How Does This Support

From time to time you will receive this comment. If you make a point within your analysis, ask yourself this question before going into another point: How does the point I’m making relate to the overall theme (thesis) of my paper? How does the point also relate to another point within my analysis?

The legs of a chair must be strong and wide enough to support the weight of a person. The wheels of a car must be sturdy enough, equal in size, to support the weight of the car and the people in the car. The foundation of a building must be balanced, equal on all sides, before the building is constructed. The four walls of a building support not only the rooms inside but also the entire building. Your paper must reflect the same balance.

It is not enough to use quotes without providing an explanation of why you are using them. It is not enough to make points in the form of topic sentences and not provide the sentences with support. Prevent your papers from falling. The introduction and your thesis represent the foundation of your paper.  Make sure to define clearly where you want to go and where you want the reader to go. You, as the writer, and your thesis, are one, are unified. You and your thesis guide the reader. If you don’t know where you are going, the reader will get lost, unable to find his or her way back onto the path of your thesis.

Once you have built strong support, a foundation for your paper, then you can move forward into adding topic sentences for your body paragraphs, credible and verifiable data, and analysis. Examine The Essay Acronym. Although it is a simple illustration, it serves its purpose.  The illustration is structured similarly to the food pyramid.

All of the elements of your paper sit on top of the introduction and thesis. Therefore, just as the legs of a chair must be sturdy enough to support the weight of a person, the introduction and thesis must be able to carry, support, and sustain the weight of the other elements that serve their functions in your paper. The acronym for the acronym is I Stand.  The following represents an explanation for the acronym.

Acronym for I Stand

Introduction (and Thesis)

Supported Evidence

Topic Sentences

Analysis

Neutral Arguments

Deleted Summaries

Introduction (and Thesis)

The introduction and thesis are the first elements of your paper that anyone will see. It is natural to start reading from the top and work your way to the bottom, from left top corner to bottom right corner. No one typically starts on page six of your paper and then works backward. The only time a professor will do this is if he or she has read the paper already before and just wants to look at one idea to check and make sure that the idea still fits within the overall scheme of your paper. However, before a professor can do this, he or she has read the paper already from beginning to end during a previous reading of your paper.

Make sure you build a strong foundation. Visualize the foundation a construction worker lays before building. The house will not be able to sit well if the construction worker doesn’t properly lay the foundation. The introduction and thesis are both lamps we use as a guide to understanding your paper. With this in mind, there should be only one thesis in your paper! In essence, there should be only one foundation.

Supported Evidence

Use information that directly supports the main purpose and focus of your thesis. Do not supply quotes if they do not have a direct relationship to the purpose of the paper. Do not try to fit something into your paper that doesn’t fit. You can’t put on a dress that is two sizes too big, nor can you put on a dress that is two sizes too small. Only put on the dress that fits your body frame. Likewise, only use supporting evidence (put on the dress) that fits the frame of your paper.

Topic Sentences

Topic sentences for each paragraph introduce the reader to the ideas of each paragraph.

All topic sentences must be an extension of the paper’s thesis. Think about how your arms extend from your body. Your body is the main vessel. The stomach is the center; and your legs give your body the support it needs physically. The same logic applies to your thesis. Your introduction and thesis is the center. It is also the main vessel to the paper. The topic sentences are the legs of the main vessel. They give the thesis (and the introduction) the support it needs.

Analysis

Your main body paragraphs should represent analysis. You may briefly add a sentence or two about the plot, in a paraphrased version. In this regard, your purpose should be to use only the brief summary to introduce an idea. Your summary should never substitute for analysis. In other words, your ability to summarize should never supplant your ability to analyze a character’s relationship to other characters within the story and the character’s relationship to the story itself.

Neutral Arguments

To be neutral is to support neither side of an argument. Therefore, it is possible to construct a thesis but not create an analysis that supports your main thesis. In other words, it is possible for a reader to see where you stand at the beginning of reading the paper and become confused in the middle of the process. What do we mean by this? How you incorporate data into your paper is important, but what you write concerning the data is vitally important.

If you want to use a quote to support your thesis, then don’t forget to offer a view about the quote. Your view represents your stance about the general theme of your paper. In addition, when you offer a view about the quote, if the quote supports your thesis, don’t disagree with the quote or the author. If you forget to offer a view or disagree with a source you are using to support your thesis, then you have developed a paper that is neutral to the ideas conveyed within the paper itself.

The best way to prevent neutrality is to think about the ideas, one by one, and ask yourself if you agree with each idea. If you agree with all ideas, use data that support the ideas and take a stand also. If you do not agree with all of the ideas, then separate the material you will use to support your thesis. Sort the pile into likes and dislikes (whites and colors), those ideas that “like” your thesis from those ideas that do not like your thesis. Give attention to how you incorporate the ideas. Always introduce an enemy and make it clear who your friend is within the analysis of your paper.

Deleted Plot Summaries

A discussion about plot summaries is never enough. Professors, as well as students, already know the plot. In many cases, a plot summary does have a place within your analysis. Its inclusion always depends upon the application of the plot summary. However, if the whole of your paper is filled with plot summary, then you have only demonstrated an ability to summarize, not analyze. It takes special skill to summarize and paraphrase material, but your professor wants you to convert one skill into another, move out of one habit and develop a new manner of addressing the implications of a text. Your professor wants you to quit summarizing to pursue analyzing.

 Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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