Red Meat & Cancer in 3,500 Characters

Dr. Nevil Speer, Vice President of AgriClear Inc‘s U.S. operations, who also happens to be my uncle, mentioned while he was teaching at Western Kentucky University he felt assigning papers longer than five pages was busywork. Hearing this in high school, before I knew what a peer-reviewed scholarly article was or how to use APA format, having a paper with a five-page max would be a dream come true.

That dream turned into a cheap and tacky Hollywood horror movie of a nightmare two weeks ago. Dr. Lawrence, readily informed about the IARC’s release statement on the carcinogenicity of red and processed meat assigned a paper to my Meat Science class that included ten independent sources to support our opinion for or against the IARC’s assessment. The catch, it had to be 2,500 and 3,500 characters WITH spaces. At the end of the previous sentence, I have typed 815 characters with spaces, a perfect example of how greatly space was limited for the paper.

After many hours of compiling sources and composing a paper that clarifies my opinion with sources to back it, the character count was over 4,500. A weekend of fun at the Working Ranch Cattlemen’s Association World Championship Ranch Rodeo and the WTAMU Block and Bridle Open Horse Show became going to such events while dedicating any free moments to shortening the paper.

When the paper was due Wednesday, I had 3,500 character count information-dense executive summary on the carcinogenicity of red and processed meats.

Opinion on the IARC assessment aside, college students are constantly writing papers with unnecessary fluff and filler to meet the minimum length requirement. Being assigned a paper that could only be two pages maximum was a whole new challenge – giving an opinion with substantial evidence to support such opinion with little room to spare.

The dream-turned-nightmare of a two-page paper is now an appreciation of professors who acknowledge not every paper needs to be busywork and communication sometimes requires shorter responses.

I am proud of my paper, Meat and Cancer, Finding Middle Ground, as I do feel it shares my opinion, justified with ten other independent sources consisting of five public literature and five peer-reviewed scholarly articles reasonably near the 3,500 characters limit.

Dr. Lawrence will make the final decision when I receive a grade on the paper in the next two weeks. Until then, I’ll continue adding fluff and filler to a different paper.


4 thoughts on “Red Meat & Cancer in 3,500 Characters

  1. I completely agree! Up until Dr. Lawrence, I feel like I just made stuff up to reach the page length. Dr. L made you compose what you wanted to say and why before you put pen to paper. I really appreciated and learned from it.

    • Exactly! It’s gotten to the point where I can’t answer a question without a few sentences of explanation. Too bad other professors don’t use the more efficient method of communication.

  2. Codi, you might find a small book Strunk & White wrote on writing concisely could be a supporting reference for your view.

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