I distribute an academic essay, an analysis of a recent book in my field. The students get a chance to read it overnight and then we discuss it in class for a half hour before they write brief, low-stakes essays about the essay.
The essay in question is quite good, but easily read and pretty accessible, about 600 words. And it is expertly built, solid analysis that deconstructs and evaluates the book mentioned in the article completely and smoothly. I like the essay very much because it models so much of the style of academic writing that I teach in this sophomore level course for majors.
And then I got to my office with 3 stacks of 30 mini-essays each, and I began to read:
- The essay lacks personal details.
- I think the writer failed because he (or she, I was not told the gender) didn't tell enough about his own background and culture so I could judge him.
- I think the most powerful evaluation is personal opinion. I don't read anyone who doesn't offer personal opinion.
- I thought it was too long generally. I couldn't finish it.
- I couldn't even read to the end because it went on and on.
- I wish [author's name] would just get to the point and tell me her opinion.
- The writer didn't give me any background on himself to show me what their biases is.
- I was taught in expository writing that it's most important to use personal evaluation and personal examples to back up an evaluation. This is all just facts.
- I was taught that if you can say it in 50 words it's way better than in a hundred or more.
Oh, I know it's not the end of the world, and there's lots I can do to amend this type of thought as the semester goes along, but I wonder what these students all did in the first year they were here. Who let them have these ideas? Were they rewarded for this? Did they use personal opinions in their own essays? Is that enough? And the length. Everything's TL:DR?
And I have 60 more to read today.