Archive for November, 2011

How to Revise Body Paragraphs

Summary

Revising body paragraphs requires you to know the mission of your thesis. Body paragraphs are the center of your essays.  Without them, you would just have introduction and conclusion paragraphs and nothing else to support your purpose for writing.

I use the word “mission” to refer to the thesis, because you have been given a mission.  Your professors gave you an assignment and that assignment has multiple requirements. You must be able to coordinate your professor’s mission with that of your own for the paper.  Here are a few steps to consider as you revise your body paragraphs:

Step 1:  Count the parts in your topic sentence.

The topic sentence should always support the thesis.  It doesn’t support the quotes you incorporate or other ideas that you use within a body paragraph.  Everything after your topic sentence should only support your topic sentence.  This sounds weird to write, but it is true.  The mission of your topic sentence is just to support your thesis.

Therefore, count the parts of your first, second, third, and maybe fourth topic sentence of each body paragraph.  Number them with a red pen.  Then go back to your introduction paragraph and number the parts of your thesis.  Ask yourself if the numbered parts of the topic sentences correspond to the numbered parts of the thesis.  If they do, good job!  If they don’t, you have one of two options:

  • Revise the thesis.
  • Revise the topic sentence(s).

Once you are able to understand the purpose of each of your topic sentences, move forward with revising sentence structure.

Step 2:  Evaluate the quotes for verb tense.

Quotes can be fun in the beginning.  They fill up the page.  They help you meet your word and page count.  In addition, you add the citation at the end of the sentence and this makes reaching the goal of fulfilling the page count that much easier.  You feel very good about yourself. On the other hand, what happens if the quote doesn’t fit? You have this wonderful white sock that is nice and clean and smells good.  Then you have this off-white sock.  It appears to be like the white sock, but when you hold it up to the light, the color tells the real story.

The same can be said about the quotes you incorporate within your essays.  The white sock is your statement.  Your statement could be in the form of an analysis or just a statement to introduce the quote.  The off-white sock is the quote.  It seems to fit because, of course, you were able to type it into your paper.  However, look more closely.  Examine your statement.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What verbs do I use for my introductory statement?
  • What verb tense is the quoted material?

Too many variations in verb tense can seriously distort the mission of your thesis.  Everything goes back to the thesis.  As a preliminary solution, revise for verb tense.

Step 3:  Evaluate the quotes for topic sentence collaboration.

Teams must work together.  The thesis and the topic sentence work as a team.  The quotes within the body paragraphs work to support this team.  Therefore, the quotes within the body paragraph must support the topic sentence.  One member out of step messes up the other steps.

In other words, all topic sentences are good friends of the thesis.  All statements you make within the body paragraphs should be, in general, all good friends of the thesis just by association.  When there comes a time in your paper that an enemy presents itself you must make sure that the reader understands that a particular quote represents an enemy.

For example, we all believe that Jane is nice, lovely, and friendly.  This is our thesis.  For each quality of Jane, we provide a topic sentence and dedicate a body paragraph.  We further add support to prove our point.  Everything is fine until John decides not to agree on one of our points concerning Jane’s qualities. John believes that Jane is not lovely and he has proof to support his claim.

When this happens, you don’t integrate John into your paper as if he is a good friend.  He’s an enemy.  You tell every other team member in your paper who John is.  Once you have provided an explanation of John, return to your mission, which is to prove or support the idea that Jane is nice, lovely, and friendly.

Don’t get off the mission when confronted with an enemy.

Step 4:  Evaluate sections of analysis.

The main purpose for writing the academic (English) essay is to provide an analysis.  Your professor requires you to do this.  Therefore, your task is to do the following:

  • Examine the statement you make before a quote.
  • Examine the quote.
  • Examine the statement you make after the quote.

You must always address the outsider, whether the outsider supports your thesis or disagrees with your thesis.  A quote is still considered to be an outsider in the beginning.  You make it a part of the team when you ensure that it supports your thesis.  Ask yourself the following questions as you revise the body paragraph:

  • What’s the purpose of this body paragraph?  Why is it here?

Now answer the questions.  Add more explanation.  Discuss the significance of the quote. Either believe in it or don’t.  Make this a point in your essay.

Step 5:  Evaluate MLA formatting.

All words that are not your own must be cited properly.  Refer to your current MLA handbook for the following common areas:

  • 3.7. Quotations
  • 3.7.5. Ellipsis
  • 3.7.6. Other Alterations of Sources
  • 3.7.7. Punctuation with Quotations

These four represent areas of your essay for which you will have to develop revision objectives.

Warnings

  • The quickest way to fail a paper is to ignore MLA.  Spend time reading the reference source.  Conform to it.  You don’t have a choice!
  • Just nod and smile and be happy that you are in school.

Tips

  • When you are working with and revising body paragraphs take them one at a time.
  • Write on a piece of paper your thesis.  You may type it.
  • Identify your topic sentences and write/type them under the thesis.  Study them for agreement.
  • Take each topic sentence and match it like a sock to your statements and quotes within the body paragraph.  Make sure that they all agree.
  • Don’t forget verb tense.  How you introduce an outsider or a teammate is very important to your mission.
  • To do all of this you will need to have written the paper at least two to three days before it is due so you will have time to revise it.  I prefer at least a week.
  • Don’t forget to eat.  Sleep and rest.  Get back up.  Confront the task.  Finish it.  Meet all deadlines and submit your paper.
  • Smile.

About the Author

Regina Y. Favors is the CEO and Chief Instructional Designer of Favors Learning Center, a learning management solutions company and registered government contractor. Regina has a master’s degree in English from San Diego State University.  In her spare time, she teaches freshmen composition and English as a Second Language at a local community college in Dallas.  She is currently developing group activity worksheets for The FAVORS Glossary and a revision writing anthology.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

How to Analyze a Literary Work

Summary

Analyzing a literary work doesn’t always begin with the process of understanding the purpose of the author.  As the student reader, sometimes you can’t always figure out what the main objective of the text is or for what reason the author has written the work.  The author may have written the short story for pure enjoyment.  Sometimes authors, in general, write for publication.  Sometimes they write because it is therapeutic; for example, for some people, writing helps them to move past emotional pain.  Although authors may begin the process of writing with a multitude of aims, they don’t typically write to appeal to you as the reader.  In other words, while they are in the process of writing, they don’t consider how a word or how a character description will impact you as the reader.  Doing this will hinder the process.  They just write and we, as students, take their work and discuss it.

Within the classroom, professors give (lecture) students information about the author’s name, a list of previous works, and the prevailing thought about the author and his/her influence on the literary canon.  As part of the learning process, professors then instruct students to write papers in order to demonstrate their understanding of literary themes that permeate the author’s work.  Where students run into problems is when it comes to writing and developing an analysis.  Students don’t always know how to analyze.

In other words, they don’t know how to take a chunk of material, break it into manageable parts, take one part at a time, and examine and evaluate each part.  They let the task of coming up with an analysis intimidate them and they run to the first available resource they can find to fill up the essay.  Developing an analysis takes time and patience.  It is a skill that you can’t learn in one semester.  Similarly, analyzing the literary text without any other secondary influence takes even more patience.  You have to flex your own intellectual muscles in order to discover the hidden treasures of the text.

Therefore, when it comes to students analyzing the author’s work, they must learn how to address the content within the book that is laying on the desk, without the benefit of having access to extended research, to complete background information on the author, or to literary criticism.  All of this information should come secondary to the student developing their own ability to analyze within an academic essay, but they can’t do this before they fully understand the text.

Pushing everything else aside, what can the student learn about a particular literary work?  What steps are most beneficial to students who struggle with examining and evaluating the literary text?  In answer to these questions, here are some steps to consider as you prepare to analyze the literary work:

Step 1:  Study the introduction and conclusion paragraphs.

Examine wording in the text that indicates imagery.  The word imagery refers to pictures and descriptions.  Ask yourself questions about why you think the author places certain words within the paragraphs.  Describe what they mean in terms of the context the author provides.

Examine the text to determine also how the author introduces the main character in the first few paragraphs.  If the main character is not present within these paragraphs of the story, then consider this in your analysis.  Skip down to the end of the story.  Search for the main character within the conclusion paragraph.  If the main character is present within the conclusion paragraph, then determine the significance of how the author positions the main character within your papers.

Step 2:  Learn as much as you can about the main character. 

When professors give students an assignment to write about a particular literary work, students never focus on the main character.  Instead they merely provide a summary of the main character and provide in-depth information about the themes and ideas expressed from the professor through classroom lecture.

Keep in mind that professors don’t lecture so that their work can be included in your papers.  Professors present a structure of ideas based upon the canon.  Your job as the student is to apply some of those ideas to “your” analysis.  To understand the text is to understand the main character.  This may make it easier to discover the author’s purpose.  Therefore, consider the following:

  • The main character is the anchor of the text.  Wherever you see the main character, study his/her actions, statements, and activities within each paragraph and/or context.  No one else in the story exists without the main character, so examine the actions of secondary characters in relation to the actions of the main character.
  • Examine how the author presents the main character.
  • Pay close attention to the main character’s self-perception.

Treat the main character as if he or she is a person you are interested in getting to know better.  Once you are able to do this you can better assess how the author uses the character in the work.

Step 3:  Investigate relationships.

The main character is always in relationship with someone else in the story.  The other person could be a husband, a child, a parent, a sibling, a friend, a lover, a boss, and/or a passerby.

Therefore, classify relationships within the text.  Draw a common multiplications table in which you place the names of secondary characters in the first column and the types of relationship in the first row.  Here is an example below:

Figure: Multiplication Table of Characters and Relationship Types

Secondary Characters

Mom

Brother

Friend

 Jane

X

 John

X

 Sam

X

Once you are able to locate these relationships within the text, describe each action of the main character in relation to other characters.

Step 4:  Evaluate how the author uses the antagonist.

How the author uses the antagonist in the story is very important.  This gives the reader insight into the author’s mind and some insight into the author’s purpose for writing the story.  As you continue to analyze the literary work, study the relationships the antagonist has with the main character and then with other secondary characters.  Evaluate the author’s choice of dialogue.

Underline the specific words the author uses with each character.  Study the sentence structure of the dialogue to determine if words represent sarcasm, criticism, or cynicism.  In addition, evaluate the author’s position of the antagonist within the story and how this relates to the position of the protagonist.

Step 5:  Highlight repetitions.

It is human nature for us to repeat ourselves.  We always like to make sure that the other person has heard us.  We want people to understand us and to believe in what we say.  We repeat phrases, tones, examples, and specific statements.

Therefore, as you read your text, highlight those areas within the work where there are repetitions in phrases, statements, words, and examples.  Does the author use a certain word more than once?  If so, study each word within its respective context. Each word means something differently in a different context.

Step 6:  Classify dialogue.

Conversations between characters often reveal secrets, opinions, and information about other characters, so what each character says within a story means something.  Study the dialogue to understand the author’s use of language.

Note characters who speak English grammatically.  These are characters who care about how they use the language.

Note also those characters who speak conversationally.  Most of their speech represents everyday, informal talk.  These are also characters who care about how they use the language.

Analyze each character’s view(s) in the story and how each uses language to convey his or her beliefs.

Step 7:  Outline the plot.

Each step in life is important.  It was important to learn how to walk.  This was our first step.  Then we learned our ABCs.  This was the second step.  After this we learned how to get along with other kids at school.  We followed this up with standing up for ourselves on the playground, learning how to drive, and finally getting married and having kids of our own.  If we had never taken the first step, then we couldn’t have ever gotten to the last one.

The author often presents the literary work in some kind of logical fashion whether it is in the conventional 1, 2, and 3 . . . step-by-step technique or in a reverse order for dramatic effect.  Sometimes the author begins with the end of the story at the beginning, takes the reader on some journey in the middle, and brings the reader back to the official end of the story.

No matter what technique the author uses, there are still areas that are chronologically structured.  This is sometimes present within the body paragraphs of the story where the author presents what happens first, second, and third.  For wherever the author places time, if the author doesn’t do this, then the reader would have no way of understanding the story sequentially.

Therefore, before beginning to write an essay take out a sheet of paper and write how the story logically unfolds.  Without doing this you run the risk of presenting ideas in your paper that are not related and have no logical relation to the rest of the parts of your essay.  Know the story.

Step 8:  Draw a big circle around the climax.

The climax usually comes at the end of the story.

The most exciting event for a marathon runner is reaching the finish line.  For all of the hard work and training that runners commit to it is the finish line that they care more about than anything else.  That’s the goal:  to finish.

Likewise, the author also commits to finishing the work.  Authors start with a main character that is immature at the beginning.  They chart the main character’s progression through adding other characters and situations and problems.  Through these circumstances and relationships, authors push the character forward until he or she reaches the finish line.  It is in reaching that last (story) event that makes it worthwhile for the character and for the reader.  As you locate the climax, reexamine all of the actions before it.  What would happen if the story didn’t have a finish?

Warning

Make sure that as you analyze the literary work that you also don’t project onto the text your opinions.  Always remember that the author didn’t write the story with you in mind.  Only literary critics consider the influence of the literary text upon the reader.   Therefore, in your writing, don’t project anything onto the text that is not already there.

Tips to Remember

  • Analyzing a literary text takes time.  Allow one to two days for evaluating and highlighting structure and key words.
  • Spend as much time with the text before you begin to write the paper.  If you don’t know the text, then you won’t know how to structure your analysis.
  • Don’t forget to eat.  Rest and go to sleep.  Get back up again and confront the task.  You can do it.  Finish it.
  • Smile.

About the Author

Regina Y. Favors is the CEO and Chief Instructional Designer of Favors Learning Center, a learning management solutions company and registered government contractor. Regina has a master’s degree in English from San Diego State University.  In her spare time, she teaches freshmen composition and English as a Second Language at a local community college in Dallas.  She is currently developing group activity worksheets for The FAVORS Glossary and a revision writing anthology.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

How to Develop a Revision Plan

Summary

Developing a revision plan is not an easy task, but it is a necessary process if you want to ensure that your paper has met the requirements of the professor and the essay prompt.  When we initially write, we begin the task with a different process.  We just put something down on paper so we won’t forget anything.  We don’t really care about whether we have structured the paper well; instead we merely come up with a thesis, hope that our topic sentences match, and pray that we are able to find the required number of reference sources, even if they don’t fit the thesis or the topic.  By the time we finish writing the paper, all that matters is that we have met the page count, we have formatted our papers for MLA, and we have turned in the essay on time.  This is the way instructors have taught us and this is the habit we pursue for writing all of our essays.

Writing a college essay should not be a task that we merely gloss over, because it is a very important process.  It should not be an item on a checklist to mark complete.  We should give time to every college paper:  time to examine the essay prompt, time to develop an outline, time to research the reference sources, time to write the paper, time to structure it for logic, time to format it for MLA, and time to evaluate and revise it.  We are not taught this in school.  We are given assignments and expected to know whatever it is we need to know about writing by the time we enter college.  The college writing textbook even glosses over the revision process which is very important in the scheme of writing.  Most textbooks have one section on revising the essay and another lengthier section on grammar mechanics.

In addition, we typically call revising the essay “checking for grammar.”  Grammar is important.  Correcting sentence structure, subject-verb disagreement, pronoun errors, and fragments is central to the writing process, but it is not the only method for revising college papers.  Therefore, the following steps will help you as you reconsider your views about revising the college essay.  Consider these steps as you contemplate your own revision plan:

Step 1:  Highlight those areas that represent plot summary. 

Professors typically give these instructions:  write on the topic; research three references; and provide an analysis.  What we do is summarize the literary text.  When I think back to our experiences with writing in grammar school we were taught how to write the five-paragraph essay.  We were never taught how to analyze, so we honestly don’t know how to take a quote and break it down into parts and analyze each part.  Of course, this is no excuse.  We just need to learn this language of analyzing.  The best method for revising/removing plot summary is to take the part of the essay where you “retell” the story and consider the following process:

  • Start with the first section of plot summary.  You can number all sections if you like.
  • Take a highlighter and underline the part/sentence where you narrate the story.
  • Draw a square around the information.
  • Circle all of the verbs in the sentences.  Look them up in a dictionary or a thesaurus.
  • Study the main character’s actions in relation to the context you provide.
  • Ask yourself about the significance of these actions.  What do they mean to you?

Once you are able to locate the plot summaries and you have finished the process above, develop a plan in which you will break down the narration into manageable parts and analyze each part.

Step 2:  Verify assumptions.

In general, we live and hold tightly to our assumptions.  We believe in them even when we know that they are wrong.  When it comes to writing college papers, we make assumptions because we haven’t fully researched the topic and honestly because we are just lazy.  It’s much easier to assume than it is to be certain.  Finding out the truth about something takes time, effort, patience, concern for accuracy, and attention to detail.

Therefore, for every part of your paper that does not represent truth either revise these parts or remove them completely.  What do I mean here?  Compare what you write and what actually happens in the literary text (i.e., short story, poem, criticism, etc.).  For example, if you write “Faulkner informs the reader that a certain character comes from a mixed nationality background,” but he doesn’t do this as the author of the text, then you are misrepresenting Faulkner’s work.  Consider the following as you develop your revision plan:

  • Examine the first one to three sentences before each quote you have incorporated into the paper.
  • Verify these sentences.

We usually make our mistakes within the first few sentences before a direct quote.  Before we incorporate the quote, we typically provide some kind of summary of ideas.  After this we add the quote and follow this up with another statement.  Then we either continue with the analysis or move on to the next topic sentence.  This method is acceptable as long as you remember this one thing:  if you write that the narrative “begins” in a certain way or that the author begins the narrative in this or that way, then check to make sure that the narrative actually begins in the way that you write.

For example, in a paper I submitted on John Steinbeck’s “Chrysanthemums,” a short story, I wrote that the narrative “starts out” with the main character working in her garden.  However, if you read the story, you will find that the author begins the narrative with imagery; he identifies the location and the time of season; he introduces a character by the name of Henry Allen; we read about a dog and other information about farmers; and then Steinbeck presents the main character, Elisa Allen.  It wasn’t until I used my student paper in my classroom discussions as a teacher that I realized the mistake.  One word can change the meaning(s) within your paper.

Therefore, develop a revision plan that includes evaluating and validating assumptions.  The plan should reference time needed for examining statements before quotes, proofreading quotes, and restructuring your analysis.  In addition, if you provide a few sentences that represent plot summary, verify those assumptions as well.

Step 3:  Confirm that quotes support the topic.

Quotes add credibility to your topic and to your analysis, but it is sometimes difficult to add these resources within your paper.  You have your ideas about the topic.  Then there are many ideas within each reference source that you use.  Each source offers additional quotations and opinions.  What do you do with all of this information?  How do you incorporate sources without plagiarizing and without filling up your paper with information that is unnecessary to your thesis or to your topic, for that matter? The first part of the process begins with you taking out time to understand the text.  Consider the following pre-writing process as you develop a revision plan:

  • Know the author’s thesis/main purpose for writing.
  • Search for the author’s topic sentences.
  • Examine the author’s supporting evidence.
  • Evaluate the author’s conclusion paragraph.

Don’t be intimidated by this task.  You have to do it.  This is the only way you will be able to determine really if a particular quote you incorporate within the paper is appropriate or even necessary.  Once you have finished this process for each quote you use from all reference sources, then you can consider the following:

  • Verify that your thesis parallels the author’s thesis.
  • In other words, does the author’s quote support your purpose?

Never let the author’s work take over your paper.  Therefore, develop a revision plan that includes confirming that the quotes and reference sources you use within your paper align, or parallel, the ideas you express within your paper.

Step 4:  Double-check for thesis—topic sentence agreement

We learn in grammar that subjects and verbs must agree.  If the subject is singular, then the verb must be singular.  Likewise, if the subject is plural, then the verb must also be plural.  Below is an example of each type:

  • Singular Subject:  Jane is nice.
  • Plural Verb:  Jane and John are nice.

Each verb agrees with its corresponding subject.

Similarly, your topic sentences must agree with your thesis.  The purpose of topic sentences is only one-part:  to support the thesis.  They don’t do anything else.  They don’t support the quotes or any other information housed within the body paragraphs.  They only have one job which is to support the thesis.  I can’t help but to be redundant so you can understand how important this information is to your paper and to you.

Therefore, if your thesis has three parts such as Jane is nice, lovely, and friendly, make sure that you address each part by creating a topic sentence. Here’s an example:

  • Thesis:  Jane is nice, lovely, and friendly.
  • Topic Sentence #1:  Jane is a very enjoyable and agreeable person (nice).
  • Topic Sentence #2:  Jane is attractive and very good-looking (lovely).
  • Topic Sentence #3:  Jane has many friends.  She is very approachable (friendly).
  • Conclusion:  Jane is a wonderful person to be around.  She has such a delightful heart.  She is equally pleasant and very open to friendship.

Develop a revision plan in which you reexamine your thesis and your topic sentences.  On a separate sheet of paper, write out your thesis on the first line.  On the second and subsequent lines, write down each topic sentence of your body paragraphs.  Check to see if your topic sentences match your thesis.  If they don’t, either revise the thesis or add/subtract one of your topic sentences.

Step 5:  Proofread for grammar. 

There are two processes:  the writing process and the revision process.  After we finish writing our papers, the first thing we do is check for grammar.  It is my contention that all students should first evaluate their papers to make sure that they have met all of the requirements and that the thesis, topic sentences, supporting evidence, quotes, examples, and analysis all agree.  If any one of these parts in the paper doesn’t agree, then the student has to go back and revise the information.  The revision process may involve rewriting and removing sections.  Sometimes it may also involve rewriting the thesis.  All that is important to remember is this:  the revision process is not just about “checking for grammar.”

With this in mind, develop a revision plan that incorporates this step (i.e., checking for grammar) only after you have completed all of the other steps. This is the first thing you must do. The second thing is work out a strategy for correcting some of the most common grammatical errors that undoubtedly every student of research papers and every professional writer makes.  Here is a list of grammar issues and errors to consider as you develop a revision plan:

  • Commas/Periods/Other Punctuation
  • Mixed Verb Tenses
  • Comma Splices
  • Fragments
  • Run-ons
  • Subject-verb Disagreement
  • Spelling

Take any writing textbook and look these terms up in your book.  Study the examples.  After this take your own papers sentence-by-sentence and check to make sure that your papers don’t house these errors.

Warning

The most important thing to remember is to do the assignment.  If you do anything but the assignment, then you have not met the requirement.  Consider the following essay prompt:

Write on Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales.”  Compare three tales.  Use at least two characters from each tale.  Analyze each tale within ten pages. 

  • If you provide only two tales and you do everything else, then you have not met the requirements of the assignment.
  • If you provide three tales but you only write about one character from each tale and you do the rest of the assignment, then you have not met the requirements of the assignment.
  • If you do everything but compose only eight pages, or even nine, then you have not met the requirements of the assignment.

Do the assignment and nothing else.  You can only reach toward excellence once you have completed the requirements.

Tips 

  • Check your plan to make sure that you have all of the required number of reference sources.
  •  Check your plan to make sure that you have allowed time for MLA formatting.
  • Check your plan to make sure that you have allowed room to meet all of the requirements of the assignment.
  •  Don’t forget to eat.  Rest and go to sleep.  Get back up again and confront the task.  You can do it.  Finish it.

About the Author

Regina Y. Favors is the CEO and Chief Instructional Designer of Favors Learning Center, a learning management solutions company and registered government contractor. Regina has a master’s degree in English from San Diego State University.  In her spare time, she teaches freshmen composition and English as a Second Language at a local community college in Dallas.  She is currently developing group activity worksheets for The FAVORS Glossary and a revision writing anthology.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

NOTE: Favors Learning Center is currently developing teaching videos based upon the ideas expressed within each blogging post. Below is a link to a YouTube video that we are currently developing. It represents a brief review of the ideas expressed within this post. Thank you in advance for your patience. Click here for the test video link. Last rev. April 4, 2012

Leave a comment

How to Edit Academic Writing

Summary

Editing the academic essay is a laborious task if you don’t first develop a plan for revision.  Students struggle with this part of the process because they learn that editing and proofreading the essay means checking for grammar.

However, editing the academic essay is a three-part process, which includes the following:  1) evaluating the thesis to make sure that it is well represented within the essay; 2) evaluating the use of quotations; and 3) evaluating whether or not you have fully met the assignment.

Here are five quick steps to consider when editing your papers.

Step 1:  Evaluate the thesis to determine if it parallels the conclusion.

The thesis is a very important part of your essay.  It serves as a guide to the rest of your paper.  When we initially begin to write, we just write the first thing that comes to mind.  This process is okay in the beginning, because if you don’t write something down, you will get frustrated and not continue with the task.  However, this process doesn’t work well for the end of your task when it is time to edit.

When you get to the end of your writing process, evaluate whether your thesis or the ideas you express within the introduction paragraph parallel the conclusion paragraph.  In other words, you can’t express that all dogs are nice in the beginning and express in the end that all dogs are nice, if they lick your face.  You have just placed a condition on your thesis.

If you do not place any conditions in the beginning, don’t place them at the end.

Step 2: Evaluate topic sentences.

Topic sentences are important parts of the essay.  Your topic sentences must always support the thesis.  It doesn’t make sense to construct a thesis in which you provide three qualities of Jane that she is nice, lovely, and friendly and you don’t address these three parts within the body paragraphs of your essay.  For each quality of Jane, or for each part of a thesis, you must dedicate at least one paragraph to analyzing these qualities.

Step 3: Evaluate quotes.

It is true that your professor wants you to add reference sources to support your ideas.  You can’t get around this, but oftentimes we just add something, some words, to fill up a five-page to ten-page paper.  We don’t always check to make sure that the quote actually supports the topic sentence.

With this in mind, the quote should always support the topic sentence, which should always support the thesis.  In addition, if one of your quotes doesn’t have any relationship to the body paragraph, to the thesis, and to the topic sentence, remove it.

Step 4: Remove plot summaries.

For all academic essays at the undergraduate level, you will always be required to provide an analysis.  The typical essay prompt requires you to provide an analysis of a literary character within the story’s context.  What we do is provide a narrative.  We retell the story.

Therefore, scan your paper for those sections for which you “retell” the story.  Highlight the section with a highlighter.  Now examine it.  Ask yourself questions about the summary.  Answer your own questions about why this part of the story is important.  Be critical.  Be sarcastic.  Be cynical.

Now write what you feel.  This is the beginning stages of developing an analysis.  Just don’t forget to be kind.  After all you wouldn’t be a student without the literary work.

Step 5: Check for grammar and MLA.

Now that you have evaluated your writing and made the necessary revisions, it is time to check for grammar.  Proofreading grammar is not easy because we have forgotten much of what we have learned in elementary school.  When we first learned grammar and all of our subjects, we learned them enough to know them and to pass a test.

Therefore, don’t feel discouraged if you don’t know what a comma splice is.  Just pick up your writing textbook and look it up, read the examples, and revise the essay.  Below are the most common grammar mistakes that you will undoubtedly have to revise:

  • Comma splices
  •  Fragments
  •  Run-ons
  •  Subject-verb disagreement
  •  Spelling

Refer to your writing textbook for further explanations of these concepts.

Tips

  • Allow yourself at least one to two days to edit and revise your paper.  Never wait until the day before the essay is due to write and revise the essay.  Allow some time to think about your ideas.
  • Meet the requirement of the essay.  If the assignment calls for you to 1) provide an analysis of three literary characters from three separate literary texts, 2) provide at least five resources to support your ideas, and 3) provide ten pages of analysis, then if you only write about two characters and you write nine pages, you have not met the assignment.  Therefore, don’t get upset at the grade you have earned.
  • Print out a draft of your essay and mark it up with a red pen.  This will prepare you emotionally for when the professor does the same thing.
  • Don’t be afraid of the academic essay.  Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged.  If you don’t understand something, just ask your professor for help.
  • Eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Watch some television.  Go to bed!  Sleep.  Then get right back up and confront the task.  You can do it.  Just manage your time well.  Divide the clock and finish the task.
  • Smile.

About the Author

Regina Y. Favors is the CEO and Chief Instructional Designer of Favors Learning Center, a learning management solutions company and registered government contractor. Regina has a master’s degree in English from San Diego State University.  In her spare time, she teaches freshmen composition and English as a Second Language at a local community college in Dallas.  She is currently developing group activity worksheets for The FAVORS Glossary and a revision writing anthology.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment