Archive for category Thesis

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

Problem

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.

Questions

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

Advertisements

Leave a comment

The FAVORS Definition of Thesis (Task #7: Integrate)

The FAVORS Definition of Thesis falls under the comment “Analysis.”

You may access the comment by clicking on the “Analysis (Glossary Comment),” “Case Studies,” and “Analysis Revision Tasks” categories or by typing “Task #7: Integrate” into the search box.

You may print the information for class discussions.

The thesis is a vision statement where the student is both author and visionary for the paper.

The thesis expresses the goals and plans of the paper. It establishes an overall general objective for the topic sentences (the troops) so that the objective can be divided into manageable and actionable parts to produce a measurable outcome.

To put it simply, the thesis is the order, in whole form. Each subsequent paragraph represents an extension and/or a part of the thesis.

To best understand how to integrate, or maintain, the thesis throughout the body of the paper, let’s bring in a military analogy.

Level 1: The captain of the thesis receives the thesis (order) from the student, divides it into manageable parts, and gives instructions to the lieutenant commander of body paragraphs.

Level 2: The lieutenant commander of body paragraphs receives the thesis, divides it into manageable parts, orders body paragraphs to support the thesis, and gives instructions to the first lieutenant of topic sentences to develop topic sentences that will support the thesis.

  • Body Paragraph #1 will incorporate a quote under three lines from author #1 to support the topic sentence (the lieutenant commander of topic sentences).
  • After each quote, Body Paragraph #1 must follow up with an explanation and an evaluation of the quote.
  • Body Paragraph #1 will prepare a transition statement for Body Paragraph #2.

Level 3: The first lieutenant of topic sentences receives the order for body paragraphs, divides the order into five manageable parts, defines what will be in the topic sentences, creates topic sentences, and gives instructions to the second lieutenant of examples, descriptions, definitions, explanations, and evaluations to create supporting evidence for each topic sentence in order to support the thesis.

  • Topic Sentence #1 will need examples to support the thesis.
    • Topic Sentence
  • Topic Sentence #2 will need a description of the character to support the thesis.
    • Topic Sentence
  • Topic Sentence #3 will need a definition within the context of the narrative to support the thesis.
    • Topic Sentence
  • Topic Sentence #4 will need an explanation of the definition to support the thesis.
    • Topic Sentence
  • Topic Sentence #5 will need an evaluation of the examples, description, definition, and explanation to support the thesis.
    • Topic Sentence

Level 4: The second lieutenant of examples, descriptions, definitions, explanations, and evaluations receives the order from the first lieutenant of topic sentences to create supporting evidence for each topic sentence so that it supports the thesis, divides the order into five manageable parts, creates supporting evidence, and gives instructions to the other noncommissioned officers of supporting evidence to support the evidence.

  • Topic Sentence #1
    • Supporting Evidence
  • Topic Sentence #2
    • Supporting Evidence
  • Topic Sentence #3
    • Supporting Evidence
  • Topic Sentence #4
    • Supporting Evidence
  • Topic Sentence #5
    • Supporting Evidence

Level 5: The other noncommissioned officers of supporting evidence receive the order from the second lieutenant of examples, descriptions, definitions, explanations, and evaluations; divide the order into five manageable parts; develop support for the supporting evidence; and give instructions to the petty officer of transition statements to end each body paragraph, prepare for the next body paragraph, and prepare to desist all activities.

  • Support Team Alpha: Support for Supporting Evidence
  • Support Team Beta: Support for Supporting Evidence
  • Support Team Charlie: Support for Supporting Evidence
  • Support Team Delta: Support for Supporting Evidence
  • Support Team Echo: Support for Supporting Evidence
  • Transition Team Ford 1
    • Body Paragraph #1: End with Transition Statement for #1
  • Transition Team Georgia 2
    • Body Paragraph #2: End with Transition Statement for #2
  • Transition Team Hawk 3
    • Body Paragraph #3: End with Transition Statement for #3
  • Transition Team Iris 4
    • Body Paragraph #4: End with Transition Statement for #4
  • Transition Team Jane 5
    • Body Paragraph #5: End with Transition Statement for #5
  • Conclusion: Prepare to desist.

Level 6: The petty officer of transition statements receives the order from the other noncommissioned officers of supporting evidence to end each body paragraph, prepares for the next body paragraph, and prepares to desist all activities; divides the order into manageable parts; and gives instructions to the enlisted men of revision support to confirm and check the accuracy of each instruction that supports the thesis (order).

Level 7: The enlisted men of revision support confirm and check for accuracy of each instruction that integrates and supports the thesis (order).

Here is a quick outline of the different roles the thesis plays within this example.

Table 25: Outline of Roles for the Thesis (The FAVORS Definition of Thesis Exercise) 

Officer Role 
Captain of the Thesis Gives instructions to the lieutenant commander of body paragraphs
Lieutenant Commander of Body Paragraphs Gives instructions to the first lieutenant of topic sentences to develop topic sentences that will support the thesis
First Lieutenant of Topic Sentences Gives instructions to the second lieutenant of examples, descriptions, definitions, explanations, and evaluations to create supporting evidence for each topic sentence to support the thesis
Second Lieutenant of examples, descriptions, definitions, explanations, and evaluations Gives instructions to the other noncommissioned officers of supporting evidence to support the evidence
Other Noncommissioned Officers of supporting evidence Give instructions to the petty officer of transition statements to end each body paragraph, prepare for the next body paragraph, and prepare to desist all activities
Petty Officer Gives instructions to the enlisted men of revision support to confirm and check the accuracy of each instruction that supports the thesis (order)
Enlisted Men of Revision Support Confirm and check for accuracy of each instruction that integrates and supports the thesis (order)

Murphy’s illustration of the command structure represents a way in which the initial order (the vision) trickles down the military command chain as individual mission objectives for different parts (people) of the whole group. Each person has an instruction (mission) from the initial vision objective and is responsible for his or her job, which is to achieve the mission successfully.

All throughout Murphy’s illustration, the order is integrated from one person and divided into different parts. Although the command order may be different for different groups who are a part of the same platoon, the order doesn’t represent a deviation from the initial vision objective.  The order is integrated at every level.

The same is true for the example I have provided above. The thesis (order) starts with the student and is integrated within the body paragraphs, topic sentences, examples, explanations, evaluations, and other supporting evidence. In essence, no paragraph should deviate from the path the thesis has set. Whichever method the student chooses for the thesis, every subsequent paragraph must consistently adhere to the mission and objective of the thesis.

Click here to print out a copy of Murphy’s excerpt.

Click here to return to “Task #7: Integrate.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Thesis Analysis

This can be a separate paragraph or part of one body paragraph. Provide the author’s thesis.  Analyze the thesis. What type of thesis is it? Where is this thesis located within the author’s essay or argument? How does the position of the thesis affect the rest of the essay or argument?

Does the thesis have parts? How many parts? What is the author’s plan? What is the method by which the author will accomplish the plan? Does the thesis represent the author’s plan to describe, define, provide an example, introduce a process, compare and contrast, or evaluate?

Follow up with an explanation of how the author’s thesis fits within the scheme of what you are discussing.  Follow up with an evaluation of the usefulness of this supporting evidence, whether good or bad. Develop a transition statement.

This analysis method serves as a guideline for how to develop the body paragraphs of your paper.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

Thesis Checklist

Below is a table that falls under the comment “Ambiguous (Thesis and Author’s Ideas).”

You may access the comment by clicking on the “A” category or by typing the title into the search box.

You may print the checklist for class discussions.

Thesis Checklist:

Is your thesis attainable?

In other words, is the thesis ambitious?

Can you support and analyze the thesis within the five-page paper the professor has instructed you to write?

Is your thesis measurable?

Does this thesis have boundaries, or limits?

In other words, is the thesis too general?

Does it require revision for preciseness? 

Is your thesis clear from ambiguity?

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

Is your thesis a true thesis?

By today’s academic standards, does your thesis constitute as a thesis, a statement that has not been proven, for which you will provide topic sentences, supporting evidence, and analysis in order to prove the ideas invoked from the statement (the thesis)?

Group Activity

Use the Thesis Checklist to determine if your thesis falls within these guidelines. Refer to the comment for guidance.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

Not a Clear Distinction

Essay Section: Thesis

A play represents the best example of people functioning differently in different roles. A character in prose (e.g., fiction, nonfiction, short story) is also no different. Each character within a work serves a function. There is always present a protagonist and an antagonist. There are other supporting characters in different roles that fulfill different relationships to the main characters. The important thing to remember is that if we don’t know who says what, then we won’t know how to approach the writing and/or revision process of the paper. Let’s read the following excerpt.

Sample Excerpt

The reader reveals the confusion felt by Lockwood’s statement of Heathcliff, because his perception doesn’t ring accurate to what has already been said.  First, Lockwood speculates about the surrounding and the character of Heathcliff, but in another breath he “knows” Heathchliff.  This doesn’t necessarily say that Lockwood is contradicting himself.  But it does suggest “that the narrator cannot be neutral” and that the narrator is “openly uncertain” about the information he filters from the story to us (Marsh 10).  The information presented to the reader is thin and remains to be full through vague distances within the novel.  And Lockwood basically “. . . projects his own character onto Heathcliff” (Marsh 14).  But Lockwood isn’t the only narrator the reader cannot rely on.  Where Lockwood projects, Nelly Dean interferes with the story.

Figure 22: Essay Excerpt on Heathcliff and Lockwood, Wuthering Heights

Questions

1) Is the reader a character in the story?

2) Does “his” refer to the “reader” or to “Heathcliff”?

3) About what “surroundings” does Lockwood speculate?

4) What is the difference between “to speculate” and “to know”?

5) How can the information be both thin and full?

6) What are the vague distances within the novel?

7) How does Lockwood project his own character? What are his beliefs and what does he project?

The reader is not a character in a work. The author never writes with you as the reader in mind.  He or she writes to get whatever that is inside out in the open and onto the page. The words on the page represent the warrings of an author’s mind, his beliefs and the contemplation of the best way to present his beliefs without showing too much vulnerability.

In the excerpt, every sentence before both sets of bolded lines is not clear in distinction in terms of logic, i.e., what happens first, second, and third, and so on; it is not clear “who” does what to whom. The sentences bolded before the quote and after it do not represent clear distinctions, because the reader lacks comprehension of the ideas expressed within the text.

If the reader doesn’t comprehend the text and/or doesn’t understand its message, this lack of understanding will show up in the writing. A professor can always tell the difference between a student who has read the text, in its entirety, and one who has only skimmed a few pages; or one who has begun reading and has stopped midway without reading all the way to the end. If you read the whole text, you will know the relationship and dialogue between characters.

Since I am the student writer of this excerpt, I have a confession to make. I did not completely read the text for this paper. I read just enough to get an idea of who the characters were, what their relationships were to each other, and how I might start the paper. I stopped midway in the reading of the class text. I did not find it important enough to continue reading.  Instead, I just wanted to hurry up and finish. I had no patience for the class or the discipline.–Regina Y. Favors

In essence, when you don’t take the time to get a good understanding of your purpose (i.e. read the text fully in order to write the paper), you will not be able to make clear distinctions within your paper. If you only read the first five chapters, anything that you write about after these chapters will represent mere assumptions about the text as a whole.

With this in mind, read the whole text. Get to know the characters, their feelings, motivations, attitudes, belief systems, and their relations to other characters in the text. Then you will know how to paint a clearer and distinctive picture.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Makes No Sense

Essay Section: Thesis

The general rule concerning any idea you attempt to present is the expression must be clearly outlined and clearly expressed. In any conversation with a friend, if your friend doesn’t understand what you are talking about, he or she will say, “That makes no sense.”  Now insert “me” into the statement: “That makes no sense to me.” What does this type of statement imply?

Typically, when a person makes this statement, he or she is saying that what you say or have written lacks some form of logic or something crucial has been left out; in other words, the expression, whether spoken or written, isn’t comprehensible. It isn’t clearly deducible or discernible. The senses (your senses) can’t detect the expression’s quality, its nature, its boundary, where it originates, or its connection to anything.

Everything and every statement you write in a paper must connect, must correlate. Your ideas must relate and have a relation.  It is not enough to make a statement without adding some support to validate the statement. In the case of writing a paper and incorporating a quote into the middle of an expression, or just incorporating textual evidence, determine its significance, its location and its “fitness.”

What significance does it have to your overall theme? In other words, what is the purpose of including the quote? What purpose will it serve? Let’s review an excerpt.

Sample Excerpt

Petruchio must command his authority as husband early.  He states, “. . . I will be master of what is mine own.  She is my goods, my chattels; [s]he is my house,/ My household stuff, my field, my barn,/ My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything . . .” (III.ii.218-21). . . . So, Petruchio exacts his respect early from Kate.  His actions are based on the precept that “. . . the wife . . . is under covert or obedience of her husband” (Homily 177).  The wife must obey her husband and honor his requests.  As she honors him, she honors God; it must also be her desire to strive for peace within the home.  This is why Petruchio takes his position as head in exacting peace before and after they arrive home.  “For . . . it is a token of womanish cowardness . . .” to not be master, to not “possess” what is rightfully, under the law, his (Homily 175, 179).  Petruchio doesn’t say in general terms that Kate is just his wife.  He defines Kate and the role or roles she must play.  He defines her identity, her communication, and her ideals.  Before they leave, she states, “I see a woman may be made a fool/ If she had not a spirit to resist” (III.ii.209-10).

Figure 21: Essay Excerpt on Petruchio, The Taming of the Shrew

Questions

1) How does Petruchio command authority?

2) Why is Kate itemized?

3) What does this signify?

4) How does one exact respect? Exact peace?

5) What relation does the quote have to the listing of things?

6) How do we, as the readers, know that when a wife honors her husband she honors God?

7) What in-text evidence can we rely upon to justify this assumption?

8) In what context does the Homily suggest that “it is a token of womanish cowardness . . .” to not be master, to not “possess” what is rightfully, under the law, his?

Assessment

Although the paragraph focuses on Petruchio’s one view, the paragraph is in fact a representation of many ideas and various themes that lack connection.

Explanation

In reading the excerpt and evaluating the questions, we find that the student begins with one idea (how Petruchio views Kate as a possession) but ends with a number of unrelated ideas. The most important thing to remember when presenting, comparing, and contrasting ideas is to explain the relation. In the same way that your friend asks what, why, who, where, when, how, in what way, and for what reason, your professor is no different.

In a conversation, your friend forces you to explain what something is and what relation it has to something else. Your friend sits right in front of you and confronts you directly. You can’t go anywhere. If you are a girl talking to your friend girl, then you know that she won’t let you relax until you tell her the whole story.

Now think of your professor in the very same way. You are in conversation with your professor; and your professor continues to ask you questions through grading and writing marks on your paper such as “explain” and “What is the parallel here?” Until you answer all of the questions in the paper, your professor won’t let you go.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Good

Essay Section: Thesis

“Good” is an affirmative reply. This reply is standard. It is the most consistently used reply of all professors. Professors seldom use “excellent” and “brilliant,” unless your work is extraordinary.  There are different factors involved with these categories. See the comments regarding these topics in their respective sections.

The comment “Good” encompasses many qualities, and the best way to approach this is to review its definitions and synonyms: suitable to a purpose, effective, efficient; fresh, valid, genuine; enjoyable, desirable, pleasant; dependable, reliable, right; thorough, complete; excellent of its kind; best or considered best; and morally sound or excellent. Although “excellent” is one of its definitions, this definition is only in reference to a “kind” of work.  In other words, not every work graded by a professor is of the quality of excellence.

An “excellent” paper is a “kind” of essay where the student completely fulfills the assignment. For example, if a professor requires you to write on the Canterbury Tales, compare and contrast two tales, include two characters from each, but you write on two tales and include one character from each, your paper does not represent a complete product. In terms of fully meeting the assignment, the excellent paper represents an “A.”

Of course, there are other factors that professors consider. Sometimes you can have an “A” paper, but lack sophistication in prose, follow-up explanation, and balanced analysis. This type of paper may move from an “A” to an “A minus,” even though you have fulfilled the assignment completely. When this happens, your paper moves from “excellent” to “good.” After this, your paper at this grade level is subject to different definitions. You may receive “good” because through your paper, you effectively and efficiently prove your thesis.

You may also receive “good” because your ideas are fresh, dependable, and suitable for the topic. In the following excerpt, “good” represents “thorough.”  In other words, the professor calls attention to the ability of the student writer to analyze the information, incorporate quotes, and follow through by providing more evaluation of the topic. Let’s read.

Sample Excerpt

The real question is how do the masses think?  What is their process and how is it related to their will for progress?  Gasset connects philosophy to man and his will or lack thereof.  He does this through careful examination of the ordinary thought processes of everyday human beings, which includes the masses.  It is necessary for us to explore this because we can first get a clear view of how the “average,” or mass-man thinks, leaving us to understand how sound Gasset’s argument is.

The second aspect of the philosophical past is consistently committing errors, which are involuntarily transformed into the instruments of truth.  Truth is normally regarded as something quite unattainable.  It is reasonable to assert because “we are prone to think of error as being overly likely, which is less salutary” (Gasset 20).  For example, the contemporary addresses the existence of error lightly.  He thinks that it is the most natural thing in the world to him.  He never questions the existence and accepts the error as delightfully as possible.  At best, this continued acceptance to the existence of error can be connected to the contemporary man’s innate skepticism; skepticism deals in part with man’s inability to deal with truth.

Figure 20: Essay Excerpt on Ortega Y. Gasset

Assessment

The first paragraph represents an in-depth examination of Gasset’s views, which represent a characterization of his attitude toward a major character, the “mass-man.”

The bolded sentences in the second paragraph highlight Gasset’s method, his way of persuading you about his perspective on the “mass-man.”

The underlined sentences after the quote represent good follow-through. The student explores the quote and provides additional assessment on the author’s views.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment