writing term papers, 1970s style

When I was in college in the early 1970s writing a term paper was a major undertaking. I would check the books out of the library I needed for my research and make notes on 4×6 cards. I would then arrange the cards in an order that had some kind of flow to it, put a piece of paper in my manual typewriter, and start typing. Footnotes were torturous, especially when I chose to put them at the bottom of the page rather than at the end of the paper. Doing the bibliography was tedious, as I worked to ensure that each entry conformed to the proper Chicago Manual of Style format, as presented in the term paper bible of the day, A Manual for Writers by Kate L. Turabian, generally referred to simply as Turabian.

TurabianI don’t know what methodology is used by today’s college student, but it certainly involves the use of their laptop, and there must obviously be at some amount of copy and paste, a luxury I didn’t have.

And of course there is spell check. All of my life I have had what is called mixed brain dominance, one of the manifestations of which is that I invert letters when typing and don’t see those inversions when proofreading. I would get back terms papers with comments from the professor like, “It is only common courtesy to proofread your paper before turning it in.” Well, I did proofread it, dammit! It didn’t help matters that my condition wasn’t diagnosed until the second semester of my senior year. sigh

You’re aware that I have a serious case of nostalgia for the 1970s. That is absolutely the case, and I loved my days at Pitzer College. Nonetheless, spell check technology would have saved me a good deal of pain and grief back then.

3 Comments on “writing term papers, 1970s style”

  1. Jean Swenk says:

    Yes like you I loved Pitzer…and yes spell check would have been nice. But I also don’t think it’s necessarily improved writing especially when the writers don’t use grammar check also. I see so many more errors in magazines and books than I ever used to see.

    • Jean, I agree. Though I’ve been using grammar checkers off and on since the early 1990’s. They have improved hardly a whit since that time. Sometimes they will catch something, but for the most part they’re not smart enough to grasp the context and the suggestions they offer are not relevant to what I’m trying to say. What we all need is a real, live human editor. Not always practical, but it’s the best approach.

  2. Tahoe Mom says:

    The other problem with spell check is that if you spell a correct word, you are wrong and it isn’t caught. “There” is a legitimate word so spell check won’t catch it although you mean “their”. The human editor is best. And no matter what your condition, you really can’t proof your own material because you know what it is supposed to say and so that is what you tend to see.

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