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Additional lecturer comments

Lecturer: Dr. Ken Jones

This paper has some significant strengths. The student has an excellent grasp of the literature, and has used a well-selected set of resources. The assignment has been correctly interpreted and the important issues have been discussed. It is also a well-structured essay, with an introduction that provides the reader with a clear outline of the intended structure. However, as a case report this paper has a major flaw.

The paper begins with a fairly detailed outline of the thyroid gland, including information on the occurrence and treatment of thyroid conditions. The specific symptoms that lead to the diagnosis of Erica's condition are not described until page 6. This is contrary to the guidelines for this assignment, which urge students to start with the person and their individual experience. There is too little about Erica in the early sections of this paper. Most sections up to page 7 begin with scientific information of a general kind about thyroid disease, and then move on to Erica. Once Erica's situation is more fully outlined it becomes clear that much of the general information previously provided on thyroid disease is irrelevant or trivial. The focus of the paper should be the other way around: firstly, this is Erica, and secondly, this is the relevant and important literature relating to her condition.

Basically, as a case report the paper gets better as it goes along. The focus shifts from thyroid disease in a general sense to Erica - a person who has to live with thyroid disease. If the early sections of the report had taken the same approach, the paper would have received a better mark.

Some imprecise and inaccurate use of terminology detracts from the quality of the paper. For example, the following phrase from page 2: "environmental stimulations such as bacteria infection, stress or simply geographic variables such as her Asian background might have activated the disease". The word 'stimuli' should be used rather than stimulations and 'bacterial' rather than bacteria. Similarly in the phrase from page 8 "the fear of social stigmatism and the fear of dependency" the word 'stigma' should be used rather than stigmatism. Also, this student tends to use too many 'chatty' adjectives, which are not consistent with an academic writing style. Some examples of these are:

  • "Erica was first diagnosed with a thyroid condition at the tender age of 21." (p. 2)
  • "Erica also lost hefty clumps of hair." (p. 7)
  • "Being young and hot-blooded, she was eager to explore the world..." (p. 10)
  • "The conscious choice of adopting a positive attitude instead of dwelling in an eternal mode of self pity..." (p. 11)

It is important to be consistent in using acronyms (words formed from the first letters of a term to act as an abbreviation). This student correctly provides an acronym for the term antithyroid drugs (ATD), but then fails to consistently use this acronym, moving between the full term and acronym throughout the paper. She uses the acronym RAI for the term radioactive therapy (p. 3), but this acronym actually refers to 'radioactive iodine'.

Another issue is the length of the paper. At around 3000 words the paper is overly long - careful editing to avoid repetition and to remove some detail not directly relevant to Erica's condition would have improved the paper and made it a more appropriate length.

In addition to careful editing, the importance of proofreading cannot be overemphasized. Careless errors detract from the quality of a paper, and these should be picked up and corrected as part of the proofreading process.

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