Writing Resources

  1. How to Read My Comments
  2. Introductions
  3. Organization Prompts
  4. Signposting
  5. Integrating Quotes Into Your Own Writing
  6. Titles
  7. Writing Centers

How to Read My Comments

  • My comments at the top of the paper focus for the most part on global issues. By responding to these comments, you are well on your way to a better revision.
  • The marginal and in-sentence comments and edits are made as I read; they are my preliminary reactions, from which I compose the typed comments. You should pay attention to any comments I make in the paper itself, but the most important comments to respond to are the top comments prefaced by “Respond to the following points in revision…”
  • I do not mark directly on the essay every sentence-level issue that could be improved. While it is a good idea to revise every item I mark, doing so does not necessarily fix every sentence-level issue that needs fixing.
  • In the top comments I make suggestions and point out examples in the draft to use as a guide, but, just like the marginal comments, I do not explain how to revise every issue relating to paragraphing, organization, argument & evidence etc. If (for example) I suggest that the transitions or synthesis could be improved, and you change only one transition or add one sentence of synthesis in revision, those minimal changes are unlikely to improve the overall essay.
  • Above all else, if anything is unclear in my comments, if you are unsure of how to revise based on my comments, or it you have any questions, please contact me.*

*I won’t take questions on your paper immediately after class. Take time to re-read your paper, read my comments and think about the paper  before getting started with the revising process (including emailing me or coming to my office hours to discuss your revisions).

Introductions

Introduction as Roadmap

Even if your audience (your classmates and instructor) are familiar with the assignment directions and purpose, you still have to articulate that purpose in the introduction.  Never assume your reader knows what is going on inside your head.  They don’t unless you tell them, and the introduction is the place to tell your reader what will follow in the paper.

Some Dos and Don’ts

  • Don’t use your introduction to introduction to only tell your reader what the paper is about.
  • Do use your introduction to tell your reader what your particular take on the subject matter of the paper is.
  • Don’t provide your reader a roadmap that describes a journey from Bangor, Maine to Guadalupe & 21st in Austin when the journey described in your paper begins in Dallas. (In other words, don’t start with long histories or broad generalizations, e.g. “Since the dawn of civilization…” or “Principles of liberty in the United States have a long history and have been described in many ways, including….”.)
  • Do provide some brief background context that is directly relevant to the topic of the paper.
  • Don’t get hung up trying to write the introduction first.
  • Do revisit your introduction after completing a full draft to make sure it accurately represents any ideas that might have developed in the body of the essay as you were drafting it.

Organization Prompts

  1. What material (e.g. research, summary, argument) will be in my paper?  (Hint:  refer to assignment directions)
  2. What categories or topics can that material be grouped into?
  3. What material does my reader need to read first in my paper?  Why?  What material can/should my reader encounter later in the paper?  Why?
  4. Can the topics be presented in varrying orders, or does my argument and/or assignment require one certain ordering of topics?

Signposting

Most of the words you write for any given assignment will be related to the subject of the assignment (your argument on the topic, your research about the topic, what other sources say related to the topic, etc.).

However, there will be a few sentences in each section of your paper that are intended not to inform your reader about the topic but to inform your reader about the structure of the paper itself.

Types of Signposts

  • Transitions:  Connect earlier material with later material
  • Topic statements:  Give the reader a heads-up as to the specific subject about to be discussed
  • Position Markers:  Refresh the reader’s sense of where they are located in the overall structure of an essay

Examples

Transition:  Unlike Newdow’s  argument that “under God” in school recitations of the Pledge violates the Establishment Clause, Olson argues that “under God” is merely a patriotic reminder of the role religion played in U.S. history.

Topic:  Newdow’s argument that “under God” is unconstitutional falls into the stases of definition and value.  [The following subsection of the paper would then provide examples of definition and value stases in Newdow’s arguments in order to support the claim raised in the topic sentence.]

Position Marker:  Having described the stases used by both Newdow and Olson, I will now explain why their arguments are not in stasis before suggesting new questions those invovled with the “under God” debate could focus on to bring their arguments into stasis.

Integrating Source Quotations Into Your Own Writing

There are three ways in which to cite sources in writing: summary, paraphrase and quotation.

The conventions of academic and professional writing expect you to blend quotations into your own writing. If you merely drop a quote in between two of your own sentences, you not only risk having your style sound choppy or disconnected, but you also risk obscuring the significance of your quote for your argument and unnecessarily repeating with your own words information that is conveyed in the quote itself.

For example:

Dinesh D’Souza has a low view of children, which is why he thinks family is important. “The family is indispensable because children come into the world as barbarians” (178). D’Souza’s description is exaggerated. Children may be difficult but they are not “barbarians.”

There are generally two ways in which to integrate quotations into your own writing. The first and simplest way is to introduce quotations with a verb:

Dinesh D’Souza argues, “The family is indispensable because children come into the world as barbarians” (178).

A “that” may also introduce quotations along with a verb.

Dinesh D’Souza argues that the “family is indispensable because children come into the world as barbarians” (178).

Quotations may also be introduced with a colon. The colon is frequently used for longer, block quotations.

D’Souza describes the American family as in a state of crisis:

“Nearly one-third of whites, and more than two-thirds of blacks, are born out of wedlock. Maybe I am using an old-fashioned vocabulary, but….” (179)

The second way to integrate quotations into your writing is to merge them into your own sentences and not to introduce them with a verb or a ‘that’:

D’Souza’s goal of “restor[ing] old values under new conditions” only further demonstrates his failure to accept the realities of the modern family (185).

Some people may see merit in the “moral pressure … of staying [married], of working it out somehow,” but such pressure inevitably does more harm than good as women are forced to stay in abusive relationships because of inflexible moral codes (D’Souza 185).

Note how in the above sentence the essay writer had to alter the original quotation from D’Souza’s original. Such alterations are acceptable only if they are indicated with brackets and ellipses. Do not alter an original quotation without indicating you have done so, and only alter a quotation in such a way that its meaning remains true to the original author’s intent.

Titles

  • At a minimum a good title should describe the general topic of the paper and it should describe either the purpose of the paper and/or indicate the argument of the paper.
  • The title you use for your paper should not be the title of the assignment (e.g. “Rhetorical Analysis”).
  • For example, “Rhetorical Analysis of Kennedy” would not be as useful of a title as “Examining Kennedy’s Persuasive Techniques Toward a Conservative Baptist Audience.”

See this handout at the University of Minnesota for more.

Writing Centers

The University of Texas Undergraduate Writing Center

  • I recommend making use of the UWC’s many useful handouts  and going to the UWC for consultations on your writing assignments for any class (including this one)
  • If the UT UWC writing center doesn’t have a handout on the issue you are interested in, try a Google search for the issue (e.g. paragraphing) along with the phrase “writing center” and restrict the results to .edu websites (using the search operator site:.edu).

College Writing Myths (from the UWC)

Advertisements