Final Papers and You: A question of tone

Ben Hur Rowing

Pictured: An Adjunct


Academic writing is notorious for being dry as a desert. We’ve all felt our eyes glaze over during a particular sentence in an assigned reading. Our pen hangs in the air, paralyzed by indecision. What do we underline? Everything? Nothing? What’s the important information here? Resigned to our defeat, we move on to the next sentence, hoping we haven’t strolled right past something significant.

This is the path that will lead to rereading until you realize that you don’t know dick about what the paper was trying to communicate. Now, imagine for a moment that you are a professor (or, to be truthful, a professor’s lowly squire). You’ve been assigned a whole stack of student papers to grade. In a fate crueler than any Lucifer could design, you must sift through a mound of stilted undergrad academic prose. Visions of banned stimulants dance in your head, then vanish. You begin to think fondly of the good old prehistoric days, when language consisted mostly of pointing, grunting, and screeching. What a world it was, untarnished by the verb “facilitate.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. Academic writing doesn’t need to have its mailing address in its own rectum to communicate its points in a clear and articulate fashion. If you’re arguing a point, it can be made in lively and interesting splendor. If you’re analyzing a text, you don’t have to drain the blood from the entire work. There’s room for levity and entertainment.

We must acknowledge, though, that not every paper will be a barrel of laughs. Perhaps your subject matter is very grim, and you don’t trust yourself with dark humor. Perhaps you’re writing a research paper, and there’s not much breathing room for creativity. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices. Still, depending on what it is you’re trying to accomplish with your writing, you just might be able to brighten someone’s day. That said, there are different standards for different assignments.

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Providence, Rhode(s) Island, ‘home’ of four new scholarship recipients

Rhodes scholarships, ever heard of them? They’re really hard to get.

But today, Brown’s embrace of subjective learning has translated to objective returns — four students (Brianna Doherty ’12, Nabeel Gillani ’12, Emma LeBlanc ’11, David Poritz ’12—featured in video below) were awarded 2012 Rhodes Scholarships. If you do a bit more research, you’ll find that Brown has tied for number of earned scholarships with Harvard and Princeton, sitting in a comfortable ‘second place’ behind Stanford’s five. This sort of competition, however, ultimately means very little, since scholarships are awarded by residential region, not by university. Our four winners represent California, New Hampshire, Virginia and Massachusetts, respectively. Having said that, are these awards an affirmation that learning differently with the New Curriculum inspires the same big ideas as conventional academic plans? #duh. Congratulations, Brunos—you will all surely make big waves across the pond!