Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Quotes)

The comment “Incomplete” may refer to two issues within your paper: 1) reference to the pattern of a sentence, and/or 2) reference to the need for more analysis within either a certain passage or the whole paper.

In terms of reference to the pattern of a sentence, an independent clause represents a complete sentence. However, a complete sentence doesn’t necessarily represent a complete thought. Examine the following examples.

Example #1

Jane likes to go to the store.  Complete sentence

This is a complete sentence. The sentence informs us of Jane’s habits and preferences.  Jane is the subject of the sentence and we know clearly what she does (“likes”); but the sentence alone doesn’t answer “why.”  Therefore, let’s add a dependent clause to the independent clause. We define a dependent clause in terms of placing a subordinating conjunction such as “because” in front of an independent clause. See Example #2.

Keep in mind that a dependent clause is not self-sustaining or self-sufficient. It is similar to a baby. It needs an independent clause to function fully as a complete thought. Let’s add a subordinating conjunction to the sentence.

Example #2

Dependent Clause (underlined)

Jane likes to go to the store because she loves to buy cookiesComplete thought

Now the sentence functions both as a complete sentence and a complete thought. This sentence is an independent clause that has also a dependent clause within it.

To better understand an independent clause, think about the clause realistically in terms of an unmarried, single man or woman, without a child. This kind of person gets up freely and leaves the house freely. He or she doesn’t have to worry about extra family responsibilities. Likewise, the independent clause is self-sufficient, self-sustaining, and self-functioning in every meaning of the word. Even though the first sentence does not represent a complete thought, it is still self-sufficient because it is a complete sentence.

Here’s a quick illustration of the above concepts. (Don’t forget to use some of the same concepts you learned in math and apply them to your writing.)

Independent clause

+ dependent clause


= Complete Thought

Therefore, a complete thought evokes a similar meaning to the term “independent clause,” but both terms are not definably the same. A complete thought is self-sufficient, self-sustaining, and self-functioning when a dependent clause is present. The best way to revise an incomplete sentence is to understand the subject and understand what you want the subject to do, how, when, where, and in what way.

With this in mind, when questions arise as to your inability to analyze a piece of work, or your analysis lacks further elaboration on the subject, these questions involve the teacher’s perception of your inability to complete a thought. For example, oftentimes you will make a point or incorporate a quote and forget to follow through with an analysis. The thought you are attempting to convey in one paragraph, without a thorough analysis, represents an incomplete thought within this particular section of your paper. Therefore, one method for revising an incomplete thought, in terms of a lack of analysis, is to speak the sentence aloud. The same way you say it will be the same way you write it. We tend to fill in the gaps when we speak words and sentences aloud. We notice the gaps in the grammar and revise accordingly.

Another method for revising an incomplete thought is to separate the sentences you want to revise from the body paragraph. Evaluate each sentence. Determine what more you can say about a particular thought you are conveying. If you have a simple sentence without a subordinating conjunction, then add a dependent clause to ensure the thought is complete. Adding a dependent clause will help you answer why, what, when, where, how, and in what way.

In essence, the true purpose of a dependent clause is to help you complete a thought. This is important to understand, because your professor will undoubtedly write in the margins “Much More Could Be Said Here” for those sections of your analysis that lack extensive explanation. Just keep in mind as you revise the sentences of your analysis that a dependent clause is not a complete sentence. Therefore, it can’t also reflect a complete thought.

For more help, reread the comment “Inaccurate” and use the method demonstrated beginning with the sentence “When analyzing a work. . . .”

For an extended explanation, see also the comment “Follow-Up/Follow-Through (Good/Perfect).”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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