The Little Professor mentioned that she has “long been in the business of warning students against “there are many similarities and many differences.” So have I. The number of times I have crossed this out and written “anything so vague means nothing” is too many to count.

Anyhow, what if there were a program that could search a student essay for this and other phrases to avoid? “Since the dawn of time” could get flagged—

Do you really want to use this phrase? The claim is far too grand for a student essay, and your professor will sneer at you. Hyperbole weakens your argument.

“…Merriam-Webster…” or “….Dictionary.com….”

This phrase appears in the first paragraph. Are you centering your argument on a dictionary definition? This is rarely a good idea. Click here for a better understanding of when this approach might work, and why it goes down in flames 90% of the time.

Searching footnotes only:

This reference to wikipedia is in your footnotes or endnotes. Citing Wikipedia as a source is not recommended.

Overall analysis:

This paragraph is over 300 words, or more than one page. Usually that means you have bundled multiple ideas into the same paragraph. Consider reviewing it.

And we could remind students, “don’t forget to run spellcheck and argument check on your essay before turning it in!”

If someone can program TurnItIn.com, this should be easy! In fact, I don’t see why TurnItIn.com doesn’t already have this.

Even better—design it with a plug-in so that tech-savvy professors can add their own custom phrases. After each essay, I can say, sighing heavily, “well, I updated the Argument Check with some more suggestions. Make sure you download the new plug-in from Blackboard before the next essay.”

Wouldn’t everyone be happier?

Advertisements