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  1. Academic Writing Conventions

  2. The Role of the Writing Center • The transactions between tutor and writer support the Writing Center’s central goal of helping the student achieve autonomy in his or her learning and writing.

  3. The Role of the Writing Center • As peer tutors, you should see yourselves as reflective and intelligent readers who ask questions and report your reading reactions in order to help students discover what they have said, what they might want to say, and how their readers are likely to understand them.

  4. The Role of the Writing Center • Though “writing” is the reason students seek us out, we work by engaging students in dialogue about their assignment and how best to solve the intellectual problems it sets forth for them. • Some of our time is indeed spent with the mechanical dimensions of writing, but the largest part of our time is spent either working with students to parse conceptual demands of the assignment itself or developing with them a research learning plan.

  5. What is an Academic Paper? • Audience: The project involves scholars writing for other scholars. • Significance: The project explores a topic or question of interest to the academic community. • The paper should set forth an informed argument.

  6. Academic Writing Conventions We’ll Cover • Argument • Claim vs. Thesis Statement • Stakes / So what? • Evidence • Source integration • Organization/Structure • The line of inquiry • Topic sentences / concluding sentences • Introductions / Conclusions

  7. Claim vs. Thesis Statement • Many students entering college are most familiar with descriptive thesis statements. • Many high school English classes, including AP English, encourage descriptive thesis statements.

  8. Claim vs. Thesis Statement • In 100-level English classes at UW, instructors use the word “claim” to mean an arguable thesis statement. • A claim must be… • Arguable or contestable • Specific • Significant (meaning that it engages the “So what?” element)

  9. Claim vs. Thesis Statement • Students enter the UW with a range of definitions for these terms, so instructors often try to simplify like this: CLAIM = ARGUABLE THESIS = DESCRIPTIVE

  10. Now you try: claim or thesis? In the excerpt from One Writer’s Beginnings, Eudora Welty conveys a positive tone toward her childhood experience. She accomplishes this through the use of descriptive diction, impressionable images, and unusual syntax.

  11. Now you try: claim or thesis? The two passages given describe the swamp in very different lights. Although they are in some ways familiar, the styles of the authors of these paragraphs are very different.

  12. Sample English 131 Claim • “Despite the mystery surrounding this famous speech, its contents can be understood in terms of what Mary Louise Pratt calls a ‘contact zone.’ In Pratt's article “Arts of the Contact Zone,” she introduces this zone as the chaotic space in which cultures collide. Essential features of the contact zone include autoethnography, the representation of one's own culture that responds to representations made by others, and transculturation, the selective absorption of the dominant culture by a marginal group. These features of autoethnography and transculturation emerge prominently in Chief Seattle's speech, shedding more insight on the interactions between the Native Americans and the Euro-Americans; however, in the context of the unique circumstances surrounding the text, Seattle's speech ultimately demonstrates the inherent dangers of representation and misrepresentation in the contact zone.”

  13. Not-so-effective arguable claims… • Arguable claims are less effective when… • They rely on opinion that can’t be supported by evidence. • Their language is opinionated or judgmental. • They make use of sweeping generalizations. • For example… • James Joyce is a better writer than Virginia Woolf. • The media’s exploitation of the Watergate scandal showed how biased it was already. • Suggested Revision: The media’s coverage of the Watergate scandal suggests that the media had already determined Nixon’s guilt.

  14. How can you help a student generate an arguable claim? • Brainstorm ome steps for helping a student generate an arguable claim. • You can assume the student has chosen a topic and has made some observations about this topic. • Perhaps the student has even developed a descriptive thesis statement. How could you help this student develop their thesis into a claim?

  15. Tish Suggests • 6 step thesis/claim formation method • Asking A LOT of questions + brainstorming with the student • Keeping the “complex thesis/claim criterion” in your head

  16. The 6 Step Thesis Formation Method 1. Name your focus topic • EXAMPLE: The 2008 Democratic primary 2. Ask a question (make sure it’s not obvious!) about your focused topic • EXAMPLE: Why did Hillary Clinton lose the 2008 Democratic primary? 3. Revise the question into a declarative statement • EXAMPLE: Hillary Clinton lost the 2008 Democratic primary because she ran a poor campaign.

  17. 6 Step Cont. 4. Provide specific reasons (that you can support with evidence, quotations, argumentation, expert opinion, statistics, and/or telling details) to back up your declarative statement • EXAMPLE: Hillary lost due to her gaffes, election strategy, and inability to raise sufficient funds as well as Barack Obama's superior oratory skills, political organization and strong campaign. 5. Recognize the opposition • EXAMPLE: Some critics argue she lost because the media was sexist and “in the tank” for Obama from the beginning. .

  18. 6 Step Cont. 6. Use revision to put it all together • EXAMPLE: Although some critics argue that Hillary Clinton lost the 2008 Democratic primary due to sexism in the media, it was because of Clinton herself – her gaffes, election strategy and inability to raise sufficient funds – as well as Barack Obama's superior oratory skills, political organization and campaign that account for her second-place finish

  19. Criterion to determine if your thesis is “complex”? • Is it debatable? • A simple thesis proves an obvious, nondebatable idea. A complex thesis proves a fresh, debatable idea. • Does it tackle difficult questions? • A simple thesis rests with easy answers. A complex thesis explores difficult territory. • Does it progress? • A simple thesis repeats the same idea. A complex thesis progresses through several steps. • Does it matter in academic circles? • A simple thesis doesn't matter. A complex thesis matters.

  20. Stakes / Significance / So what? • Does the student’s paper (implicitly or explicitly) address any of the following questions? • Why does this paper need to be written? • What risks being lost if this paper isn’t written? • How does this paper contribute to a larger conversation about this topic? • How does this claim respond to existing claims about this topic? How does it respond to other critics or scholars? • How might this paper contribute to its “field”?

  21. Stakes / Significance / So what? • Though students sometimes understand the stakes of their claim, they sometimes forget to articulate these in the paper. • Sometimes, a discussion of the claim’s stakes can help the claim itself develop into something more complex and arguable. • How can you help?

  22. Stakes / Significance / So what? • Models for helping students consider the stakes of their argument: • “My argument is important because _______________.” • “Discussions of ___________ are relevant today because __________________________________________.” • “Ultimately, what is at stake here is _______________ • ___________________________________________.” • “My discussion of _________ is in fact addressing the larger matter of ___________________________________.”

  23. So What for Previous Thesis/Claim: • INTRO: New York Times reporter Bob Hepburn says "overt sexism" was at the heart of Hillary Clinton's loss to Barack Obama. [Will also include quotes from Sen. Clinton supporters as well as other reporters] • QUESTION: Was Senator Hillary Clinton a victim of sexism in her failed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination? • HYPOTHESIS/WORKING COMPLEX THESIS: Although some critics argue that Hillary Clinton lost the 2008 Democratic primary due to sexism in the media, it was because of Clinton herself – her gaffes, election strategy and inability to raise sufficient funds – as well as Barack Obama's superior oratory skills, political organization and campaign that account for her second-place finish. • SO WHAT/STAKES: Clinton proved what many have always known — a woman running a high-profile race for president can be tough, tireless, savvy and resilient. She didn’t win, but she still broke barriers. Making her a victim diminishes her accomplishments.

  24. Stakes / Significance / So what? • Now take a look at Jane Doe’s paper. • Is Jane currently addressing the stakes of her argument? If so, where? Is she doing so effectively? Why/why not? • How could you help Jane expand her discussion of the stakes? • How could you help Jane develop her claim with regard to its significance? • How would you help Jane understand the rhetorical importance of addressing this “So what?” issue?

  25. Academic Writing Conventions We’ll Cover • Argument • Claim vs. Thesis Statement • Stakes / So what? • Evidence • Source integration • Organization/Structure • The line of inquiry • Topic sentences / concluding sentences • Introductions / Conclusions

  26. What do you do? • A Political Science professor asks you to write a 5-7 page paper. The paper must include 3-5 scholarly quotes to prove, support, or explain your thesis statement. The only problem? You’ve never incorporated quotes into a paper before and you have NO idea how to proceed. So what do you do?

  27. Question: Why should student writers utilize quotes to prove, support or explain their thesis statement?

  28. Contrary to popular belief… • the best way to add “length” to your paper • a substitute for your own analysis • an effective way to “prove” you read the text • An easy way to sound “impressive” and “smart” in order to get a good grade

  29. Incorporating quotes… • gives authority to the information you present • indicates that you are an informed member of UW’s academic community • makes it possible for your readers to locate your source(s) and learn more about your topic • is an opportunity to teach yourself something new • is a chance to demonstrate to others what you have learned

  30. The quotation sandwich

  31. The quotation sandwich 1. Introduce the quotation 2. The quotation itself 3. Explain what the author is arguing 4. Respond to the quotation: a. Explain b. Evaluate c. Challenge

  32. STEP ONE: Introduce the quotation • College provides a diversity of social, academic and athletic opportunities for students. This can be a powerful positive force, but it can also detract from students’ abilities to manage their time. As Malcolm X states,

  33. STEP ONE: Alternate templates • According to Mrs. Expert, “__________ ____________________________” (54). • In his book, Mr. Scholar maintains that ______________________________ (67). • Mrs. Expert complicates matters further when she writes, “______________________” (85).

  34. STEP TWO: The quote itself • College provides a diversity of social, academic and athletic opportunities for students. This can be a powerful positive force, but it can also detract from students’ abilities to manage their time. As Malcolm X states, “one of the biggest troubles with colleges is there are too many distractions, too much panty-raiding, fraternities, and boola-boola and all that” (227).

  35. STEP THREE: Explain what the author is arguing • “one of the biggest troubles with colleges is there are too many distractions, too much panty-raiding, fraternities, and boola-boola and all that” (227). In this example, Malcolm X is pointing out that the variety of activities that colleges offer students can keep them from completing their academic work. • The author should agree with how you sum up the quotation – this will help you establish credibility, by demonstrating that you do know what the author is saying even if you don’t agree.

  36. STEP THREE: Alternate templates • In other words, ___________________ _______________________________. • Mrs. Expert insists that ___________ ______________________________. • In making this comment, Mr. Scholar insists that ______________________________.

  37. STEP FOUR: Explain, evaluate, and/or challenge • State the implications of the quotation for your own argument. (What do you make of the author’s argument?) • In this example, Malcolm X is pointing out that the variety of activities that colleges offer students can keep them from completing their academic work. While Malcolm X is certainly right that distractions are plentiful on college campuses, he fails to consider the necessity of these social interactions among students. Without the “boola-boola and all of that,” students would miss out on an essential part of their education.

  38. Putting it all together… • College provides a diversity of social, academic and athletic opportunities for students. This can be a powerful positive force, but it can also detract from students’ abilities to manage their time. As Malcolm X states, “one of the biggest troubles with colleges is there are too many distractions, too much panty-raiding, fraternities, and boola-boola and all that” (227). In this example, Malcolm X is pointing out that the variety of activities that colleges offer students can keep them from completing their academic work. While Malcolm X is certainly right that distractions are plentiful on college campuses, he fails to consider the necessity of these social interactions among students. Without the “boola-boola and all of that,” students would miss out on an essential part of their education.

  39. Now you try! Can you locate all 4 steps in this paragraph? • One of the ways in which Jing Mei’s mother stifles her daughters growth is by constantly comparing her to other, more ‘remarkable’ children. She collects magazine articles of prodigy children, and then proceeds to put Jing Mei through ridiculous tests, trying to find in her a remarkable genius, or special ability. She asks Jing Mei what the capital of Finland is, to multiply numbers in her head, to predict the temperatures in various cities around the world, and to quote the bible from memory, as if her daughter would have the magical ability to perform these tasks without study. When, of course, Jing Mei fails these tests, her mother becomes disappointed. The author writes, “... after seeing my mother’s disappointed face once again, something inside of me began to die. I hated the tests, the raised hopes and failed expectations. Before going to bed that night, I looked in the mirror above the bathroom sink and when I saw only my face staring back - and that it would always be this ordinary face - I began to cry. Such a sad, ugly girl! I made high-pitched noises like a crazed animal, trying to scratch out the face in the mirror” (Tan 1152). Her mother had set the bar so high that Jing Mei would have to be a savant in order to please her. Her hopes are raised, but her failure to live up to her mothers expectations cripples her self image. When she looks in the mirror, she sees her face is not that of a genius, but of an ordinary girl. She calls herself ugly and tries to scratch out the face in the mirror. Jing Mei’s spirit has become so broken, she is literally trying to erase her own reflection. Here we see an example, of how by continually comparing Jing Mei to child prodigies, her mother has only helped to cripple Jing Mei’s identity.

  40. Answer key: • (TOPIC SENTENCE/SUB CLAIM) One of the ways in which Jing Mei’s mother stifles her daughters growth is by constantly comparing her to other, more ‘remarkable’ children. (DEVELOPMENT OF SUB CLAIM) She collects magazine articles of prodigy children, and then proceeds to put Jing Mei through ridiculous tests, trying to find in her a remarkable genius, or special ability. She asks Jing Mei what the capital of Finland is, to multiply numbers in her head, to predict the temperatures in various cities around the world, and to quote the bible from memory, as if her daughter would have the magical ability to perform these tasks without study. When, of course, Jing Mei fails these tests, her mother becomes disappointed. (STEP 1: INTRODUCE QUOTE) The author writes, (STEP 2: THE QUOTE ITSELF) “... after seeing my mother’s disappointed face once again, something inside of me began to die. I hated the tests, the raised hopes and failed expectations. Before going to bed that night, I looked in the mirror above the bathroom sink and when I saw only my face staring back - and that it would always be this ordinary face - I began to cry. Such a sad, ugly girl! I made high-pitched noises like a crazed animal, trying to scratch out the face in the mirror” (Tan 1152). (STEP 3: EXPLAIN THE QUOTE) Her mother had set the bar so high that Jing Mei would have to be a savant in order to please her. Her hopes are raised, but her failure to live up to her mothers expectations cripples her self image. When she looks in the mirror, she sees her face is not that of a genius, but of an ordinary girl. She calls herself ugly and tries to scratch out the face in the mirror. (STEP 4: ANALYZE THE QUOTE) Jing Mei’s spirit has become so broken, she is literally trying to erase her own reflection. (CONCLUDING SENTENCE) Here we see an example, of how by continually comparing Jing Mei to child prodigies, her mother has only helped to cripple Jing Mei’s identity.

  41. Quotations and Source Integration 1. Think about the rhetorical importance of source integration. • How would you explain this to a student? 2. Now take a look at one of the quotations in the Jane Doe paper. • How would you help this student with source integration? • How would you explain the rhetorical importance of source integration?

  42. Academic Writing Conventions We’ll Cover • Argument • Claim vs. Thesis Statement • Stakes / So what? • Evidence • Source integration • Organization/Structure • Roadmap • The line of inquiry • Topic sentences / concluding sentences

  43. Organization/Structure Intro • The purpose of organization/structure can be summed up with the PB & J metaphor…

  44. Organization/Structure Intro • Remember… • Readers read from the top-down • Academic papers require students to construct a “line of inquiry” – that is, a sustained engagement with their thesis/claim throughout their entire paper. • It’s the writer’s responsibility to clearly and explicitly lead the reader through his or her paper and line of inquiry.

  45. Organization/Structure Intro • Steps: • Intro with a roadmap • Body paragraphs that follow a line of inquiry with clear topic + concluding sentences.

  46. Roapmaps • Introductory paragraph as a “roadmap” When you’re reviewing a student’s paper, ask yourself: How well does the introduction set up reader expectations for the rest of the paper?

  47. Is this an effective roadmap? • Jane Doe Intro: The Anita Hill vs. Clarence Thomas case was an extremely different case. The case involved two highly educated African Americans who were going to trial on sexual harassment charges in the work place against Anita Hill. Anita Hill, an educated African American woman, who is a law professor at a prestigious university. She took Clarence Thomas, who was a nominee for the Supreme Court during the time, to court on sexual harassment charges. After reviewing the Anita Hill vs. Clarence Thomas case, in which the verdict was ruled in favor of Clarence Thomas. I’ve concluded that African American women do not always have to be the shoulder on which our African American men have to rely on. Anita Hill had every right to come forward and speak out against Clarence Thomas. The African American community should have supported her during the trial instead of supporting Clarence Thomas.

  48. How about this one? • INTRO: New York Times reporter Bob Hepburn says "overt sexism" was at the heart of Hillary Clinton's loss to Barack Obama. [Will also include quotes from Sen. Clinton supporters as well as other reporters] • QUESTION: Was Senator Hillary Clinton a victim of sexism in her failed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination? • HYPOTHESIS/WORKING COMPLEX THESIS: Although some critics argue that Hillary Clinton lost the 2008 Democratic primary due to sexism in the media, it was because of Clinton herself – her gaffes, election strategy and inability to raise sufficient funds – as well as Barack Obama's superior oratory skills, political organization and campaign that account for her second-place finish. • SO WHAT/STAKES: Clinton proved what many have always known — a woman running a high-profile race for president can be tough, tireless, savvy and resilient. She didn’t win, but she still broke barriers. Making her a victim diminishes her accomplishments.

  49. Roadmap Criterion • Can you determine the structure of the essay from the intro paragraph alone?

  50. Previous Thesis/Claim: • INTRO: New York Times reporter Bob Hepburn says "overt sexism" was at the heart of Hillary Clinton's loss to Barack Obama. [Will also include quotes from Sen. Clinton supporters as well as other reporters] • QUESTION: Was Senator Hillary Clinton a victim of sexism in her failed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination? • HYPOTHESIS/WORKING COMPLEX THESIS: Although some critics argue that Hillary Clinton lost the 2008 Democratic primary due to sexism in the media, it was because of Clinton herself – her gaffes, election strategy and inability to raise sufficient funds – as well as Barack Obama's superior oratory skills, political organization and campaign that account for her second-place finish. • SO WHAT/STAKES: Clinton proved what many have always known — a woman running a high-profile race for president can be tough, tireless, savvy and resilient. She didn’t win, but she still broke barriers. Making her a victim diminishes her accomplishments.