The Writing Process Key Organizational Strategies
The Research and Writing Process • Writing involves an extensive process that continually draws on ground previously covered, kind of like a wheel!
A Roadmap for Writers • Like any journey or process, writing has a final destination that can be difficult to reach. Writers don’t always know where their writing will take them! • However, there are organizational strategies that can help.
Today’s Focus: • Organizational Strategies: • Developing a preliminary thesis • Taking good notes and avoiding plagiarism • Creating a working bibliography
The Thesis Statement • Good research takes account of previous scholarship and leads the writer to a particular theory or viewpoint. Whenever you read something new, you are researching. • A thesis is the formal statement of a theory backed up by a logical argument.
An Example • Here is a possible thesis statement: • “While cultural forces contributed to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the disintegration of economies played the key role in driving its decline.”¹ • What two subtopics would you expect the writer to address in an essay that argues this thesis?
What a Thesis Isn’t • A thesis is not a topic: “The behavior of ravens.” • A thesis is not a fact: “All ravens are black.” • A thesis is not an opinion: “Ravens are the most peculiar birds in this region.”
How to Identify a Thesis Statement • Break up into discussion groups and examine the following slide. Choose the statements that you feel would make a good thesis. • Consider these simple questions: • Does the author provide any sense of context for the issue? • Can you find evidence of an argument or extended viewpoint?
Thesis Statements • The fall of communism has made life so much better for people in the Czech Republic. • This paper discusses the vitally important issue of genetically altered food. • For many years scientists have warned about the dangers of global warming. • The election of Hugo Chavez Frias in Venezuela destabilized the region and further eroded the Venezuelan economy. • What are the tacit assumptions that underlie the platforms of the Republican and Democratic parties?
How to Write a Thesis • Read all sources closely and critically. • Identify each author’s thesis by examining the introductory sections for a “definable and arguable claim.” • Compare and contrast the various viewpoints and begin to construct your own thesis. • What are your views on this topic? • Write a statement of your position and the direction you will take to logically present this view.
Taking Notes! • Taking good notes is critical in lecture situations, but it is critical in the research and writing process as well. • Good notes save time and contribute to an accurate, well-organized final paper. • Note taking skills prevent writers from plagiarizing their sources and good notes make the revision process much easier.
Three Main Principles • Be able to recognize the ideas that are critical to your writing project. Record facts and theories that are important for your topic and working thesis. • Don’t write down everything! Be selective. • Label everything. Who wrote this information? Where was it published? What database did I get this article from?
Keeping Track • Traditionally, researchers were encouraged to keep notes on index cards. 3x5 cards were used for recording bibliographic information and 5x7 cards were used for taking the actual notes. • Index cards are still an effective way to organize information. Remember to use a separate card for each source or topic.
Keeping Track with Computers • Today, we use computers as tools for organizing information. Researchers can create a separate file folder for their research project and then keep separate documents within the folder for each of the various sources consulted. • Remember to use short, descriptive file names that accurately describe the contents.
Avoiding Plagiarism • Good note taking skills will prevent you from plagiarizing sources in your research writing. • What is plagiarism? • Plagiarism is adopting, adapting or using someone else’s ideas or language without giving them credit. • Plagiarism is a serious offense and a breech of academic integrity.
The Plagiarism Trap • Most researchers and writers don’t intend to plagiarize. They do it unintentionally. • If your notes and labels are not accurate and complete, you may not realize that you are pirating someone else’s idea.
Ways to Avoid Plagiarizing • If you take text directly (verbatim) from an author’s work, always place quotation marks around it, and be prepared to cite the precise page where you found the quotation. • “Dante’s descent is a journey of interpretation, an itinerary of the mind seeking understanding” (Freccero 107).
More on Avoiding Plagiarism • If you paraphrase someone else’s material, make certain that it is not simply a reordering of the original text. You must use your own words. Any use of the author’s language or phrasing must be placed in quotation marks. • And YES! You must still acknowledge the source of this information with a parenthetical note.
What About Facts and Statistics? • Facts that are considered common knowledge do not need to be documented. • For example: the circumference of the earth; the distance of the earth from the sun; or the current Speaker of the House of Representatives. • These facts are common knowledge and could be gleaned from a variety of sources.
Can I Use This Chart In My Paper? • Yes, just be sure to document facts, charts, graphs or any statistic that comes from another person’s research.
Take advantage of your computer’s capabilities and cut and paste bibliographic information into one clearly labeled file. Although this information might not be in MLA or APA format, you will have a file of all the information needed to complete the final bibliography. Keeping a Working Bibliography
More Bibliography Basics • As you evaluate sources, you can easily delete citations or move them into correct alphabetical order. • What information do you need to have? • The author’s name, or the name of the party responsible for the publication. • The name of the publication itself and all information regarding publication: date, place, and publisher. • If your information came from a database, be sure to keep track of the database name and the date of access.
Don’t Forget These Key Strategies! • Develop a thesis statement. • Take good notes and avoid plagiarism. • Create a working bibliography.