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Paper, and papers, and professors... oh my!

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Don't you guys use A4 paper in the US? Elsewhere?

Also, I was just catching up with the Student Darwinism thread, and there was a lot of talk about assignments being set at '3 pages' or '10 pages'. Here in Australia, the standard seems to me to be a word limit rather than a set number of pages. So a fairly normal essay for a year 12 student might be 800-1000 words, rather than 3 pages. Many of my essays at university were 1500 words long. You get about 10% leeway either side.

Maybe it was in that thread as well, but I've also heard elsewhere people from the US talking about their professors letting them know their grades were slipping, or knowing their professors personally.

I usually only had lecturers for one 12-week subject, during which I would sit in a lecture hall with 100 or so others, and then hand in 2 assignments and do a final exam, often with just my student number attached. There was no way the vast majority of my lecturers would have known me from a bar of soap, and there certainly wasn't enough assessment for them to know the usual standard of my work, let alone whether a particular piece was up to that standard or not. And I went to a tiny university in comparison with many of the others here. And I don't remember one occasion during my whole degree when I had to go and speak to a lecturer about something personally.

Oh, and we call them lecturers, rather than professors, here

I'm from the UK, and A4 is the standard paper size here.

Same for us with papers at University - mine were all set word counts, usually 3000 for a regular essay, increasing for a dissertation.

I did know my lecturers quite well though - we had a lot of tutorials (small study sessions with 3-4 students), and they led our labs as well which could often be quite small. My DOS (Director of Studies) would definitely have said something if I repeatedly turned in supbar work, and I'm still in touch with.

We also have lecturers here too. A Professor is the highest status you can achieve in academia (well, I suppose apart from Head of Department/ School and Pro-vice/Vice Chancellor) in the UK, and everyone below that is addressed as Dr X, although their job title might be Senior Research Associate, Reader, Junior Lecturer.

Another thing that confuses me is the idea of signing up for courses. Here you go to University for 3/4 years to study a specific subject e.g. engineering, modern languages etc. Often you can take modules from other lectures (in theory all lectures are open to anyone who is interested), and they can count, but that's unusual, and you're generally pretty concentrated.

As far as paper size, for school work we generally use 81/2 by 11.  I don't know how that translates as far as A4.

Classes can vary quite a bit.  Some do tend to be mostly lecture with 100 or more students in a hall so the prof wouldn't have a chance to know you during class.  However, students are still encourages to visit the prof during office hours to ask questions, discuss papers, etc.  Some classes might be smaller. Almost all grad classes are significantly smaller and in a grad program you are likely to have the chance to see a prof in more than one course.  Many classes, even undergrad, require students to do independent or small group presentations to the class so the prof tends to get to know people a bit that way.

As far as paper length, sometimes they do refer to word count, although students still tend to talk in terms of "pages".  However, for longer papers they tend to discuss page range - "No less than 20 but no more than 30".

There can be a broad range of courses in some programs, less so in others.  For example, in English I might have a huge variety of literature classes - Three different time periods of American literature alone, Modern Poetry, Shakespeare, Latin American Literature ... and that is just the literature. There are writing classes and so forth.  You can really pick what you want and nobody's English major looks exactly like anybody else's.  Now if you are going into nursing your classes are pretty specific.  You have a few electives - this English class or that one but other than that it is pretty regimented.

UK here!

I went to a reasonably big university, but my course (Classics & Archaeology) was fairly small. My biggest lecture class (1st year required course) had less than 100 students. Aside from lectures (1 or 2 hours, once a week), we also had seminars. These were between 1 and 3 hours, once or twice a week, depending on the course, and led by either a lecturer or one of the post-grad students. Seminar groups were usually between 8 and 12 people, so you got to know your seminar leader fairly well. The faculty wasn't particularly large either, so if you did several similar modules, you might have the same lecturer/seminar leader for more than 1 course.

Our lecturers were mostly Drs with a few plain Mr/Mrs. There were several Masters and PhD students leading seminars. Of my faculty, I think there were only 2 actual "Professors" - that's a different qualification here, I think.

Essays were assigned with wordcounts, not page numbers. We did have to format them specifically though - Times New Roman or Cambria, size 12, with specific margins and headers.

There was a very wide variety of "modules" which counted towards your course. As mine was "Classics and Archaeology", some people chose to stick firmly to one or the other, but most did a mixture of the two. In the first year, there were "required modules" (intros to archaeology, classical myth, greek and roman history), but there was a lot of scope for you to do whatever interested you. For example, I stuck to mostly Classical Literature/Theatre/Greek Language modules, with a little archaeology for variation. You could choose modules from other courses, but you were only allowed to do 15 credits (of a total 120) per year, and if a module was oversubscribed, the people on that course had priority.

ETA: We were also encouraged to discuss essays with both seminar leaders and lecturers, to get a wider perspective on our grades.

8.5/11 inch paper isn't quite the same size as A4 but it's very similar. In the library we often had correspondence from Europe on A4.  It was a little longer but not quite as wide as our 8.5/11.  The difference was just enough to make the letters fit oddly into US file folders. 

Class sizes can vary greatly.  First year survey courses can be very large because everyone has to take them. 

Once you start getting into your major, class size can go down dramatically.  There's also a lot more interaction between students and faculty.  You're often assigned a faculty advisor who will discuss any problems and help you choose courses.  You and your advisor will usually meet at least once a semester.

In graduate school, things can get downright informal. In one course, there were only three students.  Because there was a lot of interaction in class, we were asked if we wanted a final exam or not.  Meetings with instructors were often held at a local coffee place. 


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