Wednesday, 31 October 2012

On Writing Assignments: Thoughts from a teacher to his students

Very soon your assignment marks will be out, and before having a look at your assignment marks, I would request that you spare a couple of minutes and have a look at what I’ve got to say as regards my students’ assignments with me. [You may also want to look up my other article on the same subject HERE]

Madras Christian College has never compromised on quality. Yes, I underline the word NEVER. Be it the legendary Professor Benet Albert or the revered Dr.Vishnu Bhat, or the great Dr. Robert Burns (literary giants who stood for high academic ideals and credentials that they possessed and practised) - teachers of the glorious past who have laid a  lovely paradigm for the future as regards the quality of assignments – it is our sincere wish and ardent desire that, this rich legacy is sustained through all the students (trend setters) who pass through this sylvan conclave of excellence. That was the commitment that motivated them, and that continues to motivate us even today.

Indeed, we are and always will be votaries of this excellence, and NO SECOND THOUGHTS ON THAT!!

A good assignment is basically a sustained inquiry into a particular subject of study. Your guide would want you to systematically augment your thesis statement with effective props to authenticate them. Your opinion of course matters a lot. But, what is more important is the support statement that gives the required credentials to your opinions. And, support statements offer a good deal of weightage when they are propped up by the views of critics/scholars/giants in the respective field of enquiry. In order to do this effectively, make sure your thesis statement is convincing (not confusing!). Cathy Keller Brown, an expert on the subject says, “Before you do anything else, make sure you have a clear understanding of what your instructor expects from you”.

Other expert Professors like Lynn F. Jacobs and Jeremy S. Hyman, who are with the University of Arkansas observe in their enlightening article “The 5 Biggest Mistakes College Students Make”:

“Problem No. 5: Going it alone. Many students shy away from going to see their professor or teaching assistant, either because they're too scared, they think the prof won't want to see them, or they think you should only go when you're in trouble. As a result, they end up blowing a test or paper when a few minutes with the instructor could have easily cleared up the problem.”
Always remember that,you are expected to discuss with your guide (professor) as regards your chosen topic, and your guide will in turn give you an issue of a standard Journal [like our own Eclectic Representations], to help you get suggestions in your adventure/tryst/journey with your research article. The guide normally spends at least 30 minutes with you, giving you suggestions/ideas on writing better, and helping you tackle your thesis statement as befits a students of MCC.

Your guide [Rufus] is usually available over email at

You can fix an appointment with your guide a day in advance (by phone/email/in person) and make sure you meet him/her at the specified time. Your guide, apart from giving you guidance on getting good research material in the city’s libraries, may also give you his/her own reference books to finetune your article better.

Check if you have included an abstract in about 150 words.

Check if key words have also been included along with your abstract. (words, and not sentences!)

Check if you have given a minimum of at least TEN print sources.

Check if you have cited the page numbers for all the citations/quotations included in the article.

Check if you have followed the MLA Style Sheet format for quoting page numbers in your article.

Check if you have abided by the MLA format for Research Papers in your ‘Works Cited’ section.

Check if you have included a minimum of at least 18 paragraphs in your research article. (the minimum is 18)

Check if you have a word length of at least 3000 words. Your MS Word will help you identify the approaching word length better.

Check for any spelling mistakes/grammatical errors that might have inadvertently crept into your article.

See to it that you submit your assignments before the deadline. (e-assignments are just an option given to students for publishing them later).

If you have done all of the above, kindly question your guide if your grade is below 90!

Otherwise, stop the lament and get back to the basics!

There’s no compromise on quality AT ANY COST!

And to bring out the best in you!

With all best wishes, 

- Samuel Rufus


  1. Amazing article on how to do an assignment, Sir! :)

  2. An amazing article on how to approach an assignment. Thank you very much, Sirs.

  3. Thank you very much sirs.