I am a Material Science and Engineering major.What I am having doubt with is how I am supposed to write long answers.Lets say someone asks,"What is a Lomer Cottrell barrier?" or may be,"What is solid solution strengthening?"Actually I write answers to these but those answers never fetch me a more than 50% marks.How do I get through?Please help.

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    This is a good question for your instructor, not for us. – JeffE Oct 13 '19 at 14:40
  • I find this question interesting because most of my experience, and that of my friends when in school, was trying to write shorter answers, because it's usually harder to say something in a few words than in many words. So I suspect in your case the problem is with not knowing how supportive your answers need to be. For example, instead of saying "demand increased so costs decreased", do you need to specify which costs, which period of time, which type of economy, etc. and do you need to mention this is the law of supply and demand (a phrase the teacher may be looking for)? – Dave L Renfro Oct 14 '19 at 18:01

Your question, and a comment you posted, suggest a misguided belief that “the art of writing long answers” in the context of an exam or homework assignment is somehow different than the general art of writing (and the even more general art of communicating your thoughts to others clearly and efficiently). Sorry, but that’s not true, and you’re looking for help in the wrong places. I, and everyone posting here, have never taken a class or read a manual on “writing long answers”. To write long answers well, you need to write well, and that’s something that a stack exchange answer can’t teach you. There are many books about it, but as people on the sister site writing.stackexchange like to say, the best way to develop good writing skills is to write, write, and write some more. Over time you will see your skills improve with practice.

Second, my experience with science and engineering is that the focus in these areas is usually on answers that are conceptually correct and show a good level of understanding of the material (even if they are not especially well-written or phrased) rather than on the quality of the writing itself. So you should also consider the possibility that if you’re losing 50% of the points or more on your answers, that may be because you don’t actually understand the material as well as you think you do (and as well as you should) - this may not be a writing issue per se. Even the best writer in the world will not be able to write a good answer to a question on a topic they don’t understand well. As others have said, it would be a good idea to review the feedback you get from your instructors and if necessary ask for additional feedback, to try to develop an understanding of where exactly the problem lies. Good luck!

  • I perform exceptionally well in objective exams even where numerical only answer type are present.The problem only arises with subjective tests.Is it not that I would perform poorly in objective tests as well if performance if a "function" of knowledge as per the subject? – user586228 Oct 12 '19 at 7:10
  • @user586228 I can’t say if it is or it isn’t, sorry. It’s possible you have an understanding of certain topics that’s good enough to get correct numerical answers but not to answer certain conceptual questions correctly. Or there might be some other explanation, I just don’t know. Someone would have to actually look at your non-numerical answers and give you feedback about what you‘re doing wrong. By the way your writing here seems fine - it’s a small sample but just based on that I’m not seeing anything that should stop you from demonstrating knowledge that you have in response to a question. – Dan Romik Oct 12 '19 at 7:38
  • @user586228 good that you perform well on numerical questions though! That’s one less thing to worry about, and to me it suggests that you should have the core ability to understand the material at a high level and be able to show it, once you figure out the issue with conceptual answers. – Dan Romik Oct 12 '19 at 7:40

The only person who absolutely knows what they are looking for in your answers is your instructor. You need to talk to them about this. If they have office hours, visit them during office hours. If not, email to politely schedule a meeting and bring this question to them.

  • One way of grading that sort of question is to have a list of key facts that need to be in the answer, with a number of points for each fact. If that is what is happening, the OP needs to learn what sorts of facts the instructor wants and the OP is omitting. – Patricia Shanahan Oct 11 '19 at 13:56

As @GrotesqueSI said, go ask the teacher what s/he wants in an answer and the format of it. The length, how many references (you are adding references, right? in APA? from veritable sources?).

It also helps if you revise how you write. Given your field some tutorial/books about technical writing could be useful. In the first paraghph you give the concrete answer and then you explain the details in the next paragraphs. max 5 paragraphs and .5- 1 page should be enough.

For docs on technical writing:

  • Could you name some books which teaches the art to write proper answers? – user586228 Oct 11 '19 at 17:27
  • @user586228 I added some links in the response. – deags Oct 11 '19 at 18:22

Looking at your questions on the chemistry forum (from your profile), I get the impression your issues are much more from knowing the material than from exposition (writing ability). Although there's definitely an English language issue as well (if you are taking tests in that language).

My advice is to work more problems and get help with teachers (reviewing your drill problems). Basically what you are doing on the forums here, but with more intensity. Do homework problems until you puke and then wipe off the puke and do some more. Look into getting extra problem sets (with solutions or at least answers, so that you can check your work).

Get help for questions you don't understand--good that you are actively using the chem stack exchange. But you may want to get in person help as well. Also, perhaps you need to work more easy problems if you are struggling with all the hard problems you're showing on the site here. (Like working on my double back flips to get them perfect, if I'm having a problem with triples.)

In particular, many of your questions revolve around the trickier types of stoichiometry problems, especially in an applied (therefore complicated word problem) setting. The problems you're mostly showing seem to have some complication around them, but at their core they use freshman chemistry insights.

I have seen EXTREMELY poor English speaker/writers, still able to do well in classes like material science or inorganic chemestry. Even to ace the material. So, I really suspect your issue is more one of the subject matter content than of writing ability. Yeah, you need work on that too, but it's not the "limiting reagent" of the getting you a good grade reaction.

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