"Accuracy of Support"
College-level readers demand
accuracy from writing they will trust. One enormous difference between
most high-school writing and college-level writing is that the latter is
preparation for running the world. High school diplomas usually will not
qualify you to manage other people, to set policies, to write laws, or to judge
the best course of action among alternatives. Those are the kinds of tasks
college should prepare you to undertake. Mistakes in trivial writing harm
no one. Mistakes in documents that manage people will harm real human
beings, including their authors, and that harm usually has further bad
consequences. For that reason, you must try, to the best of your ability,
to tell the truth when you write. College-level readers will perceive
inaccuracy as a kind of "lie" in that it distorts your verbal picture of the
- As you write, and certainly before you turn in your writing, check the
facts, including the way their names are spelled.
- Do not exaggerate, ever, and especially do not claim more certainty about
your conclusions than you can support with solid evidence. A carefully
demonstrated case for possibility or (harder still) probability
can do great things, but an exaggerated claim of certainty always
- Do not try to achieve this level of accuracy on your own--ask for second
opinions of your evidence and reasoning from people who should know the facts as well as or better than you
(other good students in the class, the instructor, Writing Center tutors).
- Because your accuracy depends upon your sources' accuracy, always seek the
best sources, not the most easily available source. This usually means
using scholarly, peer-reviewed sources rather than sources acquired by
Internet searches using commercial search engines like Yahoo or Google.
When your sources are not peer-reviewed by experts, you take upon yourself the
burden of demonstrating the sources are trustworthy. Experts tend to
avoid even looking at amateur sources of evidence for fear that they might
accidentally remember misinformation from such sources, a kind of
"pollution" of your mind by contact with writing that does not play by the
rules of academic.