Students, we’ve all been there. You labor over your essay, you find your sources and add in your citations. After drafting your conclusion, you proofread and realize that your work isn’t done yet -- your essay is six pages, and your professor requested that you write at least eight.
So what do you do? You ramble. You repeat yourself. You add extra citations that may not have been needed, but you can only reach seven and a half pages. So you add more unnecessary information. You ramble for a few paragraphs, you make your citations a line or two longer -- and eventually, you hit the magic number ‘eight.’
As someone who puts genuine effort into her essays, I am not a fan of minimum page lengths -- because I have been in the above scenario before, and I feel that the quality of my paper decreased with each page that I was forced to add. Why should I submit a 12-page essay on a topic that I can say in nine pages, or even less?
I’ve also constantly heard professors complain about how students nowadays are unable to write well -- not just due to their grammar and punctuation skills, but due to their inability to stay on topic and organize their thoughts clearly. Have they ever considered that perhaps we can’t stay on topic because we have to add unnecessary information to our essays in order to meet an arbitrary goal that they set for us?
I love writing more than anything -- my minor is journalism, for crying out loud. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been excited to write an essay about a specific topic, but then learned to hate it because the essay itself became torturous -- yes, all because of the minimum page length. I’ve even gotten points taken off my essays because I ‘repeated myself.’
When professors set minimum page lengths that are unachievable for certain topics, writing feels more like a chore. It’s not enjoyable, and students don’t get anything out of it. And isn’t that the whole point of writing an essay? For us to show our professors that we’re actually learning?
I’m currently a student in Dr. Barna Donovan’s Media II class, a core class that all communication majors are required to take. While giving out instructions for our most recent essay, Donovan said that we should “write as much as we need to in order to write a good paper,” in regards to the page count.
Not to put Dr. Donovan on a pedestal, but I think all professors should follow his approach. I believe in quality over quantity, and I think students will learn more about the topic they are researching if they’re actually writing about necessary information, rather than just adding fillers and going off on tangents. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll find writing enjoyable.
I understand that some professors may want to set a very conservative minimum, because a senior thesis, for example, should not be three pages long. But I feel that professors should have faith in their students and the quality of their work. I believe that then, grading essays will become easier and students will get more out of their education and out of writing as a whole.