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Essay Writing Checklist When you have finished writing your essay, ask yourself the following questions to check that your paper conforms the academic requirements in content, style and format. A) Format 1) Cover sheet Does your cover sheet contain the title (and subtitle, if there is one) of your essay, your name, the instructor’s name, the name and Neptun code of the course, and the date of submission? Did you also include the signed statement about plagiarism (see syllabus)? 2) Body of the essay Have you used Times New Roman fonts, size 12? Is your paper double spaced and adjusted to both sides? Are all the paragraphs indented? Is there any extra space between the paragraphs? (There shouldn’t be any Are the pages numbered? Remember, the cover sheet is not numbered, so page 1 should be the first page of the actual essay. 3) Works Cited/Consulted Have you got as many sources as required (check syllabus)? Do your sources confirm the academic standards? Forget about Wikipedia & Co. Did you list the items in alphabetical order by the authors’ surname? Are the second (and further) lines of the entries indented? Does the punctuation of titles conform to MLA regulation? Pay special attention to capitalization. Did you supply all the necessary information about each title? (For most print titles: author, title, publisher, place and date of publication; for journal articles: title, year, volume, page numbers; for electronic sources: journal/website, date of access in every case; and also anything else as required by MLA.) Check punctuation of above entries: are all the periods inside the quotation marks? B) Structure Did you capitalize all the important words in your title? (Cf. MLA style sheet.) Did you mention the work you are writing about in your title? (You should.) Does your title cover the topic of your essay, or is it too general/specific? If you find your title is too nondescript, consider forming a catchy title, accompanied by a more detailed subtitle. (Example: “Single, Long-Playing and Compilation: Formats of Audio and Amorousness in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity” by Mikko Keskinen) Is your introduction about a half or two-thirds of a page long? If it’s any longer or shorter, consider revising it. How long is your conclusion? If it is longer than your introduction, rewrite it. Is the body of your paper divided into paragraphs of reasonable length? Avoid too long (more than a page) paragraphs. Similarly, if you find that a paragraph is unreasonably short, consider combining it with another one or extend it. Does your introduction contain a clear-cut, well-defined thesis statement, favourably at the end of the paragraph? Do all the paragraphs contain a topic sentence? Are there long quotations in your text? If yes, did you put them in a separate, indented paragraph? Is there any extra space before of after a long quotation? (There shouldn’t be any.) C) Content Did you provide a background to your topic in the introduction? (And by “background” I don’t mean the author’s biography as in most cases it’s completely irrelevant.) Did you manage to make your topic sound interesting? In other words: if this paper had been written by someone else, would you be interested in reading it? Did you sum up the plot of your primary source (e. g. the novel or film you are writing about)? Is this summary absolutely relevant? If yes, make it as short as possible. If not, omit it. Don’t tell it; show it: instead of lengthy plot summaries, try to find a few strategic quotes from the novel that are relevant for your argumentation; they will illustrate your point better then any summary could do. Does your introduction logically lead up to your thesis statement or is it random rambling to fill the space? Do all the paragraphs in your paper elaborate and/or support the idea summed up in the thesis statement? If you find a paragraph that digresses from the main topic, omit it. Do all the paragraphs have a topic sentence that guides the line of argumentation in that section? Do all the paragraphs elaborate one single idea or do they digress from the topic sentence? If you find a sentence that isn’t absolutely relevant to your topic but you still think it might be interesting, consider adding footnotes. Did you include quotes from the primary material? Did you incorporate the quotes into your argumentation or are they just dangling there? Did you introduce/reflect upon the quote? Did you supply the appropriate references? Did you use indirect quotations (paraphrases)? Did you supply the appropriate references for these as well? Did you include quotes from the secondary material (e. g. articles or books you have read about the primary source)? Did you reflect upon the ideas quoted? Don’t just insert a quote to fill up space; explain its significance in the context of the primary source, make use of it. Does your line of argumentation have a logical arch? Do you develop your thesis gradually? Do your arguments logically follow from each other? Are there any unexplained or undeveloped statements in your essay? Did you arrive at the end where you had promised to arrive in the introduction? Make sure you don’t paraphrase your own ideas: there’s no point in rewording ideas for the sake of filling space. D) Language Did you use any contracted forms? The easiest way to check this is to search for the ‘ character in the text (Edit Menu => Search) and see if there is any. N.B. Remember that the use of ‘ is perfectly alright in possessive constructions. Did you use any colloquial or slang expressions? (You shouldn’t.) Did you use overly general terms, such as thing? Replace it with more specific words, such as notion, idea etc. depending on the context. Did you use linking words to establish the connection between different ideas? Did you make sure that the pronouns you used refer to the exact nouns they are meant to refer to? Did you refer to authors by their full name first, by their surname afterwards? Are their any fragments in the text? (A fragment is a sentence without a finite verb or a proper subject.) N.B. MS Word usually indicates fragments, but occasionally it will also mark a full sentence as a fragment if the subject is too far from the verb, so be careful.