The (almost) Perfect Paper - A Self-Evaluation Checklist

Math 177 - Change, Probability, and Numbers - Fall 1997

SpellingUse a spell-checker! Also, watch for words that sound alike but have different spellings.
GrammarSentences must have verbs. Dependent clauses must be properly placed. Watch for run-on sentences!
PunctuationDon't separate the main noun from the main verb. Punctuation should reflect the logical structure of the sentence
SemanticsChoose the right word! Pronouns need clear antecedents. Linking words ("because", "thus", "but", "although", etc.) should be used appropriately
LogicAll sentences should be clear. All sentences should make sense. If you don't understand it, the reader won't either.
ParagraphsDouble spaced, first line indented.
FootnotesAt the bottom of the page, not the end of the paper.
ReferencesNumerical pointers to the bibliography are all you need, but other formats are acceptable as long as they are clear and precise.
BibliographyUse a consistent format. Give full data.
Paper Organization
IntroductionShould be well-written, state your goals and starting point, and should include a transition to the major portion of the paper
ConclusionShould briefly summarize your conclusions without being repetitive. Should provide closure to the paper
Main bodySections should have clearly-defined subjects. Logical structure of the argument should be clear. Use an outline!
Writing Style
ToneNo contractions, appropriate vocabulary.
ObjectivityWrite objectively. Everything in the paper is, by definition, your opinion, so you need not intrude with "I think" and similar constructs.
PrecisionDon't confuse someone's opinions with fact, don't cite without a reference, say exactly what you mean, don't go beyond your evidence.
ReadabilityIt's your job to make your paper interesting and readable!
ContentInclude some real content. Aim for a high level of information. Details should be included only when relevant---deciding which details are relevant is part of your job.
SourcesThere's no minimal number, but there should be enough sources for what you aim to do. Evaluate your sources!
ReferencesIndicate the source for each bit of factual information.
QuotesAre they used to support the argument? Are there too few/too many of them? Do the quotes have a function, or are they just there to look pretty?
ArgumentDoes the paper adequately support its thesis? Have other possibilities been taken into account? Have you thought this through?
MathematicsWhen you discuss math, are you precise? When you use formulas, are they meaningful?
HistoryDoes your paper make a historical argument? History is more than the collection of facts!

(Based on a table by Suzanne Medina published in The Teaching Professor, October, 1997.)