance.

When the professor writes both an “A” AND the words “brilliant,” then he is specifically calling attention to your work. He is setting it apart from the other graded papers. There is no way to tell if your paper is the first or the middle or the last. It is easy to assume that only at the end of reading all of the papers that your paper has received the highest commendation.

Professors never tell their secrets, so just assume that your professor is operating with strong mental energy, calling attention to his belief in your keen intelligence, great talent, and skill. Just know that a comment of “brilliant” is not typical, not the standard, and not comparable.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Big Improvement

Essay Section: Topic Sentences

Professors appreciate students who improve their papers. When a professor returns a student’s essay with the option of revising it, he expects that the revised essay will be significantly different from the previous paper(s). Professors tend to label “difference” as “improvement.” In other words, you should never just edit the grammar and think this is all the professor wants from you. Editing the work for grammar is only one part of the revision process.

Revising for tone, logic, coherence, consistency, and coordination of ideas is a labor-intensive process that requires your unwavering patience. You cannot procrastinate when it comes to revising a paper. Your professor will know if you do, because the work in its final stage will expose the truth.

Professors use “Big Improvement” for one or two reasons: 1) to assess the work positively and 2) to provide an assessment that the student’s work has improved, but not significantly to warrant the highest grade. First, professors use this comment to highlight the fact that your paper as a whole has improved from the first read. For example, students typically submit papers that questionably reflect second drafts as final draft papers.

With this in mind, they expect higher points than the essay itself warrants. Although the paper may only be, in essence, a second draft essay, the revised paper as a whole shows greater potential than the first submission. Therefore, a professor will use “Big Improvement” to highlight the fact that you have revised the paper in order to meet the requirements. This is a positive assessment. Your professor may choose to raise your grade by one-half point depending upon how much you have improved the paper.

On the other hand, a comment of “Big Improvement” also reflects a particular sentiment of your professor in regards to the analysis of your paper. Creating and developing “analysis” has become an art. How you evaluate a literary work has direct correlation to how you understand the work. For example, the author never writes with the reader in mind. The author writes for a multitude of reasons, but he never says just before he writes, “I wonder if they (the readers) will like this section.”

In addition, you are not in the room or in the place when the author writes, neither are you in the author’s mind. Therefore, you can’t be certain of what he thinks. You can only assume. You evaluate the work by weighing what the author writes about against criticism and your own views about the work. Since students are not thoroughly familiar with the author’s work and the practice of analyzing, they tend to generalize and summarize the author’s ideas and sentiments and base their understanding on unverified, unvalidated assumptions.

Students typically write first and second draft papers using these methods. The professor’s job is to pick out those areas that need more analysis and more specific details. In this regard, the professor’s primary goal is to inform the student that she needs less summary and more critical thinking.

When the second draft reflects improvement in quality of writing (stronger sentence structure), accuracy of analysis (no unverified assumptions), addition of specific, relevant details (textual support), and sound assessments (evaluation and critical thinking), then professors use “Big Improvement” as a comment that best reflects their sentiment about the ideas you express within the essay. With this type of paper, your professor may raise your grade by one letter, but not to the highest mark.

You may be confused by this, because how professors grade or how they think about your papers isn’t always subject to general reason and logic. Although you have made changes, offered more analysis, and brought credibility, the revised paper still doesn’t reflect an increase in quality as a whole.

In other words, you do well to provide analysis in some areas, but you are 1) still summarizing in other body paragraphs. In addition, 2) the condition of your analysis is shaky. 3) You make claims that are arguably different from the author’s work or the literary critic’s view. 4) The details you provide may be specific, but not necessarily relevant for some paragraphs. 5) Your assessment of the work still needs work. 6) You are still overly generalizing without also thinking about the work from a critical, objective viewpoint. In other words, the 7) views you express and the ones you incorporate from references are still very much subjective. 8) You are still leaving out vital information necessary to the analysis. 9) The paper as a whole appears to be one-sided.

Keep “Big Improvement” in mind as you rewrite and revise areas of your essay that require quality, analysis, details, and sound evaluation. Your professor will undoubtedly expect subsequent third and final draft papers to reflect significant difference from previous drafts.

For an extended explanation, see also the comment “Much More Could Be Said Here.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Excellent

The comment “Excellent” is an affirmative reply.

A professor may write this comment after reading the paper as a whole; or a professor may write “excellent” in the margin of a particular paragraph. The professor typically writes the comment after reading the whole paper. In addition, a professor is never generous with this comment. Similar to “Brilliantly Done,” your paper has to earn this accolade. Typically, out of a class range between 25 and 30 will one person receive this comment, but not all of the time or every semester.

When a professor receives a flood of papers—the final assignment—at the end of a semester, the papers he or she receives represent kinds, or types. Think about the different types of a kind. For example, a Granny Smith is a kind, or type of apple. A Gala is another kind, or type of apple. Each is different in color and taste and they both represent kinds. When your professor receives all of the papers from you and your fellow classmates, these papers, again, represent kinds, or types.

Within the stack of papers, the first paper may represent a plot summary with no analysis. Another student may flood his or her paper with too many quotes.  Yet another paper may take much of the author’s words and meanings out of context.  Regardless, these are papers that propose to represent a student’s adherence to the final requirement. Therefore, the result of the students’ labors is represented in the form of a paper, a kind.

Within these different kinds lies one that is extraordinarily above all. This one student’s paper not only adheres to the final requirement, which is the first step to assigning a grade, but also the student’s paper goes above and beyond in quality and is set apart from the rest. What happens when you go to a community market to pick out an apple or orange or banana? You fumble through all to find the very best, because you can’t just eat anything.

You don’t want the one that is rotten, or the one that is soft on one side and hard on another, or the one that has lost its color. You want the best that the tree has produced. This same ideology applies to a professor grading your paper and you receiving the comment “Excellent.” Out of the whole stack, the whole bin, your paper has received the best commendation.

Remember that just because you have adhered to the final requirement doesn’t mean you have produced a quality effort or a paper of excellence; but if you should receive such a comment, I would take heed to it. Ask your professor what he means by the comment. Ask him to point out specific instances “where,” “why,” and “how” you have earned “excellence.” Something or someone of excellence is always a thing (or person) that is outstandingly and surpassingly good of its kind; a person who exhibits exceptional merit and produces such value consistently is a person of excellence within the context of writing.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Very Strong First Effort

This comment represents an affirmative reply typically written after reading your paper.

What appears to you as the final draft actually seems to your professor as the first draft. Allow time for multiple revisions.

For an extended explanation, see the comment “Solid Effort.”

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Great/Great Effort

“Great” and “Great Effort” are affirmative replies.

They are typically written after the professor has read the entire paper. In using these comments, the professor calls attention to how you consciously have written the paper. Yes, every student writes with some level of consciousness just as everyone who is not a student does.

However, in this case, the professor believes your paper reflects a certain level of alertness and careful attention to detail. The quality of your paper is much more than ordinary and it is one level up from “good.”  For example, a professor might write “good” in the margins to highlight a certain paragraph or call attention to the soundness of your expression within a particular area of the paragraph.  The professor will rarely use “great” in the margins.

“Great” is written typically at the top left side of your paper, after the finished read. In this respect, the professor believes your paper has been a delightful and pleasant read.

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