Presentation on theme: "Where do I begin?. Focus refers to the central idea your paper, as a whole, is built around. This focal point is often called a thesis statement. You."— Presentation transcript:
Focus refers to the central idea your paper, as a whole, is built around. This focal point is often called a thesis statement. You can also think of it as a promise statement. It makes a promise, to the reader, that your paper is going to prove something very specific. The rest of the paper then keeps that promise. Your readers will look for this overall promise statement, or thesis, at the end of your introductory paragraph. Just as your paper, as a whole, is built around a unifying central idea, each paragraph opens with a central idea that unifies the assertions development and reasoning in that paragraph. Through it, you are making a promise to the reader that your paragraph is going to prove something very specific. The rest of your paragraph then keeps that promise. Your readers will look for each subtopic s thesis at the very beginning of the paragraph in question.
I. Main Focus Point (Overall Thesis) Is the overall thesis statement clear and specific, and does it meet the specific requirements for the paper in question, in terms of its subject matter? Is the overall thesis statement subjective? Does it present a specific opinion in need of proving, rather than a fact or vague idea? Does the paper keep the exact promise made by the overall thesis statement?
II. Subtopic Focus Points (Paragraph Theses) Is each subtopic thesis statement clear, specific, subjective and adhered to in the paragraph it opens? Does each subtopic thesis statement fit the entirety of the paragraph it opens? Does each subtopic thesis statement reflect a specific opinion regarding something in need of developing? Would a reasonable person argue an opposing position?
Development refers to the evidence and reasoning you use to keep the promises made by your overall thesis statement and subtopic theses. Essentially, development refers to patterns of assertions, evidence and the logical reasoning that connects the two. Every time you make a point, you should back it up with specific evidence, be it in the form of direct quotes or references to events in the text. You often need to then interpret that evidence, so your reader understands exactly why you see it as meaningful. Just as lawyers in court proceedings interpret evidence to support the presumption of guilt or innocence, a writer not only provides evidence but also interprets it.
For example, lets say you want to build a paragraph around the unifying idea that the speaker of Tennysons Maud is insane. You may open this paragraph with a thesis statement similar to the following: When the speaker reappears, in the garden scene in Act 3, it is clear that he has descended into madness. You have just made a very specific promise to the reader, and in order to keep that promise, you need to back your assertion up with evidence. Now, your paragraph may look like this: When the speaker reappears, in the garden scene in act 3, it is clear that he has descended into madness. This is evident in his identification with the passion of the rose and the melancholy of the lily.
The problem is, you are asking your reader to agree with your interpretation without clearly showing how your evidence supports it. How does being passionate or sad, or feeling a heightened sense of either emotion when viewing a flower, represent madness? Dont people send flowers on Valentines Day, or as a way of apologizing, precisely because of their ability to evoke emotions? The problem is that the writer has left gaps for the reader to fill in, forcing that reader to make the connection between the evidence and the point it is designed to prove. Essentially, the writer has asked the reader to interpret his or her interpretation. Never ask your reader to interpret your own interpretation. Lets try another version:
When the speaker reappears, in the garden scene in Act 3, it is clear that he has descended into madness. This is evident in his identification with the passion of the rose and the melancholy of the lily. Where he once described his love interest as Queen Lily and Rose in one (3.1. 56), praising her innocence while playfully noting the passion she inspired in him, he now identifies both flowers with himself. Moreover, the identification is full of anger and visions of death. Like himself, the rose is now a young Lord lover (3.1. 29) who wastes his sighs on a careless mistress, while the lily trembles in frustration. The flowers, like the young suitor, can find relief only in death, forgotten in the earthy bed (3.1. 70) she carelessly tramples. Here, the flowers once again symbolize his emotional response to her, but it is response characterizes by imagery suggesting death and madness, a far cry from the innocent fondness he once enjoyed.
Does the development avoid summarizing plot and instead analyze whats happening below the surface of the text? Is it interpretive, or does it just restate things that happen- things that will be obvious to anyone who reads the work in question? Does the development clearly support the specific idea presented in each subtopic thesis statement? When the writer incorporates evidence from the text, is that evidence well selected, necessary, meaningful and smoothly incorporated? Is it always worked smoothly into the writers own sentences? Is it always clear whose words or ideas are being represented? Are all sources appropriately cited, both parenthetically and in corresponding works cited entries? Is the evidence interpreted, when interpretation is necessary in order for the reader to understand why or how it supports the point it supposedly proves?
Organization is very clearly tied to focus. If a paper is well organized, its system of organization will be clear and apparent to the reader, and the reader will always be aware of the direction in which the paper is going. If a paper has strong specific thesis statements, and engages the specific promises made by those statements,without working in unrelated material, it is likely to be well-organized. Some popular organizational patterns are: chronological structure, reverse chronological structure with flashbacks and subject-based part whole format. The latter is probably the best organizational pattern to use when writing literary analysis essays. In subject-based part whole format, the introduction closes with a clear, specific and subjective overall thesis statement. Each subtopic then opens with its own thesis, and this thesis develops a facet of the overall thesis. You may want to think of an essay that uses subject-based part whole format as a pie. The whole pie is like an essay in its entirety: one large unified thing made of related but individual pieces. Each individual piece, like a subtopic paragraph, is autonomous, but the pieces seamlessly come together to form the pie, or position, as a whole.
Is the system of organization clear and consistent? Are the subtopics well organized around specific thesis statements? Does the writing make fluid transitions between ideas?
It is not unusual for this last category to seem intimidating to student writers, many of whom lack the confidence, exposure or vocabulary needed to comfortably evaluate their use of language, sentence structure and traditional English grammar. If such is the case with you, you may want to visit your instructor, or one of the SCF academic resource centers, for individual tutoring. For an excellent grammar and general mechanics resource you can access online, you may want to visit Commnets Fabulous Grammar and Writing Guide.Commnets Fabulous Grammar and Writing Guide. Remember, too, that SCF provides its students with the Smart Thinking online tutoring and essay review service. Links to the Smart Thinking resources are available through your course Angel portal.
Is the language used clear and appropriate for the writing situation? Does the paper contained proofreading errors, and do they interfere with clarity? Does the writer avoid overusing vague verbs and pronouns? Is the sentence structure somewhat varied, through the use of transitions and embedded clauses? Does it combine long fluid sentences with contrasting short sentences? Does the writer use variety and contrast to add tension and emphasis, at significant points in the study? Does the paper well use punctuation, for both variety and correctness? If you need extra assistance with punctuation, you may want to obtain a copy of Punctuation Made Simple. This unique and valuable resource is available, free, through a basic Google search.
Does the writer stay in the eternal present tense when analyzing literature? Do the nouns and verbs agree - in tense, case and number? Commnets Fabulous Grammar and Writing Guide has excellent resources for issues related to mastering traditional English grammar. Remember, too, that SCF provides ESL tutoring in its academic resource centers.Commnets Fabulous Grammar and Writing Guide
While this overview is not exhaustive, and no single overview will reflect the specific standards and priorities of every instructor, this presentation should provide you with an excellent starting place, for peer and self- revision. Best of luck, and happy drafting!
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