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John Thompson, Professor Emeritus, Sociology

Essay Length

Is reaching the requested page length important?

I don't...I actually...I, actually, I put very severe limitations on page length. For example, in my introductory class, the first essay was two pages, the second was three, the next one four, the next one was five, maximum. Students said they couldn't write them in that short a space. I said, 'I know, but you're going to do it." I have no tolerance for long stuff, as such, because I think it's often obscuring. Students get very good at being able to put filler into things. If it was supposed to be five pages, and they did it in three, and they did it, I'd be delighted. In fact, I would be prepared to say that three, if they did it well, would be far better than the five.