Specify (Be Specific)

Professors use this comment often, especially if they don’t always know or can’t think of any of the other popular comments. All English students function with this notion: The professor already knows the story, so I don’t have to include everything. The student isn’t wrong in assuming this. The professor is not asking you to recite the whole story in your paper.

Your primary objective as the student is to create, develop, and provide an analysis based upon the instruction of the essay prompt. Although the professor doesn’t want plot summary to fill your papers, there are times when details are necessary. Without detail, your expressions represent mere generalizations, mostly about nothing.

There is a way to provide detail without adding too much plot summary. First, ask yourself this: Why do I care about this subject? Now think about the same question in terms of your mother asking you, “Why do you care about going to this party?” When you answer your mother, you are specific in your responses because you are trying to convince her to let you go.

Your main objective is to persuade, to convince your mother that the idea is good and it is beneficial for you to attend the party. Whenever you want something badly enough you explain and provide ample justification for why you need or want to do something.

If you are able to provide reasons for justifying your desires, then you are capable of providing reasons for why you are writing on a particular topic. We know that you are writing about a subject because you use your thesis to tell us what you plan to do within the body of your paper.

You have the option of choosing anything for a thesis. After all you are the one who has created it; so why have you chosen this thesis, this subject? You must be able to convey “why” in the body. Does the subject spark an interest? What is the interest? What relation does the interest have to something else? Be specific.

You get into your car to drive it for a specific reason. You put on your clothes to go outside for a specific reason, and you call your friend on the phone for a specific reason. In the same way that you do all of these things for specific reasons, you incorporate an example in your paper for a specific reason. As you revise parts of your papers such as examples, ask yourself these questions:

1) Why this example?

2) What relation does the example have to another point I make?

3) What is important about the example?

4) Why does it spark my interest?

5) I can choose many examples to use for this paper, so why do I like this one?

6) Why do I care about choosing this example?

Although these questions appear repetitious, it is important to approach the task of asking questions from many directions.

With this in mind, in the same way that you want your professor to offer specific information in the response he or she gives you concerning a grade you don’t like, you must adopt the same objective when initially revising the paper. Keep these questions in mind for every element of your papers (i.e., supporting evidence, quote, ideas, statistics, topic sentences, etc.).

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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