Archive for the 'Writing Guides' Category

“So What?:” Establishing Context and Motivation

Regardless of genre, most successful essays make it clear why their topic is important. Often referred to as “answering the ‘So What?’ question,” this move helps readers understand the essay’s context—what is happening at the time of writing that makes the topic important—and it’s contribution to an existing conversation. For example, Patrycja Koszykowska answers the “So What?” question in the
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Using Background Sources

Background sources are one of the most common types of academic citations, and often the first kind students learn to include in researched writing. These sources are used to present information and data (as opposed to ideas or arguments). You might think of them as suppliers of “facts and figures” like statistics, dates and other historical truths. For example, a
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Comparing and Contrasting on the Sentence Level

Have you ever wondered why the assignment to “compare and contrast” is such a staple of college English classes? Probably because comparing one text – or character – can help us understand both texts better. Marlon Altoe’s paper, “An Amazing Odyssey,” is an excellent model of how texts can be juxtaposed—or placed side by side—as a means of arriving at
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Summarizing, Paraphrasing and Quoting

In his essay about the famous musical West Side Story, Siddiq Mohamed: Summarizes the plot of West Side Story’s film version; Describes how the play was created; Analyzes racial dynamics in the work; AND Reflects on his own response to the film as a Guyanese American. This is a lot to accomplish in a relatively short paper. How does he
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Direct Quotes

John Baran’s Purposeful Direct Quoting There are a few situations when it’s a good idea to quote rather than paraphrase or summarize. They include the following: 1)    When you want to capture the exact words of an expert or institution; OR 2)    When you want to capture the quality of another writer’s language – whether it’s especially clear, especially elegant
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Transitions – Shifting Between and Within Topics

Darryl Gladstone’s paper, which contrasts the communication habits of a previous generation with those of a younger generation, contains several excellent examples of transitions. Gladstone uses transitions to signal a shift: 1)    Between topics, e.g. from the communication habits of a previous generation to the communication habits of a younger generation; OR 2)    Within a topic, e.g. from discussing what
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Signposting – Showing your reader where you’re going

Signposts, like traditional transitions, prepare a reader for changes in an essay’s direction. But rather than easing the shift from one paragraph to another, signposting signals a new section or mode of the writer’s argument. A signpost might, for example, indicate that the essay is: ➢ pausing for historical background or context; ➢ about to present a countering claim; ➢
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Analyzing a Text Through Close Reading

Analyzing a text by “close reading” requires a three-part process of observing the text’s features, identifying patterns in those observations, and explaining the significance of the patterns you describe. Below is a brief passage of close reading from G. J. Israel’s essay “Are These Actual Dead?”, an analysis of James Joyce’s short story “The Dead”: Gabriel’s party is informed and
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Topic Sentences: or “Flow” and How You Know

“Does my essay flow?” This, probably, is the most common question students ask consultants at the writing center. But what does “flow” mean? And what, exactly, is “flowing?” Usually, when people refer to “flow,” they’re referring to the writer’s ideas. A paper that “flows” is characterized by the controlled development of and clear connections between the writer’s ideas. Use the
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