Solid Effort

People try many things. They try to open a business. They try to run a marathon. They try to be nice. They try to write a paper.

On the other hand, there are certain people who try to aim for something on a different level. These people try to set a new goal to become an athlete, to discipline the body and be master of it. However, because of bad planning, an unwillingness to let go of some foods, and inconsistency, they fail to reach the full expression of this goal.

We say to that person this:  You have done well. You have given a good effort. Don’t be so down on yourself. Keep trying. You have much to be proud of and you don’t have to feel like just because you are unable to finish this that you can’t finish anything else. You can finish. Just keep trying.

These words epitomize what your professor implies when she writes “Solid Effort” on your paper. Your professor is intimating that although you have done well in constructing a clear thesis, building upon it with clearly expressed structured paragraphs, and ending with a clear conclusion, you still have much to go. The paper as is, even with a grade, reflects an “attempt” to get at the heart of the subject but also your failure to reach full expression. This is not failure in the sense that you have failed or that you are a failure. This “failure” is an example of a farmer who plants a seed in the ground, who decides to water the seed just one time, but who doesn’t give it sun, who doesn’t even look at it anymore, and who doesn’t believe in its ability to take root and subsequently grow.

As you establish the goal to write and begin writing, you have just planted a seed, but the seed needs constant attention to grow in the same way that your paper needs your constant attention, i.e. examining the thesis, building upon the ideas within the paper with supporting evidence, making sure that the foundation is still strong, and adding structure. Without your constant attention and nurturing of the seed, we, the readers and your professor, will only know you by your effort, by your ability to plant a seed but not follow through all the way to the end. You will not see your seed come to full fruition or blossom into a fruit or flower.

With these sentiments in mind, when you receive the comment “Solid Effort,” know that your effort represents only your attempt to get to the root of the subject you are discussing and also your inability to finish the process all the way to end. The end represents the root of the problem. In other words, you understand the subject, the topic by itself, but you don’t understand the problem. When you don’t understand the problem, you can’t convey it properly within your analysis.

In addition, you can finish the paper and finish the process. Writing the paper is a process, but have you finished the job you started in the beginning? Have you completed that which you have assigned yourself?  For example, the thesis represents the assignment you have placed upon yourself. In other words, you have assigned yourself a goal, but the thesis can’t stand alone. You need topic sentences, supporting evidence, examples, and structure for an essay to fulfill the requirement of functioning as an academic paper. Although you employ all of these major elements, your paper still needs to reflect a level of writing that represents advanced critical thinking, balanced views, and fully expressed statements.

If there are still questions concerning the ideas within a body paragraph, then this means that gaps exist. If it is clear to your professor that you can say more about the topic, then this means you still have work to do. You have to determine what “work” you will need to do. Sometimes the work includes validating all of your assumptions, providing more support for a particular statement, and/or evaluating the ideas of a reference source. If there is a statement within your analysis that needs more explanation, then your first objective will entail understanding what “evaluation” means and actually performing this action within your paper. You won’t know what you have to do until you review the paper.

Therefore, you may choose to do one of two things, or both: 1) you can go back and speak with your professor to ask him about the paper, what you can do to improve for the next assignment, and/or 2) use rhetorical annotation techniques and ask questions about each line such as “What do I mean by this?” and “How does one thing relate to the other?” Either method you choose will help you. Just remember your professor is not there to rewrite your paper. He will only tell you so much about the paper. Too much attention is not good for you because if the professor tells you everything you need to do to improve, then you won’t learn this on your own.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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