Archive for category Supporting Evidence

The Author’s Ideas (Ambiguous)

This is a subsection of the comment “Ambiguous (Thesis and Author’s Ideas).” You may access the comment by clicking on the link.

The Author’s Ideas

After reading a good portion of your paper, a professor will often decide that one of your topic sentences or the support for a topic sentence isn’t as clearly defined as it could be or the topic sentence or support for the topic sentence doesn’t accurately support the ideas the author expresses. When something is “ambiguous” to your professor, this means that your example or the ideas you express implies multiple meanings in contrast to the perspective of the author’s text you are discussing. Let’s develop a topic sentence for the revised thesis to understand our points here.

Revised Thesis

In my paper, I will discuss Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” I will apply ten composition principles in order to illustrate the points he makes about segregation and direct action as separate but connected entities.

Topic Sentence

King discusses segregation among the Negroes and the white moderate.

Supporting Evidence

First Piece

“Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?”

Second Piece

“First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ ”

Explanation of the Supporting Evidence

1) Both quotes do not equally represent a discussion of “segregation.” a) The first quote is about segregation and its legal influence and social impact. b) The second quote is about the white moderates’ view of the Negroes’ goal of direct action. In King’s letter, segregation is a cause; direct action is the effect.

2) The use of “among” is not appropriate for the contexts above. The word “among” means of a group, in a group, and between group members. The use of this word suggests that segregation exists among a group, but the Negroes and the white moderates represent two distinct social groups. Segregation affects each group differently.

3) In order for the student to be able to use the quote about the white moderates’ view of the Negro, the student would have to ask these questions to promote further research: a) Does the white moderate believe in segregation? b) If so, then what are the white moderate’s views on this concept? Are they the same as the Ku Klux Klanner? c) In what context has the white moderate directly contributed to the segregation of Negroes?

Explanation of the Topic Sentence

In this case, if the student wants to use the direct quotes as supporting evidence for the topic sentence, the student would have to reconfigure the topic sentence so that it complements the ideas expressed within the direct quotes. The student would have to remove such words as “among” and “between.”

Steps to Revising the Topic Sentence

The student’s topic sentence is this: King discusses segregation among the Negroes and the white moderate.

Ask yourself these questions before revising:

What does King actually write about segregation?

King defines segregation as “unjust.” Here is the direct quote: “An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.”

How does King relate the term to Negroes?

Here is the direct quote: “A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected?  Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered.”

How does King relate the term to the white moderate?

The following quotes represent different places where King refers to the white moderate as a group, but not to the white moderate as a segregated group. Here are two direct quotes.

“First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ ”

***

“I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.”

Does King apply the term to both the Negro and the white moderate as one group?

No. The distinctions between the two different social groups are clear.

Revising the Topic Sentence

In the letter, King discusses how segregation affects the Negroes in Birmingham, Alabama and how the white moderates feel about the direct-action program the Negroes have adopted as a response to segregation.

Now the topic sentence serves as an accurate reflection of the ideas within King’s work.

Every student is capable of writing at this level, but most students would not provide this kind of detailed information in their topic sentences. The first topic sentence we began with is typical. However, just because it is typical doesn’t mean that the topic sentence is sufficient for your paper. You must go through the process of verifying if you have developed a specific topic sentence, one that at the same time both supports the thesis and prepares the reader for what you will discuss in each paragraph. With this in mind, endure the process of answering the following just before you compose each topic sentence:

Who? 

King

What?            

King discusses how segregation affects the Negroes in Birmingham, Alabama and how the white moderates feel about the direct-action program.

Where?

King discusses these ideas in the letter.

Why?

The topic sentence we are revising doesn’t state why directly, but by implication we know that King’s purpose for writing the letter is to respond to the clergymen’s criticisms of his work and ideas. In addition, we can also go back to the letter and get the actual quote.

Note:  The implication we have made here matches the ideas expressed within King’s letter.

We imply that King is writing about segregation in the letter as a response to the clergymen’s criticisms. We assume correctly according to King’s words: “Seldom do I pause to answer criticisms of my work and ideas.”

When?

We have not added a time factor to the topic sentence, but we can rectify this easily by adding a few keywords. King defines “just law” and “unjust law” before he defines segregation as representing an unjust law. After King’s discussion of how segregation affects the Negro, he defines the views of the white moderate. Therefore, adding the correct time-specific terminology within your paper will help the reader understand the structure of King’s letter.

How?

King handwrites the letter. This is implied. We can verify this implication by King’s first line: “While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “ ‘unwise and untimely.’ ” We have to assume that King does not have a typewriter in jail.

Figure 47: Sample of a Revised Topic Sentence

 In the letter, King discusses how segregation affects the Negroes in Birmingham, Alabama and subsequently how the white moderates feel about the direct-action program the Negroes have adopted as a response to segregation.

The word “subsequently” is a much more appropriate and efficient word than adding both “before” and “after.” However, within the sentences that follow after the topic sentence, it is very important to make sharper distinctions between what happens first, second, third, and last. In addition, in these sentences, you can account for “why” and “how.”

Summary Steps

Always stay close to the meaning evoked from the immediate text. The immediate text is the book lying on the desk in front of you. Always examine the author’s words.

Develop implications from the immediate text; but don’t project your own implications, meanings that are not related to the author’s work. Your implications will appear as unsupported assumptions.

Whenever you are trying to prove a point by using support and data and evidence, make sure your point corresponds to the evidence as it relates to the meaning of the text. In other words, leave no room for uncertainty.

Make your support and the evidence you provide definite and provable, not probable.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Ambiguous (Thesis and Author’s Ideas)

Typically, there are three areas within the context of writing where students construct ambiguous statements:

Thesis: Your thesis within the introductory paragraph of the essay

Author’s Ideas: Your presentation of the author’s ideas within the essay

Revision Plan: See the comment “Ambiguous (Revision Plan)” for more information.

The Thesis

Constructing the thesis is a difficult task. According to prevailing course textbooks on “how to write a thesis,” a thesis is basically an unproved statement. It typically assumes a position in the introductory paragraph of your paper. Depending upon a student’s taste, sometimes he or she will position the thesis as the very first sentence; on the other hand, sometimes a student will present some introductory information and then place the thesis as the last sentence of the introductory paragraph.

In considering the thesis, the student must construct a thesis that is attainable, measurable, and clear from ambiguity. It doesn’t matter where the student chooses to place the thesis, if the reader can’t find parts of the thesis in the body paragraphs, then the student has not been successful in proving the thesis; and the student will surely lose the attention of the reader.

Figure 44 below provides a sample of an ambiguous thesis. Let’s read.

Figure 44: Example of an Ambiguous Thesis

In my paper, I will discuss how Martin Luther King, Jr. uses ten composition principles to convey his point about direct action and segregation.

What is ambiguous about the above thesis? In other words, what is the ambiguity? A standard dictionary defines the word “ambiguous” as having more than one meaning or causing uncertainty. The same dictionary defines “ambiguity” as an expression or statement that has more than one meaning. The student’s thesis has five parts:

1) What the student will do

2) How Martin Luther King, Jr. uses ten composition principles

3) How Martin Luther King, Jr. uses ten composition principles to convey his point

4) How Martin Luther King, Jr. uses ten composition principles to convey his point about direct action

5) How Martin Luther King, Jr. uses ten composition principles to convey his point about segregation

Let’s locate the ambiguity in the student’s thesis.

Ambiguity #1: how Martin Luther King, Jr. uses ten composition principles

Ambiguity #2: his point about direct action and segregation

Ambiguity #3: word sequence, cause-and-effect (i.e., direct action and segregation)

Before revising for ambiguity, let’s read the first paragraph of King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” under Figure 45.

Figure 45: Excerpt of Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

 Letter from Birmingham Jail

April 16, 1963

MY DEAR FELLOW CLERGYMEN:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.”  Seldom do I pause to answer criticisms of my work and ideas.  If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work.  But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

 Ambiguity #1: How Martin Luther King, Jr. uses ten composition principles

After this paragraph King discusses his reasons for being in Birmingham and he answers the criticisms of the clergymen throughout the rest of the letter, providing for the reader his interpretation of just and unjust laws, segregation, and the purpose of the direct action nonviolence program.

However, nowhere in this first paragraph of “Letter from Birmingham Jail” does King discuss applying ten composition principles (i.e., description, narration, example, division or analysis, classification, process analysis, comparison and contrast, definition, cause-and-effect analysis, and argument and persuasion) as a method he will use to convey any point he makes; nor does he use composition principles within any other part of the letter. What is King’s thesis? Does King have a thesis? In other words, does King have to prove this statement: Seldom do I pause to answer criticisms of my work and ideas? What in King’s statement is there to prove?

There is nothing. King’s statement falls under the category of purpose. The word “purpose” means to set something as a goal (something that somebody wants to achieve). King outlines his purpose for writing the letter and then provides supporting information, data, and evidence. He develops topic sentences, which he uses to support his purpose, not necessarily a thesis. Observe the differences in the following definitions before moving forward:

Thesis: essay subject; unproved statement

Purpose: set something as a goal

Goal: something that somebody wants to achieve

Unproved: not proved true; not established as true or factual

Prove: establish the truth of something by providing evidence or argument

These definitions provide necessary information to help us understand the tasks that follow.

Observe the difference between each thesis. The first part of the sample is a question we use to invoke an answer. The answer to the question in italics represents the type of statement most students typically construct as a thesis.

Statement #1: Purpose

What is King’s purpose for writing? King’s purpose for writing is to answer criticisms of his work and ideas.

Is this a goal? Is this something that King wants to achieve or hopes he will achieve by the end of the letter?

Is this a thesis? Is this something that isn’t established as true or factual? Do we need to establish as true or factual anything in statement #1?

Statement #2: Thesis

What is King’s thesis? King’s thesis is he pauses to answer criticisms of his work and ideas. King’s thesis may be to answer criticisms of his work and ideas.

Do we need to prove any aspect of this thesis? Yes, there is an aspect of the student’s thesis that we need to prove, but this aspect relates only to King’s process not to the student’s thesis. The process King undergoes represents the act of proving that he is not who the clergymen assume he is.

In other words, the clergymen criticize King by writing that King’s actions are untimely and unwise.  King counters that his actions are not untimely and unwise as he considers the fact that he has been invited to Birmingham, he has organizational ties in Birmingham, and he is in the city because injustice prevails in Birmingham.

Therefore, which of the two statements represents a more accurate depiction of King’s statement? We can deduce with certainty that Statement #1 outlines what King clearly writes; the statement is verifiable. In other words, what the student writes the reader can find in King’s letter. Therefore, since King is not ambiguous, your thesis shouldn’t be ambiguous. Do what the author does. If the author writes that he or she will use ten composition principles to convey his or her point about direct action and segregation, then do what the author does. Remember also that the author’s purpose for writing something doesn’t necessarily translate as the author’s thesis.

Ambiguity #2: His point about direct action and segregation

One word can affect the direction of the sentence. Within the context of the student’s thesis, the word “point” could mean three different things:

Point #1: King’s point about direct action and segregation as one, inseparable entity

Point #2: King’s point about direct action and segregation as separate, individual entities

Point #3: Will you only include one point in your discussion of King’s purpose for writing or does “point” implicitly mean “points”?

Ambiguity #3: Word sequence, cause-and-effect (i.e., direct action and segregation)

The order of things, called sequence, is important to the author. It should be important to you as the writer. When you keep ideas and the author’s points in the order in which the author has presented them, you preserve the intent of the author. In addition, the reader needs to know the correct order of the ideas you express because your ideas within your paper are a summary of the ideas the author expresses.

Therefore, you must be accurate. In other words, does “direct action” come before “segregation”? In King’s letter, “segregation” is a cause and “direct action” is the response to segregation. It is the effect; so both of these words require revision to preserve the same logic of the author’s text. Let’s rewrite the thesis without the ambiguities.

Figure 46: Sample of Revised Thesis without Ambiguity

In my paper, I will discuss Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” I will apply ten composition principles in order to illustrate the points he makes about segregation and direct action as separate but connected entities.

 Thesis Checklist:

Is this thesis attainable? In other words, is the thesis ambitious? Can we support and analyze the thesis within the five-page paper the professor has instructed us to write?

Is this thesis measurable? Does this thesis have boundaries, or limits? In other words, is the thesis too general? Does it require revision for preciseness? 

Is this thesis clear from ambiguity? Is there any aspect of this thesis that suggests any uncertainty or double meaning?

Is the above revised thesis a thesis? By today’s standards, the revised thesis constitutes as a thesis, a statement that has not been proven, for which the student will provide topic sentences, supporting evidence, and analysis in order to prove the ideas invoked from the statement (the thesis).

However, according to the definition of the word for “thesis,” the revised thesis represents a plan, a method for achieving an objective, an intention, and an outline for how the student will construct the body of the essay. In essence, it represents both a statement the student can use to prove and validate ideas and it also represents the student’s “purpose” for writing.

Click here for “The Author’s Ideas (Ambiguous).”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Very Nicely Done

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Transitions)

This comment represents an affirmative reply typically written after the final reading of your paper.

“Very Nicely Done” is a comment professors use when they are eager about the ideas you express within the paper and how you present those ideas.

See the comment “Nice/Nicely Done” for an extended explanation.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Points Don’t Connect

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Transitions)

A husband and wife connect. People connect. Friends connect.  Parents and children connect. Why do all of these people connect?  In other words, what is the connection between their connectedness? What connects each person with the other? If people can connect, then so can ideas and concepts. The sample excerpt demonstrates that the writer hasn’t connected one idea with another. Instead of providing a typical explanation for this comment, let’s just ask questions. The questions will represent the explanation. Read the sample excerpt. Evaluate the questions in light of the excerpt.

Sample Excerpt

Nelly’s guesses about Catherine leave a lot of unanswered questions.  Both Nelly’s and Catherine’s vision of the afterlife are contrary.  Nelly wonders where Catherine is (after death), but then concludes that the latter is at peace, where God holds her spirit in a life of no bounds and love coupled with sympathy and joy to the fullest.  The narrator asserts that the body of Catherine is in tranquility.  But Nelly misquotes Catherine’s vision.  The reader remembers the words of Catherine such as “ ‘ . . . incomparably beyond, and above us all,’ and these lead her [Nelly] to the conclusion that her ‘spirit is at home with God.’  However, we remember Cathy’s vision of the afterlife was ambiguous. She desired escape into that glorious world, but claimed that she would ‘not be at peace’ until Heathcliff joined her in death” (Marsh 16).

Figure 38: Essay Excerpt on Nelly and Catherine, Wuthering Heights

Questions

Here are some questions to consider regarding this excerpt.

1) What is the connection between Nelly and Catherine? Who is Nelly to Catherine? Who is Catherine to Nelly? Why does the author group them together?

2) What is Nelly’s vision of the afterlife? What is Catherine’s vision of the afterlife? How can two visions be contrary one to the other? How does the text juxtapose their visions? In what context is there present this type of juxtaposition?

3) Do their visions of the afterlife represent their belief systems or did they just have a vision of the afterlife?

4) How does “God” figure into their visions of the afterlife? Does their belief in God or their reference to God connect Nelly and Catherine in any way?

5) Who is the narrator? What function does the narrator have in Nelly’s relationship to Catherine? What function does the narrator have in Catherine’s relationship to Nelly? Is the narrator a silent observer or is the narrator a character in the story?

6) Is the reader a character in the story or is the reader a silent observer? What is the connection between the reader and the narrator? What are their roles? What is the link between them both?

7) Who is Heathcliff? What is his connection to Nelly? What is his connection to Catherine? What is his connection to both Nelly’s and Catherine’s vision of the afterlife? Does Heathcliff have a vision of the afterlife? If so, is his vision different from both Nelly’s and Catherine’s vision?

Explanation

A reader, another writer, and your professor should not finish reading your paper still in doubt about your purpose, about why you have written the paper. The best way to correct this problem is to annotate your own paper by asking as many questions as you can for every paragraph.  You can correct some ideas when you are just missing a few elements. However, in the case of the sample excerpt, the writer is missing too much information.

The student either 1) makes points that appear not to have relevance and/or a connection to another point or the student just 2) makes one point, then another, and then another without connecting any of the points. As a solution, by comparing and contrasting, determine the points at which ideas link and at which ideas don’t link. In this case, the points represent examples.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Not Clear

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Transitions)

When something is not clear, it represents confusion to the reader. The thing may be an idea, point, discussion, or any related essay part. In this sense, the thing lacks definition, boundaries, and a clearly definable path.

Think about a window that you haven’t cleaned for a long time. There is dirt, dust, and dried rain on the window. If you look out of the window, from any direction, you would say, “Oh, it’s cloudy today. It looks like it’s going to rain.”  However, when you walk outside, it is actually sunny. There is no essence of rain, because it actually rained two weeks ago. What you see on the window from inside the home are remains of what happened some time ago. You just haven’t cleaned the window in a while. You are confused about the reality of the day because of the haziness and dirt on the window.

When your professor examines (looks through the window) a point you are making in your paper, and that point doesn’t provide clear, verifiable information, all the professor sees is haziness.  You haven’t cleaned the point, or removed irrelevant information. The point lacks the definition necessary to be useful to the rest of the sentences. The point is confusing. For example, the professor thinks that a point you make is in reference to one thing, but, in fact, the point actually represents something else entirely different.

The best solution to making a point clearer is to remove all of the haziness. Clean it up by removing irrelevant information. In addition, leave no room for ambiguity, for your professor or for any reader to interpret two meanings evoked from your point.  Never let your reader think that there is more to a point than what you have already presented as is on the page. If there’s actually more to the point, then make it your objective to include the necessary, relevant information.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Nice/Nicely Done

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Transitions)

“Nice” and “Nicely Done” are affirmative replies.

For example, a professor may use “Nice” to refer to a specific paragraph or idea you express within your paper or to point out that your analysis is a reflection of connected ideas. The same professor may write “Nicely done” after reading the entire paper; typically, you will see the affirmation at the end on the last page or sometimes on the first page near the top left corner. The choice of location is subject to the professor’s discretion. These are general definitions of these comments. On another level, professors may use the comments for one of two reasons: 1) to highlight those areas of your analysis that are pleasing to the eye or 2) to call attention to the skill you have in terms of presenting information on the page.

In terms of the first reason, a paper filled with gaps, illogical structure, mismatched chronology, unsupported thesis, and irrelevant quotes is not a paper that is pleasing to the eye. When we use the word “eye,” we are referring to sight in terms of the physical sense and vision in terms of the word discernment. The thesis represents your vision for the paper, how you view the topic. The examples and evidence you use must support this vision. The structure you adopt must serve to present the vision clearly.

Therefore, when you construct a paper in the beginning with a vision, but fail to follow through with the vision to the very end, then your professor will accuse you of not understanding the direction in which you want to take your paper. In other words, you don’t understand how to present, support, and evaluate the topic using the thesis as a guide. On the other hand, when you properly construct a paper that includes a definable thesis (vision), supported claims, logical analysis, and balanced view, you have created a product that is pleasing to the eye. Under these conditions, the comment “Nice” means “delightful read.”

In terms of the second reason, developing an analysis requires great skill. The ability to position the right quote in order to support a topic sentence is characteristic of a student who understands both the purpose of incorporating quotes and the purpose of the author. Understanding the purpose of the author means understanding his thesis, or what he believes. You can’t incorporate a quote into your analysis unless you understand the views of the author.

For example, if you want to use a literary critic within the analysis of your essay, you must review his purpose for evaluating the literary work. Once you locate the critic’s thesis, then you must also search the text to find topic sentences he uses to support his claims. Remember that the author of a literary work is not in the business of appealing you, but the literary critic’s objective is to persuade you that his claim or thesis may be applicable to the author’s work. Once you locate the topic sentences, you must also review the critic’s examples, which are the tools he uses to support his claims even further.

Your task after this is to develop a one-page outline of the critic’s views. Once you finish with the critic, go back to the literary work, which is actually the basis of your paper. Review the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion of the work. What is the main theme of the work? In other words, the work is about what? Who is the main character? What are the main relationships of the story? What are the main events?

From this information, the next task is to develop a brief outline and include reference numbers to the text. When you can answer these questions, you have developed a good understanding of the work. Now you must bring together your 1) prep statements, 2) the quote you want to use from the literary work, 3) follow-up statements where you evaluate the quote, 4) the literary critic’s view about the quote and/or particular event in the story you highlight, and a 5) follow-up analysis of all these elements. The sixth element is 6) skill.

Using skill to combine all of these elements requires attention to detail, patience, and an ability to discern the best method for presenting information accurately, cohesively, and logically. Details are important. Giving attention to them is equally important. A detail consists of specific information about a particular thing, person, place, or idea. A detail is a noun. Within each quote you use there is present detail, a piece of information specific to the context of the quote.

For example, through the literary work, the author provides ample details about characters, relationships, and contexts. In addition, the literary critic uses the medium of criticism to highlight details about the author’s work; the critic focuses on a key aspect that he feels is a problem with the literary work and analyzes it using one or more schools of literary thought such as “Cultural Studies,” “Marxism,” “Postmodernism,” and/or “Reader-response Criticism.” Moreover, as students you use your prep statements and analysis to offer details concerning the author’s work.

Therefore, aligning the details is an ability you need, because including specific information about the literary work brings focus to your essay. Aligning the details requires patience, because you must ensure that the detail in your prep statement corresponds appropriately to the author’s detail. Once you have finished incorporating the quote, you must then evaluate it and provide the same detail again. In other words, you can’t begin focusing on one detail with your prep statement, incorporating a quote to support your claim, and then evaluating it with another detail. During the process of incorporating and evaluating the quote, you must stay on the path of your prep statement in the same way that every sentence within your body paragraph must stay on the path of the main topic sentence.

You will have to exercise additional patience when incorporating a literary critic’s view about the author’s work. What this means is, if you want to use any quote from that critic’s work as supporting evidence within your essay, then you will have to locate the detail suitable for proving your case. Aligning the details becomes even more important here, because now you have the details from your prep statement, from the author’s work, and also the literary critic’s view to bring together for the purpose of presenting the information on the page accurately, cohesively, and logically.

Discerning how to present information under these conditions is important, because each element of your paper must fit into a whole. This is what arranging elements cohesively means. When you align the details, you fulfill the accuracy requirement, by default. However, when you align the details, you still need to ensure that what you present on the page is cohesive and logical. This is where the revision process comes in, because before you can move on to another section of your paper, you may have to rearrange information. You want each element of a body paragraph to serve a purpose whether the purpose is to inform, persuade, and/or support.

For example, if you are using a quote within a body paragraph, it is likely that you are using the quote as supporting evidence from the literary work. However, when you use a prep statement before the quote, it is likely that you are using that statement to persuade the reader. That’s why before you can rearrange information, you must understand the purpose of each sentence you use. This will help you to rearrange the information so that it is cohesive. When you arrange elements cohesively, you arrange them under one central idea, theme, example, detail, viewpoint, and/or literary thought. In our example, when we align the details of our sentences within the body paragraph, we are in fact arranging elements cohesively. Each element falls under a particular, central detail. This simplifies the revision process, because when you revise this group of sentences, you will do so with the central detail in mind.

Once you have arranged the elements cohesively, then you must perform one last step, which requires you to revise for logic. Revising for logic includes first examining the sentences for keywords. If you use keywords such as “inference,” “allude,” “denote,” or “connote,” then you must ensure that the sentences you include within your paper actually reflect the definitions of these words.

For example, according to a standard dictionary, the term “inference” means the process of deriving logical consequences from a set of assumed premises. In simple terms, there is a higher certainty that the conclusions we draw actually derive from the premises we assume in the beginning. With this in mind, the term is interchangeable with “deductive argument,” which basically means that we have all that we need to reach a conclusion from what is present in the premises.

Therefore, when using “infer,” “we can infer,” “it is inferred,” “we can deduce,” or “the argument infers,” make certain that the conclusions you draw derive from the initial statements (premises) you make just before the conclusion.

The best method for revising sentences that don’t appear logical on the page is to start with the conclusion and then work your way backward. After this check to be certain that what you say in the conclusion is present in the few statements that precede it. Under all of these conditions, “Nice” refers to how skillfully (delightfully) you present the information on the page. However, “Nicely Done” refers to how logically you present the information in terms of both cohesiveness and accuracy.

For an extended explanation of deductive reasoning, see also the comment “Logic and Articulation.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Good Timing

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Transitions)

You have heard this from a driver to the other passengers in the car: “We’re making good time.” Everyone in the car understands that if an event is scheduled to start at 8:00 p.m., when the driver makes the above statement at 7:50 p.m., there is still hope of arriving on time.  “On time” means before and up to 8:00 p.m.

When your professor reads your paper, he or she will always want you to get to the point accurately and efficiently. It is understandable that sometimes you may need to prep a quote or an example. The topic sentence of a body paragraph may need two additional sentences just before you move further into the analysis.

However, this isn’t the only thing that is necessary. As you write a paper, it is always important to remember your thesis, your purpose for outlining the ideas within your paper. When you continue to present your perspectives with more examples and subsequent paragraphs (along with the perspectives of other primary and secondary sources), and you cause the professor to remember an important point so much to the point that if you don’t reiterate the significance of a major theme within an author’s work your professor will not believe you have a firm grasp of the reading, then your professor considers the point(s) you make to reflect “good timing.”

Just as John (the driver) keeps a constant eye on his watch to make sure that he and his fellow companions arrive at least by 7:50 p.m. and any other minutes before 8:00 p.m., your professor also keeps a constant eye on your understanding of how your thesis fits into every example and of how you connect your thesis with the ideas of the author you are discussing.

In other words, to present just the information without connecting ideas and perspectives does not demonstrate your ability to synthesize information. Synthesizing your analysis means piecing together essay parts and elements with the purpose and intention of forming a whole. Specifically, to present examples and/or quotes without tying them into your thesis also does not reflect an ability on your part to synthesize.

The following excerpt represents a good example of how the student pieces together and offers a perspective about the author’s ideas. Let’s examine the excerpt.

Sample Excerpt

Several critics support Gasset’s assertion. They prove with their examples, observations, and careful analysis the validity of Gassett’s view.  Serge Moscovici’s “The Age of the Crowd” looks at the crowd, or mass, as a social animal breaking its leash:  “the masses are like a heap of bricks without course or mortar, liable to collapse at the first hint of bad weather, since there is nothing to hold them together” (5).  This view is based upon the masses being followers and not leaders and it falls under the concept of mass psychology.  Mass psychology is one of two human sciences that has left its mark in history.  The term crowd, or mass, was first recognized during the French Revolution, but it wasn’t until the twentieth century that the term was given definition, scientifically collective.

Figure 37: Essay Excerpt on Ortega Y. Gasset

Comment

Timing: the pace of various scenes

First, “Good Timing” is represented in the student’s forethought in providing a definition for “mass psychology.”

Second, in the professor’s mind, this is a recall of a previous idea about Gasset’s assertion of the nature of the mass-man as a follower and not a leader; but the only difference here is that the student has tied the idea to another secondary source. In other words, the thesis and this theme of the mass-man as a follower are equally considerable and applicable in another example/context.

Timing within the context of the excerpt relates to “follow-up” and “follow-through.” Refer to the comment “Follow-Up/Follow-Through (Good/Perfect)” for an extended explanation.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Good Point/Clearly Stated

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Transitions)

See the comment “Right” and/or “Right/On The Right Path.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Good Point

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Transitions)

See the comment “Right” and/or “Right/On The Right Path.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Good Observation

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Transitions)

Based upon entries within the World English Dictionary, there are four major types of “observations.” 1) The first type represents the “act of observing.” This is “observation” defined in its basic, physical sense. 2) The second definition refers to scientific activities; in this context, observation refers to “facts learned from observing.” Scientists who conduct lab experiments will produce a report of their observations concerning a particular scientific phenomenon. 3) The last two definitions actually refer to writing activities. Within the context of writing, the term “observation” refers to “comment, remark” and “detailed examination.”

Understanding the meaning of a term is important. When you receive the comment “Good Observation,” you need to know to what the professor is referring. You know for certain that your professor is not referring to the first two definitions, unless you are writing an essay for a science class. Therefore, you can conclude that your professor must be referring to the last two definitions. Since this is likely the case, to which of the two does “Good Observation” apply? Before reading the rest of this entry, locate the comment on your paper and determine if it is near a particular sentence or a major body paragraph. This will help you understand the explanation for the comment more fully.

“Good Observation” may fall under one or two of the definitions. For example, if the comment is 1) near a particular sentence, this means that of all the sentences you have written this one sentence provides more insight about the example, topic, or quote. Your insight might highlight something different or something that the professor hasn’t thought about concerning the literary work or the topic. In other words, the observation is unique. In this instance, your observation is an objective comment based solely on logic and deductive reasoning. On the other hand, if the comment “Good Observation” is 2) near a full body paragraph, then it refers to the fourth definition of observation, which is “detailed examination.” In this case, your observation represents a patient exploration of the ideas expressed within the literary work. What does this mean?

First, you explain concepts and ideas the author expresses. In other words, you don’t just insert a quote, but you provide a follow-up analysis of the author’s viewpoints. Second, you develop and present the information logically. This is what we mean by “patient exploration.” You don’t suffer the reader to misunderstand your points of view. Last, you set reasonable boundaries. In other words, you know that you can’t discuss the world in one body paragraph. Therefore, you only include ideas that are relevant to the work and to proving your claims and that also provide insight to stir the professor’s and reader’s interests in the topic. “Good Observation” within the context of these two examples represents positive replies to your essay.

“Good Observation” may also represent a negative reply depending upon the goals of your professor for the class. For example, if you only provide one good observation throughout the whole essay, then your professor can accuse you of not fully exploring the topic as in the case of the remark placed near a line and/or a body paragraph. Your professor may not say this to you aloud, but you have done basically the minimum required for the assignment. You have not fully explored the theme, example, quote, idea, issue, and/or problem within your essay. In other words, you could say much more, but you don’t. Because you haven’t fully explored the topic, this either means that you don’t know how to discuss, examine, and evaluate or you actually know how. If you know how to explore a topic, but you don’t fulfill the requirement, then your professor may use “Good Observation” as a negative reply to prompt you to reach higher than satisfactory.

It is not always easy to know if you have truly covered every base within your analysis. However, there are times when you know with certainty that you have not allowed enough time to meet the writing requirement. If you don’t know how to explore a topic, then here are some tips and questions to consider as you develop your analysis.

1) First, look for contradictions in a character’s “character.” A character is never perfect. Evaluate the character in light of how he or she interacts with others in the story in order to locate the flaws.

2) Second, describe the kinds of relationships the main character has with other characters. Stories are always filled with relationships. The main character is in relationship with someone in the story. What is that relationship? Is the main character dependent upon a secondary character? What are the conflicts between characters?

3) Last, bring in historical context and explain how the past influences or contributes to the attitude of the main character within the story. What is the character’s environment? Who affects the character’s attitude within this environment?

By answering these questions and implementing one or more of these tips, you will ensure that you not only meet the requirement, but also fully explore the topic. Remember always to do what your professor requires you to do. On a basic level, you must ensure your paper reflects the instruction on which it is based. On another level, allow sufficient time for providing good observations that include detailed examinations of the topic, not just mere comments or remarks.

For an extended explanations, see also the comments “Good Job,” “Well Done,” and “Well Written & Researched” for extended explanations.

You may also view related margin comments such as “Right” and “Right/On the Right Path.” 

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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