Archive for category Analysis (Essay Section)

Prove It!

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Analysis vs. Plot Summary)

Read the comment “Not a Theme In” first as a reference source to the explanation of this comment.

Many professors are loyal and obedient servants to the canon. They encourage and expect loyalty from their students and will investigate any paper that doesn’t adhere to the canon of thought on a particular author and his or her work.

However, among these professors lie the one who not only will encourage adherence to the canon but also will not debate your deviation from it if you can prove the points you make within your analysis. In other words, if the theme of jealousy is not a typical concept literary critics apply to a particular contemporary work, meaning it is not a part of the canon of literary themes for that work, then you must prove that the theme you want to use may be applicable to the work under exceptional circumstances.

With this in mind, a professor of this type will require you to discuss canonical themes within the body of your paper, but will also allow you to make certain points that are not standard if you can accurately and clearly express the idea(s) with supporting textual evidence from the literary work. You may add the evidence within the body paragraphs. You must also provide additional information within the conclusion/extended discussion section of your paper, because in this section you will need to outline suggestions and recommendations for how to use the non-traditional theme and how it may have larger applicability to other works.

That’s why it is important that you understand the nature of the evidence, because the evidence must be an appropriate match to your new idea. For example, everything has a match, so a theme that is already a part of the canon will fit the type of quote you use from your text. Past literary scholars have tried and tested it for suitability. However, in your quest to be different and innovative, you are proposing another “type” of theme.

Therefore, make the argument in the conclusion/extended discussion section of your paper, but don’t force a quote to match your theme within the body paragraphs. That’s why you have to make certain that your theme, “your” idea, is appropriately matched to the nature of the work. It is important to be innovative, but it is more important to be accurate.

In essence, before you set a goal to be innovative, make sure that what you want to do is actually possible to do. When your new idea and an appropriate quote from the text match, you have successfully proved your point.

See also the comments “An interesting idea, but it doesn’t work in every example.” and “Proof?

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Proof?

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Analysis vs. Plot Summary)

There are two types of “proof” you must demonstrate throughout the course of your academic studies: 1) proof of knowledge in terms of demonstrating “what you know” through the medium of testing and 2) examples as proof in terms of demonstrating your understanding concerning the purpose of “textual evidence.”

Incorporating in-text evidence within the academic paper is the most important goal that any student writer needs to set. The purpose of your education, as a student, is to learn theory and apply what you learn. In school, you learn knowledge and you talk about knowledge. For example, you learn about an author’s perspective by reading an argument. You learn about the different themes within a short story. You learn about the “character” of a character in a play. You also learn how to demonstrate your knowledge. At the end of the semester, you take a test to determine how well you can apply what you have learned and this type of test typically represents a final exam. The exam measures your ability to retrieve information necessary for providing proof of knowledge.

On the final exam your professor requires you to develop your ideas by making points and providing examples as proof. In other words, it is not enough to tell the reader what the story is about (proof of knowledge) without analyzing relationships and patterns of behavior from the text (examples as proof). The reader must know the embedded meanings, not just meanings that live and breathe on the surface. In order to do this, you must present in-text evidence, examples of how a character thinks about another character.

You can’t write that Katharina is a great character and she likes Petruchio without providing the exact line from the play from which they are both characters. Demonstrating your proof of knowledge and using examples as proof are both necessary for proving that you know what you know.

In the following sample excerpt, the student makes assumptions and fails to provide textual evidence to support her statements. The student doesn’t demonstrate her proof of knowledge, nor does she provide examples as proof within the analysis. Let’s read.

Sample Excerpt

First, Petruchio structures his own behavior just before he marries Katharina, breaking down the usual perception she has of men and people in general.  It is his goal that she never figures him out.  For example, the day of the wedding he is not only late, but arrives uncouth, disheveled, and uncompromising, a behavior not completely farfetched from Katharina’s own attitude, but is surprisingly uncommon in that Petruchio meticulously strives to dismantle her defenses by taking (the concept of) “shock” to new levels.

Figure 35: Essay Excerpt on Petruchio and Katharina, The Taming of the Shrew

Problems

The student doesn’t provide in-text evidence of claims she makes within the essay.

Critique

1) Where is the in-text evidence of Petruchio’s supposed goal? How do we know that this is his goal?

2) Where is the in-text evidence that Petruchio strives to dismantle Katharina’s defenses? What are Katharina’s defenses?

3) How does he take the concept of shock to new levels? Is it Petruchio’s main objective to shock? What is the in-text evidence?

Explanation

Remember the commercial from the 1980s of the old woman picking up the hamburger bun and saying, “Where’s the beef?” The in-text evidence is the beef. When you leave it out, you leave out a substantial part. You leave out the author’s contribution to your paper.

You cannot make statements within your paper and not support them with evidence. If you do this, your paper will appear less than credible. There is a certain legitimacy evoked when a student appreciates an author by incorporating in-text evidence from the literary work.

Revision Considerations

In the sample excerpt, the student makes an unsupported statement and it appears to the reader as just an assumption. The only way to correct statements that lack evidence from the text is to locate a quote within the author’s work that matches the student’s assumption.

Doing this will help to match your ideas about the literary work with the corresponding evidence. In other words, learn how to match white socks with white socks and red socks with red socks. Don’t make a statement, a generalized overview, without incorporating the proof.

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

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Plot Summary

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Analysis vs. Plot Summary)

Sometimes your professor will just write “plot summary” to show you that a particular passage represents the summary of a plot within a work. Plot summary is the opposite of analysis.

See the comment “Avoid Plot Summary” for useful tips.

For an extended explanation, see also the comment “Move Beyond Summary of Author’s Ideas: Analyze vs. Summarize.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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On the Right Path

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Analysis vs. Plot Summary)

For an explanation, see “Right” and/or “Right/On the Right Path.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Omit

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Analysis vs. Plot Summary)

To omit something is two-part: 1) you “omit” when you neglect or fail to do something and 2) you “omit” when your professor specifically tells you to leave certain elements out of your paper.

In terms of the first example, your professor expects you to understand and follow the guidelines he or she sets for the course in terms of writing and submitting papers. If your professor wants you to incorporate three sources within the analysis of your paper, don’t just incorporate two. You have not completed the assignment. If your professors outline the requirements fully and you decide to do the opposite of what they require, then they can rightfully accuse you of omitting certain elements from your paper. They have the right also to give you what you deserve in terms of applying a lower grade to the paper.

In terms of the second example, there will be times when your professor wants you to omit something from your paper because that particular idea is unnecessary and has no significance to the direction of the class. For example, oftentimes your professor will tell you to leave something out because the thing has no relevance to another thing, subject, or author’s viewpoints. Specifically, your professor is telling you to leave something out because if you don’t remove it, it will distract the reader from the more important points that he or she needs to understand about the subject.

Therefore, don’t view “Omit” as a bad thing. Just know that your professor is cultivating your writing ability by defining your skills and helping you to choose the best pieces of information to include in your papers so the topic you are discussing reflects a balanced and concise view.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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O.K. (Okay)

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Analysis vs. Plot Summary)

This is an affirmative reply.

This comment can mean one of two things, or both, depending upon the requirements of the professor and what he or she wants you to know as a requirement of the whole course. 1) The professor may comment that the whole paper is okay, making a reference to a statement of purpose in preparation for the final paper. 2) The professor may comment that a particular example you provide is not quite where it needs to be in terms of clarity, but it is “O.K.”

If “okay” is in reference to satisfactory, then you haven’t tried as hard as you know you can. Satisfactory always means you need to allow more time to read, take notes, and ask questions. Your essays are a reflection of how hard you really have worked. If you don’t work hard, then the professor will know it; and sometimes your lack of effort will warrant “O.K.”

In terms of the second, the use of “O.K.” always depends upon the mood of your professor and whether or not you have adhered to course requirements. You can never really know what a professor is thinking all the time. Think about how you respond with “okay” to someone.  Sometimes you feel good when you say it; but then there are days you just use “okay” because you don’t have anything else to say.

To go into depth here will reflect only a generalization.  Therefore, because “okay” is typically subjective, always ask your professor what he or she means by this comment. Then, start from there.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Off the Subject

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Analysis vs. Plot Summary)

The best way to explain “Off the Subject” is to paint the picture of a presentation speaker beginning with one topic and rambling and venturing off into another arena of another topic. Of course, this is the simplest way of explaining this comment. This type of scenario doesn’t cause you to exercise any real intellectual muscles, because you have experienced this some time in your own academic lives. You typically say about a speaker confused with regard to his subject matter, “What in the world is he talking about?” Therefore, I don’t really need to add more explanation to this scenario to make my point.

On the other hand, I do feel the need to provide a definition of what it means to be both on subject and off subject at the same time. For example, if the subject matter is about Labrador Retrievers, particularly about how nice and happy they are as dogs, and you incorporate a different dog into the discussion, you are still on the subject of “dogs.” However, you have changed the discussion to include another type of dog that may or may not be nice.

Where you get off subject is when you venture into a discussion about pit bulls or about police dogs. If you want to include a discussion about all dogs that are also nice, then a discussion about Labrador Retrievers will represent one of many topic areas. Remember you can’t ignore “general view.” Most people know about pit bulls and police dogs and they know that these are dogs are not typically “nice.”In other words, what do pit bulls and police dogs have to do with the subject that all dogs are nice? This is the question you have to ask yourself as you write about a subject.

You have to know how one thing relates to another. If there is no relation, then don’t use the example. In many cases, you may have to leave off some examples that you want to use in your paper, or you may have to change the thesis by leaving off the “all” altogether. Therefore, make certain you understand what it is you want to discuss within your papers.

Visualize John getting off the train before he gets to his final destination. Instead of practicing patience, he jumps off the train. When he jumps off, he finds out that he doesn’t know where he is. As long as he hasn’t veered too far off the path, the only thing he knows to do is stay close to the place of his fall. If he stays close, he will remember the direction in which the train was traveling.However, if he tries to find another path, because of his impatience, he might get lost; and he is unlikely to remember the direction of the train.

With this in mind, stay on the subject in the same way that you would stay on a train by remembering your purpose for writing the paper. Your thesis is the guiding lamp for your paper. Similar to a train conductor, let your thesis guide you. If you construct a clear thesis, then you will stay on subject.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Not Sure What You Mean Here

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Analysis vs. Plot Summary)

When you receive the comment “Not sure what you mean here,” in reference to a point you make within your paper, this means that you haven’t considered your audience. “Not sure what you mean” has the same effect as “I am not sure what you mean. I am not sure what you want me to understand.”

As a student, the primary audience of your paper is always your professor.  The primary audience also includes your classroom peers. Any other person reading your paper represents your secondary audience.

When writing and developing the content for your essays, you must keep the audience in mind at all times. Although an author doesn’t write with the reader in mind, the student, on the other hand, must write specifically for the audience. As students, you must provide an explanation of your points, especially when you include examples to prove your points.

In some cases, you can get away with not explaining every point; in a five-page paper, you do not need to explain every point. However, if your professor requires peer group activity where you switch papers, you will get the question from your fellow classmate, “What do you mean here?”

Students ask this type of question when they see that you haven’t explained a point or provided an explanation for an example. “What do you mean here?”, “Not sure what you mean,” and “I am not sure what you mean” all signify that the person doesn’t understand what you are trying to convey within your essay.

Explaining the “what” is important. You may say (write) many things in your paper, but the many things don’t have any sort of connection between them. In other words, the one thing you say can mean anything. The last thing you say can mean something entirely different; but as we continue to read your paper we don’t know that there is actually a difference between the things you are discussing.

In the following sample excerpt, the student writer doesn’t define how she will use a particular term in her paper and she also doesn’t provide the meaning of the term within the context of her paper. Let’s read.

Sample Excerpt

To go against someone’s will is to take away that person’s choice and option.  There is a natural, inherent instinct to will.  Free choice involves free will to do whatever it is one wants to do without permission to do so. It really doesn’t matter what the other person thinks.  But what does matter is when one’s will is manipulated and picked out of a lineup, so to speak, as a target. Then that person has to deal with defending his or her will to the manipulator.  Adonis is determined to scorn love, but Venus has something else in mind.  And in the end, Venus doesn’t keep (physically) what she wills for herself.  But between the both of them, love still demands its own will.

Figure 34: Essay Excerpt on Venus and the Will of Love, “Venus and Adonis,” William Shakespeare

Problems

Student applies “personification” to a term and doesn’t define how she will use the term.

Critique

1) Is “free choice” the same thing as “free will”?

2) How is the will manipulated? Can a will be manipulated? Or can a person be manipulated?

3) Is Adonis’ determination to scorn love his free choice or his free will?

4) What does Venus have in mind? What does she do?

5) Love is not a person. It can’t demand.

Revision Considerations

The best way to correct areas of your paper that require more meaning is to continue to define terms, relationships, characters, and contexts. Define how a term links relationships between characters. If you are using the term to connect characters, then provide context for the term.

For example, if you are using “free will” as a definition for “free choice,” then add this as a statement within your analysis. After this, describe how you will use the term to connect characters or contexts. Consider the following scenario:

Literary Work A offers insight about Female Character A, who is jealous of Female Character B. Both characters exercise “free will” for the purpose of obtaining what they desire. Free will is defined as the right of an individual to choice. When the female characters “choose” to pursue Male Character A, they demonstrate free will. Choosing to pursue this male character is not the only time they exercise free will. In several areas of the work, specifically within references to major story events, they choose to exercise free will, which through their actions brings many secondary characters together. One example includes Event A where both female characters sponsor a party for the social elite. The female characters exercise free will as they demonstrate their jealousy in front of society by arguing over Male Character A. In essence, the exercise of free will between characters within the literary text represents a method major characters use as a premeditated choice for pursuing and obtaining what they desire.

This scenario is simple, but I think you get the point. At the beginning of a body paragraph, define how you will use a particular term and define how you will use that term to describe the relationship between characters.

Adopting the practice of defining what you mean by a particular term and/or concept will ensure that you define even the simplest of terms and provide the meaning necessary for ushering your reader throughout the analysis of your paper.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Not Persuasive

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Analysis vs. Plot Summary)

Authors begin the task of writing with one of two motivations: either their purpose is 1) to inform or 2) to persuade. For example, think about “inform” in the same way that you might think about the roles of a newspaper or the television news. The writers of the urban section inform you about yesterday’s events–what happened last night, who died, and who killed who. On the other hand, the person on the television screen informs you of what happened “yesterday”; but also informs you about events that will take place “today.”

The main purpose of both the newspaper writer and news reporter is not to persuade you. Each individual may persuade you in some cases by making statements along the lines of “It is going to rain, so you might want to bring an umbrella.” However, both hardly say something to the effect of “It is going to rain. Bring an umbrella.” In other words, both the reporter and the newscaster don’t use directives to command your obedience.

When a writer constructs an argument, he or she establishes a goal to persuade the reader about a particular subject matter. This writer approaches the task with the belief that what he or she presents to you, as the reader, is true as he or she sees it; and that you must follow-up the read with some action. For example, a person who tells you about a party on 16th street is just informing you about the party and its location. However, a person who tells you about the location and says, “You must go. They will have food and drinks. And you can see John,” this person is persuading you. This person is saying that if you don’t go, you will miss out on something great. The effectiveness of this person’s persuasion is based upon your willingness to yield and the fact that you do yield.

The same line of thought applies to how you present the information of different authors within your paper, especially information about their claims, beliefs, and the recurring themes within the literary works. If you merely outline an author’s ideas, then you are informing the reader about what the author thinks concerning the subject matter you are exploring. However, if you outline each author’s ideas and point out where their arguments lack credibility, then you are persuading the readers about the author and the ideas each expresses within the context of their work. In essence, you are persuading the reader when you write that Author A is missing more elements than Author B; and when you persuade you also prove.

You inform the reader that Author A is missing elements by including in-text evidence within your analysis. This persuades the reader because the information is verifiable. The reader is willing to yield when he reads your assessment of Author A. In addition, when you provide the in-text evidence, the reader is willing to continue to yield. The reader has yielded completely when he or she returns to the text, reads it, retrieves the evidence you reference within your paper, and agrees with your statement about Author A. On the other hand, when you leave out important textual evidence and fill your paper with assumptions, then you have not persuaded the reader because your paper is missing these elements. In essence, because you lack verifiable information, a reader doesn’t yield to your point of view.

Developing a persuasive argument is no easy task, because there are factors that influence how you persuade the reader. The most important method for ensuring that you develop a persuasive argument is to validate all of your claims. You must “back up” whatever you believe in your paper. If you write, “The author believes all dogs are nice,” then you must include evidence of the author’s belief. The evidence you provide can’t center on this type of statement: “All dogs are nice, if they lick your face.” Nowhere in the author’s work is this belief.

Therefore, before you submit the final draft of your paper, check your assumptions. Revise any statement that doesn’t supply textual evidence. Add a quote or another qualifying statement. Permanently remove any statement for which you can’t provide proof.

For more related information, see also the comments “An interesting idea, but it doesn’t work in every example.” and “Proof?

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Not Entirely

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Analysis vs. Plot Summary)

The sample excerpt below represents a whooping generalization.

Figure 33: Essay Excerpt on Shylock’s Conversion, The Merchant of Venice

Shylock’s conversion from Jew to Christian at the end of the play is not entirely of his own inclination. The sentiment of the play suggests a critical view of the Jewish religion and that the Christian faith is altogether merciful and compromising. Shylock is forced to conform to the judgment of Portia, or better yet, Christian law. In leaving his own faith, Shylock experiences a loss spiritually as well as financially. Other characters also experience different conversions related to Shylock’s.

As students, we oftentimes begin the task of writing by using a summary to get us started. This is a method we use to help us understand what is going on “overall” in the work; but where we go wrong is when we mingle the general with specific. The bolded sentences within Figure 33 illustrate this case of mixing general ideas with context-specific actions.

The play is not symbolic of a critical view of one religion in comparison to another. Within the play, there may be characters who criticize the Jewish religion and who may believe that followers of the Christian faith are more longsuffering, but the play itself doesn’t suggest this. The attitude of the characters suggests this.

It is a funny thing, the word. Just one word can change the meaning of a sentence; and the choice of a certain construction of a sentence can also change the meaning dramatically. For example, it is not the sentiment of the play that suggests a critical view (discriminating) toward one religion in support of another. It is the sentiment of the characters who favor one religion over another.

Therefore, don’t allow a general view to supplant a specific point you want to make.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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