One of the biggest challenges writers face in college is coping with both the expectations of an academic voice and the individual priorities of each professor. Too often, professors don't share this information with students, leaving them to guess what is acceptable and what will be perceived as an error by the professor. For my course, the following guidelines outline the expectations I have for your papers.

1. Central argument:

All of your papers must have a position you are trying to argue. Providing only a summary or performing a simple "compare and contrast—you decide" is generally not acceptable unless the assignment specifically states so. You should see your paper—particularly papers about cultural, literary, historical, or political topics—as your attempt to make a claim that you are then going to support with arguments, facts, and persuasive language suited to your audience. Papers that lack this basic component are not going to do very well in this course.

2. Introductions:

Introductions should not start off with a generic claim that could be used to start any paper on the same subject. Starting with biographical information that is not central to your overall argument or an empty statement on how "controversial" a topic is usually can be cut.Get to your specific focus and thesis quickly.

When dealing with literature, an introduction should identify who the author under discussion is and give the titles of key texts that will be discussed. Major points from the paper should be previewed in a plan of development, and the paragraph should end with a springboard statement that returns the discussion to the thesis instead of ending with a list of sub-topics in the paper.

3. Announcements:

In terms of academic writing, "announcements" are statements that announce your intentions: "This paper with discuss" or "In the following paper I will argue" are typical examples. Such announcements are perfectly fine in some academic writing (like the hard and soft sciences), but they are generally frowned upon in the humanities. To me, it's the written version of the student who desperately raises his or her hand and then when called upon says, "I just want to say" instead of just stating their idea without preamble. Avoid announcements in my papers.

4. References to the essay topic, act of reading, or research process:

In general, comments that point to the fact that you are a student doing an assignment should be omitted. There's no need to say, "I chose to write about Topic X," nor does your reader (usually) want to hear that "While I was reading the novel, I thought about ______" or that "during my research I kept finding ______." Such statements only pad your essay and feel like a student's assigned task and not a piece of writing in which he or she is personally invested.

5. Body paragraphs:

6. Quotes, paraphrases, facts, and works cited pages:

7. Conclusion:

8. "I" statements:

9. "You" statements:

10. "Yes . . . but" statements:

11. Profanity and slang:

12. "This," "it," and "thing":

13. Dashes:

14. Editing, spell check, and format:

15. Internet Sources:

The Internet provides a glut of information that is accessible to anyone who cares to search it. Not all information on the Internet is valuable, though. Before you build an argument based on an Internet source, take a moment to evaluate if the source is authoritative or not. Keep the following ideas in mind: