General Guidelines For Research Paper

Posted on by Taut

Again, the revision is shorter (189 vs. 160 words), and better.

3.      Read the cases.Read more of them, and read the ones you have read over again.

Only occasionally do students do anywhere close to the amount of research in the case law that is required for a good paper, however, where the law is – not in the law review articles, not in the treatises, not in the trade publication, not in the ALR annotations, but in the cases and other primary material (statutes, treaties, constitutions).Secondary sources can be helpful – they can point you to the cases that you need to read, or, on rare occasions, they can help you to understand the cases you have read.They should never be used as substitutes for the primary material on which they’re based.

And if that’s not enough of a reason to spend the bulk of your time reading judicial opinions, here’s another:They are, by far, the best models for the kind of writing that you are learning how to do.You read opinions so that you can start to soak up a way of talking about legal questions – a jargon, customary phrasings, ways of using and talking about precedent, and the like.If you read lots of opinions you are much less likely to write things like the sentence I’m looking at right now, from another student paper:

“Personal jurisdiction can no longer be missing ‘because the defendant did not physically enter the forum state’.Burger-King Corp. v. Rudzewicz.”

No court opinion that I have ever read has used the word “missing” in reference to personal jurisdiction.I have, therefore, no clear idea what this sentence means.But worse, it signals to me that the author of this sentence has either (a) not read very many opinions dealing with the question of personal jurisdiction, or (b) has not been paying much attention to those s/he has read.Neither is a good thing to communicate to your readers.

Third, you need to read lots of opinions because to be a good writer you must learn to be a good reader.It’s quite obvious, if you think about it for a minute.Writing involves reading what you have written, identifying its weaknesses, and revising to eliminate those weaknesses.Over and over and over again.(See Principle #9)It’s not easy.You’ll get better at it if you start reading the cases critically, identifying their weaknesses; as you read, always ask yourself:What question(s) are the court answering?How persuasive is their reasoning?

And finally, you need to read lots of opinions to find models for the kind of writing you want to learn how to do.Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.When you read an opinion (or any piece of persuasive writing, for that matter – anything that works through an argument and reaches some conclusion) that you think is well-written, well-organized, and effective, ask yourself: what makes it work well?How is it organized?Is there an introduction, and what functions does it serve? How does the author manage the transitions between sections?How does the author let the reader know the overall plan of the work?When does the author summarize what has come before?

Writing is a craft; find others who perform it well, observe their methods, and try to emulate them.

4.      Legal documents are persuasive documents; they answer some question, and they persuade the reader that the answer is the correct one.They are not “book reports.”

The goal, ultimately, is to state a specific question (or set of questions), to provide the reader with an answer to that question(s), accompanied by a logical argument designed to persuade the reader that the answer you have come up with is the correct one.You will not write a paper “about copyright law”;you will pose, and then you will answer, a specific question about copyright law.

All legal writing, I believe, is like this: briefs, judicial opinions, memoranda of law, etc.All are designed to persuade the reader of something by the force of argument(s).

I cannot stress this strongly enough; far and away, the most common reason that student papers are unsatisfactory is the absence of any sense that they are designed to marshal arguments in support of the author’s answer to a particular question.

Much legal writing is straightforward, in the sense that you know precisely where you are going when you start.When writing a brief, for example, you know where your argument has to lead:You are trying to persuade the reader that “the defendant [i.e., your client] is not liable for doing X,” or “The defendant [the opposing party] is liable for doing Y,” or “Defendant’s motion for summary judgment should be granted/denied,” or “The court cannot constitutionally exercise jurisdiction over the claim in this case,” or . . . .Knowing exactly where you want to go, you can then work backwards from there to put together your argument.

With a research paper, on the other hand, you don’t really know where you are going when you begin.You don’t know when you begin, in other words, the answer to the question you’re posing – that’s why you have to do research.You don’t really know (when you start) “whether section 512(c) of the Copyright Act covers the dissemination of decryption software”; you don’t know (when you start) “whether the purposes underlying the Patent Act are furthered by Internet business method patents”; you don’t know (when you start) “whether courts can assert personal jurisdiction over foreign website operators”; you don’t know (when you start) “whether clickwrap licenses are or are not enforceable under the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act,” . . .

This makes research papers more difficult to write than briefs; it is hard to construct an argument when you don’t know where the argument is going to go.

On the other hand, this uncertainty about where you’re headed can be turned to your advantage.You can change your answer – indeed, you can even modify the question you’re asking – as you go along.This is a luxury you don’t have with briefs; you can’t say to your client:“Well, I’ve finished my research and, lo and behold, I have discovered that you are, after all, liable under section so-and-so of the Securities Act”!

But with a research paper, you may start out with some thesis – e.g., that section 512(c) of the Copyright Act covers the dissemination of decryption software – but then conclude, after doing research on the question, that much stronger arguments exist for the opposite proposition (i.e., that section 512(c) of the Copyright Act does not cover the dissemination of decryption software).

5.The purpose of writing.You have to do two things when you are undertaking a legal writing project.First, you have to figure out the answer to whatever question you trying to answer:Does section 512(c) of the Copyright Act cover dissemination of decryption software?Are the purposes underlying the Patent Act furthered by Internet business method patents?Are clickwrap licenses enforceable under the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act?Etc.

The second job, which you can only accomplish after you have accomplished the first, is to write your paper in such a way that you persuade the reader that the your answer is the correct one.

In the best of all possible worlds, you would write two papers:The first would be the one you need to write in order to figure out the answer to your question. The second paper is the one that communicates what you have to say to your readers.

Most of you will not, actually, write two separate papers; but you need to think about your project as if you were going to do so.The first paper is the one that people often lose sight of – the one that helps you figure out what it is you’re trying to say.The only way for most of us mortals to construct a complicated, many-layered argument is to write it down to see whether it makes sense.Unless the question you’ve posed is a very simple one, you are not going to be able to figure out the answer without putting your argument down on paper and reading it through to see if it holds water; it’s going to be far too complicated for you to keep the whole thing in your head.Figuring out whether section 512(c) of the Copyright Act covers dissemination of decryption software is probably going to require you to figure out (a) what do you mean by “decryption software?,” and (b) “what does 512(c) actually say?,” and (c) “what did Congress mean by using the word “service provider” in Section 512?,” and (d) “is decryption software considered ‘speech’ so that First Amendment applies to our interpretation of section 512(c)?,” and perhaps many other questions like that.You can’t possibly keep all of that in your head and figure out where your argument is headed without writing it down and reading it through.

Use your drafts, in other words, to help make your argument better; if your argument doesn’t “work” when it is written down, it doesn’t work at all; if you can’t write it down, you don’t have an argument (yet).

The “second paper” – or your other task – is quite different.Once you have figured out where you are going – once you have written something that enables you to see the answer to the question that you have posed for yourself – you need to walk the reader through your argument as effortlessly and painlessly as possible.The reader does not necessarily need to see every step that you took to reach your conclusion; you may have taken some wrong turns, and gone down some dead ends, in trying to figure out how to answer the question, and the reader does not need to see all of those (and will be very confused if you show them to him/her).

Another way to say this:When you begin, you are writing for you, to help you understand what is going on.As you near the end, you write for your reader.

6.You will not learn to write well by talking – to me, or to anyone else – about writing; you will learn to write well by writing.

I’m always happy to talk to you about your project.But the bottom line is that talking to me is much less valuable than most students think it is.Talking about writing is like talking about carpentry, or about playing the piano, or about riding a bicycle – interesting, but rarely of much help if you are trying to learn how to do those things.You have to do them, over and over and over.Writing – actually practicing the skill you are trying to master – is almost always more useful to you than talking about writing.I’m not suggesting you should not talk to me if you have questions; but if you would like to talk to me about something, write down what you want to talk about.A sentence, or a paragraph, or an outline, describing your thoughts, or the question(s) you have, will do.That will not only give you valuable practice in the art of writing, but I guarantee you that it will make our subsequent conversation much more productive.

7.      Give yourself time.

Writing well is often painful; it is always difficult and unbelievably time-consuming.It will always take longer — usually a lot longer — than you think (or than you’d like) to get an outline or a decent draft together, let alone your final product. You must commit to spend however much time it takes to produce a quality product.

8.There is, unfortunately, no such thing as an “A for Effort” when it comes to written work.

The reader doesn’t know, and the reader doesn’t care, how much time you spent producing whatever it is you have produced, how much sweat poured off your brow during long nights in the library, etc.All he or she has, and all he or she cares about, is what you put in his or her hands; that is all that matters to the reader because that is all that the reader can see.Your argument must stand on its own two feet.You must always read your own work from the reader’s perspective.Sounds easy enough; it is not.Learning how to do this is critically important.Before you submit anything to me – an outline, a draft, whatever – you must read it over, from start to finish, in one sitting, as if you were the person to whom it is addressed -- the ‘average reader’ (if you are writing a law journal article), the partner in a law firm (if you are writing a memorandum to a partner), the judge (if you are writing a brief or legal memo).

One of the hardest things about writing well is remembering that your reader does not have in his/her head everything about the subject matter that you have in your head; indeed, the reader may have no information at all about the subject matter other than what is in your paper.Your reader will start at the beginning of your paper and read through to the end, picking up whatever information you are giving him or her and only that information, and only in the order in which you present it.You must do the same if you want to have any chance of getting the reader to understand what you are saying. Developing the ability to edit your own work in this way is far more important than whatever you may come up with as far as substance is concerned in this project.

9.      Revise, revise, revise.

You need to revise your work as necessary so that it makes sense to that reader.You don’t stop because you have completed one, or two, or four revisions of your paper; you stop when it is clear to the reader.If that takes five, or fifteen, revisions, that’s what it takes.See Rule #8; you don’t get any prizes for the number of revisions you’ve done, you get prizes for expressing yourself clearly.Please:If you are handing something in on Thursday afternoon, do not print it out and read it over on Thursday morning; leave yourself time for a final round of revisions before you hand it in.

10.Everything you put on the page matters.

Everything – every word, every bit of punctuation, every decision to begin a paragraph in one place instead of another.That’s probably not true in every field; it’s true, though, in the law.

Take the lowly comma.When Robert Frost’s Collected Poems was originally published, it contained these lines (in “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”):

“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep

But I have promises to keep

And miles to go before I sleep

And miles to go before I sleep.”

In fact, what Frost had written was:

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep

But I have promises to keep

And miles to go before I sleep

And miles to go before I sleep.”

Insertion of the extra comma in the first version makes a big difference, does it not?

We are not poets, and the texts we read and write as lawyers are, heaven knows, not poetry.But consider the following.The Copyright Act of 1874 granted copyright protection to “any engraving, cut, print, or . . . chromo[lithograph].”It also provided that “in the construction of the act the words ‘engraving,’ ‘cut,’ and ‘print’ shall be applied only to pictorial illustrations or works connected to the fine arts.”

Question:if something is a “pictorial illustration” that is not “connected to the fine arts,” is it protected by copyright?That is, does “connected to the fine arts” modify both “pictorial illustrations” and “works,” or just “works”?See Bleistein v. Donaldson Lithographic , 188 239 (1903) (Holmes, J.).Note how the meaning of this phrase would change if (a) there were a comma after “pictorial illustrations” (so that it read:“the words ‘engraving,’ ‘cut,’ and ‘print’ shall be applied only to pictorial illustrations, or works connected to the fine arts”) or (b) there were commas after both the words “pictorial illustrations” and “works” (the words ‘engraving,’ ‘cut,’ and ‘print’ shall be applied only to pictorial illustrations, or works, connected to the fine arts”).

Here’s another, more complicated, illustration.Section 512(e) of the Copyright Act provides:

“(e)When a public or other nonprofit institution of higher education is a service provider, and when a faculty member or graduate student who is an employee of such institution is performing a teaching or research function, for the purposes of subsections (a) and (b) of this section such faculty member or graduate student shall be considered to be a person other than the institution, and for the purposes of subsections (c) and (d) such faculty member's or graduate student's knowledge or awareness of his or her infringing activities shall not be attributed to the institution, if‑‑

(A) such faculty member's or graduate student's infringing activities do not involve the provision of online access to instructional materials that are or were required or recommended, within the preceding 3‑year period, for a course taught at the institution by such faculty member or graduate student;

(B) the institution has not, within the preceding 3‑year period, received more than two notifications described in subsection (c)(3) of claimed infringement by such faculty member or graduate student, and such notifications of claimed infringement were not actionable under subsection (f); and

(C) the institution provides to all users of its system or network informational materials that accurately describe, and promote compliance with, the laws of the relating to copyright.”

Read it again, carefully.Here’s a little problem of statutory interpretation.Assume that:

(a)     is a “nonprofit institution of higher education” that is a “service provider” within the meaning of subsection (e);

(b)    A faculty member – call him “Professor Post”– is employed by , and he is performing a “teaching or research function” within the meaning of subsection (e);

(c)     does not provide “informational materials that accurately describe, and promote compliance with, the laws of the relating to copyright” to all users of its system, i.e., it does not meet the condition laid down in subparagraph (C) of the above provision.

The question: Is Professor Post “a person other than the institution” for “the purposes of subsections (a) and (b) of this section” (whatever subsections (a) and (b) might be)?

The answer is “No.”Why?Because “for the purposes of subsections (a) and (b) of this section” Prof. Post “shall be considered to be a person other than the institution” only if the conditions in sub-paragraphs (A), (B), and (C) are satisfied.Because the condition in sub-paragraph (C) is not satisfied, Prof. Post shall not be considered to be a person other than the institution.[If you don’t see that, re-read the section over until you do].

Now note what happens if we omit the comma before the word “if” at the end of the first paragraph.The section now reads as follows:

“(e)When a public or other nonprofit institution of higher education is a service provider, and when a faculty member or graduate student who is an employee of such institution is performing a teaching or research function, for the purposes of subsections (a) and (b) of this section such faculty member or graduate student shall be considered to be a person other than the institution, and for the purposes of subsections (c) and (d) such faculty member's or graduate student's knowledge or awareness of his or her infringing activities shall not be attributed to the institution if ‑‑

(A) such faculty member's or graduate student's infringing activities do not involve the provision of online access to instructional materials that are or were required or recommended, within the preceding 3‑year period, for a course taught at the institution by such faculty member or graduate student;

(B) the institution has not, within the preceding 3‑year period, received more than two notifications described in subsection (c)(3) of claimed infringement by such faculty member or graduate student, and such notifications of claimed infringement were not actionable under subsection (f); and

(C) the institution provides to all users of its system or network informational materials that accurately describe, and promote compliance with, the laws of the relating to copyright.”

The answer to the question presented is now “Yes.”Removing the comma completely changes the meaning of the subsection.Without the comma, for “the purposes of subsections (a) and (b) of this section” Prof. Post “shall be considered a person other than the institution” – full stop.The conditions in sub-paragraphs (A), (B), and (C) apply only to determining whether the faculty member will be considered to be a person other than the institution for purposes of subparagraphs (c) and (d). (If you don’t see that, read the section over again – possibly aloud – until you do).

Section 512(e) is much less beautiful than “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening.”The moral of the story, however, is that in legal prose, as in poetry, everything you put down on the page matters – every word, every punctuation mark, everything.If you don’t start cultivating that attitude towards your own writing, you will never learn to write well.


PART TWO:critical rules of thumb – follow these or die!!

1.Write your Introduction LAST.Your paper will, basically, consist of three parts: an Introduction, an Argument, and a Conclusion – in that order.It would, obviously, be silly to begin writing your Conclusion first, before you know exactly what you are going to say.It is equally silly to write your Introduction first.You must know where your argument is going in order to write a decent Introduction, because the function of the Introduction is to tell the reader what’s coming.Once you know what your argument is going to be, it is very easy to write an Introduction; before you know what your argument is going to be, it is virtually impossible to do so.

2.Use topic sentences.Each paragraph in your paper should make one point, and each paragraph should begin with a declarative sentence stating that point.These “topic sentences” are enormously important.Read your paper over, frequently, as I am going to:reading only the first sentence in each paragraph. Ask yourself:If you knew nothing about this subject matter, would this reading of the paper, topic sentence by topic sentence with nothing else, have made sense to you?If the answer is “no,” you’re not finished revising.

3.      Eliminate the passive voice from your papers.

Do not say “As the Internet grew, new commercial uses were found,” say “As the Internet grew, users found new commercial uses.”

Do not say “The 5-step test for determining likelihood of confusion under the Lanham Act was crafted by the court”; tell the reader who crafted it (“The Eighth Circuit crafted the 5-step test for determining likelihood of confusion under the Lanham Act”).

Do not say “Where there is no general jurisdiction, the possibility of specific jurisdiction must be examined,” say “Where there is no general jurisdiction, the court must examine the possibility of specific jurisdiction.”

Do not say “The modern framework for analyzing a question of personal jurisdiction was developed in International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945), say “The Supreme Court developed the modern framework for analyzing questions of personal jurisdiction in International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945).”

Always write so that the reader can tell who the actor is who is performing the action described in your sentences.

You may, if you wish, treat this as just another arbitrary grammatical rule to be followed by rote – like “don’t end a sentence with a preposition,” or “don’t split infinitives.”In other words:Just do it.

It is, however, not an arbitrary rule at all; rewriting your sentences to eliminate uses of the passive voice will help you think.Here’s an example from a draft paper I received a while ago:

“Despite the radio broadcasters’ argument that they made little profit on broadcasts, ASCAP was authorized to demand payment for the broadcast of copyrighted works.”

Interesting – but who “authorized” ASCAP to do that?Congress?Where?In a statute?What statute?Or was it a court?Some administrative agency?The City Council?As it turns out, that’s a very difficult, and a very interesting and important, question.I would wager that the author of this sentence didn’t know the answer, and s/he was hiding behind the passive voice to obscure that lack of knowledge.

We all do this, all the time, and we shouldn’t; eliminating the passive voice from our writing will help us avoid it.

4.Quote first; explain later.The actual words used in the statutes or the opinions under discussion always matter.Do not tell me what you think a statutory section means until you have given me the actual language in the statute; do not tell me what you think a court meant until you first tell me what it said.If the statutory language (or court’s opinion) is clear, then it’s clear and nothing more need be said.If it needs explanation and interpretation (as it almost always does), explain and interpret – after you tell me what the words are that you are explaining and interpreting.I don’t want to know your opinion about the statute or the case – I want to know (a) what it says, and (b) what it means.

5.Do not thump on the table.Do not ever say “It is clear that . . . .,” or “it is obvious that.”Do not use the words “clearly,” or “obviously,” or “undoubtedly,” as in “the statute clearly authorizes . . . .,” or “the Feist opinion obviously changes copyright law in important ways.”If it is clear, or obvious, or free from doubt, then there if no need to say that – the reader will already see it because you have made it clear.Ninety-nine times out of 100, you use these words or phrases as crutches, to obscure the fact that you have not made something clear, or obvious, when you should have.

6.Use parallel structure. If you are talking about general and specific jurisdiction, and one paragraph begins, “In order for there to be general jurisdiction, the defendant must have . . . .,”then begin the next paragraph about the parallel topic (specific jurisdiction) the same way:“In order for there to be specific jurisdiction, the defendant must have . . .”Make it simple.

7.Avoid unnecessary introductory and transition words.Words or phrases like “Moreover,” “In addition,” “Furthermore,” “As such,” “Notwithstanding,” are sometimes useful, but rarely; most of the time they get people into trouble.They tend to be inserted when the logical transition between your sentences makes no sense; if you have two sentences that do not belong together, throwing in an “In addition” at the beginning of the second sentence will not help.Use these devices very sparingly.

8.Watch out for “as explained below” and “as explained above.”These are signals that your work is not yet properly organized.What is a reader supposed to do when he/she encounters “as explained below” in a paper?Stop reading and go “below” to wherever you explain what needs to be explained?If something needs to be explained now, explain it now.Always remember: readers read from left to right; do not make the reader’s understanding of something depend on something that you say later.

9.Read your work aloud.Writing, Lawrence Sterne wrote (in his novel Tristram Shandy), is conversation.He was correct.If your paper, or outline, or memo, or letter, or brief, or . . . does not make any sense to a listener, chances are very good that it won’t make any sense to a reader.At the very least, ask someone who knows nothing about your topic to read through what you have written; if your friend/spouse/partner/cousin can’t make heads or tails out of what you’ve written, chances are very good that I won’t be able to either.

If your instructor has specific requirements for the format of your research paper, check them before preparing your final draft. When you submit your paper, be sure to keep a secure copy.

The most common formatting is presented in the sections below:

Margins

Except for the running head (see below), leave margins of one inch at the top and bottom and on both sides of the text. If you plan to submit a printout on paper larger than 8½ by 11 inches, do not print the text in an area greater than 6½ by 9 inches.

Text Formatting

Always choose an easily readable typeface (e.g., Times New Roman) in which the regular type style contrasts clearly with the italic, and set it to a standard size (e.g., 12 points). Do not justify the lines of text at the right margin; turn off any automatic hyphenation feature in your writing program. Double-space the entire research paper, including quotations, notes, and the list of works cited. Indent the first line of a paragraph half an inch from the left margin. Indent set-off quotations half an inch as well (for examples, see 76–80 in the MLA Handbook). Leave one space after a period or other concluding punctuation mark, unless your instructor prefers two spaces.

Heading and Title

Beginning one inch from the top of the first page and flush with the left margin, type your name, your instructor’s name, the course number, and the date on separate lines, double-spacing the lines. On a new, double-spaced line, center the title (fig. 1). Do not italicize or underline your title, put it in quotation marks or boldface, or type it in all capital letters. Follow the rules for capitalization in the MLA Handbook (67–68), and italicize only the words that you would italicize in the text.

Do not use a period after your title or after any heading in the paper (e.g., Works Cited). Begin your text on a new, double-spaced line after the title, indenting the first line of the paragraph half an inch from the left margin.

A research paper does not normally need a title page, but if the paper is a group project, create a title page and list all the authors on it instead of in the header on page 1 of your essay. If your teacher requires a title page in lieu of or in addition to the header, format it according to the instructions you are given.

Running Head with Page Numbers

Number all pages consecutively throughout the research paper in the upper right-hand corner, half an inch from the top and flush with the right margin. Type your last name, followed by a space, before the page number (fig. 2). Do not use the abbreviation p. before the page number or add a period, a hyphen, or any other mark or symbol. Your writing program will probably allow you to create a running head of this kind that appears automatically on every page. Some teachers prefer that no running head appear on the first page. Follow your teacher’s preference.

Placement of the List of Works Cited

The list of works cited appears at the end of the paper, after any endnotes. Begin the list on a new page. The list contains the same running head as the main text. The page numbering in the running head continues uninterrupted throughout. For example, if the text of your research paper (including any endnotes) ends on page 10, the works-cited list begins on page 11. Center the title, Works Cited, an inch from the top of the page (fig. 3). (If the list contains only one entry, make the heading Work Cited.) Double-space between the title and the first entry. Begin each entry flush with the left margin; if an entry runs more than one line, indent the subsequent line or lines half an inch from the left margin. This format is sometimes called hanging indention, and you can set your writing program to create it automatically for a group of paragraphs. Hanging indention makes alphabetical lists easier to use. Double-space the entire list. Continue it on as many pages as necessary.

Tables and Illustrations

Place tables and illustrations as close as possible to the parts of the text to which they relate. A table is usually labeled Table, given an arabic numeral, and titled. Type both label and title flush left on separate lines above the table, and capitalize them as titles (do not use all capital letters). Give the source of the table and any notes immediately below the table in a caption. To avoid confusion between notes to the text and notes to the table, designate notes to the table with lowercase letters rather than with numerals. Double-space throughout; use dividing lines as needed (fig. 4).

Any other type of illustrative visual material—for example, a photograph, map, line drawing, graph, or chart—should be labeled Figure (usually abbreviated Fig.), assigned an arabic numeral, and given a caption: “Fig. 1. Mary Cassatt, Mother and Child, Wichita Art Museum.” A label and caption ordinarily appear directly below the illustration and have the same one-inch margins as the text of the paper (fig. 5). If the caption of a table or illustration provides complete information about the source and the source is not cited in the text, no entry for the source in the works-cited list is necessary.

Musical illustrations are labeled Example (usually abbreviated Ex.), assigned an arabic numeral, and given a caption: “Ex. 1. Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky, Symphony no. 6 in B, opus 74 (Pathétique), finale.” A label and caption ordinarily appear directly below the example and have the same one-inch margins as the text of the paper (fig. 6).

Paper and Printing

If you print your paper, use only white, 8½-by-11-inch paper of good quality. If you lack 8½-by-11-inch paper, choose the closest size available. Use a high-quality printer. Some instructors prefer papers printed on a single side because they’re easier to read, but others allow printing on both sides as a means of conserving paper; follow your instructor’s preference.

Corrections and Insertions on Printouts

Proofread and correct your research paper carefully before submitting it. If you are checking a printout and find a mistake, reopen the document, make the appropriate revisions, and reprint the corrected page or pages. Be sure to save the changed file. Spelling checkers and usage checkers are helpful when used with caution. They do not find all errors and sometimes label correct material as erroneous. If your instructor permits corrections on the printout, write them neatly and legibly in ink directly above the lines involved, using carets (⁁) to indicate where they go. Do not use the margins or write a change below the line it affects. If corrections on any page are numerous or substantial, revise your document and reprint the page.

Binding a Printed Paper

Pages of a printed research paper may get misplaced or lost if they are left unattached or merely folded down at a corner. Although a plastic folder or some other kind of binder may seem an attractive finishing touch, most instructors find such devices a nuisance in reading and commenting on students’ work. Many prefer that a paper be secured with a simple paper or binder clip, which can be easily removed and restored. Others prefer the use of staples.

Electronic Submission

There are at present no commonly accepted standards for the electronic submission of research papers. If you are asked to submit your paper electronically, obtain from your teacher guidelines for formatting, mode of submission (e.g., by e-mail, on a Web site), and so forth and follow them closely.

Designed to be printed out and used in the classroom. From the MLA Handbook, 8th ed., published by the Modern Language Association.

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