Archive for category Supporting Evidence

Good Job

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Transitions)

A professor typically writes “Good Job” after reading the entire paper; he or she places the comment at the top left or right corner of the first page of your paper. When professors use this comment as a grading tool, they are making a general assessment about your effort as a whole.

In other words, “Good Job” means you have done your job, nothing more. You have answered the essay prompt, but you really haven’t enlightened the professor. Your paper lacks fresh and new ideas. Your ideas, in essence, are representative of what’s already a part of the canon. In other words, they fit into the overall scheme of what critics have said already about the work you are analyzing. You did a good job of just interpreting and synthesizing the information.

Remember professors expect you to use the canon. They expect you to complete the assignment. However, you must also go beyond just fulfilling the standard. Your analysis at both junior and senior levels should reflect advanced critical thinking. If you are still composing the basic five-paragraph essay and nothing more, then you are stuck on the fundamentals.

The best methods for correcting or preventing “Good Job” from affecting your confidence are to 1) always first talk to your professor about the comment on your paper. Ask your professor about how you can improve, about gaps in your understanding of the level in which you are writing, and about the purpose and nature of “critical writing.”

2) During the revision phase, for paragraphs that you are particularly having trouble with analyzing, cut and paste the paragraphs into another Microsoft Word document, create a two-column table, and place a paragraph in the left side column; then in the right column, ask questions about what you have written. Answer each question you ask. Evaluate your own answers and offer insight about the author’s ideas and what they mean in terms of contemporary thinking on the topic.

Although you are still outlining pretty much the canon, your additional assessments represent critical thinking, nonetheless. As you think about what you believe, develop your assessments so they reflect a third-person point of view, which is an objective observation. Your purpose is to be insightful and show the professor another side of a character in addition to the one he or she already knows. When you have done this, you will have moved from “Good Job” to “Good Insight,” on the road to “Good Discussion,” “Strong Effort (Solid Effort),” and “Nicely Done.”

The best way to get better at analysis is to continue critically thinking and to keep asking questions.  Put yourself in that character’s place and then also be judgmental as possible. This will set you on the path to developing a stronger analysis.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Follow-Up/Follow-Through (Good/Perfect)

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Transitions)

You have undoubtedly read the Academic Life Tips of this glossary and some comments where we express the importance of setting goals, enduring them, and reaching completion. When you sit down to write a paper, you are setting a goal to finish. You endure the heartache of coming up with ideas, with how to structure the paper, and with using support. However, there is one goal you don’t have the option of setting: the goal of incorporating a quote to meet the course requirement.

Typically, your professor will direct you to locate and examine evidence from the course textbook to support your claims; and if the evidence is in the form of a quote, incorporate the quote. With this in mind, your professor has added an additional requirement to your initial goal. Not only must you create a thesis, but also you must develop an analysis and incorporate quotes to support your claim. In essence, the original goal you set now has conditions. You will have to base your “finish” on fully meeting the requirements of the essay prompt. In other words, you will have to examine the prompt to make sure your paper reflects the instruction on which it is based.

Students develop the habit of incorporating a quote, and sometimes offer a few sentences just before the quote; but they don’t follow through or add an extended explanation on how the quote relates to the overall scheme of their papers. Quotes are not fillers. They serve a purpose within your essays. You must determine what purpose the quote will have between two sentences. In other words, you must prepare the reader for the quote; this is sentence number one. After you insert the quote, you must then follow up and define its significance within the body paragraph. This is sentence number two. By inserting “before and after” sentences, you ensure that you have addressed this element within your paper. Remember that you determine all of the elements that will be a part of your paper. Every element such as an example or a quote is foreign; it is an enemy until you make it a friend.

When you are introducing the quote, if the quote supports your claims, identify the quote as a friend immediately. However, if the ideas within the quote don’t support your claims, then identify the author’s beliefs as foreign. For example, if your claim is “All dogs are nice,” then you must make certain that you locate and incorporate those quotes to support this claim. You wouldn’t use a quote from an author that states, “All dogs are nice, if they lick your face” to support your claims. This author believes one thing and you believe another. Of course, you may use the quote within your essay to highlight different belief systems, but just be sure to identify the quote as opposing your own claims.

Your prep sentence must directly relate to the quote you are incorporating. What this means is you must have an understanding of what the quote means before you use it. Analyze each quote before incorporating it into your essay. Take the quote, separate its parts, and evaluate each part. A quote such as “All dogs are nice, if they lick your face” is two-part. The first part is “All dogs are nice.” The second part is “All dogs are nice, if they lick your face.” The first part is a general statement about all dogs. The quote doesn’t provide information about a specific dog. The second part represents a conditional statement. These are all the dogs that are both nice and lick your face. When providing an example for the second quote, it is possible to include a specific dog here. You can make the point that mean dogs are not nice and therefore do not lick your face. This will allow you to provide a list of non-mean dogs that are, by default, nice. The list of mean dogs will serve as a contrast.

Once you have developed a prep sentence and incorporated the appropriate quote, you must now provide a “follow-up.” The follow-up statement is an extended analysis of the quote itself. That’s why it is important to know and understand all of the parts of a quote, because there are often at least two. Don’t just use the follow-up statement to summarize the quote or what you have just said before it.

Instead use the statement that follows as an opportunity to reason logically. Don’t push the boundaries too far because you might lose your reader. Bring in an example of a nice dog in comparison to a mean dog. In one to four sentences, compare and contrast their histories. Nice Dog A is the type of dog that will greet you at the door. On the other hand, Mean Dog A is of the type that will bark louder than Nice Dog A. I could get Nice Dog A to lick my face before the other one would.

This is a simple illustration, but it is effective for this comment. Just remember that you shouldn’t use the follow-up statements only to summarize the quote. After explaining the quote, use a follow-up statement to analyze ideas housed within the quote. The following excerpt represents an example of how to provide a follow-up statement after incorporating a quote.

Sample Excerpt

The reason why the masses are followers and not leaders is because leaders have the ability to promote teamwork.  A leader offers the concept of togetherness and the illusion of a man-to-man tie. Moscovici contends that the masses are unable to exercise political power, nor do they have the ability to change the world or run the state: they have neither the ability to reason nor the gift of self-discipline necessary for survival and culture, for they are to a high degree the slaves of momentary impulse and susceptible to the influence of anyone. . . . (27) The masses are seen as collective and not as individual. When the individuality is lost, the masses forget their own interests and accept common desires, or desires told to them that seem appropriate for all.

Figure 36: Essay Excerpt on the “Mass-Man,” Ortega Y. Gasset

Comment

The student does a good job of providing a follow-up to the quote. It is not enough to just provide a few sentences after a quote. It is always important to finish that part of a discussion central to your argument.

The bolded sentence represents a follow-up to the quote. It represents analysis. The student focuses on the quote, its elements, structure, impact, and contribution to other paragraphs and to the paper as a whole. The analysis sentences represent an interpretation of the quote. In other words, the student completes the goal of explicating the quote before moving on to other areas.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Fluid

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Transitions)

What does it mean to have fluid writing? What does it mean to write fluidly? What does it mean to you, in terms of your writing, to receive a comment from your professor that your writing is fluid? In order to answer these questions, we must work backwards before we can develop a definition and provide examples for this comment.

Water is fluid. Anything liquid is fluid, for that matter. Brokers can turn stocks into liquid by cashing them in for an equal, greater, or lesser value. When something melts, it becomes fluid. This is a discussion on a general level.

Let’s go further to provide an additional explanation. For something to be fluid it cannot be solid. It cannot demonstrate complete unity. Whatever is fluid must be the opposite of solid. When something is solid, the something is characterized by having no pauses or interruptions. If something is fluid, then the something has pauses or interruptions.

Therefore, whatever is fluid has no form. It is not strong and/or dependable. It flows. Under these conditions, the something is able to move, change, and experience pauses and interruptions. Although fluid may move and experience pauses and interruptions, it does all of these things without separating under pressure completely. In contrast, anything solid, when under pressure, separates. Something in its solid form can change shape by turning into liquid under even less extreme conditions.

To separate, in essence, means to disunite, to become disengaged. In other words, to disunite means to become distinct from what is characterized as a whole, to be set apart from, to dissociate or become disconnected. Now let’s return to our questions and add in a few more elements.

1) What does it mean to write fluidly?

2) What does it mean to write in such a way that my ideas don’t keep to a solid form and don’t show complete unity?

3) What does it mean to write in such a way that my paper as a whole is characterized by having pauses and interruptions, rapid changes, and an unfixed shape?

4) What does it mean to write in such a way that my ideas flow and are able to move without separating under pressure?

5) What does it mean to write in such a way that my ideas flow and are able to move without becoming disconnected from the whole?

These are the definitions of what it means to write fluidly. If you have received this comment on a paper, at first glance, it appears that the comment is positive. In some ways it can be positive, for water does flow. However, if you look up the definition for “fluid,” you will see that there are some areas of the definition that may be less than satisfactory.

With this in mind, fluid writing is characterized as the ability of the writer to make ideas flow and move without separating under pressure, without becoming disconnected from the whole. This is the part that contributes to the overall development of the essay.

On the other hand, fluid writing is also writing where the ideas don’t keep to a solid, stable form. There is no unity. Much of the whole package is filled with pauses, interruptions, rapid changes, and an unfixed (unsettled), restless shape.

Receiving this comment may involve one or both of these definitions. Be sure to ask your professor what he or she means by the comment before assuming that your contribution represents considerable (noteworthy) effort.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment