Paper-writing Taboos A list of do-nots and some dos.
Do not: misname • Rossetti has two Ss and two Ts. • Laura, not Laurie • Great Exhibition, not Great Expedition
Do not: hide your thesis • Your thesis should be either the very first or the very last sentence of your introductory paragraph. It’s scary for me when I can’t find your thesis.
Do not: drop quotes • “The goblins represent danger. ‘Do not look at the goblin men’ (Rossetti 235). Also, the goblins represent the racial other.” • You need to both introduce the quote and to explicate it: • “The goblins represent danger, so much so that Lizzie warns her sister not to ‘look at the goblin men’ (Rossetti 235). The warning indicates that there is something illicit about the visuality of the goblins and that it can be transmitted somehow through sight.”
This is what it feels like: • “President Obama is the first African-American man to assume the position of the president of the United States of America. ‘Froot Loops.’ His wife Michelle has become an ideal for many young girls around the nation.”
Do not: make statements you can’t prove. • “From these descriptions, one can tell how disgusted Rossetti was with the imperialistic desires of England.” • Tone it down! Rossetti can critique; the poem itself can be a critique. It’s scary for me when you attribute strong emotions to the author.
Do not: make inaccurate statements • “Rossetti first uses the idea of the public versus domestic space to create stereotypes for men and women during the Victorian age.” • This sentence asserts that Rossetti created gender stereotypes during the Victorian age. Quite a bit of work for a little poet. I must go. My people need me.
Do not: use “it is” to begin a sentence. • “It is interesting to note…” • “It is obvious that…” • “It is clear that…” • “It is evident that…” • “It is important to notice…” • The fact that you’re writing about it makes it interesting and important. The fact that you’re writing about it, too, makes it not obvious, evident, or clear—otherwise you wouldn’t have to write about it.
Introductions: what is it good for? • Grabbing the reader’s attention • Setting up historical perspective • Setting up your terms (which might be a summery of your argument)
Things that I will be looking out for in your next draft: • A very clear thesis (which we will work on momentarily) in a clear place: at the beginning or the end of your introduction.
At least one main term or concept defined in the introduction; this forces you to be rigorous with your ideas in the paper. • Ex: “public vs private sphere,” “gender norms,” “imperialism vs racism,” “commodity culture”
A very clear topic sentence indicating what you will talk about in the following paragraph (like a mini-thesis). • The topic sentence will probably not be sentences from your abstract by now. Most of you turned in abstracts as if you were writing five-paragraph essays. Now you have 8 or 9 paragraphs. Each paragraph needs to have its own topic sentences that pertains specifically to that paragraph while letting us know how it relates to your thesis.
Similarly, a concluding sentence at the end of each paragraph. Do not end paragraphs in mid-thought (and especially not on quotations). • If you don’t know what your concluding sentence should be at the end of the paragraph, this is an indication that you might not have said what you needed or wanted to say in the paragraph.