Class Notes “Cram Session”

                            stuffed suitcase

How to Write an Intro:

 Introductions: Page 593-598 in Composing and Revising Closed-Form Prose

I went over this in class. Remember the Napster article? It’s a great example of revising a sloppy intro.

YOUR INTRO ONLY NEEDS TO DO THREE THINGS:

  1. to spark the interest of readers,
  2. to move readers gracefully toward the thesis statement, and
  3. to present the thesis statement of the essay

Just get the reader’s attention, in a clever way if you can, move toward the thesis statement, and then present the thesis statement.

Introductions generally are not long, certainly not longer than body paragraphs. Avoid going into depth developing ideas in the introduction. That’s for the body paragraphs of an essay, not for the introduction. The primary purpose of an introduction is just to introduce your essay.

 How to write the first sentence in a paragraph.

  • If you want to keep it simple. Make your first sentence a clear topic sentence.
  • If you are transitioning to a new paragraph and the next paragraph is dealing with the same topic….use phrases such as “similarly,” “in the same vein,”
  • If you are presenting a new idea, just come out with it. Say it.
  • If you are presenting an idea that is contrary to the one you just finished, use transition words such as “On the other hand, critics of the iPod 6 maintain that….”

How to stretch a topic to last 5-7 pages

Write everything you think you can write about each viewpoint. See how many words you have, or how many pages you have. If you have written everything you know to write. Then write your conclusion and your introduction. Then take a look at the balance between your points you are making. If they are roughly the same length, and you are short by a page and a half, then each of the three topics needs 1/3 of a page more. Here’s where you go deeper into your topic.

Perhaps your paragraphs are too simple. Perhaps you stop your sentences short and they could be expanded on.

In contrast to Hemingway’s simple use of sentence, Denis Johnson uses more complex sentences.     Well, so what? Why don’t you tell us in what way here. Expand it right out of the gate:

In contrast to Hemingway’s simple use of sentence, Denis Johnson uses more complex sentences, often incorporating elements of black humor, double entendre, and subtle drug references within the guise of language-rich compound sentence structure.

How to Avoid  Dropped Quotations

What are they?

Dropped quotations are lines or passages from the text that stand alone as sentences, or are spliced into sentences in a grammatically incorrect manner.

For example:

In his short story, “Little Things,” Raymond Carver clearly shows a conflict between the two characters.  A couple is fighting over custody of their baby.  “She would have it, this baby.  She grabbed for the baby’s other arm.  She caught the baby around the wrist and leaned back.  But he would not let go.  He felt the baby slipping out of his hands and he pulled back very hard.” 

 

Why is this a problem?

As a matter of style, dropping quotations is simply not elegant.  As a matter of content, dropped quotations demonstrate a lack of mastery over the material and a lack of context for the quoted information.  Who is saying this?  Why?  What does it mean?  How does it relate to your thesis?  The reader should not have these questions when you are using textual evidence.

How do I fix the problem?

There are three easy fixes:

  1. Use a simple “signal phrase”:

Carver writes, “She would have it, this baby.  She grabbed for the baby’s other arm.  She caught the baby around the wrist and leaned back.  But he would not let go.  He felt the baby slipping out of his hands and he pulled back very hard” (2). 

  1. Choose key words and phrases and blend them into your own sentence

Carver writes that the mother “grabbed” the baby while the father “pulled back very hard” (2). 

  1. Use block quotation format for quotes longer than four lines:

Carver writes:

She would have it, this baby.  She grabbed for the baby’s other arm.  She caught the baby around the wrist and leaned back.  But he would not let go.  He felt the baby slipping out of his hands and he pulled back very hard. (2) 

 Note punctuation of citations in the above examples.

 

Dropped quotation:

McMurphy also engages in a game of manipulation similar to that of the Nurse, as he manages to make a fool of her on several occasions, further undermining her authority and psychological hold over the patients.  “She’s glaring at those big white whales leaping round his shorts in pure wordless outrage.  That’s more’n she can take” (88).  The Nurse was compelled to surrender because she could not bear to have the other patients see her in a vicious, vengeful state brought on by McMurphy, so she temporarily abandoned her desire to chastise him.

Blended quotations:

McMurphy also engages in a game of manipulation similar to that of the Nurse, as he manages to make a fool of her on several occasions, further undermining her authority and psychological hold over the patients.  When she sees him in his boxers, she “glar[es] at those big white whales leaping round his shorts in pure wordless outrage.  That’s more’n she can take” (88).  The Nurse was compelled to surrender because she could not bear to have the other patients see her in a vicious, vengeful state brought on by McMurphy, so she temporarily abandoned her desire to chastise him.

By keeping the meeting delayed, the people of the ward can see the nurse is thrown off.  Through subtle delays or obstructions, Bromden can see that “the nurse’s head gives one little jerk, barely enough to see, but my heart is suddenly roaring” (97).  Even the slightest weakness in the Nurse fills Bromden with a sudden rush of emotion, a “roaring” that represents power and freedom.

After he volunteers Doctor Spivey to share news with the group, she reacts: “The nurse’s head gives one little jerk, barely enough to see, but my heart is suddenly roaring” (97). 

 

The people of the ward can see the nurse is thrown off.  Even the slightest “little jerk” in the Nurse fills Bromden with a “sudden” rush of emotion, a “roaring” in his “heart” that represents power and freedom (97).

In-text citations:

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/02/

 General Questions

 Should I state my own viewpoint in the thesis?

No. Use the essay on transracial adoption as an example of when/where to state your own opinion.

https://www.uscupstate.edu/uploadedFiles/academics/arts_sciences/Language_and_Literature/ELF%20Volume%203%202011.pdf

Or use the sample of the Critical response from our textbook on page 72.

How do I improve my sentence structure?

Practice writing. Read sentences aloud. Have a paragraph of an article you admire in front of you when you read. Copy the structure of the paragraph. Use it like paint-by-numbers. Don’t copy the content, just the structure. Read a lot. Read your own work out loud.

Attempts at explanations for increases in voter participation in this year’s elections were offered by several candidates.

Better: Several candidates attempted to explain why more voters participated in this year’s election.

Here’s another: A person taking on the role of caregiver for another, a sick elder, perhaps, is a very demanding job. (Mixed construction)

 Better: A person taking on the role of caregiver for another, a sick elder, perhaps, has a very demanding job.

 

When dealing with the viewpoints, do I include background information?

It depends. If it needs it, you include it. Look at sample essays :

 

How do I know if the information I am providing is valuable or if it is going over something the reader already knows?

Sometimes if a reader knows information already, they will overlook it to discover the new thing you are talking about, or if they are more advanced than you, they might keep reading to see how well you make your point, even if they already know what it is.  It is okay to give background information, even if you suspect it is common knowledge (AJ paper).Background info orients the reader. You run into problems if your thesis/argument/ or supporting information is globally rudimentary. Again, read a lot. Read the kind of writing you have to do.

Are op-ed pieces reliable as sources?

It depends on the authority of the person writing the piece. If it is Jack Johnson, retired deli owner, writing a piece on military strategy, probably not.  If it is Jack Johnson writing a piece on the recording industry today, it is better. It also depends on the context. What you pull from it needs to be relevant to the piece you are writing.

Can I insert my opinion?

  • What does the assignment sheet say?
  • What does the layout of sample assignments suggest?

 

How do I get help with my commas? I still can’t do them right.

If you are struggling with proper use of commas, or with any writing skill, find your way to a writing lab, or Google something like, “Comma practice worksheet” and practice them until you get them right.

Here is one. I found it in point five seconds.

http://www.grammarbook.com/grammar_quiz/commas_1.asp

Help! I still need more help understanding my topic! What do I do?

If you don’t understand your topic, read and read until you do understand it. College is not like high school. No one will spoon-feed you information. Sometimes a professor will say write a paper on x, and it will be loosely based on theories you cover in class and you are responsible for taking what you learn and applying it to a totally different topic that may not have been mentioned in class.

I once unwillingly took a class in Late Victorian American Literature, where we read a whole bunch of obscure texts and talked about literary theory of the late 1800s. Then I wrote a paper on a book we had never mentioned, using a theme we had never mentioned, and literary theory we had never mentioned, and in fact, my professor knew little about. I had no idea what I was doing but I read for five hours a day for three weeks before I even produced my annotated bib. And I’m not special. It’s what everyone does.

Help! I feel like the research in this paper is very had to find – we have to tie in disabilities, and it makes the paper a lot harder than it should be. What do I do?

See above, and also, put in as much time and effort as it takes. They say for every one credit hour in which you enroll, you will spend approximately two to three hours outside of class studying. Use the formula: 3 credit hours (1 course) = 3 hours in class per week = 9hours study time per week per three credit course.

 

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