Final Paper Assignment
by John Bandler
This page is about the final paper assignment (the last part of the final paper project), where you submit your final paper.
By now, you have already submitted a paper topic and then a paper outline, and also presented your topic to the class. We have discussed this throughout the semester and now is the time to submit your final paper
In sum, start with your paper outline submission as your template. Then follow the paper assignment instructions, my feedback, do additional research and thought, writing, editing, proofreading, and more editing.
The final paper should be a maximum of 2,000 words or 3,000 words, not including citations, references, and end of paper comments (see the exact requirement for your course) please do not go over. The final paper is the culmination of this semester long project.
It needs to be of appropriate quality and scholarship for your level course (undergraduate, graduate, law school, etc.). Cite to appropriate primary sources (statutes, regulations, cases), and reliable secondary and tertiary sources. Start with materials covered in the syllabus and expand. Have thoughtful and quality organization, logical legal analysis, clear writing, grammar, etc. Effort counts and the goal is your learning. Have fun (if possible) put in effort, learn about your topic and learn about researching, writing, and editing. Help me to learn too. Put in work early and steadily for a better end product. Ease into the deadline, avoid a last-minute scramble.
Put in your best efforts. Learning takes place with the effort, and you will learn about your topic and the process of researching, writing, and editing.
Proofread your work, and see the instructions above and my links below, including the checklist.
Occasionally a student asks for a more formal rubric. I already offer extensive guidance on the website and throughout the course, but I created this rubric in response to those requests. Of course, this rubric refers heavily to the assignment instructions and other guidance.
A. Process and learning
- Substantial research
- Substantial learning by the student
- Substantial editing and refinement
- Consulted available school resources for research and writing
- Consulted resources and checklists on this site
- Submitted all phased assignments (topic assignment, paper outline, paper presentation) and incorporated feedback
- Improved self and improved the final product through continual honest effort
B. Final Product
- Clear organization, including a clear title, approximately 5-7 outline points (section headers highly recommended), including an introduction and conclusion
- Clear writing, understandable to reader (and writer of course)
- Clear analysis
- Writing reflects substantial research, including on law (law students will devote exceptional focus on legal research). Research start was any assigned course materials and progressed well beyond that.
- Proper paragraph structure, sentence structure, word choice, grammar, punctuation, capitalization.
- Followed the final paper assignment instructions (this page)
- Followed the paper submission checklist
- Properly quoted and cited where appropriate, properly cited where appropriate.
- After the paper conclusion there is a "References" or "Bibliography" section listing relevant references you consulted in your research
- After the references there is a "Student comments" section that
- Lists any consultations with school library and writing center, including date, time, person consulted, and how it went for you.
- If you did not consult them, indicate why
- Summarizes how this submission and the process went for you, and what you learned from the process.
- Use your paper outline as the template to build your final paper
- Add the text, formatting, formalities, etc.
- Do a "save as" and give your submission document a good filename, e.g., STUDENTNAME PAPER SUBJECT 2023-xx-xx
- Paper length:
- Undergraduate and graduate: Maximum 2,000 words (about 8 pages) not including references.
- Law school: Maximum 3,000 words (about 12 pages) not including references.
- Don't go over by much
- Mark Twain said: "I'm sorry I wrote this long letter, I didn't have time to write a shorter letter." You have time to edit and be concise and within the length limits.
- Your final paper needs to be of appropriate quality reflecting your own work and substantial effort.
- Quality should be commensurate to the course education level. Undergraduate courses are one expectation level, higher for graduate
level, and even higher for law school.
- Effort counts! Put in effort and do your best work. You can do it.
- Law tie-in: Your paper is about law, so you must tie it into law (which is not hard to do, we are a nation of laws).
- Law school students of course need to have exceptional legal research and scholarship.
- Cite to appropriate primary sources (statutes, regulations, cases), and reputable secondary sources, and reputable tertiary sources.
- Have quality organization, logical legal analysis, clear writing, grammar, etc.
- Have fun, put in effort, learn about writing and your topic, and help me to learn something too.
- Put in early and steady work to achieve a better result and learning.
- Ease into the deadline, avoid a last-minute scramble.
- Feel free to bounce any ideas off of me in advance.
- Consult my resources linked to below and throughout.
Wait, there are not enough instructions
Review other articles on the paper process (see links below), reread as needed, ask in class, email me, meet with me, and remember the goal is your effort and learning.
And remember that forever in life you will be faced with many situations where you do not know exactly what others expect or desire, including supervisors, clients, customers, judges, and even family. You will also face many difficult decisions and situations, and much uncertainty. So if you feel that uncertainty here, this is an opportunity to practice doing your best in those circumstances.
And above all, remember the goal is your learning about the topic and communicating it, the process of research, thinking, writing, and editing. Remember to put in good, honest effort.
Wait, this is overwhelming, there are too many instructions for me
I built this out in response to student inquiries and needs over the years. Some students want more, but I realize it might be too much for some to take in.
Just focus on the goal, your learning about the topic and communicating it, the process of research, thinking, writing, and editing. Remember to put in good, honest effort. Focus on my feedback. Start with the high priority instructions and the overarching goal. Then, you can work on some of the details later.
Will you read my draft?
Unfortunately I cannot commit to reading drafts, but please ask specific questions or talk through any issues with me at office hours, in class, after class, or email me.
Here's why. I have found that many of the issues I see on final papers are addressed in class, in my prior feedback, the resources on this site, the resources of the school, and with your effort. They can be fixed with proofreading, editing, effort, and research. So please take full advantage of existing resources and your self-editing, plus the writing center and librarians. This will result in greater long-term improvement to your skills than using me as a proof-reader. Also, I find that additional feedback sometimes has diminishing returns.
PS, imagine how much time it has taken me already to read and provide feedback on everyone's topic assignment, outline assignment, and build all of these resources. I devote an incredible amount of time to teaching, even though I am an adjunct (part time), and have (what seems like) several other full time jobs. The financial compensation is extremely meager for adjuncts, and needless to say I don't do it for the money. But with teaching a part-time pursuit for me, and not being on your school's full time staff, I have to use our time together efficiently.
Writing resources include
- How to Write a Paper
- Paper Submission Checklist
- A Guide to Citations and References
- Helpful Legal Resources and Links
- The school's writing center
Research resources include
- Course book
- Syllabus materials
- This website
- Laws, statutes, regulations, cases (case law)
- Reliable sources, experts
- The school's library
Final paper project
- Final paper project
- Paper topic assignment
- Paper outline assignment
- Paper presentation assignment
- Final paper assignment (this page)
Watch me walk through these instructions in a short video
- The video should be embedded below, if not you can find it on YouTube at https://youtu.be/KATJ9RgxyAg
Posted 8/15/2022 based on years of teaching. Updated 1/18/2023