Best Practice for Students: Ideas vs. Formatting in Essays

Every semester, I spend a lot of time explaining the term paper assignments to students. I talk about them when I hand out my syllabus, I spend a good half-hour discussing the assignment about 3 weeks into the course, and I revisit the topic several times up until the last week before the due date. Every time I bring it up, I ask if students have any questions. The questions I get are always about teh same damn thing: formatting. “Does it have to be typed?” “What size margins should I use?” “What style do you want the references in?” I can only imagine that other professors and/or high school teachers hammer students over formatting, without paying much attention to their ideas — which are, ostensibly, what we assign papers to help students get at and express. [Continue reading]