Archive for category Contemporary Issues

What is a Thesis?

By the time we become college students, we have learned the basic tenets of how to construct a thesis. Although we have learned what it means to develop a thesis, there are conflicting views about what a thesis really is. A thesis is an argument. An argument is a thesis. A thesis is a claim, what you believe. A thesis is the subject of your essay. A thesis is an unproved statement, a statement that needs to be proved within the body paragraphs of an essay. A thesis should be this.  A thesis should be that. When students ask questions, they get some of the following responses from their teachers:

“You know what it is.  Everyone knows what a thesis is.”

“This is the way my professor did it.  This is the way you will do it.”

“It’s tradition.”

These responses have served teachers well. As a result, teachers have undoubtedly left their students more confused than when they first entered the classroom.  Our main point is teachers today don’t teach. Instead, they present. They use these responses as excuses for not learning how to teach analysis.

In essence, many teachers can teach you how to summarize, but only a few can teach you how to analyze. For example, think about the structure of the essay. There is an introduction paragraph, body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph. This is the basic structure. We learned the famous five-paragraph structure in secondary school. Below is a brief view of this structure.

Introduction Paragraph: In the introduction paragraph you introduce the material you will discuss in the body paragraphs. You introduce your thesis. You introduce the method by which you will use to accomplish your task. You mainly summarize.

Body Paragraphs: In the body paragraphs, you develop topic sentences. You support these topic sentences with supporting data, evidence, statistics, and appropriate quotes.  You offer explanations mainly in the form of summaries. You summarize.

Conclusion:  In the conclusion paragraph you conclude the material that you have discussed in the body paragraphs. Sometimes you may add a “further implications” section, but mainly you summarize.

Notice that in each of the sections of your essay, you mainly summarize. You are only supposed to summarize in the introduction and the conclusion paragraphs. However, you are responsible for analyzing in the body paragraphs.

In other words, it is your obligation, not your instructor’s to provide an analysis of the author’s work within the body paragraphs of your essay. The thesis you have developed places this kind of obligation on you. Your thesis is one provision of your contract with the reader.

With this in mind, as you journey through the tasks and case studies that fall under the “Analysis” comment, remember your preconceived ideas about writing and developing an analysis. Begin to challenge them so you can receive a new understanding about these concepts.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Teaching Today

Teaching practices today primarily center on the idea of instructors and professors using summarization as an instructional technique. In other words, professors teach by summarization.

For example, most professors at the college level present via PowerPoint and the lecture is always in bullet point. The professor summarizes the introduction, provides a summary of the body, and then summarizes the conclusion of the presentation. You rarely see a professor pick up chalk or a dry-erase marker and write on the board. They rarely place one idea in one column and another idea in another column and draw corresponding lines.

In addition, students read the course text with the hope of understanding it. Professors review the text, which is another form of summarization. Both the student and the professor learn how to review, but they don’t learn how to analyze. Analyzing the text is just as important as developing an analysis based upon the text.

English teachers also don’t teach grammar at the college level. They don’t diagram sentences linguistically. They don’t teach students to understand how each part of the sentence serves a function. They figure that you should already know grammar before coming to college.

What most people don’t understand is that when we first learned grammar, we learned it enough to know it and socialize with people outside the primary home. However, if someone asks you what a misplaced modifier is, you couldn’t explain it to yourself or to anyone else.

Teaching grammar at the college level is important to helping students revise and correct advanced sentence structures.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Our Habits

Analyzing the text for the purpose of developing an analysis is a difficult task.  We don’t learn how to analyze. Instead, we take the teacher’s essay prompt, skim it, push it to the side, and just start writing. We don’t develop a writing plan, let alone a revision plan. We just retell the story and hope whatever we put in the paper represents analysis.

We don’t take the time to figure out what “analysis” is, what critical thinking means, and how to convey to the reader the author’s ideas in connection to our own. All we know and live by is the five-paragraph essay and how to incorporate rudimentary statistical data. We have not learned how to coordinate our viewpoints with those of the author, nor have we learned how to maintain the tone of our essays.

We honor the first draft as the complete draft. In other words, we honor the idea that we are able to get all that thinking onto the paper and now we feel complete.

Our habits include waiting too long to write the paper and not allowing enough time to revise it.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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