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How To Write the College Essay

How To Write the College Essay

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How To Write the College Essay

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  1. How To Write the College Essay HMXP 102 Dr. Fike

  2. A Word from Your Professor Students: I am often asked, “What do you WANT in a paper?” One of my favorite responses is to say, “A better question is ‘What does the paper need to be a good paper?’” The following slide show answers the latter question. If you study it carefully, you will also have an answer to the former. Dr. Fike

  3. What is the most important element of a good paper? • Write down some possible answers in your notebook.

  4. My Answer: • Focus. • What is your definition of “focus”?

  5. My Answer • A narrow illustration that you discuss throughout the paper (i.e., in every paragraph). • Every paper must have a focused topic/central illustration.

  6. How To Get to a Focus Go through the following steps: • Area of inquiry • Topic • Focus • Question (how or why or how good?) • Thesis

  7. Another View Area of inquiry  topic  focus  question  thesis.

  8. The Parts of a Thesis • Qualification: Although/Despite…. • Controversial idea about the focused topic. • A reason why: because…. • Note: The main part of the thesis should mention the focused topic and the connection to the reading!

  9. What Is a Controversial Idea? For our purposes, • It is not a fact. • It is not a generalization. • It is not a question. • It is a point (something not self-evident) about your focused topic. • It will help you to include “I will argue that” in the main clause of your thesis. • The thesis must include and be about the focused topic!

  10. Example of Narrowing a Topic • Area of inquiry: Psychic experiences. • Topic: Near-death experiences. • Focus: My student’s near-death experience in a swimming pool. • Question: Was it real or imagined? • Controversial idea: It was real. • Thesis: Although psychologists would insist that oxygen deprivation caused my near-death experience, I will argue that it was real—it was extrapsychic rather than merely intrapsychic, as Dr. Moody’s film suggests—because what I perceived while my body lay on the bottom of the pool matched others’ accounts of my accident and rescue.

  11. The Classical Argument • Introduction with thesis. • Background information. • Arguments. • Objections and replies. • Conclusion with implications about the self. See the separate link to the Classical Argument on the Paper Assignments page.

  12. Introduction • Begin with a statement about your topic or focused topic. • Conclude with your thesis statement. • It is not necessary to state your question (you may if you wish), but it is a good idea to do so, at least in your prewriting. • The introduction should NOT begin with your thesis statement or with a universal generalization (e.g., “In the history of the human race…”).

  13. Background • What to do: • Background One: Discuss your textual connection in a whole paragraph. • Background Two: Tell your story or provide the factual information on your focused topic. Do so in at least a paragraph—more if necessary. • What NOT to do: Begin paragraphs with facts about events. Even when narrating, you must still create a structure of topic sentences. • Make sure that topic sentences (the first sentences in paragraphs) are the most general statements in your paragraphs. • Make sure that topic sentences echo the thesis statement’s language. Take a word or words from the thesis and put them in the topic sentences.

  14. Arguments • Two organizations are possible: • All arguments, all objections, all replies. You might have a whole paragraph or paragraphs for each category. • Argument, objection, reply, and so forth until you have examined all arguments. You might deal with each triad in a paragraph. • Which you choose depends on the nature of your project. In general, the first should work well in HMXP 102.

  15. A Proper Triad Controversial idea: Students should not walk on the grass at Winthrop University. • Argument: Walking on the grass at Winthrop is bad because it creates ruts. • Objection: Driving on the grass might create ruts, but feet do not create ruts. Tires cause ruts; feet do not. • Reply: Granted, walking on the grass does not create ruts if “ruts” are only indentations created by vehicles [concession], but walking on the grass does abrade the sod in a way that is rut-like [rebuttal]. Prolonged walking could cause ruts even though no tires are present.

  16. An Improper Objection • Argument: Walking on the grass at Winthrop is bad because it creates ruts. • Objection: Walking on the grass is okay because it saves time. • Note: If your argument is about ruts, your objection must also be about ruts. Do not change the subject!

  17. A Further Point About Replies • A reply has two parts: • Concession: Giving a little ground to the opposition. • Rebuttal: Directly replying to the objection in order to affirm the argument and, by extension, the thesis. • Example: • Concession: Granted, walking on the grass does not create ruts if “ruts” are only indentations created by vehicles, • Rebuttal: but walking on the grass does abrade the sod in a way that is rut-like.

  18. Conclusion • What to do: Refer to some of the points that you have made in the paper. • What NOT to do: Merely summarize what you already have said. • What to do: Go beyond what you have said in the paper. See next slide for more.

  19. What To Do in a Conclusion • Now that you have demonstrated your thesis statement, place your focused topic in a slightly larger but not universal context. • Example: Now that you have shown that there are rationally justifiable reasons for believing your NDE to be an extrapsychic experience (i.e., your consciousness was actually outside your physical body—more than your imagination was at work), examine what the implications of this belief might be. • Questions to help you push further: • Now that you know that your consciousness can leave and return to your physical body, does this belief lead you to any conclusions about the nature of the self? • In particular, how might your new perspective enhance your understanding of death? • How might your newfound understanding lead to further psychic unfolding? • What additional connections to the reading material can you forge?

  20. The Next Section of this Show • The rest of this slide show deals with questions about writing itself.

  21. Questions About Paragraph Length • How long should your paragraphs be? • Is there a minimum length? • Is there a maximum length?

  22. My Answers • Minimum: At least 5 sentences. Definitely no one- or two-sentence paragraphs. • Maximum: Not more than a full page in a 5-6 page paper.

  23. Connection to the Reading • Every paper you write must include a connection to something we read and discussed in class. • How might you do this? • Where might you do this?

  24. My Answers • You could do it in various ways: • A quotation. (Please, say “quotation,” not “quote.” Use “quote” as a verb but not as a noun.) • A paraphrase. • A brief summary. • An analysis. • You are not limited to the material in our book, but each paper must contain at least one reference to something we read. • Make a connection that enhances your argument rather than merely satisfying my requirement. • Where to do it: • In the introduction. • In the body. • In the conclusion. • Throughout the paper. • Which is best?

  25. My Answer • It depends on your project, but if you refer to a text in the introduction and in the thesis (as you are supposed to do), you are more likely to refer to it in the body and conclusion as well. • The result will be greater unity. • Sticking a quotation in only to satisfy the requirement is pretty lame. It is way better to do something with it to enhance your argument. • Therefore, I am requiring that you include your textual connection in the introduction and in the thesis.

  26. Ways To Include the Reading Material • With the grain: You agree with something that we read. • Against the grain: You disagree with something that we read. • Which of these leads to a better paper?

  27. My Answer • Reading against the grain is better because it allows you to suggest that the author missed something. • The result is a more interesting and engaging paper.

  28. Ways of Organizing Paragraphs • Deductive: Begin with a topic sentence  provide support. • Inductive: Begin with support  end with a topic sentence. • Which should you do in this class?

  29. My Answer • Write deductive paragraphs. • Begin each body paragraph with a topic sentence. • You will boldface your topic sentences and underline your thesis statement. • Your introduction and conclusion will not have topic sentences.

  30. More on Topic Sentences • As stated above, they should echo the thesis statement. • They must also function as hinges between paragraphs. • What NOT to do: Do not write topic sentences that are like yoghurt and sourdough (take a little from one batch and add it to the new ingredients to make a new batch). • Topic sentences do need to connect the new paragraph to the one before it, but they should not be choppy or mechanical. END