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I am turning in my first research paper for a class on Monday. Though I worked very hard on it, it is my first research paper and I am worried that I could fail. Can PhD students get an F on a paper?

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I am turning in my first research paper for a class on Monday. Though I worked very hard on it, it is my first research paper and I am worried that I could fail. Can PhD students get an F on a paper?


In many programs, a grade of B+ or lower is considered a failing grade. So a professor can give a "failing" grade without actually issuing a F.

Without knowing the specifics of your circumstances, I recommend that, between now and the time you hand in the paper, you work almost exclusively on the writing. Clarity of expression and graceful prose can, to a degree, balance out less than ideal research and analysis.

As you revise your paper, stay calm. Clear your mind of "what could have been," of "what you might have done," of "what you should have done," and of "what might happen." Stay focused on the task of writing as well as you can under the circumstances. If you need to eat or to sleep, do so. Just don't do either in excess as time is of the essence. I recommend that you be careful with your caffeine intake. IME, caffeine and stress can lead to an upset stomach and batty thoughts. I also recommend that think twice about working with any media running in the background.

After handing in the paper, treat yourself to a nice meal if not also a beverage. Later, have a brutally honest conversation with yourself in which you figure out what you did right, what you could have done a bit better, and where you made mistakes. While it is important for you to be candid with yourself in this conversation, do not let it turn into an exercise in self flagellation. Understand and accept that almost everyone crashes and burns at least once during their first year. Understand that you're traveling a path that isn't easy and that you will stumble, even fall, along the way.

When you get back the paper, read through the comments through carefully. Then, read them through again. Incorporate that information into the "lessons learned" conversation you had earlier. If necessary, schedule a face to face meeting with your professor to make sure you understand the feedback. During this meeting, avoid the temptation to make excuses. Instead, keep the discussion focused on learning what you can do to improve your skills for the next task of this nature.


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Hi there,

I hope your paper went well.

Sigaba offers some really great advice.

I always recommend talking to the professor before the paper is due, and in some cases, sending them a draft or outline for them to review. Depending on their schedule/time, they will gladly look over and provide direction.

A key thing to remember is that at this level, a 'night before' paper just won't cut it. You're going to want to start early, plan a skeleton outline, research well, and write 1-3 drafts. Have peers read it over, or even take it into a writing center on your campus for feedback. Don't look as a paper as just an assignment to get it done, look at it as an opportunity to improve your skills. When I was doing course work, I always wrote my assignments/papers as if I wanted them published...this made me raise the quality of my writing, and had the opportunity to result in more than just a paper for a class.

Good luck!

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Thank you all for your great advice.

I ended up giving the paper to a peer in another field to read and to a former classmate. Both had liked the paper and suggested minor edits. I read it over 3 more times, made some changes and submitted. Hopefully it goes well if not, I learned a lot about both about the topic/my research area and about paper-writing in general.

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Love the idea in the subject of the paper and the paper will love you back.

Your grade will congratulate you for your effort and honor you with the highest distinction.

It is only when you pour all your attention and love into writing a paper that your reward goes beyond your expectation.

Your initial worries then turn into joy and you become one with your paper.

It's all about love, love, love ...

Look at what these Masters - Marie Curie in particular - did with their PhD dissertations at http://bit.ly/yQegxq (follow the links "PhD Theses" and "Extraordinary Dissertations") .

I hope this helps now and in the future.


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