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Take a look at this assignment from an actual college professor: Yow!
Let’s take it section by section, one directive at a time. Go through and find the concepts the prof wants you to cover in the paper. Lord love ‘em, but professors are notorious for giving more information than necessary or saying more than what needs saying, so do your best to boil the assignment down to the essentials with your highlighter: Take note, these macro concepts are often suggestions, not commands. These are the items that must be included in the paper for you to get a good grade.
They are the prof telling you how to be impressive, clear, or to raise your grade through a demonstration of your wits and knowledge. Usually they are very specific: Clearly, if your paper uses first-person pronouns, it will irk the person giving you the grade—probably best to stay away from that.
In this case, you can see five discrete categories, each with its own stakes, and the number value that corresponds to your performance: The prof will take the rubric and keep it within reach while grading.
Along with making notes on your paper, the prof will also check off your performance in each category—summarizing your performance in that category: If you have a hundred-point paper, each one of these categories is worth 20 points.
This paper better be formatted in a particular way! Your profs aren’t trying to bust your chops (they do, in fact, have other things to do than make you miserable)—they’re trying to streamline the grading process.
Also, watch for specific requests about format changes and due dates. These are no-nonsense statements/compromises that the prof needs you to abide. Imagine you have 75 papers to grade written by your 75 students.
Your profs know when you don’t take time prewriting, and they know when you’re being wishy-washy or only reading to reinforce your opinion. Also, you should be using scholarly research, which means no random Googling and picking the first things you ping.
Take a look at the first section of the assignment sheet.
Make a list of three strengths and weaknesses you have as a writer.
Be mindful of the pitfalls and confident about your high points.