Presentation on theme: "The 20 th Century and the African American Experience First paper-writing session: Paper basics, finding a topic, and building a thesis."— Presentation transcript:
The 20 th Century and the African American Experience First paper-writing session: Paper basics, finding a topic, and building a thesis
My Expectations: Paper Basics Your paper must be guided by a main argument (controlling idea, thesis) thats articulated up front You must provide compelling reasons and credible evidence to support your main idea and any sub-claims Organize your paper in topic-focused, idea- driven paragraphs that work progressively to develop the main argument Work to free your paper from errors in formatting, grammar, syntax, and spelling
Things this paper should do Argue a cogent, specific thesis that reasonable people could disagree with; Support that thesis with well articulated reasons and carefully chosen evidence; Anticipate counterarguments to your thesis and refute them thoughtfully (i.e., read opposing p.o.v.s generously); Show the reader something new; Make meaningful connections between texts or pieces of evidence.
Things to avoid in your paper Relating personal anecdoteskeep subjective observations to a minimum Editorializing Proposing policy Proposing curriculum changes (if you want to discuss teaching methods/outcomes, this isnt the forum for you). Overtly endorsing any political, religious, or social position Providing a review of literature Dropping in quotations arbitrarily
So, this paper is NOT A policy statement (youre not proposing solutions; you may, however, suggest them as part of your conclusion) A memoir (strategically deploying personal experiences may be effective, however, if done with care) An ethnographic survey (you dont have time) A biography (unless the life you trace exemplifies a larger trend, idea, or event) An editorial or screed
Getting Started: Terms Differences between: –Topics (Rumor in the African American community) –Questions (Whats the function of rumor in a particular group of African Americans?) –Claims (Rumor served as a vital political weapon among segregated African Americans in 1950s Alabama)
Process Very few of us come to the writing process w/a full-fledged thesis. How do you arrive at a thesis? What do you tell your students?
Big secret Theses emerge from questions/the process of questioning; theses are can be seen as attempts to articulate answers that you strive to justify throughout your paper with reasons and evidence.
Building a thesis: Suggestions & Exercises Begin by noting the QUESTIONS that emerge from your reading, talking, and thinking; Transform questions into CLAIMS Determine which claim will become your CONTROLLING IDEA (aka your THESIS or ARGUMENT).
Building a thesis: evaluate your questions Look at the questions youve raised about your topic and evaluate them: 1)Put aside questions that ask only who, what, where, and when. 2)Focus on questions that ask how and why. 3)Try to combine smaller questions into larger, more significant ones
Building a thesis: Generate your own claims Start by articulating a broad topic: a)The significance of rumor… b)Misconceptions about Northern slavery BUT If your topic can be stated in 4 or 5 words, its too broad, because the claim you make from it wouldnt say anything different: a)Rumor is significant… b)Northern slavery is misunderstood
Building a thesis: Narrowing your topic to deepen it Narrow your topic by adding details, including nouns derived from verbs expressing actions or relationships. EXAMPLE: Misconceptions about Northern slavery NARROWED TOPIC: The contribution of nineteenth-century abolitionist rhetoric to the development of the current- day misunderstandings of the scope of Northern slavery
Transforming a Burning Question into a Compelling Thesis Question: Did The Great Emancipation end problems of racial oppression and exploitation? Brief Thesis: According to X, emancipation brought only a partial solution to the problems of racial oppression and exploitation, and also created new ones. Elaborated Thesis: For X, emancipation solved problems for freed slaves and laid the groundwork for future progress, yet created a host of new problems; while it solved the immediate problem of y and sowed the seeds of civil rights initiatives, it raised the long-term problem of z that plagues African Americans to this day.
Building a thesis: Other ways to generate questions INTERROGATE YOUR TOPIC: Identify the parts of the topic and how they interrelate –What are the parts of your topic and how do they relate to one another? –How is your topic part of a larger conversation? Trace your topics history and its role in a larger history –How has your topic changed through time? –How and why is your topic an episode in a larger history? Identify its characteristics and the categories that include it –What kind of thing is your topic? –To what larger categories does your topic belong? How does that help us understand it? Determine its value –What values does the topic reflect? What values does it support? Contradict? –How good or bad is your topic? Is it useful and, if so, for what?
Rays Rubric for evaluating papers; criteria listed in order of importance: 1) Project (aka Thesis, Main Idea, Argument) 2) Working with Texts/Evidence 3) Organization 4) Presentation
Rays Rubric: Project Your project is what you want to achieve in the paper. You create a project by contributing to the conversation raised by the texts read for class. One of the signs that a paper has a project is the creation of new or independent ideas that are affiliated with the assignment question or course topic, but generated from the writer's unique attempt to answer that question. Ideally, you should articulate your paper's project in the introductory paragraph
Rays Rubric: Working with Texts A key part of working with texts involves textual responsibility. Being responsible to the text involves referencing, paraphrasing, and quoting texts appropriately and accurately as they pertain to your project. Textual responsibility also means taking into account an authors meaning that may be independent of your point (that means you need to contextualize your quotations by setting them up and interpreting them). In addition, secondary texts must be drawn from reputable sources, ideally peer- reviewed scholarly journals or books.
Rays Rubric: Organization Strong papers use the organization of individual paragraphs to develop their project. This organization comes at several levels: within a paragraph, between paragraphs, and within the paper as a whole. You should express, explain, and explore one single central claim or idea in each paragraph. The paper's paragraphs should connect logically to each other, and develop and support the paper's larger project.
Rays Rubric: Presentation Your paper needs to employ correct grammar, clear and effective diction and syntax, proper mechanics (like punctuation), and correct spelling. Be attentive especially to any patterns of error (such as an overuse of the passive voice) in your work. Finally, use a standard system of formatting and documentation (MLA, Chicago, APA) and stick with it. If you have no preference, please use MLA formatting (with parenthetical citations).
Types of Texts Primary Texts –Texts you analyze (read) in your paper: novels, plays, poems, diaries, newspaper reports, letters, political or philosophical treatises, religious texts, films, personal testimonials, musical compositions, artworks, etc. (Home to Harlem is a primary text.) Secondary Texts –Texts that analyze texts and events, and offer concepts you can use to analyze primary texts. (Hahns A Nation under Our Feet is a secondary text.) Tertiary Texts –Texts that digest other primary and secondary material: museum/exhibition guides, general encyclopedias/dictionaries, Wikipedia, etc. Use these with care in graduate-level work.
For the next session 1)Name at least 3 topics you might be interested in pursuing 2)Name at least 3 questions the readings or seminar discussions have raised for you 3)Try to articulate, if you can, ways in which #2 has changed or complicated #1
For our next session, continued Working with your topics Notes on structure How to broaden the significance of your ideas Writing for the reader
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