Archive for category H

How Does This Support

From time to time you will receive this comment. If you make a point within your analysis, ask yourself this question before going into another point: How does the point I’m making relate to the overall theme (thesis) of my paper? How does the point also relate to another point within my analysis?

The legs of a chair must be strong and wide enough to support the weight of a person. The wheels of a car must be sturdy enough, equal in size, to support the weight of the car and the people in the car. The foundation of a building must be balanced, equal on all sides, before the building is constructed. The four walls of a building support not only the rooms inside but also the entire building. Your paper must reflect the same balance.

It is not enough to use quotes without providing an explanation of why you are using them. It is not enough to make points in the form of topic sentences and not provide the sentences with support. Prevent your papers from falling. The introduction and your thesis represent the foundation of your paper.  Make sure to define clearly where you want to go and where you want the reader to go. You, as the writer, and your thesis, are one, are unified. You and your thesis guide the reader. If you don’t know where you are going, the reader will get lost, unable to find his or her way back onto the path of your thesis.

Once you have built strong support, a foundation for your paper, then you can move forward into adding topic sentences for your body paragraphs, credible and verifiable data, and analysis. Examine The Essay Acronym. Although it is a simple illustration, it serves its purpose.  The illustration is structured similarly to the food pyramid.

All of the elements of your paper sit on top of the introduction and thesis. Therefore, just as the legs of a chair must be sturdy enough to support the weight of a person, the introduction and thesis must be able to carry, support, and sustain the weight of the other elements that serve their functions in your paper. The acronym for the acronym is I Stand.  The following represents an explanation for the acronym.

Acronym for I Stand

Introduction (and Thesis)

Supported Evidence

Topic Sentences

Analysis

Neutral Arguments

Deleted Summaries

Introduction (and Thesis)

The introduction and thesis are the first elements of your paper that anyone will see. It is natural to start reading from the top and work your way to the bottom, from left top corner to bottom right corner. No one typically starts on page six of your paper and then works backward. The only time a professor will do this is if he or she has read the paper already before and just wants to look at one idea to check and make sure that the idea still fits within the overall scheme of your paper. However, before a professor can do this, he or she has read the paper already from beginning to end during a previous reading of your paper.

Make sure you build a strong foundation. Visualize the foundation a construction worker lays before building. The house will not be able to sit well if the construction worker doesn’t properly lay the foundation. The introduction and thesis are both lamps we use as a guide to understanding your paper. With this in mind, there should be only one thesis in your paper! In essence, there should be only one foundation.

Supported Evidence

Use information that directly supports the main purpose and focus of your thesis. Do not supply quotes if they do not have a direct relationship to the purpose of the paper. Do not try to fit something into your paper that doesn’t fit. You can’t put on a dress that is two sizes too big, nor can you put on a dress that is two sizes too small. Only put on the dress that fits your body frame. Likewise, only use supporting evidence (put on the dress) that fits the frame of your paper.

Topic Sentences

Topic sentences for each paragraph introduce the reader to the ideas of each paragraph.

All topic sentences must be an extension of the paper’s thesis. Think about how your arms extend from your body. Your body is the main vessel. The stomach is the center; and your legs give your body the support it needs physically. The same logic applies to your thesis. Your introduction and thesis is the center. It is also the main vessel to the paper. The topic sentences are the legs of the main vessel. They give the thesis (and the introduction) the support it needs.

Analysis

Your main body paragraphs should represent analysis. You may briefly add a sentence or two about the plot, in a paraphrased version. In this regard, your purpose should be to use only the brief summary to introduce an idea. Your summary should never substitute for analysis. In other words, your ability to summarize should never supplant your ability to analyze a character’s relationship to other characters within the story and the character’s relationship to the story itself.

Neutral Arguments

To be neutral is to support neither side of an argument. Therefore, it is possible to construct a thesis but not create an analysis that supports your main thesis. In other words, it is possible for a reader to see where you stand at the beginning of reading the paper and become confused in the middle of the process. What do we mean by this? How you incorporate data into your paper is important, but what you write concerning the data is vitally important.

If you want to use a quote to support your thesis, then don’t forget to offer a view about the quote. Your view represents your stance about the general theme of your paper. In addition, when you offer a view about the quote, if the quote supports your thesis, don’t disagree with the quote or the author. If you forget to offer a view or disagree with a source you are using to support your thesis, then you have developed a paper that is neutral to the ideas conveyed within the paper itself.

The best way to prevent neutrality is to think about the ideas, one by one, and ask yourself if you agree with each idea. If you agree with all ideas, use data that support the ideas and take a stand also. If you do not agree with all of the ideas, then separate the material you will use to support your thesis. Sort the pile into likes and dislikes (whites and colors), those ideas that “like” your thesis from those ideas that do not like your thesis. Give attention to how you incorporate the ideas. Always introduce an enemy and make it clear who your friend is within the analysis of your paper.

Deleted Plot Summaries

A discussion about plot summaries is never enough. Professors, as well as students, already know the plot. In many cases, a plot summary does have a place within your analysis. Its inclusion always depends upon the application of the plot summary. However, if the whole of your paper is filled with plot summary, then you have only demonstrated an ability to summarize, not analyze. It takes special skill to summarize and paraphrase material, but your professor wants you to convert one skill into another, move out of one habit and develop a new manner of addressing the implications of a text. Your professor wants you to quit summarizing to pursue analyzing.

 Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Hard to Understand

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who jumps from one idea to the next or begins the conversation in the middle of a thought? Sometimes people will start in the middle and somehow work their way back to the beginning. The only reason why the speaker must return to the beginning is because the confused listener asks probing questions in the form of “What?” and “What do you mean?”

When the speaker starts in the middle, he or she assumes the listener already knows the bits and pieces the speaker is leaving out of the conversation. To the speaker, it is time-consuming to be specific and go into detail; so he or she assumes that it is okay to supply limited information. In other words, the speaker doesn’t feel that the information communicated to the listener has gaps and holes.

Students write with the same assumption. They know the professor has read the material already. After all, the professor is the one who has taught them the material. However, it is oftentimes a sign of a weak writer when the writer doesn’t know how to outline his or her ideas and synthesize information without going into multiple pages of detail.

When key information is left out, or when you make a point of highlighting textual evidence as key but don’t explain its significance, then you make the professor’s job of reading your paper difficult because the meaning of your paper as a whole is hard to grasp, “hard to understand.”

Read the following excerpt (Figure 13) and review the problems. Notice how the student incorporates new words and phrases, which represent a different context from Shakespeare’s time. If you are thinking about repeating the same method, always research the nature of context-specific concepts before incorporating them into a context where they might not fit. After the excerpt are rhetorical questions for you to consider.

Sample Excerpt

This Christian hypocrisy goes far deeper than what is implied in the play.  The Venetians dismissed Shylock, yes, but they also dismissed the very person and culture of him.  “In every culture there are persons who fear and dislike the continuing process of cultural interaction and change.  These persons are particularly found within the elite, because cultural interaction leads to changes that the elite cannot control” (Singer 50).  The elite usually doesn’t have much to do with changes out of their control.  They often tend to suppress even cultural development. Authority may cut selected pieces out of one’s cultural identity in order to bring one into conformity by determining what culture ought to be.  The Venetians follow the thought of relativism.  Relativism is where claims of universal human rights are rejected.  “A relativist provokes the question:  ‘Relative to what?’  What defines truth, values? . . .” (Singer 45).  When applying these concepts, one first thinks of culture.  Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice failed and ignored the cultural identity of Shylock and as a result, he followed in their footsteps, which is ironic, that they would judge him based on their own behavior.  This is what you call learning from example.  This ultimately cost him his personal relationship with his very personal faith.

Figure 13: Essay Excerpt on The Moralistic Hypocrisy in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (Concluding Paragraph)

Problem #1

This Christian hypocrisy goes far deeper than what is implied in the play.  The Venetians dismissed Shylock, yes, but they also dismissed the very person and culture of him.  “In every culture there are persons who fear and dislike the continuing process of cultural interaction and change.  These persons are particularly found within the elite, because cultural interaction leads to changes that the elite cannot control” (Singer 50).  The elite usually doesn’t have much to do with changes out of their control.  They often tend to suppress even cultural development.

1) Before incorporating this quote, define how the Venetians dismiss the “very person” and “culture” of Shylock. In terms of what?

2) How is a person dismissed?

3) How is a culture dismissed?

4) Is “dismissed” equivalent in meaning to “ignored” or “rejected”? Define the way you will use a/the term in your analysis.

5) The quote incorporates someone else’s words on the matter, but not what the student thinks.

6) Aren’t the elite the ones who make many changes? The elite are one step below the government in some cases. However, during Shakespearean times, wasn’t the elite the powerful aristocracy? Couldn’t the elite have made changes?

Problem #2

Authority may cut selected pieces out of one’s cultural identity in order to bring one into conformity by determining what culture ought to be.  The Venetians follow the thought of relativism.  Relativism is where claims of universal human rights are rejected.  “A relativist provokes the question:  ‘Relative to what?’  What defines truth, values? . . .” (Singer 45).  When applying these concepts, one first thinks of culture.  Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice failed and ignored the cultural identity of Shylock and as a result, he followed in their footsteps, which is ironic, that they would judge him based on their own behavior.  This is what you call learning from example.  This ultimately cost him his personal relationship with his very personal faith.

1) “Authority” is personified in this analysis. The student has given it human-like qualities. “Authority” is not a person. It is not similar to the role of a butcher who cuts meat. “Authority” cannot cut into the skin of one’s cultural identity. It is a concept. A concept cannot “cut.”

2) Ask yourself this: a) Does the play mention authority? b) Where and in what context?

3) How do the elite suppress cultural development?

4) What are the origins of “Relativism”? Who was the founder? What year was the concept established? Now what year was Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice published?

5) Can “relativism” be applied to Shakespeare’s period, time, or play?

6) How do we know that the Venetians follow the thought of “relativism?” What is a credible date in history that we can use to prove our stance?

7) In addition, was “culture” a popular term during Shakespeare’s period?

These are some of the questions you need to consider when revising the content of your essays and developing context-specific wording.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Hard to Follow

If your papers are filled with difficult to read phrasing, then you will receive this comment.  Your papers must be logically constructed. Each example and explanation must continue to build upon the previous example and explanation. What makes it “hard to follow” the ideas within your paper is when you don’t explain certain words or phrases that are typically used in simple conversation. In addition, you will see this comment written next to your thesis. Since the thesis is the lamp by which we use to find our way within your paper, if the thesis does not reflect the logical way your paper should flow, then it is easy to send the reader down the wrong corridor into a maze.

No one likes a maze. Even the rats don’t like mazes, but what keeps them going is the smell of cheese. Even though your professor also doesn’t like mazes, he or she will keep going in the hopes of reaching to the purpose and main idea of your paper. However, your professor will not be satisfied. In other words, you have made the task of reading your paper difficult, exhausting, and enduring when your paper needs to reflect some comfort for you and your professor.

Figure 12 is a great example of an essay that reflects this comment. Read the excerpt and examine its wording carefully. After this, review the rhetorical annotations under each problem subheading; these are comments left by the professor. You will see that the student didn’t spend additional time reviewing sections to make sure ideas flowed well together. In addition, there are gaps in thinking and logic. You will also see instances where the professor is forced to do the job of a student (rhetorical annotation). Let’s read the excerpt.

Figure 12: Essay Excerpt on Wuthering Heights

Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights explores a number of key themes within its narrative.  Among the variety of themes such as imagery and symbolism lies the question of the unreliable narrator.  Perception in Bronte’s novel is expressed through the assumptions, guesses, interpretations, and style of language of two major narrators, Nelly Dean and Lockwood.  And secondary characters also embody these concepts.  Much of what the primary narrators perceive does not lend support to the overall interpretation of the novel’s narrative.  Their perception presents a certain fallacy in thinking, leaving the reader to deduce that they are not entirely reliable sources to the nature of the novelThis paper questions the underlying qualities of each character based on their individual assessments by examining the following role of perception:  circumstance, position (class), responsibility, as well as perception of situation.

Now that we have finished reading the student’s excerpt, let’s move forward in reviewing the instructor’s margin comments.

Problem #1

Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights explores a number of key themes within its narrative.  Among the variety of themes such as imagery and symbolism lies the question of the unreliable narrator.

  • Wording is hard to follow.
  • Who is doing the “exploring”? Emily Bronte or the book?

Always remember that the book you are reading, whether fiction or non-fiction, never “explores themes.” The professor, through classroom instruction, highlights recurring ideas and labels these ideas as “themes.”

Problem #2

Perception in Bronte’s novel is expressed through the assumptions, guesses, interpretations, and style of language of two major narrators, Nelly Dean and Lockwood.  And secondary characters also embody these concepts.  Much of what the primary narrators perceive does not lend support to the overall interpretation of the novel’s narrative.  Their perception presents a certain fallacy in thinking, leaving the reader to deduce that they are not entirely reliable sources to the nature of the novel. 

  • What is the “overall interpretation” of the novel? Who is doing the interpreting?
  • What is “fallacy in thinking?” What purpose does the concept have in the analysis of this paper?
  • What is the nature of the novel?

Be careful about using words and phrases for which you don’t have a complete understanding.

Problem #3

This paper questions the underlying qualities of each character based on their individual assessments by examining the following role of perception: circumstance, position (class), responsibility, as well as perception of situation.

  • How does a paper “question the underlying qualities of each character . . .”?
  • Is the expression of perception a definition that characterizes the “unreliable narrator”?
  • How does “unreliable narrator” relate to “perception in Bronte’s novel”?
  • What is an “unreliable narrator”?
  • What does it mean to embody these concepts?

Always define how you will use a term. If the term is a popular literary reference, then review its meaning to ensure you have a sound understanding; after this, apply the term within the context of your analysis. Stay true to the meaning of the definition while you are using it within your paper.

Revision Considerations

There is no clear direction in the thesis.  Let’s rewrite it simplistically by using “I.”

In this paper, I will examine each individual character; explore how each character perceives the individual self in relation to the social self; and include how such factors as class and personal responsibility influence how each character thinks about their current situation.

The revision of the thesis still needs work, but sometimes you will find that a professor realizes that you don’t really know where you are going, and will give you a low grade with the option of revising the paper to get a grade of at least a C, sometimes C-, depending upon how much the process has been difficult for the professor. Although you have added an extra load for your professor, the option to revise represents mercy.

Be humble and revise the paper. Don’t forget to say thank you to your professor. A professor shouldn’t have to write or rewrite your thesis. It is unethical and it’s not their job.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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