Hard to Follow

If your papers are filled with difficult to read phrasing, then you will receive this comment.  Your papers must be logically constructed. Each example and explanation must continue to build upon the previous example and explanation. What makes it “hard to follow” the ideas within your paper is when you don’t explain certain words or phrases that are typically used in simple conversation. In addition, you will see this comment written next to your thesis. Since the thesis is the lamp by which we use to find our way within your paper, if the thesis does not reflect the logical way your paper should flow, then it is easy to send the reader down the wrong corridor into a maze.

No one likes a maze. Even the rats don’t like mazes, but what keeps them going is the smell of cheese. Even though your professor also doesn’t like mazes, he or she will keep going in the hopes of reaching to the purpose and main idea of your paper. However, your professor will not be satisfied. In other words, you have made the task of reading your paper difficult, exhausting, and enduring when your paper needs to reflect some comfort for you and your professor.

Figure 12 is a great example of an essay that reflects this comment. Read the excerpt and examine its wording carefully. After this, review the rhetorical annotations under each problem subheading; these are comments left by the professor. You will see that the student didn’t spend additional time reviewing sections to make sure ideas flowed well together. In addition, there are gaps in thinking and logic. You will also see instances where the professor is forced to do the job of a student (rhetorical annotation). Let’s read the excerpt.

Figure 12: Essay Excerpt on Wuthering Heights

Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights explores a number of key themes within its narrative.  Among the variety of themes such as imagery and symbolism lies the question of the unreliable narrator.  Perception in Bronte’s novel is expressed through the assumptions, guesses, interpretations, and style of language of two major narrators, Nelly Dean and Lockwood.  And secondary characters also embody these concepts.  Much of what the primary narrators perceive does not lend support to the overall interpretation of the novel’s narrative.  Their perception presents a certain fallacy in thinking, leaving the reader to deduce that they are not entirely reliable sources to the nature of the novelThis paper questions the underlying qualities of each character based on their individual assessments by examining the following role of perception:  circumstance, position (class), responsibility, as well as perception of situation.

Now that we have finished reading the student’s excerpt, let’s move forward in reviewing the instructor’s margin comments.

Problem #1

Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights explores a number of key themes within its narrative.  Among the variety of themes such as imagery and symbolism lies the question of the unreliable narrator.

  • Wording is hard to follow.
  • Who is doing the “exploring”? Emily Bronte or the book?

Always remember that the book you are reading, whether fiction or non-fiction, never “explores themes.” The professor, through classroom instruction, highlights recurring ideas and labels these ideas as “themes.”

Problem #2

Perception in Bronte’s novel is expressed through the assumptions, guesses, interpretations, and style of language of two major narrators, Nelly Dean and Lockwood.  And secondary characters also embody these concepts.  Much of what the primary narrators perceive does not lend support to the overall interpretation of the novel’s narrative.  Their perception presents a certain fallacy in thinking, leaving the reader to deduce that they are not entirely reliable sources to the nature of the novel. 

  • What is the “overall interpretation” of the novel? Who is doing the interpreting?
  • What is “fallacy in thinking?” What purpose does the concept have in the analysis of this paper?
  • What is the nature of the novel?

Be careful about using words and phrases for which you don’t have a complete understanding.

Problem #3

This paper questions the underlying qualities of each character based on their individual assessments by examining the following role of perception: circumstance, position (class), responsibility, as well as perception of situation.

  • How does a paper “question the underlying qualities of each character . . .”?
  • Is the expression of perception a definition that characterizes the “unreliable narrator”?
  • How does “unreliable narrator” relate to “perception in Bronte’s novel”?
  • What is an “unreliable narrator”?
  • What does it mean to embody these concepts?

Always define how you will use a term. If the term is a popular literary reference, then review its meaning to ensure you have a sound understanding; after this, apply the term within the context of your analysis. Stay true to the meaning of the definition while you are using it within your paper.

Revision Considerations

There is no clear direction in the thesis.  Let’s rewrite it simplistically by using “I.”

In this paper, I will examine each individual character; explore how each character perceives the individual self in relation to the social self; and include how such factors as class and personal responsibility influence how each character thinks about their current situation.

The revision of the thesis still needs work, but sometimes you will find that a professor realizes that you don’t really know where you are going, and will give you a low grade with the option of revising the paper to get a grade of at least a C, sometimes C-, depending upon how much the process has been difficult for the professor. Although you have added an extra load for your professor, the option to revise represents mercy.

Be humble and revise the paper. Don’t forget to say thank you to your professor. A professor shouldn’t have to write or rewrite your thesis. It is unethical and it’s not their job.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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