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So how do you deal with paper topics like this?

futurenyustudentfuturenyustudent Registered User Posts: 5,366 Senior Member
edited October 2008 in College Life
"What do your readings help you understand about XYZ*?"
*XYZ being the subject of the class

Is that even a real topic? What the hell kind of topic is that? I have half a mind to write "absolutely nothing." in really big font and turning it in. Ask a stupid, vague question, get a stupid, vague answer.

I got that paper prompt and almost dropped the class because of it. And we get a week to write a paper on what the readings help me understand about the subject that the class deals with. This is so broad, I don't understand how the professor can possibly expect any kind of intelligible paper on it, let alone 4-5 pages. In a week. And apparently this is for a gen. ed. class that's supposed to help you go from high school to college. This is like writing college essays all over again. People may think the SAT is evil, but at least the SAT gives you a specific question that they want you to answer. That topic just tells me the professor is lazy or couldn't be bothered to think up a real question.

I don't know what you want, you don't want to show me, so what do you want me to do?
Post edited by futurenyustudent on
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Replies to: So how do you deal with paper topics like this?

  • etselecetselec Registered User Posts: 780 Member
    My guess would be that, in a lower-level, intro-type class, the prompt is asking you to briefly summarize and reflect on each reading and its place in the discipline.

    Another purpose of the paper might be to make sure you're doing the readings well and thinking critically.

    Write it, get it done with, breathe a sigh of relief. Good luck!
  • FoworaFowora Registered User Posts: 144 Junior Member
    dude sounds like a gay question to me. i say u go with the whole absolutely nothing idea. that or type in big font, "that they pay you too much"
  • Lala7819Lala7819 Registered User Posts: 84 Junior Member
    I had an Irish literature class that had alot of questions like that that we would have to answer with some obscure pieces that nobody could really understand on their own. I usually BSed on them, or wrote it, waited for in class discussion, then modified/added onto it and resubmitted it (we were allowed to do that because we only met for a full 8hr day once every few weeks.)
  • soccerguy315soccerguy315 Registered User Posts: 7,245 Senior Member
    if you have a question about an assignment, asking the professor is generally a good first step.
  • GoldShadowGoldShadow Registered User Posts: 6,160 Senior Member
    Not sure what you're complaining about?

    It's open ended, that's good for you. Pick a specific aspect of "XYZ" or your readings (ie, very specific), and go into depth on that. The beauty is that you can pick any aspect of XYZ that you want.
  • futurenyustudentfuturenyustudent Registered User Posts: 5,366 Senior Member
    Um it's open ended. That's not good. It leads me down the slippery slope of not knowing what the **** I'm talking about. Give me a specific aspect of the subject, I can talk endlessly about it. Give me a broad, open-ended question, I'm staring at a blank word document for 17 hours not knowing where to go. The problem is professors have a "specific" answer in mind to these "open ended" questions and if you don't get to it you get a bad grade.

    Because frankly, this is a core curriculum class. And if the professor thinks we're taking this class because we actually care about the subject, she's delusional. Plus the fact that she didn't even have a handout for this stupid prompt explaining exactly what she wants tells me she's lazy and probably won't spend the time to read the stupid thing very closely. Every professor/teacher I've ever had gave us some kind of printed handout when they assign an essay or a paper like this.

    Again, like I said, ask a stupid, vague question, get a stupid, vague answer. I'm hoping for a lot of stupid, vague answers so that my paper comparatively looks good. And you don't give someone a week to come up with an intelligible, focused answer to a stupid, vague question: this is a minimum 2 week paper.
  • OKgirlOKgirl Registered User Posts: 2,134 Senior Member
    I'd love a prompt like that. What class is it for? Probably english, right? If so, you could go the route of "Reading all these stories/pieces of lit has taught me that there are many different styles of writing. I believe that by reading them I have improved my writing skills and learned about different cultures (if that's what they were about)."

    If you want to know more about it, then try going to her office hours to discuss the direction you are headed with the paper (not the actual one you mentioned lol) and just say you want to be sure you are going to do it right.
  • futurenyustudentfuturenyustudent Registered User Posts: 5,366 Senior Member
    "World cultures".....
  • OKgirlOKgirl Registered User Posts: 2,134 Senior Member
    That should be simple enough. You read the stories. You learned about the different cultures. You see the similarities and differences. It opened your eyes. Maybe it even sparked an interest in something.
  • GoldShadowGoldShadow Registered User Posts: 6,160 Senior Member
    Again, like I said, ask a stupid, vague question, get a stupid, vague answer. I'm hoping for a lot of stupid, vague answers so that my paper comparatively looks good. And you don't give someone a week to come up with an intelligible, focused answer to a stupid, vague question: this is a minimum 2 week paper.
    So I see you want to go to law school. Good luck with that.
  • NikaraNikara Registered User Posts: 1,151 Senior Member
    Good luck if you think you will get two weeks to write a paper like that. One week seems perfectly reasonable. Especially because it gives you a chance to
    Day 1: Read prompt, brainstorm ideas of different focuses
    Day 2: Talk to professor about different ideas to find a focus that he/she likes.
    Day 3: Outline paper
    Days 4 and 5: Rough Draft
    Days 6 and 7: Final copy.

    It's only five pages. That's pretty short in my book. Yes, the prompt may be general, but that's to allow you to be more creative with your response. You professor has office hours for a reason- use them!
  • WeskidWeskid Registered User Posts: 1,288 Senior Member
    The problem is professors have a "specific" answer in mind to these "open ended" questions and if you don't get to it you get a bad grade.

    For the most part, this is not true. What they want to see is that you've read and thought about the readings. If you've done that, you should be able to think of a way to answer this question that will satisfy the Prof.

    Remember, you can't and shouldn't try to cover EVERY way the readings have helped you. Instead, choose something specific, and write clearly and with detail about it.

    You really need to figure out how to answer this kind of question, too, because, at least in my experience, in college you get as many open ended questions as very specific ones (including questions that are literally just "write about some aspect of one of the readings"). Professors still expect specific, well thought out, and creative answers to this kind of question.

    Talking to the Prof is almost always helpful if you’re not sure where to go.
  • tisthemorningtisthemorning Registered User Posts: 245 Junior Member
    These topics seem really lame when you look at it, but since it's so vague, you can literally right about anything.
  • nontraditionalnontraditional Registered User Posts: 519 Member
    So what did the professor say when you asked about the topic?

    In all honesty, this doesn't sound like a hard assigmment to me -- at least not if the answer is going to be superficial enough that it only takes 5 pages to provide it. It's the sort of thing a lot of professors I've had will assign on a Monday with a due date of Wednesday. If you've been keeping up with the work to date, you should be able to bang out a solid draft within an hour.

    I would suggest, therefore, that you go talk to the professor ASAP about the problems you're having. Either you are more lost than you should be or there is something going on in that class that isn't coming through in your post that makes this much more difficult than it ordinarily would be.
  • futurenyustudentfuturenyustudent Registered User Posts: 5,366 Senior Member
    Spoke to my TA today after class-at T minus 17 hours, I FINALLY have a clear direction as to where I want to go. Hello all nighter, bye bye sleep :(
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