Archive for category T

Thesis Unclear/Need a Clearer Thesis Sentence

Through the thesis, you lay the foundation for the paper. The introduction merely informs the reader about the general nature of the subject matter; but the thesis helps the reader make the transition from general to specific.

It is not enough just to lay a foundation.  In other words, to say that you will discuss a certain topic within your paper doesn’t outline your thesis, your view about the subject matter.  The thesis is always a reflection of your position, where you stand.  If you believe in pro-choice and are against pro-life, your thesis must reflect this.

Remember that constructing a thesis and constructing an argument are two different activities.  When you construct a thesis, the reader knows immediately your position–your attitudes, beliefs, opinions, and views.  However, when you construct an argument, you demonstrate to the reader that you know how to outline the different viewpoints concerning, let’s say, the abortion issue; and you demonstrate to the reader an ability “not” to take a position against one for the other.  Instead, you create an argument by determining if one author’s argument is more credible than the other and vice versa.  These are the differences between a thesis and an argument.

The thesis for an essay and the claim for an argument set the tone for each representation of critical thinking.  However, without a firm foundation for your paper, the reader will not know where to go, what to really look for, and how to receive the information.  In every context of writing, your goal should be to direct the reader.

Below is a sample excerpt where the student fails to define how she will use her thesis to usher the reader. Let’s read the excerpt.

Sample Excerpt

Racism, by definition, is associated with discrimination based on race; it is the belief that some races are inherently superior to others.  As is the case with Thomas De Quincey’s “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.”  De Quincey approaches the reader from a first-person point of view.  He makes several racial and ethnic remarks about the Malay who knocks at his door.  Some of the remarks are biased and some are based on De Quincey’s personal feelings of the Malay.  Both views will be discussed.

Figure 88: Essay Excerpt on “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater,” Thomas De Quincey


The student writer doesn’t present a clear and definable thesis. In other words, the student doesn’t define her purpose for the essay she writes. In addition, the student applies contemporary ideals to a dated text.


1) How is “racism” associated with “race”?

2) Is not “racism” an extension of “race”?

3) What is your stance?

4) What exactly will you do?

5) By what method will you discuss De Quincey’s views?

6) Aren’t De Quincey’s remarks already biased and personal at the same time?

7) What else is there to discuss about De Quincey?

Revision Consideration

Always maintain the integrity of the text. Stay within the boundaries of the context. This will help you develop an appropriate thesis.

For an extended explanation, see also “Ambiguous (Thesis and Author’s Ideas).”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved


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Truncated Statement

Don’t you hate it when you are cut off from your phone connection, or from your Internet connection, or from a conversation? Noone likes to feel “cut off,” or disconnected, especially when one of the two people wants to really talk, even if it is about nothing. When someone is disconnected by no fault of his or her own, that person experiences frustration, anxiety, and a loss of some sense of power.

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. For example, readers don’t always know what they need to know until you tell them. It is up to you as the writer to provide information necessary for readers to understand the literary work.

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.

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. 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.

For extended explanations, see also the comments “Elaborate” and “Follow-Up/Follow-Through (Good/Perfect).”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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The comment “True” is close to an affirmative reply, signifying your professor’s agreement with the ideas you express within your analysis. Examine the following sample excerpt. Notice the student’s observation.

Sample Excerpt

In the beginning, Caliban is forced into humility, but now he opts to be humble.  He just gives up.  There is no mention of a dual conspiracy to get Stefano to kill Prospero and then Caliban try to kill him.  Caliban just accepts his plight.  If anything has been truly stolen from Caliban, it is his sense of pride; but even he contributes to that theft.  He definitely makes his plight with Prospero even harder when he tries to violate his daughter, Miranda (1.2.350351).

Figure 58: Essay Excerpt on Caliban, The Tempest

The student’s observation highlighted in bold represents an extended, observer’s view of the situation between Caliban and Prospero. The student’s observation is easily verifiable by referring to the play and examining the scene line by line. In addition, we can also study the implications of each character’s actions and motivations to validate the student’s claims.

For an extended explanation, see also the comment “Right/On the Right Path.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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People make transitions all the time. They move from one job to another. They change schools.  They change friends. They grow up. They move away. They get married. They get divorced. In essence, people make transitions in the form of decisions. What motivates someone to decide to get married after so many years of living single? What motivates someone to decide to divorce a mate after forty years of marriage? What motivates a person to have a child at forty years old? Last, what motivates a person to grow up or change friends?

Your decisions lead to transitions. Your transitions are predicated on your decisions. How you will do something and where you will go is based on one decision; and every decision leads to a specific place. With this in mind, the word “transition” implies “from.” You must leave from somewhere to somewhere else.

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.

Just remember, never use “moreover,” “furthermore,” and “in addition” for the beginning of the conclusion paragraph. These are transitional words that indicate to your reader that you are not finished discussing the topic and that you have much more to say. This comment “Transitions” mostly refers to your task, as the writer, to determine the relevance of one paragraph to another and your motivation for placing one after another. With this in mind, your professor expects you to know how your paper transitions.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Too General to be Meaningful

The comment “Too General to be Meaningful” refers to your paper’s lack of details. None of your ideas connect and you haven’t established any relationship between your ideas and the author’s. Your ideas are vague. In essence, you haven’t clearly expressed your views concerning the literary work.

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.

For extended explanations, see also the comments “Not Clearly Expressed,” “Specify (Be Specific),” “Theme?”, “Thesis Unclear/Need a Clearer Thesis Sentence,” and “Too Broad.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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This Quote is out of Context

For each one sock you buy, a corresponding match is always in the package. No one ever buys just one sock. In other contexts, people may opt to buy the blouse of a pant set and not buy the pants. However, in buying socks, people buy socks with an “s.”

The example above represents common sense. It’s universal.  What if we say that this same idea applies to incorporating quotes within your paper and/or elaborating on a quote by using an example? It does.

When you incorporate a quote or add to what you have written (discussed) 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.

In the following sample excerpt, ideas within the student’s evaluation statements don’t match the ideas within the quote from the literary work. Let’s read the excerpt.

Sample Excerpt

Where Frieda adores her “. . . blue-and-white Shirley Temple cup” (Morrison 12), Claudia dislikes this perception of beauty.  Both Frieda and Pecola give in to the blue-eyed white doll that they so desire to be like. They even refer to Claudia’s distates as “. . . incomprehensible” (Morrison 12). This concept of beauty to Frieda and Pecola is “ugliness” to Claudia.

The . . . dolls, which were supposed to bring me great pleasure, succeeded in doing quite the opposite. When I took it to bed, its hard unyielding limbs resisted my flesh—the tapered fingertips on those dimpled hands scratched. If, in sleep, I turned, the bone-cold head collided with my own. It was a most uncomfortable, patently aggressive sleeping companion. . . . I had only one desire: to dismember it. To see of what it was made, to discover the dearness, to find the beauty, the desirability that had escaped me, but apparently only me. . . . I destroyed white baby dolls. But the dismembering of dolls was not the true horror. The truly horrifying thing was the transference of the same impulses to little white girls. The indifference with which I could have axed them was shaken only by my desire to do so. (Morrison 13-15)

The idioms supposed, unyielding, resisted, collided, uncomfortable, dismember, and indifference within the quote are all somewhat complementary. Claudia is “supposed” to agree to this standard of beauty so accepted by her sister and her mother, for her mother is the one who gives Claudia a white baby doll every Christmas. So, this standard is pushed upon her. “We didn’t initiate talk with grown-ups . . .” Claudia states (Morrison 16). Not only is the doll “unyielding,” so is her mother.  Claudia should be grateful according to her mother.

Figure 57: Essay Excerpt on Claudia, The Bluest Eye


The student presents details about one idea or action, but doesn’t present the corresponding information.


1) How do both Frieda and Pecola give in to the blue-eyed white doll?

2) What do they both do to yield to the doll, to the image she evokes and portrays?

3) Why is Claudia’s distaste incomprehensible?

4) What is different about Claudia’s view from both Frieda’s and Pecola’s?

5) Why is the doll “a most uncomfortable” companion?

6) Who tells Claudia she is supposed to agree to this standard of beauty? Who has set the standard? What is the standard? There isn’t anything in the paragraph, in the set off quote, and the preceding paragraph that relates to children not being able to initiate talking with grown-ups.

7) Therefore, how does the bolded quote above relate to what you have discussed before it? What is the connection?

8) In other words, how does this quote tie into the expectation of Claudia, by her mother and sister, to like white baby dolls?

For an extended explanation, see also “Don’t Quote Without Context” and “Introduce the Quote.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.


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This Doesn’t Occur

See the comments “Contradictory,” “This Doesn’t Occur/Contradiction,” and “There is No Indication of This.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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This Doesn’t Occur/Contradiction

This comment refers to the need for in-text evidence. Remember you can’t write that something happens within the paper without providing support for your claims. Your professor knows the author and the literary work very well. He teaches the class practically every semester.

In addition, your professor also writes journal articles, researches the author’s life and history, and speaks at writing conferences about the author you are using within your paper.

In the sample excerpt, the student makes assumptions without providing supporting evidence to validate her claims. In addition, the student doesn’t apply the proper use of pronouns to one or more characters. Let’s read the excerpt.

Sample Excerpt

To begin, in McEachern’s attempt to “understand” Christmas, not receiving a straight answer from the matron, she states to him, “ ‘We make no effort to ascertain their parentage.  As I told you before, he was left on the doorstep here on Christmas Eve [and] will be five years two weeks.  If the child’s parentage is important to you, you had better not adopt one at all’ ” (Faulkner 133).  This chapter of the novel begins a socially active participation in truly understanding Christmas, who he represents within society.  It is possible to attribute Christmas’s name calling by the children and the presence of Doc Hines as a pivotal scene in the novel, but only the dietician makes it possible to get rid of him, foreshadowing the actions of Percy Grimm. It is McEachern’s continued persistence with the matron to know his parentage that sets the tone for the need of classification of marginal citizens.  In giving in to the matron, he accepts not knowing the child’s background and parentage.

Figure 56: Essay Excerpt on Christmas, Light in August


The student refers to a single character in the plural.

Revision Consideration

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


Mr. McEachern is only one person. Where does the “social” come from in the “socially active participation?”


Just remember that even though a professor isn’t always quick to agree with your point in certain cases, he or she will consider your perspective in light of its position and relevance to the text, if you provide the evidence from the text. A professor can’t disagree too much with your stance if you provide proof from the immediate text.  Applying a quote and a page number makes your paper credible.

For extended explanations, see also the comments “Contradictory” and “There is No Indication of This.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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There is No Indication of This

It is tempting to generalize, to apply universal and contemporary notions and ideals to works of a different time period. Unless you can provide in-text evidence of a notion you want to apply to a work, stay within the meanings and implications of the immediate text. In other words, stay within its boundaries.

For example, contemporary notions don’t apply to characters of the Elizabethan period. People of this historical period dealt with different issues within different contexts. The same class hierarchy of this period is not the same class hierarchy of the 21st century.

Revision Considerations

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.

You will find out much about the ideas and values and the system of a period within the work itself if you read the text closely, slowly, and patiently. What you read represents the ideas of the author, the work, and the time period of the author’s day.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Too Broad

Generally, when you go into a retail store to buy a belt, you never buy the belt that you know won’t fit you.  For example, no woman who is a size 18 in pants needs to buy a belt that is a size 14 or 16. In comparison, no woman who is a size 8 buys a size 12 belt. A woman only buys a belt that is maybe one size larger than she is, but typically no more than this.

Think about this scenario: Jane goes to the store with the purpose of finding and buying a black belt. She wants the belt to hug her waist, but not feel too tight. She takes Jim and Janice along for moral support. She tries on many belts while her friends watch her. Jim and Janice become confused when they see Jane try on a belt that is two times larger than her frame. They look at Jane strangely. When Jane returns to the dressing room, they both ask each other, “Doesn’t she know what kind of belt she wants? Why would she get a belt that she can’t wear?”

With this scenario in mind, the comment “Too Broad” can mean one of two things, or both:

1) when your professor asks you to write a paper and choose a subject, you choose many subjects that either don’t apply to the requirement or the subjects are so many that all of them can’t fit under one paper; and/or

2) when your professor asks you to write a paper and to choose a subject, because you don’t know exactly what to write about, you pick a subject that is wide in reference to time 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.

In adopting such a method, you are including information about one subject in your paper and you demonstrate to your professor an understanding of incorporating only the most important material that will in turn be relevant for your paper and serve the purpose you intend. With this method, you have essentially narrowed your interests and your subject matter. In other words, this method applies to both of the two meanings and to “Too Broad.”

For extended explanations, see also the comments “Ambitious” and “Specify (Be Specific).” They provide practical tips to help you bring focus to your paper.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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