Archive for category Quick-Reference Topics

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.

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Rule on Picking a Period

Your English papers typically range from 10 to 12 pages. Therefore, you cannot discuss the historical period of the twentieth century in a paper of this range, nor can you discuss the “Reconstruction” period.  However, you can discuss the major player(s), a major political policy, and the impact of both on certain individuals of the period. In this regard, your paper specifies one period, the major issues and people of the period, but not the entire period itself and/or every person who lived during the period.

This quick-reference topic falls under the comment “Too Broad.” You may click the link to view the post.

In addition, you may view its sister rule: “Rule on Examining Historical Context.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Rule on Defining Words within Context

Always review the definition of the type of word you want to use within the context of your essay. Not every word fits or is appropriate. In order to know whether a word is suitable, you have to understand the literary work. You have to know the characters, context, and relationships. Only then will you be able to determine the proper use of a word.

This quick-reference topic falls under the post “Figure 59: Essay Excerpt on Killoran, Lily, and Selden, The House of Mirth.” You may click the link to view the post. Figure 59 falls under the comment “Word Choice.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Rule on Completing a Thought

When you abruptly end a thought within your paper, you create a “truncated statement.” You leave out vital information for both the reader and the professor.

The best solution to correcting a truncated statement is to apply the technique of “follow-through.” What this means is after you have incorporated a quote, you must follow through and evaluate the quote. In other words, your statements after the quote represent follow-through. If you include additional ideas within your evaluation statements, then you must also follow through and provide as much information necessary to complete the thought or your introduction of the ideas.

Although it is up to you to determine how much information will complete a thought, a particular perspective, you can do this simply by answering who, what, when, where, how, and in what way. Once you have answered these basic foundational questions concerning the text, then every statement after these represent follow-through.

This quick-reference topic falls under the comment “Truncated Statement.” You may click the link to view the post.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Disconnecting Your Readers

When you leave out information, readers immediately sense that something is not present and begin to question what the missing something is. They feel disconnected. To solve this problem, they begin to fill in what they think are gaps in your analysis. In other words, they make assumptions based upon what you have written. Without your guidance, they leave your paper with a wrong understanding of the author’s work. They leave without any direction.

The experience for the professor is different. When your professor reads your paper and arrives at a truncated statement or a paragraph, he feels frustrated, because he knows “what” will fit to turn the truncated statement into a complete thought. The professor feels frustrated because he knows you did not plan well. For example, as the professor reads your paper, he examines your analysis as an expert on the subject. The professor can just about guess every time what you are going to say (write) for each paragraph and what kind of connections you will need to make. In other words, the professor knows the field, the author, and the literary work.

When you leave a statement without any warning or notice that you are about to do so, you leave your professor with the option of concluding what you should have written based upon adopted practices. When the professor must conclude, which means he figuratively writes the paper for you, then he also must lower your grade. In other words, the professor is not in the business of writing your paper. The goal of the professor is to teach you about a period, author, literary work, and critical views, not also to write your paper.

This quick-reference topic falls under the comment “Truncated Statement.” You may click the link to view the post.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Asking Questions about Connections

When you write your papers and begin new paragraphs, think about the “connection” between the new paragraph and the previous one. What is your motivation for incorporating the new paragraph? Why do you start the paragraph in the way that you do? Is the new paragraph in sequence to the previous one? In other words, does the example in the previous paragraph represent a “first” or a “second”? If so, what is the relation between this previous paragraph and the new? These are the questions you must always ask yourself each time you create new topic sentences for new paragraphs.

This quick-reference topic falls under the comment “Transitions.” You may click the link to view the post.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Revising General Statements

In revising general statements, always ask yourself why the subject is important to you.  Why do you want to discuss this subject? Then ask the following questions:

1) What relationship does my subject have to another subject?

2) What relationship does my viewpoint have to another viewpoint?

3) What relationship does the author’s viewpoint have to another author’s viewpoint”?

Once you establish the specifics, you can establish the connections, and you thereby bring in more detail, by default.

This quick-reference topic falls under the comment “Too General to be Meaningful.” You may click the link to view the post.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Matching Socks

When you incorporate a quote or add to what you have written already, the quote must match your ideas within the paper, especially within the paragraph you are using to convey your points.

Think of your quote and topic sentence or your quote and example as two socks that match. If you are discussing one thing but the quote you want to use is an example of something totally different, don’t use the quote. Your professor will always grade on your ability to synthesize information, how you bring together corresponding points and examples and how you incorporate them within your paper appropriately, making sure that the quote and example you use actually serve their proper functions.

This quick-reference topic falls under the comment “This Quote is out Context.” You may click the link to view the post.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Rule on Referencing Characters

When referring to characters within a literary work, maintain the same context of singular and plural references.

This quick-reference topic falls under the post “Figure 56: Essay Excerpt on Christmas, Light in August.”  You may click the link to view the post. Figure 56 falls under the comment “This Doesn’t Occur/Contradiction.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Rule on Examining Historical Context

Of each period, examine it historically by researching such characters as the kings of a period, their relationships, and their enemies. Begin with the objective to find out the values, beliefs, and moral behavior of people during the time; the class situation; the race situation; and the economic situation of the day.

Although you are stepping a bit away from the immediate text before you, there is nothing wrong with researching the time period in which the author writes. The context of any work the author writes within is always, at least, a range from the author’s beginnings to his or her death. You may examine at least fifty years prior to the author’s work because you have to take into consideration the author’s parents, but you must never examine what the author thinks after his death, because the author can’t think and be dead at the same time.

This quick-reference topic falls under the comment “There is No Indication of This.” You may click the link to view the post.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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