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S/o Help with INTJ ds


dhudson
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Since there are, obviously, many INTJ's on this board, I thought I would try and gain some insight on my 16 year old INTJ son.

 

He is very bright, well spoken, diligent and a delight to be around. He is willing and thoroughly does his work but when it come to writing papers, he never has enough words. His essays are well thought out and often have brilliant conclusions but he is always a couple hundred words under what the paper needs to have. For instance, I required him to write a 10 page research paper and he turns in 7 pages of well written and concise information. I ask him to fill in and he calmly replies, "I said what was needed in 7 pages".

 

He is going into Comp Sci/ Math so maybe it won't be a problem in college but do any of you have any insight that might help him expand his word count?

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Ask him to find a resource or two that look at the topic in a different light--preferably before he writes the first draft. He will run into trouble if he writes a draft and then it's short. It's much easier to plan on more from the beginning than to fit in more to meet the minimum (which feels fake and awkward).

 

I'm like that, too, and majored in English. It worked out fine: profs would say, "Write 15-20 pages," and I'd do it in about 16. As long as the subject is rich enough and you start early, you get better and better at it the more you do. But it takes some experience to see whether you have enough ideas in the outline stage, before you start composing.

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As an INTJ I tend to be pretty literal and goal-oriented. I like specifics. So for me 10 pages is too vague. My ds is the same way so when I assign him papers I am very specific about the number of sources, number quotes or paraphrases, number of examples, and so forth. In his younger years I was even specific about how many adjectives, adverbs, etc. If I didn't he would find new and unique ways to be concise. :)

 

The key for him and myself is a very detailed outline before writing.

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First, tell him that not meeting the criteria of an assignment is not acceptable, and that you will not accept assignments that fail to meet the basic requirements (like length).

 

Next, tell him to write a few "spin off footnotes" as he composes the paper. They can be 1. his personal opinions, reactions or evaluations of the info he is presenting, 2. tangential intormation that interested him during research, but isn't exactly on topic, 3. clairifying details about some of the info he puts into brief summation form.

 

Tell him to aim for 2 short paragraphs per 'footnote' and about one footnote every 2 or 3 pages. Then, if he needs more length, he just pops them into the paper as 'commentary sections'.

 

Also, in 10+ page papers, an additional intro paragraph can be about 'why this topic is interesting and worth reading / writing about' and an additional conclusion paragraph can be about 'how this idea might apply to real life'.

 

If he does all this, 7 pages become 12. Any combination of them should yield 10.

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Well, I agree w/ your son, but I see your point. I would have him find a few more sources, and use more examples to back up his findings. Not new information, just more evidence. I would also look into the IEW History units, and focus on using the word lists to make sentences longer.. in other words, make his sentences a little more flowery, to take up more space. (Yuck, blech, ick, but sometimes it has to be done.)

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Oh, he can follow up one of his own sentences into a 3-4 line quote of someone else saying the same thing. That's a good space-eater that increases the academic credibility of the paper.

 

And tell him that 10 pages means 'finishing on the tenth page, with 3 or more lines of text on that page.'

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I was just like that--although I definitely was not a math or comp sci kind of girl! I learned to get good at manipulating margins, substituting longer words for shorter ones, adding just enough to pop that paragraph from ending near the end of one line to having a single word on the next line ... when I became the teacher, I remembered my tricks and specified word counts rather than number of pages :)

 

But in principle, I agree with your son. If he can say what needs to be said in a shorter space, that's actually a *good* thing. A respected psych professor in college told us that he expected our papers to display "clarity, conciseness, and felicity of expression." That phrase has stuck with me for over a decade now, and I will use it when I teach my own daughter to write research papers many years from now.

 

If you want him to get used to being able to get a paper to a certain minimum length, as he'll have to do in some required college classes, then the suggestions above are good ones, especially the footnote idea. But when you're teaching him to *write* ... just make sure he writes well; length doesn't matter, as long as he says what needs to be said. If he can say it in a space that you think is too small, then start to help him develop more complicated theses or topics about which to write--that's the best way to make a paper longer; make it *need* to be longer to get the job done.

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The best teachers say, "write until the paper is complete," and they assign the number of pages as a guide, not a dictate. He will need to learn some skills to cope with rigid professors, but your son is right.

 

I would not make him rewrite good information unless you are talking about literary papers, in which case, warn him it will be a soul-sucking endeavor. Give him the tools to write more lengthy explanations of his thoughts. My guess is that he'll hate it, and it will be an exercise in total frustration and pointlessness. :-)

 

Objective information should not be stretched or embellished to meet an arbitrary page count. If he likes to learn new things and to write concise, informative material, he might consider adding a minor in technical communication or some related field. The background education feeds into many possible careers and would compliment a computer science degree very well.

 

I once misunderstood part of an assignment and turned in a paragraph instead of a two-page response paper. I asked the professor if there was anything else to be said on the topic besides what I wrote in my paragraph. He said, "well, not really," and gave me an A.

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I had the exact opposite problem with my son, in that he could not for the life of him be concise.  I would ask for two pages and get ten.  He would go off onto all the tangents that he found fascinating and it would just get longer and longer.

 

What helped was breaking it down a little at a time.  So when he had the ten pages, I'd say -- okay, now go over it and see what you can do to get it down to eight pages.  Then, we'd do the same thing to get it down to six pages.  And so on. 

 

I think if your son is already doing that, he's in good shape, IF you feel that he really is covering all the major points.  Seven pages instead of ten isn't too bad, and the advice that Bolt gave you is probably something he could do without feeling like he's just adding flowery excess.

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I gave my son a word range rather than a page range. But generally, I agree that a concise, well-written paper is a thing of beauty and a padded, puffed paper is not.

Give a range and stand firm on meeting the minimum. When I wanted a 10 page paper out of him, I told him 10-15 pages and I really wanted to see 15.

 

He gave me 10. Of course, that only worked once.

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Usually a page or word count is given to indicate how much detail a prof wants on the topic. All topics are rich and complex. They can also all be summarized in a paragraph and defined in a sentence or two. You can write a Wikipedia article or an entire textbook on the same topic. You Dan even write a textbook on an individual sub-point if many Wikipedia articles.

 

Example: the Old Testament: 1 paragraph, sure. A 4-6 page paper, no problem. A 10-15 page paper, also fine. A dissertation, lots of them. At text book, also plenty of them. Commentaries on each book of the OT, absolutely. Entire books on individual sections: yep.

 

That's not adding fluff to write a paper of a specific length: it's taking direction and covering the topic at the depth that has been requested. As such, it should be abided by. Whether you write 6 pages or 12 does not depend on the topic, it depends on how deeply one covers the topic.

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I think it's probably his personality. I have a computer programming degree. Short and succinct seems to go along with this profession and the people in it. I have to work very hard to add the extra frills required of written social interactions. I add smiley faces a lot to fill in for my gaps. I remember having the same issues in college with papers. I don't have an answer but I get it. :)

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While length can be a very rough guide, I would focus specific criticism on the depth, or whatever actual substance you think is missing, rather than the missing arbitrary length.  If a point needs expansion or more support, that's one thing.  However, IMO, empty flowery language dilutes the strength of an argument and it would not be something I'd want to encourage.

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But in principle, I agree with your son. If he can say what needs to be said in a shorter space, that's actually a *good* thing. A respected psych professor in college told us that he expected our papers to display "clarity, conciseness, and felicity of expression." That phrase has stuck with me for over a decade now, and I will use it when I teach my own daughter to write research papers many years from now.

 

If you want him to get used to being able to get a paper to a certain minimum length, as he'll have to do in some required college classes, then the suggestions above are good ones, especially the footnote idea. But when you're teaching him to *write* ... just make sure he writes well; length doesn't matter, as long as he says what needs to be said. If he can say it in a space that you think is too small, then start to help him develop more complicated theses or topics about which to write--that's the best way to make a paper longer; make it *need* to be longer to get the job done.

I agree. (I'm an INTJ & am totally on your son's side on this one.)

 

It's like fingers on a chalkboard to ask an INTJ to 'add in' fluff or other stuff (whether it's footnotes, opinions, white space, etc...) just to make something longer. Waste of time, waste of trees & ink (if you're printing it), & loss of clarity. It's completely illogical to make that request. (I'm guessing this is his stance if he's an INTJ. ;) )

 

Sometimes a topic doesn't have enough info/depth to support a specific number of pages. If you really want to require a particular length, make sure it's a pretty deep topic w/ lots of info so he will have plenty of source info to go through & whittle down.

 

Remember that INTJs are good at getting the big, overall picture, then whittling it down into something very concise & precise.

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Thanks, all! His Dad is a Technical Journalist and agrees that while he could put more quotes in his papers, they are well thought out and well written. 'Flowery' might well kill him but he does have an extensive vocab (all those years of a Latin have paid off) so maybe I will just encourage him to add a paragraph or two instead of a page or two and call it good.

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My response to my ENTJ/ESTJ son is generally, "oh, so this is all the information ever known about this subject?" (in a light, mock-serious tone). 

 

Yes, a 6 page paper can be well-written and succinct, but that does not mean that a 10 page (or 20 page or 50 page) paper on that subject could not also be well-written and succinct. I've read well-written and succinct books with hundreds of pages. None of the information was extraneous. 

 

Stretch yourself, o my son. Set your purview a little farther. 

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