Archive for August 12th, 2011

Interesting/Interesting!

Essay Section: Introduction

When professors write the comment “Interesting!” their sentiments are about a particular area of your analysis. The sentiment is positive.

For example, you provide statements within a specific part of your paper that represent a bit of information your professor doesn’t know anything about and he believes that the parallel you attempt to prove is definitely realistic. This is application of “Interesting” on a basic level. On an advanced level, developing parallels between multiple contexts will garner an “Interesting!” from your professor, because of the uniqueness of the supporting evidence.

The student in the sample excerpt below uses a biblical reference event to compare to another event in a literary work. These two sources are not similar in historical context, but they both provide a window into humanity, because the works house real people who make real-life decisions regardless of the context.

The connections the student makes between the biblical Esau and the literary Caliban of Shakespeare’s The Tempest proves to be an interesting parallel that is appropriate, timely for the analysis, and forward-looking. Read the following excerpt to understand how your professor may possibly reach a decision to write “Interesting!” on your paper.

Sample Excerpt

Just as Antonio changes to a master role, where Prospero loses his position, he gains another position on the island.  He becomes a master and Caliban, a slave.  Prospero usurps the island from Caliban.  Not fearing that Prospero would take the island from him, Caliban reveals “. . . all the qualities of th’ isle . . .” and regrets ever doing so (1.2.340342).  Caliban sells his birthright just as Esau in the bible does, letting down his guard and revealing secrets when he shows Prospero the island.  He leaves no room for protection.  And Prospero uses Caliban’s own lips to steal away the island with “sorcery” (3.2.50).  So, Caliban is seen as aiding in his own demise.

Figure 19: Essay Excerpt on The Tempest

Parallel

Esau, for a quick bite of Jacob’s soup, sold his birthright hastily without thought or respect to the fact that he was the eldest son.

The “birthright” comes with many privileges.  To sell it is to consider the birthright as nothing more than a name instead of the prestige and status it evokes.

 Explanation

The student provides a parallel between the biblical story of Jacob and Esau and the Shakespearean story of Prospero and Caliban.  Who knew that such a story was indeed universal and transcendent?

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Good Opening

Essay Section: Introduction

The comment “Good Opening” is an affirmative reply. It applies to those introduction paragraphs that introduce the topic by supplying the reader with credible information and historical data. These are also introductions that clearly formulate a thesis, that demonstrate to the reader a clear method by which the writer will accomplish the task.

The introduction is the most important part of the paper. If the introduction is not clearly expressed, then you will lose the reader. If you lose the reader in the beginning, then you have lost the reader throughout the whole of the paper.

Devote care, consideration, and time to developing a strong introduction, one that explains, supplies, and directs. Think of the introduction as a director of a movie. As a matter of fact, think of yourself as the director of the movie. Who is your audience?  What do you want your audience to know? How do you plan to go about showing your audience members what they want to know and what you, as the director, want them to know?

Establish a strong opening and you establish your purpose for writing a paper. Click the “Introduction” and “Thesis” categories for access to additional comments on the introduction paragraph.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Title?

The comment “Title?” refers to your paper’s lack of a title. We oftentimes know people by their titles and we observe people differently based upon their titles. If John says that he works at IBM, we automatically say to him, “Oh, that’s a good job. What are the benefits?” However, if John says that he is the vice-president of marketing, we really don’t hear IBM anymore. All we hear is VP, not even “vice-president.”

We begin to look at John differently, quickly. Although we have never been to John’s office, we imagine what his office looks like and we assume immediately that he works on the “executive floor.” Where else can he work? Our minds make up many constructions about how he works with his employees. We fill in the gaps through imagination, without ever asking a question.

When you attach a title to your paper, you heighten the senses of your professor and other readers. As the professor reads each paragraph, he or she waits in anticipation for the confirmation of some sense of the title’s implications. For example, if your title is “All Dogs are Nice,” then your professor reads with anticipation to see any indication of the title’s keywords within each paragraph of the paper.

With this in mind, when you leave off the title, you leave off the character of your essay. Attach a title to your paper.  Let the title ignite a desire in your professor to read the paper.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Much Better

See the comment “Better/Much Better.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Special Note for International Students

This glossary is for those students who have had formal English education in their countries but who have also enrolled in advanced level English continuing education classes in the U.S. These are the types of ESL students who can communicate in writing on an advanced level, but may still have some comprehension issues on an intermediate to advanced level.

In other words, this glossary is not for students who have a basic or a beginner’s understanding of English grammar and American writing. It is for international students who will progress to the next semester as an advanced-level student, but not for students who will progress from beginning to intermediate-level.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Set Boundaries with Other Responsibilities

You have to work. You have to take care of your kids. You have to eat. You have daily responsibilities that are unavoidable. The best method for handling these issues is to learn how to prioritize your personal life. Design a schedule for meeting your family responsibilities. In terms of the job you are working on, you have to work.  Either try to find a more stable job that can provide you with a consistent schedule or only go to school on your off days from work.

If you take one class a semester, doing this is still great, but keep in mind that consistency is the key.  Many times you can deal with the job and its many changes when you stop giving into the whims of your friends. We don’t have time, as we say, not always because of the job, but because of the fact that we haven’t prioritized and haven’t set boundaries around our priorities. Here are some methods to consider:

Method #1: If daycare is a problem, start researching new centers that might better serve your needs. It is hard to change sitters in the middle of a semester or job change. However, you can plan for a transition four months in advance. Set aside a day, typically your off day.  Research a list of about four centers, one per month. Each month, call them and find out information. By doing this you will have scheduled and prioritized a good plan four months in advance. Once you can determine when it is feasible to make the change then make the change.

Make sure it fits well with your job schedule also. Our objective here is not to make light of your situation, but to tell you not to let people put you in compromising situations. A babysitter who isn’t available for whatever reason forces you to take up residence under her thumb and under her whim. Yes, you need her, but also take your power back. Therefore, conduct research. The time you spend text messaging your friends or kissing your boyfriend or girlfriend you can spend researching information.

Method #2: If your job is the problem, follow method #1. Plan for a transition.  Research. Determine a date by which you can feasibly make a transition. Put extra money back if you can. We have the money. That twenty dollars a month we spend at Taco Bell can go towards a new apartment’s application fee or to a new sitter. The objective here is to plan.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Set Boundaries with Friends

You typically have three types of friends: 1) the whiners, 2) the ones who think you are their personal assistant, and 3) the ones who do not have goals.

The whiners are similar to the stubborn family member; they really don’t want to listen to you. They will call you all day. They expect you to stop whatever you are doing to listen to them whine about nothing. You give them good advice. They seem to receive it well, but then they turn around and come back for more juice. In other words, they feed off your encouragement. They have no real intention of getting better. They want to stay depressed. They want things to not go well for them. They don’t want their boyfriends or girlfriends to change. They want to wallow, nothing more.

The best method for handling this type of person is start paying attention to the pattern of their calls. Do they call when you say you are about to do something important such as study? Do they call when it appears you want to pursue order and not procrastination? Keep in mind this one thing: whiners typically prevent you from moving forward, because wherever they are emotionally, they also want you to be.

The friend who thinks you are a personal assistant will typically tell you to stop by the store to pick something up or ask if you could pick up an extra application or ask if you could call for information about something or want you to jump up when they call to go somewhere (i.e., shopping, something non-productive). The same feeling you get as you read the previous sentence is the same feeling you get when you have to deal with this person. There is no end in sight to the multitude of things this type of person wants you to do.

It doesn’t matter what it is, this type of friend expects you to rearrange your complete schedule. This type of friend interrupts your process. This is the type of friend who will interrupt you while you are doing your homework and in turn criticize you for making a “C” on that same homework assignment. Friends of this sort position you according to their needs. They get you off your path. They shift your vision (and your mission/goal) to their vision. Therefore, here are two methods for handling this type of friend:

Method #1: Make your schedule known to this friend. For example, tell your friends who call that you are not available between 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., MW, because this is the time you have set to study. At the same time you tell your friend this, tell him or her you are available at 5:00 p.m. to talk on these days. Although your friend might resent you in the beginning, he or she will respect this more than you saying, “I will call you later.” Later to them could mean 30 minutes.  Respect your time and make them respect your time also.

Method #2: Make them go pick it up! Make them go pick it up appears to be a harsh statement, but here’s a great example: Your friend needs an admissions application from a local university. She knows that you live about 10 minutes away from the campus, but 10 minutes extends to an hour when you have other things to do. You can handle this issue in two ways.

a) Find out the time of the admissions office, the office location, and tell your friend this: You know that the office is open until 8:00 p.m. That’s enough time for you to go up there and get the application. That will give you enough time also to pick up additional materials and talk to a counselor. I really don’t know what you need. Using this type of response will help you make the person responsible for their emotional and professional development.

b) Get the website address for all this information. Find the specific information your friend needs and encourage him or her to visit the school’s website. This is important to understand, because there is more information on the site than in your head. Quit letting people kick you off your path.

The friends who haven’t established goals will undoubtedly try to prevent you from attaining yours. They will criticize everything you do, belittle your accomplishments, and minimize your abilities. They believe you can’t do what you are dreaming, because they believe they can’t do it. In other words, they speak weakness and they don’t believe in themselves. They are dangerous people to hang around and they have no direction.

They typically don’t care about anything and are extremely complacent about their current situation. Either they are going to pull you over to their side or you are going to pull them over to your side. They usually pull you because you haven’t established a sense of determination or goals for reaching your destiny.

The best method for handling this friend is to understand one thing:  You can’t take everybody with you where you are going.  The longer you hold on to this friend, the more difficult and dangerous it will become to let this person go. This person cannot go where you are going. This person wouldn’t be able to endure the struggle and meet the conflict face to face in the same way you will be able. 

Although it is painful, let them go. People with no goals are like weeds. Weeds grow where they are not wanted; and they suck out the life of a garden. They affect everything around them. Let this person go. If it is hard to do this at the beginning, then develop small steps by first setting firm boundaries. If you don’t, they will be a danger and a hindrance to you when you become a leader.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Set Boundaries with Family

It is inevitable that your family will always want more from you than you are able to give. Your family wants your unwavering and constant attention; and they want your attention particularly when the matter they deem as urgent is not really urgent. It is no easy thing to say no to your family. It is a task in itself. Therefore, start discovering ways in which you can achieve small successes.

For example, don’t volunteer your time. Don’t say “I’ll do it” before the family member finishes saying what he/she needs. Bite your tongue. Shut your mouth. Run out of the room. Do not volunteer! Wait to hear what the family member needs first. Take some time to think about it. Determine if you are able to provide a solution. Then offer the type of solution that meets the needs of the individual, but also doesn’t cause you to burden yourself to the point of mental and physical exhaustion.

Listen to what the family member is not saying.  Most family members can do what they are asking you to do; they just don’t want to do it. Therefore, if the family member is able to do the thing he/she is asking you to do, then let that person do it. Let the family member be responsible for their own lives.

Quit trying to save stubborn family members.  For the ones who won’t listen to your advice or to any advice, the ones who know everything, know when to stop rescuing them.  These types of people just want to take up your time. Your encouragement entertains them. They do not want to listen. Cut them loose. Don’t cut them out of your life, but know when to cut the purse strings. You know just when to cut them off when you have told them many times over the same common sense thing. They don’t care. They don’t value your encouragement. Your words entertain them.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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A Note to Students: 5 Simple Keys to Help You Do Well in Your Course

Read the syllabus thoroughly. Allow the first week for examining each component of the class syllabus. Familiarize yourself with the requirements of the course, particularly the writing assignments.  How many pages does the professor require for the larger, final paper? How many reference sources does the professor require? Does the instructor provide the option for you to develop your own theme for the paper? Based upon answers to these questions, develop a to-do list and be sure that you regularly read the syllabus.

Begin the research process of your topic early in the semester. Think about what you like, the themes and concepts that interest you. Do you like multiculturalism? Think about time periods that interest you. Many works in literature courses span over 100 years. Do you like the 19th century? Do contemporary ideas, notions, and methods interest you? Understand this very early in the semester. Do not wait until the last month of the semester to come up with an idea.  As soon as you become aware of a writing assignment, immediately begin jotting down ideas about how you might approach the assignment.

Listen intently. This is so simple, but very important. Many of your ideas for writing papers will come naturally if you listen to the lecture. Listen for connections the instructor makes between works and ideas. Listen for tone. Understand themes. Develop a graph, a table of works for each column and the corresponding themes that apply to each work.

Make your job easy for the final paper. If you research at least two titles per week, you will have the sources you need to incorporate into your paper. In other words, although you may not know the direction of your essay so early in the semester, you can research the scholarship on a work.  Each time your professor lectures on a work and on an author, by the end of the week, begin researching the author. Develop a call number listing of reference sources. You may not use every source on the list, but it is important to have the listing ready for when you will need any or all of the sources. Just an hour at the computer accessing the school’s library website each week will help you to work on your task management and time management skills. This method will help you organize your information, think about the ideas expressed within each reference source, and develop an approach to the final paper.

Have your paper written at least one month before the due date. It does not have to be perfect. Just get something down on paper. Develop a paragraph or two. Think about a quote, how it might fit into the potential scheme of your essay. No matter what, do something.  Procrastination is not a habit. It is your enemy. It steals time; so during the month before the paper is due, revise.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Move Beyond Summary of Author’s Ideas (Analyze vs. Summarize)

This is the most used comment of all comments because students don’t really understand what it means to analyze, to break something down, in this case a group of words; and then take each part and break it down to try to get at the root. To analyze is to really get at the root of the literary work. What happens when you pull a plant up from the ground? You get to the root. You see the roots and you find out that someone must have planted the seed for the flower to grow.

There is one thing that needs our immediate attention: although there are quotes incorporated within the following sample excerpt, the analysis as a whole still represents plot summary. The best way to prevent yourself from flooding your paper with plot summaries is to ask as many questions about the text as mentally possible. As you ask these questions, then answer them. This intellectual stretching of the mind, questioning and answering, begins the development of analysis. Let’s read the following excerpt from the student’s paper.

Sample Excerpt

Some would say that De Quincey was being hospitable and others might flat out contend that he was narrow-minded.  The latter holds more water.  For example, a couple lines down De Quincey divides the opium into three pieces and gives it to the Malay; and with one mouthful, he swallows it whole.  De Quincey returns in thought, “The quantity was enough to kill three dragoons and their horses:  and I felt some alarm for the poor creature:  but what could be done?” (450).  De Quincey rationalizes that he had given the Malay the opium because he was traveling by foot from London and it must have been three weeks since he’d last conversed with a human being (450); “I could not think of violating the laws of hospitality . . .” (De Quincey 450).  That would be his main defense if ever questioned.

Figure 18: Essay Excerpt on “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater,” Thomas De Quincey

Critique

Don’t use clichés to convey a point. Don’t substitute clichés for analysis. Learn to express a point without using a cliché.

Questions

1) Why does De Quincey divide the opium into three pieces?

2) What impact will this have on him or the other person?

3) Who is traveling by foot? De Quincey? The Malay?

Problem

The student doesn’t use proper grammar to present the summary accurately.

Explanation

The student summarizes the events of the work, but fails to provide distinctions between the actions of each character. The student also uses clichés to analyze the work, which is just another form of summarizing the topic. The comment “Move Beyond Summary of Author’s Ideas” is an instruction to help students identify plot summary, convert it into analysis, and continue discussing the topic.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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