1. Introductory Material:
Is this part of your introduction?
An introduction attracts the reader’s interest and provides background information. It may lead into your thesis sentence. Look in the Writer’s Handbook for ways to improve your introduction.
Is this your thesis? The purpose of a thesis is to organize, predict, control, and define your essay.
Look in the Writer’s Handbook for ways to improve your thesis.
3. Main Ideas:
You nee to identify this as one of the main ideas in your essay. Are these your main ideas? Each main idea should be introduced by a topic sentence and developed within a paragraph. Look in the Writer’s Handbook for ways to improve your main ideas.
4. Supporting Ideas:
Identify this sentence as a supporting idea. Does this sentence support the main idea of your paragraph? A well-developed paragraph usually has three or more supporting ideas. Use examples, explanations, and details to support and extend your main ideas. Look in the Writer’s Handbook for ways to develop supporting ideas.
Is this your conclusion?
A conclusion reminds the reader about your thesis and stresses the importance of the ideas you have developed. Look in the Writer’s Handbook for ways to improve your conclusion.
6. Transitional Words and Phrases:
This is a transition word or phrase. Check theWriter’s Handbook to see if you have used transitions correctly.
So what does all this show (continued)?
Organizational check is strictly formulaic. The program merely looks to the first line in each paragraph (or the last line of the introduction) to find the topic or thesis statements. Despite the claims of artificial intelligence, there is no questioning of the thesis or topic sentences made because in reality how could it know whether “Some chickens just can’t fly without direction” makes sense or not? It merely asks the reader whether that topic sentence says what s/he wants it to say. Well, that doesn’t do much good. If all students asked themselves that question and were able to process the answer effectively as they wrote, we would not need the computer program in the first place.
Similarly, inside the paragraphs it is impossible for the program to pick up logical flaws and incorrect statements. Stalin’s election is not questioned, and there is no mention of the digression after the Whitman quote, nor is the pizza comment in the first body paragraph mentioned as needing context or as being irrelevant.
So what the user is left with are four sections of grammar checking and one pretty useless organizational check with no ability to actually check the quality of truth of ideas.
The creepy thing is that they say that this program is 90-something-percent correct in predicting the scores of students’ papers. Someone in the Linda Adams team brought up the fact there have been studies that showed that the number of semi-colons and multi-syllable words were generally predictors of writing scores. It could be that this program can in Nostradamus-like fashion predict the holistic strength of most essays. It does not seem able, however, to give advice of how to strengthen students’ logic beyond pointing them to the prescribed organizing points (thesis and topic sentences), and it clearly can allow for gross factual errors to go unnoticed.
In defense of ETS, they argue that the program is not meant to replace teachers but to help them with the massive job of editing. The problem is that beyond being an extended grammar checker and a very impressive database for student work including recording grammar trends in their writing, the program’s helpfulness in correcting work is pretty limited. So the question becomes whether having this database system for keeping papers and shortcuts for giving commentary is worth the few hundred dollars for an individual teacher license or a few thousand dollars for a whole school license per year.