Dr Gary Brooks

(November 28, 1998)
Referencing and Citation Problems
R1 Give your source for this idea or statement.
R2 Include a reference at this point.
R3 (a) A factual statement of this type requires a reference; or, (b) a factual statement of this type requires an immediate reference in the sentence in which it is made rather than later in the paragraph.
R4 Identify the researcher(s), author(s), or study(ies) to whom or to which you are referring.
R5 Improperly cited: check the style sheet.
R6 Include a page reference for a direct quote.
R7 Do not give a page reference if you have not quoted the material directly.
R8 Check the rules for capitalization or punctuation of references.
R9 When a book title is given in the text, it is underlined or bolded.
R10 This citation is not among your references.
R11 This item in your reference list was not cited in the text; remember that only items, which are actually cited by the name in the main body of the text, are to be included among the references.
R12 Give all the authors' names the first time a reference is cited (unless there are six or more authors).
R13 After the first citation of a multi-authored reference, give only the first author's name followed by et al. [e.g. Brown et al., 1994]
R14 Give all the authors' names in the citation in the list of references, no matter how many authors there are.
R15 Check the style sheet for information on the correct format for long versus short quotations.
R16 Paraphrase rather than quote this material.
R17 You are making too frequent use of direct quotations.
R18 Are you sure these are your own words?
R19 Are you certain that this material is correctly quoted? Remember that a quotation must be exactly the same as the original.
R20 Do not use quotation marks around long (i.e., indented) quotations.
R21 A long (i.e., indented) quotation should be double-spaced, like the rest of the paper.
R22 This reference is dated and should be replaced by more recent research.
Problems with Grammar and Syntax, etc.
G1 This is a run-on sentence (comma splice or fused sentence).
G2 This is a sentence fragment or incomplete sentence.
G2(a) This is a sentence fragment because being is not a verb.
G3 Poorly or incorrectly worded; rephrase.
G4 There are problems with the structure of this sentence; rework it.
G5 What does this phrase or sentence mean? It doesn't make sense as it is written.
G6 There is a problem with subject-verb agreement.
G7 There is a problem with verb tense.
G8 Problem with "its" and "it's"; "its" is the possessive while "it's" is the contraction of "it is".
G9 Wrong pronoun: problem with subject-pronoun agreement (e.g., singular nouns require singular pronouns--don't use "their" as a replacement for a singular noun).
G10 To what or whom does this pronoun refer? Remember that the rule is that a pronoun refers to the last noun of the right number and gender; the selection of a pronoun is not based, as many writers assume, on the logic of the sentence.
G11 You have used the wrong word.
G12 Incorrect word may have been used; check your dictionary to see if this is really the word you want.
G13 Word is incorrectly spelled.
G14 Proof read more carefully.
G15 Do not use one-sentence paragraphs unless you're writing for a newspaper.
G16 A word or phrase seems to have been omitted.
G17 Avoid sexist language.
G18 Don't use numbered lists in an essay; rephrase the material into regular sentences within a paragraph.
G19 You could shorten the sentence by cutting out unnecessary words.
G20 Avoid such unnecessarily elaborate or unusual words, particularly if you are not absolutely sure of the niceties of their meaning; it is better to be simple and correct than to use a word whose actual meaning is not quite right given the context.
G21 Avoid colloquial expressions in formal writing.
G22 Write out a number if it begins a sentence [e.g. "Fourteen subjects were..." not "14 subjects were....]
G23 There is no such word as "behaviours"; behaviour is a collective noun and there really isn't a plural form of it. One should use some phrase such as "types of behaviour" or replace the word entirely by a synonym such as "responses" or "actions."
G24 Data is a plural noun and requires, therefore, a matching verb or pronoun: e.g., "data are", "these data", etc.
G25 Do not use "and/or"; it is never necessary. "Or" alone is inclusive and means, therefore, what those who mistakenly use "and/or" intend. Otherwise use "either...or".
G26 Do not begin a new paragraph with a pronoun; use a noun instead.
G27 Do not, in ordinary circumstances, begin a new paragraph with a quotation.
G28 The correct word in this construction is "that" rather than "which".
Logic and Organization
L1 This paragraph lacks a lead sentence, which introduces the main topic of the paragraph.
L2 The first sentence in this paragraph does not act as a lead sentence, since it does not introduce the actual topic of the paragraph.
L3 The ideas in this paragraph are not logically connected; there is no one main topic with which the paragraph deals and to which all the sentences in it relate.
L4 Begin a new paragraph here, since you have gone on to a new topic.
L5 Why a new paragraph since this material seems a part of the same topic or issue as you were discussing in the previous paragraph?
L6 This material is not logically linked to the topic you have just been discussing in the previous section or paragraph.
L7 This material is not linked logically to the topic you have just been discussing in the previous sentence.
L8 There is shift in topic, which requires some type of bridging comment.
L9 Serious organizational problems; the order of presentation of the material does not follow a logical pattern.
L10 There are problems with the logic of your argument.
L11 Try using a heading as a way of making the organization of your material clearer.
L12 It would be appropriate to make some kind of a summary statement at the end of this section.
L13 You need to make greater use of linking statements to show the relationships between successive ideas (e.g. however, nonetheless, also, therefore, on the other hand, for example).
C1 What is the relevance of this material to the assigned topic?
C2 What is the relevance of this material to the topic of this section (or paragraph)?
C3 Your discussion of this topic is too vague for the meaning to be clear; clarify.
C4 The discussion of this topic needs to be expanded.
C5 Too much unnecessary detail.
C6 It would be helpful to define this term.
C7 Give an example to make the meaning clearer.
C8 It is useful to look in some detail at the methodology of some of the studies in this general area; this might be a good one to examine carefully.
C9 What is the specific nature of the evidence the researcher(s) presented in favour of their conclusion?
C10 What is the specific nature of your evidence in support of this conclusion?
C11 You need more recent sources on this topic, as there have been advances in our knowledge since the work was written which you cite.
C12 What is your overall assessment or evaluation of this theory or position?
C13 This conclusion is not supported by evidence you have presented.
C14 Include an introduction to this new section; indicate what the topic of this section is. In this introduction you could, for example, define any terms, which are particularly relevant to this topic.
C15 Include a conclusion for this section. Summarize, for example, the main findings and indicate what the major gaps are in our knowledge of the topic.
C16 This information is dated and has been superseded by more recent research or theorising.
M1 Where is the required Table of Contents?
M2 Please number the pages of your paper.
Problems with Punctuation
P1 Problem with use of the apostrophe: check rules for possessives.
P2 Omit the comma: check rules for comma usage.
P3 Do not use a comma before the central "and", "or", "but", etc. if not a true compound sentence. (A compound sentence is one in which both halves of the sentence can stand alone as separate sentences exactly as they are worded).
P4 In normal circumstances, do not use a comma immediately before the verb.
P5 A required comma has been omitted: check the rules for comma usage.
P6 Use a comma after the first half of a compound sentence (see P3, above).
P7 The current convention is to include, at least in formal or technical writing, a comma before the "and" which precedes the final item in a list. The purpose is to ensure that there can be no confusion about the meaning.
P8 Use commas at both ends of an inserted element like this.
P9 Use a comma after an introductory element or clause, particularly if it is four or more words in length.
P10 Incorrect punctuation. Check the rules for the proper use of this form of punctuation.
P11 You have used a colon when a semicolon would be more appropriate; check the rules for the proper use of these punctuation marks.
Suggestions for the Next Paper
S1 Work on the introduction. The purpose of an introduction is both to introduce the topic and to encourage the reader to keep going; try to include something, which will catch the reader's interest. There are a number of things, which can be included in an introduction. Often a good example of the phenomenon under examination is a useful addition to an introduction since it can be both interesting and informative. You might also comment on why an examination of this issue is important. Also explain the nature of the issue or problem about which you are writing. Indicate the approach, which you intend to take towards it. In any case, don't just summarize the main points you intend to make in the paper. Some people write the introduction at the very end--once they know what they actually covered in the paper!
S2 Work on the conclusion. You might, at the very least, summarize the main points you have discussed in the essay. What are the main conclusions to be drawn about the topic? Are there unanswered questions which future researchers should address? If your paper is one part of a larger assignment, you might indicate how the current topic links with the next one. The conclusion may be an appropriate place to express some ideas of your own.
S3 One always wants to know how much credence to place in a set of data. You will often find that studies dealing with the same issue will have produced different and even conflicting results. You need to be able to explain why. Are there reasons, for example, to believe that some of the data are more valid and reliable than others? The decision about the "goodness" of data will usually be based on a careful analysis of how the study was done. One would, for example, review: the details of the study's design; the population from which the subjects were drawn; whether the number of subjects studied was sufficiently large; whether those subjects were chosen at random or in some other appropriate manner; whether a control group was needed and used; how good and how appropriate the assessment instruments are; and, the type of setting in which the study was carried out. Using such information as this, one can decide which data one should have most "faith" in. I would suggest that, for your next paper, you select one or two studies and subject them to this type of critical assessment as a means of deciding how good the data produced in the study actually are. This is not an easy thing to do, but it is a skill worth acquiring.
S4 Work on the introductions to the various sections of your paper. Before you begin to discuss the research findings, for example, there should be an initial paragraph, which explains clearly what the section will deal with. You could define the major terms, which are relevant to this topic. If relevant, consider the different ways in which your various sources have operationally defined the concept (e.g. socioeconomic status). You might also mention or review the major research strategies used in this particular field.
S5 Work on the conclusions to the various sections of your paper. Don't just stop after you have completed your discussion of the research findings or theoretical issues relevant to this specific topic. Sum up the main points you have made in the section. Review, if appropriate, the main findings--both positive and negative. Suggest what gaps there are in present knowledge and what further research needs to be done.
S6 Work on the construction of your paragraphs. Remember that a paragraph should always have a lead sentence, which introduces the subject of that paragraph. This lead or introductory sentence will be followed by a series of sentences, all of which expand on the indicated topic. At the end is a concluding sentence which either sums up the argument or, better still, points the way to the topic of the next paragraph in a given section of your paper. That paragraph will, of course, be logically connected in some manner to the one, which preceded it.