A number of you have asked about how to cite the Kindle version of the books we have read. MLA is still figuring this out, but the Purdue OWL covers the topic here, with a length to another post with a more in-depth treatment. This should answer any of your questions.
The introduction is the broad beginning of the paper that answers three important questions:
- What is this?
- Why am I reading it?
- What do you want me to do?
For a paper less than 5 pages, it should be a paragraph. For a paper between 5-10 pages, it can be as long as the first page. For an even longer paper, an introduction can be a couple of pages, and will often have its own section heading.
In a good introduction, you should answer these three questions by doing the following:
- Set the context – provide general information about the main idea, explaining the situation so the reader can make sense of the topic and the questions you will ask
- State why the main idea is important – tell the reader why s/he should care and keep reading. Your goal is to create a compelling, clear, and educational essay people will want to read and act upon
- State your research goals – compose a sentence or two that clearly communicate what you want you hope to discover, why you are interested in the topic, or where your idea for the essay came from. You might also include an overview of the types of sources you explored, the methods of research you engaged in, or particular sources you found inspiring.
Some Basic Guidelines Read the rest of this entry »
I am hoping that at this point, you all are working on (at least) your first draft of your papers. We have addressed some of the frustrations about writing in earlier posts, so for this week, I am going to post instead one of my favorite pieces of writing by Anne LaMott titled “Shitty First Drafts” from her book on writing, Bird by Bird. I think there is something reassuring about knowing that even people who write for a living, and who have been writing for decades, still feel anxiety and frustration while they are writing. Whenever I get really stuck or frustrated with my own writing, I find re-reading this brief excerpt really helps.
The easiest way for me to think about incorporating quotes into my own writing is to imagine each paragraph as a sandwich. It is kind of a goofy image, but it is an easy one to help you remember all the key elements that you need to include in a good paragraph.
Depending on the type of essay, you get to make your own fancy sandwiches and they can be any kind that you want, but they usually have the same basic elements that contribute to good writing. There are a lot of fun, stylistic ways to adapt the basics to your particular topic, audience and preference. Read the rest of this entry »
This is the third in a series of posts aimed at helping you through the process of writing your research papers. Read the first on creating an argument here. Read the second on using good research well here. I have already addressed forming your arguments and using good research well in previous posts. This post will be focused on easing some of your drafting anxieties.
Tip #3. Research papers take time
A number of you have expressed anxiety about how you aren’t clear on your argument yet or you are still struggling to make all the pieces fit together. This is TOTALLY normal and to be expected. At this point in the process, you are likely trying to refine your own argument, pick out primary texts, locate secondary texts, read those sources and incorporate them into you argument, while choosing which parts of those sources should be included in your paper and how to balance them with your own ideas and the information from your primary texts. Whew. Here are a couple of tips for you to cope with some of this juggling act. Read the rest of this entry »
All of you are now hard at work on your research for your final papers, and if the proposals and the conversations I have been having with you in office hours are any indication, I am really looking forward to see what you come up with. The next couple of blog posts will be general advice on research. I wanted to put some of my advice in a central location for you to look at, in case you are feeling stuck, overwhelmed, or lost.
Tip #1. You must have an argument
A research paper without an argument is like a Christmas tree without lights: not much to look at. Most of you have asked some really interesting questions in your proposals or outlined some interesting themes: now is the time to turn those ideas into an answer. Your thesis should be assertive, clear and strong. It should also be original and based on your own thoughts and ideas, though you will need to back up your thought process and concepts with the ideas of other experts. Your thesis should not include caveats like “I think,” or “it is kind of like this.” Your thesis should not try to straddle both sides of an issue: “This is both strong and weak,” or “this book is and isn’t a classic.” You should write your thesis as fact, and then spend the rest of the paper backing up that fact. As you continue through your paper, each time you have thoroughly demonstrated a point or explained a concept, you should be sure to pause and remind the reader how point 1 (or point 4), ultimately ties back to your overall argument.
In this class, you have already worked on two basic academic argument structures: a genre classification and a close-reading. Academic essays have a few basic argument structures. The first is a genre classification where you define the characteristics of a genre and then apply argue that a text (usually one that is classified in various genres) belongs in or out of the genre you have defined. For instance, one could write an essay based on the thesis: “The Hunger Games belongs in the category of post-colonial dystopia due to its use of ABC” or “The Water-Babies should no longer be categorized as a children’s book because it does not meet criteria X, Y or Z.”
Another basic structure is a close reading, where the essay makes a claim for a certain literary device, symbol or motif being used for very specific effects. For instance, a close reading essay might trace all the mentions of rings in The Princess and the Goblin and argue the ring stands for XYZ symbol.
Other common academic arguments can focus on author’s intent (Nesbit intends to critique the British forms of entertainment, as evidenced by her use of XYZ), form (The Water-Babies is not a novel but a fairy tale and here are the places in the text that demonstrate the formal differences), or comparison (The Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan both imagine children transported to an imaginary land, but one does ABC while the other shows XYZ.).
There are obviously other kinds of arguments, but the important thing is to HAVE ONE! A good rule of thumb: if you (or a friend/classmate) can not disagree with you, you are not making an argument. Also, an argument is not a collection of “the following things from the book are interesting/cool.”
“She was killed [by zombies.]” <—- Makes sense? Yes. It’s passive voice.
“Zombies killed [by zombies] her.” <—- Makes sense? No. It’s active voice.
(In honor of Spring Break, this grammar post is both short and sweet. Enjoy!)
1. A semicolon is used for connecting two independent clauses. Two independent clauses can be used as two complete sentences. To combine them together into one sentence, a semicolon should be used.
Example: Summer vacation is boring; I am always looking for something to do.
2. A semicolon is also used as a super comma. When you have a long series of items, you can separate them with commas. However, if you want to describe the items, you will have to use semicolons. Semicolons prevent confusion from occurring.
Example: She travels a lot for work. In the last year, she has been to Berlin, Germany; Paris, France; London, England; Rome, Italy; Beijing, China; and Sidney, Australia.
Example: For the bake sale, Jimmy made a moist, chocolate cake; a rich, red velvet cake; crispy, chocolate chip cookies; tart lemon squares; fancy Madeline cookies; and a big pitcher of lemonade.
3. A semicolon is used with conjunctive adverbs. It is also used with transitional phrases. Read the rest of this entry »
For those of you struggling with run on sentences and fragments, this is a pretty awesome explanation of both problems and how to fix them
If you are getting comments on your papers or blogs about sentence fragments, run-on sentences, fused sentences or comma splices, this blog post is for you. Please take some time to read through this great post by Jessica Ruane.