Faculty on Writing

Professor: Brian Cherry
Department of: Political Science
Interviewed By:  Katelyn Gadzinski
Date: October 1, 2008

Dr. Brian Cherry is an associate professor in the Political Science Department here at NMU. This year (2008/09) is currently his 12th year in this position and his 14th teaching at the college level. Besides teaching classes, he also writes quite often for the department. Journal articles, conference papers, and presentations are written and published regularly.

Dr. Cherry requires written assignments in all of his classes, even his 100-levels. To him, writing is very important and a great learning tool. Most of his assignments are research papers, but he also assigns short papers and some reflective essays. These assignments can help his students not only to think about different topics, but also to formulate and convey specific ideas.

Most of the written assignments Dr. Cherry receives back are somewhat weak. He believes that sometimes his students use the “shotgun approach” and just throw together a bunch of facts without really molding them into a coherent and professional essay or paper. In his experience, Dr. Cherry has seen a majority of assignments that focus on grammar, punctuation, and spelling, but not at all on a main thesis, supporting arguments, or research. Most of these papers also lack structure and direction.

The most important aspects to a written assignment, according to Dr. Cherry, are the thesis and solid, focused arguments. He wants his students to tell him something in their papers, not just ramble on to complete them. While the commas, periods, and spelling may be perfect, a paper needs a developed topic and in-depth support of that topic to be considered “good” in his opinion.

Although Dr. Cherry has recommended the Writing Center to his students in the past, he is not always happy with the results: a grammatically perfect paper. He feels that sometimes his students think that all they need to work on is grammar, when in reality, that is a much lower concern. The most important aspects, the thesis and supporting arguments, can get overlooked.

Students who are assigned written assignments in any of Dr. Cherry’s classes should know to focus on content more than making sure every comma is in the right place. The meaning behind the words is much more important than the words themselves. If students spend a little time and don’t wait for the last minute, this can be accomplished much more easily.