Archive for August 17th, 2011

Rephrase

Every human being on the planet wants understanding and acceptance. Each person deals with emotional, psychological, and physical problems daily. People get on the phone to call a girl friend or lover so they can vent. They don’t want the other person’s criticism. They just want the person to listen to their story and take their side, even if they are wrong. They want another person to understand, sympathize, listen, and consider. Just understand me. Listen. Have compassion. I’m in pain. are four of the many statements people use to garner acceptance from others.

Your teacher wants to understand your work, of course not emotionally, but from the standpoint of observing how you synthesize and turn learning and knowledge into application. You never have to ask your professor to understand you, because she automatically approaches the grading of your paper without bias, without discontent. There is no personal bias toward your paper in the sense that she likes yours more than another student’s paper.

Prior to the grading of your paper your professor doesn’t say, “Boy, I know this paper is going to be horrible. I already know John’s paper will be better.” Before your professor even reads the paper, you have an “A” for understanding. She approaches the paper with the purpose of believing you. It’s innate. However, when you incorporate phrases that don’t match, phrases that don’t have relevance, phrases that you know you could word better, and phrases that take the form of convoluted sense, then you have just bumped yourself down on the understanding scale.

The following excerpt represents an example of how the student fails to define key terms or how she will use them within the essay. In addition, the student also doesn’t provide examples in relation to the phrases she uses.

Sample Excerpt

The inequality of nature, whether racial, gender-based, certain beliefs or religious, has held up to personal opinions as well as professional.  The most popular form of inconsistency of humanity falls under social class and/or rank.  There will always be one class that will feel that they possess or that they hold precedence when it comes to intellect and the will for progress.

Figure 53: Essay Excerpt on Ortega Y. Gasset

Problem

The student doesn’t define terms and phrases within the context of both the analysis and the author’s work.

Questions

1) What are “certain beliefs”?

2) What connection do they have to the “inequality of nature”?

3) How is humanity “inconsistent”? In what way?

4) What “one class” feels this? What is the precedence? How does the one class use this precedence?

5) What is the connection between “precedence” and “progress”?

Explanation

It is always important to define what you mean. Define terms. To do this, examine the term you are using and determine first if it has any relevance to what you are discussing. If yes, then try to define it in terms of constructing a definition. Before moving forward, check to determine if the definition is a match to the dictionary meaning. After this, check to see if your definition has any connection, correlation, or match to your topic sentence or to whatever you are discussing in a particular paragraph.

The purpose of this exercise is to make certain that anything you put in the body paragraphs of your paper supports the ideas you express within your thesis. In other words, always remember your thesis. Every element of your paper that comes after the thesis must conform to the thesis. Therefore, take a quick look at your thesis to see if your definition is appropriate to the overall subject of your paper (and the author’s work). If you have done this, and you are fine with your results, move on to the next word or group of words.

In essence, when you don’t explain yourself through your writing your professor doesn’t “understand” you. When you establish an objective to “rephrase” a word or group of words or a whole sentence, you function with one goal: to make your professor understand the ideas you express within your paper.

For an extended explanation, see also the comment “Rephrase (Not Clear).”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Relevance

The word “relevance” has a similar meaning to the word “relate.” For example, what is the relation between a Gala apple and a Granny Smith apple? They are first and foremost apples.  They grow from the ground. They are edible. We pick them for the purpose of eating.  They contribute to the physical sustaining of our earthly bodies. The list goes on and on.

Let’s examine this within a literary context. What is the relation between Faulkner’s novels and Toni Morrison’s poetry? Within their writings are examples of how the Negro negotiates life in the south amongst whites and blacks. Again, the list goes on and on.

Now substitute the word “relation” in place of “relevance” and ask, “What relevance does Faulkner’s novel have to Toni Morrison’s poetry?” This question implies the following: 1) If we place Faulkner’s novel side by side with one of Toni Morrison’s poems, then what will we find? 2) What is the connection between the two? 3) What is the one thing that links the two of them together?

When you examine a work for an assignment, you will always have to provide an answer for how one literary work connects to another. For example, What is the larger connection the novel has to present-day society? is a typical test question for an essay exam. Although the teacher will change a few words and incorporate other elements into the question, the essence of the question is still “relevant” to your understanding of how to make connections, how to show the relevance of some thing to another thing.

For such a task of demonstrating “relevance,” you are always comparing, not necessarily contrasting. However, within the one thing you are using to compare with another thing, you can point out obvious differences (contrasting). In the example of the apples, the Gala and the Granny Smith are still both apples. This is an independent variable that never changes. This is comparing. However, their differences in color and taste, and the way farmers grow them, represent dependent variables; they change and you can point this out as difference. This is contrasting.

For the most part, when you are examining the relevance of one thing to another, compare the two things. Outline the first thing; and outline the second thing. Determine how each thing measures up to the other. What is the connection between the two things? What relevance, or connection, do both things have to other things (i.e., other types of apples or “fruit”)? By answering these questions, you will find how useful comparing is to the process of revising your essay and demonstrating relevance.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Figure 52: Essay Excerpt for Redundant Phrasing

Below is an excerpt that falls under the comment “Redundant/Redundant Phrasing.”

You may access the comment by clicking on the “R” category or by typing the title into the search box.

You may print the excerpt for class discussions.

Figure 52: Essay Excerpt for Redundant Phrasing

Answering the question of whether or not we should comply with or resist the signification of Christmas as “nigger,” deals primarily in part with Faulkner’s representation of Burch.

Revision Considerations

Choose one word. Choose either “primarily” or choose “in part.” They both evoke the same meaning. Always remove unnecessary phrasing as part of developing revision objectives. To your professor, your sentence appears too wordy and you also appear calculating, almost to the point of trying too hard.  As a result, your paper results in a less than genuine effort.

Group Activity

1) Exchange essays.

2) Review the student’s paper. Search for wordy phrasing.

3) Edit the student’s paper by using wording that is precise.

4) Refer to a dictionary for each word you insert into the student’s paper.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Redundant/Redundant Phrasing

Denny’s restaurant serves $3.99 and $4.99 deals where you can get about three pancakes, two scrambled eggs, a hash brown, and your choice of two types of meats, typically bacon and sausage. These meals are great. They taste great. They smell great. They look great on the plate. No one debates this. People just eat to their heart’s content.

However, the two meats don’t make much sense. Why is it necessary to have two servings each from the same pork meat group? Why not have bacon and another type of meat? It seems a little unnecessary to have both bacon and sausage. You can get the same experience eating the bacon as you can the sausage, because they are both pork.

Denny’s, along with other restaurants, place the two meats together just as a marketing tool. There is nothing wrong with their marketing strategy. People mostly look at the meat and the number of pancakes before they even think about the eggs. The pancakes and the meat are the selling points and the meat itself catches the eye of customers more than anything else on the plate. However, what happens when you take away just one of the meats? Will the customer not want to buy the special? No. They will still buy the special.

It doesn’t matter one way or another to the customer if Denny’s takes away one of the meats. The customer might be mad if the restaurant removed both meats from the menu. The point I am trying to make about the two meats is that both have the same value. One just looks and cooks differently from the other, but they both come from the same family group of meats. However, you only need one of the types to sustain you, to meet your overall meat intake. You don’t really need that much protein in one sitting. Just eating the bacon alone is enough sustenance. Anyway, too much of a thing, especially the parts from the pig, is not a good thing.

The same line of thought applies to the excerpt below. In reference to “primarily” and “in part,” you only need one of the words. They both offer the same value in meaning. You only need one to sustain the overall function (in meaning) of the sentence. Because they are both the same, it is “redundant,” or unnecessary, to place them together in one sentence. In this case, placing both of these phrases together, side by side in the sentence, is similar to placing two verbs of the same tense together: Sarah walks talks today.

Let’s read the excerpt.

Figure 52: Essay Excerpt for Redundant Phrasing

Answering the question of whether or not we should comply with or resist the signification of Christmas as “nigger,” deals primarily in part with Faulkner’s representation of Burch.

Revision Considerations

Choose one word. Choose either “primarily” or choose “in part.” They both evoke the same meaning.

With this in mind, develop revision objectives that include references to removing unnecessary phrasing. To your professor, your sentence appears too wordy and you also appear calculating, almost to the point of trying too hard. As a result, your paper results in a less than genuine effort.

For an extended explanation, see also the comment “Phony (Wordy).”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Figure 51: Essay Excerpt on Portia, The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare

Below is an excerpt that falls under the comment “Vague Generality.”

You may access the comment by clicking on the “V” category or by typing the title into the search box.

You may print the excerpt for class discussions.

Sample Excerpt

Even though both Antonio and Bassanio recognize that they need money from Shylock, which leads to projected hatred, the irony implied here and seen later towards the end of the play is that Portia represents a sort of moneylender too. Her figure in this society is of great wealth. They consider it a tragedy to take from Shylock but find it okay towards the end when Shylock wants his pound of flesh to ask money for Antonio’s payment of the forfeit from Portia. Portia offered to pay six times the principal and at the end where Antonio is jailed and tried, Shylock didn’t want the money. He wanted the law: “I crave the law,/ The penalty and forfeit of my bond” (Bullman 125).

Figure 51: Essay Excerpt on Portia, The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare

Problems

The student doesn’t provide a clear assessment of her ideas by developing detailed statements.

Group Activity

Rewrite the student’s analysis. Define “Portia’s wealth” and how she represents a moneylender. Consider the following questions as you develop your revision objectives:

1) Does Portia’s wealth contribute to the assumption that she is sort of a moneylender?

2) Where is the evidence necessary to substantiate this claim?

3) What is the perception of Portia?

4) How do other characters see or perceive Portia?

5) As a group, find answers to these questions within the literary text itself.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Vague Generality

Much more can be said here” is the typical comment that a professor will write on your essays.

Oftentimes, you will find as you write academic papers that you provide general, ambiguous, and vague statements throughout your analysis. When we write, we always assume that our professors know what we are attempting to discuss and/or prove, so we believe that it is not necessary to provide detailed information concerning every idea, example, or related statement.

We assume this because we know the professor has read the literary work. We reason since the professor has read the work, why should we have to include everything under the sun as analysis. We assume incorrectly and inappropriately.

As students, your primary task is to prove the points you make within your analysis. In other words, every time you make a point, whether the point represents an assumption, example, detail, or idea, it is your job to provide the necessary and sufficient information to support your claims.

It is not up to the professor to figure out what you are trying to say or what ideas you want the professor to take from your work. It is your job to make certain that the professor understands your points and how you arrive at proving your argument. In the sample excerpt the student offers a general assessment of a particular character within the context of a Shakespearean play, The Merchant of Venice. Let’s read the excerpt.

Sample Excerpt

Even though both Antonio and Bassanio recognize that they need money from Shylock, which leads to projected hatred, the irony implied here and seen later towards the end of the play is that Portia represents a sort of moneylender too. Her figure in this society is of great wealth. They consider it a tragedy to take from Shylock but find it okay towards the end when Shylock wants his pound of flesh to ask money for Antonio’s payment of the forfeit from Portia. Portia offered to pay six times the principal and at the end where Antonio is jailed and tried, Shylock didn’t want the money. He wanted the law: “I crave the law,/ The penalty and forfeit of my bond” (Bullman 125).

Figure 51: Essay Excerpt on Portia, The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare

Problems

The student doesn’t provide a clear assessment of her ideas by developing detailed statements.

For example, the student doesn’t define “Portia’s wealth” nor does the student define how she is a moneylender. Here are some questions to consider:

1) Does Portia’s wealth contribute to the assumption that she is sort of a moneylender?

2) Where is the evidence necessary to substantiate this claim?

3) What is the perception of Portia?

4) How do other characters see or perceive Portia?

You will find answers to these questions within the text itself. In other words, the literary text is the best guide for your paper, because it houses all of the answers you need.

Explanation

It is always easier to construct vague, general statements about the literary work. This doesn’t require much work to do. It is equally easy to project contemporary thinking onto a historical text.

To safeguard against providing unsubstantiated, unvalidated assumptions, always write what you mean. Then explain what you mean by providing descriptions and offering an extended, objective view of the work. Don’t forget to live in the immediate text, which is the book right in front of you.

For additional explanations, see also the comments “Your Ideas Are Too General,” “Too Broad,” “Too General to be Meaningful,” “Much More Could Be Said Here,” and “Incomplete.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Stick With the Topic

Your friend gives you a set of directions to her house. She even writes the directions down for you. The directions are clear and understandable. Although you have been to the area before in some form or another, maybe a trip to the mall or to buy groceries, you still need direction to her house. As you leave the house, get into the car, and begin to drive down the road, you follow your friend’s directions.

You don’t change lanes on the freeway until it is time to do so according to the directions. However, when you get off the off-ramp, you don’t take the first exit off the freeway.  Instead, you decide to go a different direction to her house, not knowing ahead are blocks and dead ends that even your friend doesn’t know. After going around the mulberry bush, you exclaim, “If only I had followed her directions. I would be there by now.”

This is what happens when you begin your paper. Since you set the tone for your paper, you also set the direction. You start out good with a thesis, and begin to drive down the road with your paragraphs. All looks good in the mirror, at the beginning of the task of writing. You don’t change lanes; you continue to stay on point by using the most appropriate examples.

When it is time to get off the freeway, you do so by signaling; you make transitions by using the appropriate transitional words. However, instead of continuing down this path of following the directions and the instructions of your thesis, you veer off onto another road and onto another path by inserting a contradictory idea, concept, and/or quote.

With this scenario in mind, within your thesis are references to the topic of your paper, its relationship on a larger scale to topics within the same arena, what you plan to discuss, and the method you will choose to accomplish the goals of your thesis. In other words, the thesis is power-packed with many elements, but with a single purpose: to serve as the guide.

The thesis tells you where to go and where to get off; what doesn’t fit and what you will need to include. The thesis is the major force of the paper and because it serves a powerful role, the topic, included within the thesis, is also a light in darkness. What you do with the topic will demonstrate your own perception and will determine the perceptions of your readers.

Therefore, stick with the topic as if it is your friend. Be loyal to your topic. Don’t bring in foreign matter that doesn’t belong there; don’t bring in anything that may pose a danger to the topic’s credibility, foundation, or potential impact. Be nice to your topic. Like it. Don’t betray it.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Figure 50: Essay Excerpt on Elisa, “Chrysanthemums”

Below is an excerpt that falls under the comment “Right/On the Right Path.”

You may access the comment by clicking on the “R” category or by typing the title into the search box.

You may print the excerpt for class discussions.

There are cases in which you may be on the right path, but lack sufficient supporting evidence to determine your full understanding of the work. For example, in the first sample excerpt (Figure 49), the student maintains the path of her topic sentence. The student’s analysis represents a good understanding of the ideas within the author’s work.

On the other hand, although the student is “on the right path” in the second sample excerpt below, she fails to provide answers for some of the implied questions. The student makes a connection between the fence Elisa creates for the flowers and the fence Henry creates for Elisa. However, she doesn’t provide enough substantial information to close the gaps in her analysis.

Suggestions

In terms of the second sample excerpt, examine the questions. In just about every comment you will read throughout this glossary, you will see that the student writer fails to analyze her essays fully, or at least parts of them. When questions remain, gaps exist. In other words, if there is a gap, this means that you could say much more in an area of your essay.

In the case of the comment “Right/On the Right Path,” the questions we use here represent methods to help the student bring clarity to the analysis. The student starts well, but needs a better finish. In providing answers for these questions, the student will learn how to develop the analysis further and offer insight necessary for understanding the work more fully.

Sample Excerpt

It is evident that the fence that protected the flowers was put there also to protect Elisa.  It is also clear to say that the protection from the cattle, dogs, and chickens symbolizes protection from outsiders.  Henry protected Elisa in the same way she protected her flowers.  No one could get close or converse with Elisa.

Figure 50: Essay Excerpt on Elisa, “Chrysanthemums”

Questions

1) What does the “fence” represent, figuratively?

2) We don’t just use fences for protection. We also use them to separate two things or people.

Revision Considerations

1) If Elisa protects her flowers in the same way as her husband protects her, then what does this signify?

2) Why are both Elisa and Henry motivated to protect?

Group Activity

1) Reread Steinbeck’s work. Read the sections where the student references the work.

2) Based upon your understanding of the work, rewrite the analysis.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Figure 49: Essay Excerpt on the “Mass-Man,” Ortega Y. Gasset

Below is an excerpt that falls under the comment “Right/On the Right Path.”

You may access the comment by clicking on the “R” category or by typing the title into the search box.

You may print the excerpt for class discussions.

There are cases in which you may be on the right path, but lack sufficient supporting evidence to determine your full understanding of the work. For example, in the first sample excerpt, the student maintains the path of her topic sentence. The student’s analysis represents a good understanding of the ideas housed within the author’s work.

On the other hand, although the student is “on the right path” in the second sample excerpt (Figure 50), she fails to provide answers for some of the implied questions. The student makes a connection between the fence Elisa creates for the flowers and the fence Henry creates for Elisa. However, she doesn’t provide enough substantial information to close the gaps in her analysis.

Let’s begin with the first excerpt.

First Sample Excerpt

The thought of the mass man being more clever only serves to keep him from using this capacity.  He possesses the most exact and circumstantial ideas on everything in the universe; but he has lost all of the ability to listen and hear.  Why should he?  He has all of the answers.  He knows everything.  He understands everything.  The only thing he does now is pass judgments and issue proclamations regarding his opinions and ideas to the contrary.

Figure 49: Essay Excerpt on the “Mass-Man,” Ortega Y. Gasset

The student’s analysis reflects the sentiments outlined within the author’s work.

“Right”

A professor uses this comment to highlight areas within your analysis that are in agreement with the ideas and perspectives of the author. The bolded represents the student’s thoughtful and careful analysis about Gasset’s views of the mass-man.

Group Activity

1) What is right about the student’s ideas?

2) Reread Gasset’s work and locate the textual evidence to support the student’s claims.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Right/On the Right Path

It is one thing to make a point of explaining the implications of a text and misrepresenting the meanings; and it is another to make a point of explaining the implications of a text and actually be right about the meanings. Always be careful not to project onto a text meanings that have nothing to do with the overall scheme of a work.

When you take the time to examine the contexts within the immediate text, it is highly unlikely that you will find yourself going beyond its boundaries.  When you receive “Right” or “On the Right Path” from your professor, then this means that you have not wandered off the path and direction of your thesis.

There are cases in which you may be on the right path, but lack sufficient supporting evidence to determine your full understanding of the work. For example, in the first sample excerpt, the student maintains the path of her topic sentence. The student’s analysis represents a good understanding of the ideas housed within the author’s work.

On the other hand, although the student is “on the right path” in the second sample excerpt, she fails to provide answers for some of the implied questions. The student makes a connection between the fence Elisa creates for the flowers and the fence Henry creates for Elisa. However, she doesn’t provide enough substantial information to close the gaps in her analysis.

Let’s begin with the first excerpt.

First Sample Excerpt

The thought of the mass man being more clever only serves to keep him from using this capacity.  He possesses the most exact and circumstantial ideas on everything in the universe; but he has lost all of the ability to listen and hear.  Why should he?  He has all of the answers.  He knows everything.  He understands everything.  The only thing he does now is pass judgments and issue proclamations regarding his opinions and ideas to the contrary.

Figure 49: Essay Excerpt on the “Mass-Man,” Ortega Y. Gasset

The student’s analysis reflects the sentiments outlined within the author’s work.

“Right”

A professor uses this comment to highlight areas within your analysis that are in agreement with the ideas and perspectives of the author. The bolded sentence represents the student’s thoughtful and careful analysis about Gasset’s views of the mass-man.

Suggestions

Continue to develop an analysis that best reflects your understanding of the author’s work. Therefore, read the work in its entirety. Don’t let your analysis conflict with the author’s ideas.

Second Sample

In terms of the second sample excerpt, examine the questions. In just about every comment you read throughout this glossary, you will see that the student writer fails to analyze her essays fully, or at least parts of them. When questions remain, gaps exist. In other words, if there is a gap, this means that you could say much more in an area of your essay.

In the case of the comment “Right/On the Right Path,” the questions we use here represent methods to help the student bring clarity to the analysis. The student starts well, but needs a better finish. In providing answers for these questions, the student will learn how to develop the analysis further and offer insight necessary for understanding the work more fully.

Excerpt

It is evident that the fence that protected the flowers was put there also to protect Elisa.  It is also clear to say that the protection from the cattle, dogs, and chickens symbolizes protection from outsiders.  Henry protected Elisa in the same way she protected her flowers.  No one could get close or converse with Elisa.

Figure 50: Essay Excerpt on Elisa, “Chrysanthemums”

Questions

1) What does the “fence” represent, figuratively?

2) We don’t just use fences for protection. We also use them to separate two things or people.

Revision Considerations

1) If Elisa protects her flowers in the same way as her husband protects her, then what does this signify?

2) Why are both Elisa and Henry motivated to protect?

Explanation

Just remember that questions are not condemnatory assessments of your lack of attention to “analysis.” 

Instead, questions represent critical thinking and provide an opportunity for you to elaborate further on the ideas you express within your analysis. In this instance, both the second sample excerpt and the questions that follow represent the continued development of the analysis.

For an extended explanation, see also the comment “Elaborate.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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