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WHAT YOUR INSTRUCTORS wish they knew when they were writing essays…

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Presentation on theme: "WHAT YOUR INSTRUCTORS wish they knew when they were writing essays…"— Presentation transcript:

1 WHAT YOUR INSTRUCTORS wish they knew when they were writing essays…

2 7 Steps to a Better Essay 1.Plan your time 2.Conceptualize your topic 3.Research your ideas 4.Organize your thoughts 5.Write your masterpiece 6.Proofread your work 7.Remember your academic integrity

3 1. Plan your time We’ve been there, done that… Plan at the beginning of the semester Count back from the due date… Lateness is an insult If you want an extension –Come early –Come prepared

4 Are you a procrastinator? Create a ‘fail-safe’ environment –Unplug the TV/internet, take the phone off the hook Create your own ‘time pressures’ –Work better under pressure? Set short-term goals. e.g. a paragraph every 30 minutes Break down the task… –Finish the assignment piece by piece Tell someone your personal deadlines –Parents, friends, prof, or TA 1. Plan your time

5 2. Conceptualize your topic Remember Lincoln: –“If I had 8 hours to cut down a tree, I’d spend 6 hours sharpening the axe.” See your instructor –Make yourself known –Suggest a topic –Ask for research sources Personalize your topic –set yourself apart

6 What’s been written on the topic? –Preliminary research Narrow your focus Significance of your research 2. Conceptualize your topic

7 What are we looking for? Proof that you’ve researched and understood the material Proof of your ability to apply this knowledge beyond what you’ve read and heard 2. Conceptualize your topic

8 3. Research Your Ideas Someone’s thought of this before you Get your sources early Where to start? –Professor (TA) –Bibliographies Where to end? –Bibliojump!

9 NEVER read a book front to back Look for both sides of a debate Keep track of your sources Keep your notes 3. Research Your Ideas

10 What is an academic source? Author’s credentials and expertise Date of publication Publisher Purpose Intended audience 3. Research Your Ideas

11 PROS Prelim research Conference papers Bibliographies Gov’t statistics Periodicals CONS Un-refereed –Biased –Untested Opinion-based Pre-plagiarized Impermanent Why (not) use the Internet? 3. Research Your Ideas

12 Remember you’re an undergrad –Worry about analyzing not philosophizing Webbing –Where does this topic fit into the broader research area? Outlining 4. Organize Your Thoughts

13 Introduction “Hook!” (significance & relevance) Take the reader form their reality to yours Make the most of your first impression –Stylistic and mechanical errors can be fatal Lay out the road map of your paper –Yes, you should give everything away in the first paragraph –“In this essay, I will prove” Clear and confident thesis statement 4. Organize Your Thoughts

14 4. Organize your thoughts Thesis statement A guide for your reader A map for yourself There is seldom a “right” or “wrong” answer –Only strong or weak thesis statements Narrow enough to “prove” Broad enough to matter Take a stand –Be clear and concise

15 Thesis statement Not an observation, but an assertion –Weak: “Martin engineered cutbacks in 1995.” –Strong: “Martin’s 1995 cutbacks were detrimental to Chretien’s war against poverty.” Not an announcement, but a strong stand –Weak: “This paper will prove how Harper’s tax plan would Americanize Canada.” –Strong: “Harper’s plans for our fiscal future strongly resemble tax proposals of GWB.” 4. Organize your thoughts

16 Thesis statement Not broad, but narrow –Weak: “The NDP faced many challenges in 2006.” –Strong: “Two main factors – the competitiveness of the campaign and the perceived weakness of the leader – contributed to the New Democratic failure in 2006 general election.” 4. Organize your thoughts

17 Thesis statement Not vague but specific –Weak: “The Senate should be abolished.” –Strong: “Due to a lack of efficiency, efficacy, legitimacy, and relevance, the Canadian Senate ought to be abolished.” 4. Organize your thoughts

18 Body of the paper Literature review is an asset –What debates surround your topic? Discuss opposing viewpoints –And explain why they are unconvincing Discuss the “side” that you support –Explain, correct and expand the ideas of others Make sure your argument flows logically Stay on topic 4. Organize your thoughts

19 Conclusion The last word… –Last thing your instructor reads before grading Close the circle –Restate your thesis –Summarize your evidence Don’t leave the reader asking “so what?!” –Proclaim the significance of the paper 4. Organize your thoughts

20 Your goal before writing The 30-second “bus stop” version –Your argument will evolve while writing, but it is essential to have an argument prior to the first draft 4. Organize your thoughts

21 “Hook” your reader –Prof is marking dozens of papers Thesis, thesis, thesis –Keep your entire paper focused Each paragraph is a mini-argument –Be sure to have an opening & concluding sentences (mini-thesis) 5. Write your masterpiece

22 Style Counts –Use academic articles as models Size matters –We know the font size, spacing and margin tricks Keep a copy of your paper 5. Write your masterpiece

23 Got writer’s block? Type with the screen turned off –Don’t worry about the language, get the ideas down first Write out of order –Many people write the introduction last Talk through it –Use a tape recorder, tell a friend… 5. Write your masterpiece

24 Citations Always over-cite, but never over-quote –proof of research and analysis Allan suggests / indicates / shows / reveals / supports / attests to / demonstrates / underscores / highlights… use only as much as you need ( […] ) Long quotations must be inset Use consistent, proper citation format Don’t pad your bibliography 5. Write your masterpiece

25 Threading an argument Logic and flow are crucial Organization is vital –Headings add clarity –Read your introduction and conclusion together Sentence variety is an asset 5. Write your masterpiece

26 Take a break Before editing, restate your thesis –Did your paper answer the research question? Read on screen and on paper –Typos = lack of respect Read it aloud for flow Peer Proofread –With others in the class –With (other) clueless people –Consider a proof-reading group Review comments from previous papers 6. Proofread your work

27 Turn on the grammar and spell checker –Subject-verb agreement –Consistent verb-tense –Then/than, which/that, ;/: –Run on sentences & fragments Use gender neutral language –He or she (not he/she) –Beware of they and them –Alternate between masculine and feminine Run-away paragraphs Clichés 6. Proofread your work

28 Presentation Take pride in your work –“This essay is important to me…” Fancy covers annoy, not impress Devise a creative title –Not “Term Paper” Margins and spacing are for us Headers and page numbers 6. Proofread your work

29 You are part of the academic process –University scholarship is about sharing and creating ideas You are part of the university community –You have responsibilities –Professors have greater duties and more tools If you can find it, we can find it (in half the time) It is your responsibility to know the rules –Including peer collaborations –When in doubt ASK! It is your responsibility to know the penalties –Academic dishonesty costs you more than an “F” 7. Academic Integrity

30 Tips to avoid plagiarism Use quotation marks –Even when using short phrases Citation is not a sign of weakness –Cite when you’re directly quoting a source –Cite when you’re borrowing ideas to support an argument –Cite when you’re borrowing/adapting tables, charts, stats –Cite when material is not “common knowledge” –Rule of thumb: Did I know this before I took this course? Take detailed notes when researching –useful proof 7. Academic Integrity

31 WHAT YOUR INSTRUCTORS wish they knew when they were writing essays…


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