To Mark or Not to Mark: That is the Question

By Ruth Wagstaff

Wow! An invitation to mark real undergraduate papers was on the top of my daily emails.  I knew at some point in my PhD I would mark.  It just seems to go with the territory of being a PhD candidate.  Now I was face to face with the big question,”To mark or not to mark?”.  I decided to take on the challenge, and in the process learnt that there is a time for marking and a time not for marking.

In all honesty, I took on the marking because I needed money.  Marking offers a good hourly rate.  I dropped from a 5 to 4 day working week so I did not go insane while juggling work, family, the dog, and study.  This one job would make up for wages lost, so I felt like I  had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Besides, the contract said that I could mark an allotted number of papers in a set time frame, and I knew that with clever time management I would have no problems fitting the marking into my already tight schedule.  I figured that if a paper or two took longer than the allocated time, I could order a home delivered pizza, and the dog could wait for her walk for a few days.  I was absolutely convinced that I had the time.  I had to have the time because I needed the money

Once the marking started, I went into panic mode.  I felt very inadequate.  The time to mark a paper sometimes took two to three times  longer than the allotted marking time.  Not only did the dog missed her walks, I ate several home delivered pizzas, and the washing was thrown into the dryer.  You see, when I start to learn a new skill, it takes me far longer to carry out the task than someone already experienced.  I did get faster at marking, but it still took me longer than the allotted time.

Marking is a skill that PhD students need to learn.  It is part of our apprenticeship. I also believe that ultimately, it will help me become a better writer.  I am unlikely to do mark again until I am a full-time on-campus student, but, I will mark again and the dog will have less walks, I will eat home delivered pizza, and the clothes will go through the dryer.

So, what is my answer to the marking question?  My answer is do not mark only because you need the money, because if time is money, there better ways to make it.  Mark because it is an essential skill to  acquire, and will ultimately assist in your own development as an academic writer .


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About Tegan Darnell

Librarian, USQ Doctoral student, and the Principal Editor of ReDBlog. Tegan's research topic for the Doctor of Professional Studies is how librarians’ narratives inhibit or create preferred library futures, and creating spaces for librarian transformation.