Over the last fifteen years since the creation of the Rhetoric & Writing Studies major, the academic community has been inundated with various types of writing books, how-to guides, citation manuals, and glossaries of critical and literary terms. Even editors of the standard dictionary have included content in the forms of key steps to developing the essay and changing the grammatical sentence. These books have been successful in teaching the student how to write a research paper; understand the research process; decide on a topic, paraphrase, summarize, and quote; take effective notes; cite a source and document sources; and prepare the final paper for submission. Many of these handbooks and manuals include proofreading and grammar sections and allow room for the revision process which includes writing and revising the rough draft. They serve as reference books for the college student and as textbooks for the instructor’s discussion. They are valuable resources.
Although English and writing textbooks successfully prepare students for the writing process from beginning to end, they have not successfully prepared students for how the professor views a student’s essay. In addition, they haven’t prepared the student for tasks related to recognizing and revising both logic and grammatical errors within their own papers. Students learn how to proofread and check for grammatical issues. However, when a student receives a paper red-inked with such comments as “explain” and “be more specific,” the student is left with another daunting task of trying to revise an essay according to the professor’s comments.
Consider Jane Student for the moment. Jane submits an essay for a final grade only to receive the paper ungraded and with a sleuth of comments, none of which are clearly explained themselves. Unable to decipher the world of margin comments, she sets an appointment with her professor and asks the instructor what a particular comment means. Of course, the professor tries to explain the comment, quoting the long line of traditional methods passed down from her professor. Jane leaves the office still unable to understand the professor’s views even though the professor has given her another chance to rewrite and revise the paper.
Without a full understanding of what the professor wants, Jane is doomed to repeat the same mistake. She leaves the office frustrated at the thought of having to revise a paper based upon the margin comments of the professor. Of course, Jane revises the paper, resubmits, and receives it again with another set of comments that are completely different from the first. The professor gives her either the same grade or a lower one altogether. Jane leaves discontented with the writing and revision processes.
What do we do with Jane? Jane needs help. This is her first time writing a college essay. Even though she’s had experience writing essays at the college level before, there’s still another process she hasn’t experienced: applying margin comments during the revision process. In fact, none of us past and future students have thought about this concept. Instead, we take the paper from the professor, review the red inks, and gloss over the comments. Unless the comment is positive we don’t pay much attention.
Of course, disregarding the professor’s comments is not a sound habit to adopt, because we need to learn the value of understanding instruction and making certain that our papers fully reflect the original instruction. For example, if a professor assigns one of Chaucer’s works, namely the Canterbury Tales, and tells each student to write on at least two tales and include three characters, then if we write on two tales and only discuss two characters from each tale our papers do not fully reflect the instruction. We should not receive an “A” on that paper! An “A” letter grade represents completion. When grading an incomplete paper, professors should start grading from “A minus” to “F.”
When it comes to Jane and other students like her, as teachers we need to understand ourselves what a comment means so we can explain it to our students. If we issue a “Be specific” on a student’s paper, but don’t tell that student how to approach the task of revising prose to ensure it provides specifics, then we have not done our jobs to ensure that students receive a well-rounded education regarding the writing process. To be specific means to provide details. Since this is the case, we need to teach our students how to locate details and how to incorporate them within prose.
If we want students to incorporate references and quotes, then we need to tell them how to prepare, insert, and evaluate the quote. As you will see in some of the sample excerpts in one or more chapters, the student writer did not “follow-up” or provide a “follow-up” explanation after inserting a quote. You should never just insert something for the sake of increasing the page count. Quotes have a purpose. As a student, it is your job to ensure that the reader understands the purpose of each quote you are using. As teachers, it is our job to teach students how to use quotes that actually provide the support for a paragraph. In one of the chapters of this glossary, we teach you how to “yank” both relevant and irrelevant supporting evidence.
With all of this in mind, The FAVORS Glossary is a unique resource that provides answers and tools for both student and teacher. The glossary helps students and teachers alike understand the revision process, which is integral for developing and cultivating a paper that is not only rich in content, but also complete in meeting the requirement.
A special feature of the glossary is that it uniquely closes the communication gap between the professor and the student. Teachers can use the glossary as a tool to help them apply appropriate comments to describe problems or issues with a student’s paper. Students can use the glossary as a guide to help them approach revising a section of their papers. The purpose of the glossary is to promote the revision process as a post-writing evaluation phase that is necessary for helping students learn how to identify, confront, and correct their own writing. The glossary facilitates communication between student and teacher.
Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.