Archive for category 1. Once Upon a Time…

Summarizing

If a thesis is a roadmap to your paper, then the summarization of key points are designated markers/pit stops that decide the route you will take. Similar to planning a road trip, there are several paths to take; however, sometimes the quickest route on your map is not the best, depending on how things happen in between. For instance, you want to decide which points to summarize (your stops) before you really get started. Just like planning for a road trip, you need to decide what to take and what to leave out in your summary. As an example, writing a summary of the Harry Potter series could be done with many stops, going over each book at length, or you could just make a few stops covering everything like so- Harry is born and before he’s even three years old his parents are murdered by an evil psychopath named Tom who calls himself Voldemort. Harry goes to school and becomes a wizard, fights with Voldemort several times, gains and loses friends, and after 7 years from their first conflict at Harry’s school Harry defeats Voldemort and everyone is happy. Except Voldemort, because he’s kind of, you know, of dead.

Continuing from the previous stop, we should address another fact- summaries don’t cover everything, just a broad spectrum of all key points. I only covered the most basic of details of the entire series, not individual books written, making it extremely short. Again, similar to an actual road trip, you don’t really remember every second of the trip, just a few things that happened. Your summary will include the highlights, but you don’t want to write about every tree you passed, or the color of generic cars you passed on the way, that’s what your other paragraphs are for! Here, you just want to talk about the highlights on the way- the random events that stick out in your mind. For example the terrifying moment when you’re between two trucks turning into the same lane you’re in, or the huge accident on the side of the road, perhaps even a conversation you had with another person in the car (assuming you’re not making the trip alone) or any number of random events that may have happened to you on the way. The summary only tells so much, and that’s just fine, as long as you highlight the important things, and don’t bore the audience with the number of trees and shrubbery. However, though a summary should be short, it should never be lacking key points, and should not be too short as to miss points that are important. Remember, haste makes waste, but procrastination is your downfall. Not too long that it covers the entire paper, but short enough your reader can know what to expect.

Finally, we reach the end of your summary (planning your trip), and the beginning of the writing (the drive itself) of your paper. From here, remember what you want to cover (your pit stops) and what you will bring with you (details, details, details) on your journey. Now, go out there and have a nice trip in the road trip of writing!

Hooking the Reader

Hooking the Reader

Alone in a dark dorm room sits a college freshman, hands on his forehead, with the only source of light coming from his laptop. The screen has a grand total of eight words, consisting of the student’s name and date. It’s obvious he doesn’t know where to start, and let me guess, you don’t know where to begin in your research paper either. You’re thinking about how to start, what words you need in order to form that first sentence, and what sentences you must blend together to launch that paper of yours. How are you ever going to grab the reader’s attention? How are you going to hook them? Well, don’t worry aspiring freshman, beginning your paper by engaging your reader can actually be quite simple.

The main question you need to ask yourself is “What hooks me when I begin reading a good piece of writing?” For me, I like to have a story told to me or have the writer put me into a scene that will later affiliate with the topic of the paper. For example, the way I painted the picture of the disgruntled college student at his laptop took the reader to a place that we have all seen before.  Using this tactic is effective because it can both entertain the reader while informing them on the topic that will be discussed in your paper.

There are other tactics that you can utilize as well to hook the reader to your paper. You can start by including a quote that is involved with the topic of your paper. After writing the quote, you should explain why you used these words and how it applies to your argument. For example, if I were to write a paper on how dog fighting is actually a more popular activity in our country than people might think, I could start the paper with a quote from convicted NFL player Michael Vick. “You got the family dog and the white picket fence, and you just think that’s all there is. Some of us had to grow up in poverty-stricken urban neighborhoods, and we just had to adapt to our environment. I know that it’s wrong. But people act like it’s some crazy thing they never heard of. They don’t know.” This quote both interests the reader and also supports my argument that I am about to reveal.

You could even ask a question for the beginning hook. If I’m writing a paper about America’s addiction to television, I could start by writing, “Have you ever wondered why we are obsessed with television? Why do we feel the need to sit down and watch a screen for hours instead of living our own lives?” I would then go into the science and reasons why we all want to stare at TVs.

The beginning “hook” of a paper could and should be the most fun part of a paper to write. This introduction can give you a chance to add a little fiction to a paper that will otherwise be informative and factual.

Think about your favorite movie. I’m sure that the film didn’t have a boring opening scene, but rather opened with an entertaining scene that set the tone for the rest of the film. “Star Wars” begins with a small space battle, making the viewer want to see more immediately. The average reader, unfortunately, will not give your paper a chance if they are uninterested from the start.

Thesis Statements: The Roadmap to Your Paper

WHAT IS A THESIS?

 

A thesis statement is one or two sentences in your introduction that explains the core idea of your paper. The thesis is the foundation of the paper and should act as a roadmap for your paper. It should not only be a guide for the reader, but for the writer as well.

 

When writing your thesis, think about how you want to get your point across to the reader. State your claim and make sure it is arguable. Knowing what you’re going to argue helps you take you in the right direction and stay on track. A thesis is usually located near the end of the introduction, often the last sentence of the introduction. This provides a smooth transition into the body of the paper.

 

HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR THESIS

 

Before developing an argument you must collect and organize evidence. Look for possible relationships between known facts (such as surprising contrasts or similarities), and think about the significance of these relationships.

 

Remember… writing your thesis is a process. Writing your thesis is like learning a new soccer move. You have to keep working with it to perfect it.

 

Let’s say your professor assigns you a 3 to 4-page paper and you have to write about consumerism in America. Before even thinking about writing your thesis, do some research. What usually works for me is typing the topic into the search bar and then I briefly educate myself on the topic. By doing this, I am familiarizing myself with the topic and it makes it easier to narrow down what I want to write about. After doing some research, ask yourself an arguable question? Your thesis should be the answer to your question.

 

HOW TO KNOW IF YOUR THESIS IS STRONG

 

Ask yourself these four questions:

  1. Is my thesis statement specific enough?

Vague thesis statements do not usually have strong arguments.

  1. Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose?

If your thesis statement isn’t arguable, you’re simply making a statement, not a thesis statement.

  1. Did I answer the question?

Be sure to follow directions and respond to the proper task.

  1. Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test?

Your reader should be able to form a relationship with the thesis and the thesis should connect to a larger issue.

 

BAD EXAMPLES

 

Miley Cyrus is a bad role model for teens.

 

The North and South fought the Civil War for many reasons, some of which were the same and some different.

 

GOOD EXAMPLES

 

Miley Cyrus is an inadequate role model for teens, as she advertises drug and alcohol abuse in her hit song, “We Can’t Stop.”

 

While both sides fought the Civil War over the issue of slavery, the North fought for moral reasons while the South fought to preserve its own institutions.