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The 20 th Century and the African American Experience 2 nd Paper Writing Session.

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Presentation on theme: "The 20 th Century and the African American Experience 2 nd Paper Writing Session."— Presentation transcript:

1 The 20 th Century and the African American Experience 2 nd Paper Writing Session

2 Todays agenda Brainstorming Building a thesis Notes on structure Writing for your reader The 4 Food Groups of a successful essay Final reminders

3 Topics What are your 3+ topics? How have the readings/discussions altered them?

4 Building a thesis: Moving from questions to problems (not a formula for writing papers) 1.Start by stating your topic: I am researching ___________________

5 Building a thesis: Moving from questions to problems (2) 1.Topic: I am researching ______________ 2.QUESTION the topic: because I want to find out what/why/how/whether _____________________________

6 Building a thesis: Moving from questions to problems (3) 1.Topic: I am researching ______________ 2.Question: because I want to find out what/why/how/whether______________ 3.MOTIVATE your inquiry by articulating its significance: in order to help my reader understand _______________________________

7 Building a thesis: Moving from questions to problems 1.Topic: I am researching _____________ 2.Question: because I want to find out what/why/how/whether______________ 3.Significance: in order to help my reader understand _____________________ Your challenge: making sure #3 differs from #2!

8 Notes on Structure Thesis/controlling idea/claim (only one): –The idea that drives your paper throughout, from explicit introduction to conclusion, whether you tell (In this paper, I argue...; this paper argues…) or show (X reveals that Y changes Z) Reasons for claim (several): –because (these may be subtopics) Evidence/examples (even more): –for instance for example –Instances that support your claim/reasons/subtopics –Counterarguments to your claim –Refutations of counterarguments

9 Structure CLAIM because of REASON based on EVIDENCE I claim that … because of these reasons… which I base on this evidence… [Note: you dont have to state your thesis in exactly this form. This is a conceptual map of what a paper does]

10 The relevance of evidence supports CLAIM REASON supports EVIDENCE explains

11 Claims/Reasons/Evidence: Case study Claim: Reality TV makeover shows reveal that Americans have a voyeuristic urge to watch people alter their bodies, no matter the cost to their dignity or health. Reason: This is because Americans are willing to accept appearance-altering surgery as entertainment. Evidence: Qualitative analysis of ratings data shows that ratings go down not because audiences find the shows cruel but because they find them not dramatic enough.

12 Nuts and bolts reminder: Two common phrases that you can never overuse to connect big ideas to specific examples: –For instance –For example and all variations thereof, followed, of course, by a specific instance or example!

13 Thesis-building exercise Write out your topic; try different ways Why controversial? Take stock of personal investment Pick one side of issue, list pros Pick other side, do the same Evaluate: how have arguments for both sides stretched your thinking, revealed gaps in your knowledge?

14 Building a Thesis: Exploratory Writing State a claim about your topic (even if you dont yet feel ready to do so). Write out the issue that this argument will address. Try wording the issue in several different ways.

15 Evaluate your Explorations Why is this a controversial issue? For instance, is there not enough evidence to resolve the issue? Is the current evidence ambiguous or contradictory? Are definitions in dispute? Do the parties disagree about basic values, assumptions, or beliefs?

16 Take Stock of Your Own Motives and Reactions What personal interest do you have in this issue? What personal experiences do you have with it? How does the issue affect you?

17 Descibe Confirmations Pick one side of the issue, and come up with the best arguments you can in its favor. Freewrite everything that comes to mind that might help you to support this side.

18 Note Objections/Contradictions Now pick the other side of the issue and do the same thing.

19 Take Stock of How Pros/Cons Complicate Your Thinking As you found arguments in favor of both sides of the issue, what gaps in your knowledge did you discover? What additional research do you need to do? What further questions do you need to answer?

20 Writing with an Audience in Mind The work of revision that turns your writer- based prose into reader-based prose means providing your reader a context, a clear structure, and guiding expectations. (From Linda Flower, Writing Reader-Based Prose; ask me for PDF or printout)

21 Writing with an Audience in Mind Features of Writer-Based Prose: –Egocentric focus Writing from a personal point of view; not just writing from the first-person (which can actually be objective), but writing that narrates the writers thought process as she explores an idea. The place we often begin. –Narrative organization Writing an unfolding story; narrating the writers own discovery process. A common way to describe real-life events, or plots in fiction (First this happened, then this, then that….) –Survey structure (aka data dump): Everything the writer knows on the topic listed in no meaningful order; the writing is structured around the information rather than guided by the writers central idea.

22 Writing with an Audience in Mind Features of Reader-Based Writing –Evidence of a Shared goal My thesis answers questions that I bet youre interested in too. –Hierarchy of ideas There are lots of parts to this thesis; Im going to prioritize them for you, foregrounding what I think is most compelling/urgent/illustrative; perhaps placing in the background others that may also be important. Ive done this work for you; thats why you want to keep reading, even if you disagree with me –You might want to use discursive footnotes if you have a point of information thats tangentially related to the idea youre discussing. –Explicit conclusions Conclusion in the broader sense of findings. Be clear from the outset as to what your intentions are. –Cues to the reader Subheadings (sparingly), mid-path summaries that remind the reader where she is, and transitions. IN A FINISHED DRAFT, TRANSITIONS DRIVE THE DEVELOPMENT OF YOUR IDEAS.

23 The 4 Food Groups of a Successful Critical Essay Enhance your papers critical effectiveness through balanced contextualization

24 The 4Food Groups 1)The text or object of study 2)Historical, cultural, intellectual context 3)Formal qualities 4)Critical context

25 Nutritional Balance As with any meal, the prevalence of each group will vary as appropriate to your menu (that is, your projectthe work your paper is carrying out). The presence of all four in some degree, however, will ensure a deeply satisfying meal!

26 The Food Groups, again 1)The text or object of study 2)Historical, cultural, or intellectual context 3)Formal qualities 4)Critical context (#1 is the most important; the others are listed in no particular order…)

27 The Food Groups 1)The main ingredient: foregrounding your text or object of study –Its crucial to identify your primary object of study right awaybeginning with your title and then to deliver close analyses of it as evidence throughout your paper, to support your argument.

28 The Food Groups 2)Historical, intellectual, or cultural context –Contextualize meaningfully your primary object of study in terms of time period, culture, or intellectual background to broaden your analysis, even if these aspects of your topic are not your primary focus. This does not mean, however, just dropping in irrelevant factoids, or padding your prose with background data. The context you provide should be driven by the needs of your project. If youre studying representations of George Washington during the bicentennial, for instance, origins of his image in the late 19 th and 20 th centuries might be more pertinent to your argument than, say, 18 th - century ones.

29 A good Example of providing historical context In Revolutionary Characters, beginning on p. 5, Gordon S. Wood provides very specific historical context to support his claim that criticizing the founding generation has been going on for more than a century (7). (Implicit point here: dont be afraid to model your work on the readings you admire.)

30 The Food Groups 3)Formal Qualities –Does your object of study share qualities with other things? What are they and how can you articulate similarities and differences? From yesterdays slide: –Identify your OoSs characteristics and the categories that include it. What kind of thing is your topic? To what larger categories does your topic belong? Most important, how does that help us understand it?

31 The Food Groups Formal Qualities a)If your object of study is a figure: Its easy to say that Washington was a great individual, but youre not adding much to the mix by stating this. He was also, in Woods words, a child of the Enlightenment and an ambitious military leader (among other things) who can be compared to others. Such comparisons/ contextualizations will deepen your analysis.

32 The Food Groups Formal Qualities b)If your object of study is a text: What kind of text are you working with (play, novel, poem, short story, pamphlet, treatise, diary, broadside, etc.), and what are its typical attributes? How does your text compare to others of its kind? How does its form reflect its content? How does its form shape its reception by readers?

33 The Food Groups Formal Qualities c)If your object of study is an event or cultural movement: 9/11 was in many ways an unprecedented event in American history. Yet there are bases of comparison to other catastrophic events in Americanand humanhistory, and making such comparisons could broaden your discussion.

34 The Food Groups 4)Critical context –Chances are others will have researched your topic or one very similar to yours. In graduate-level work, it is textually irresponsible not to acknowledge others work, even if you dont account for all of it (you cant, of course). So part of your job is to suss out the major critical conversations that precede yours. How are you inserting yourself into relevant, current-day debates on your topic? How are you disagreeing with the conclusions of others, or how are you using their research to support your argument? How do your conclusions complicate an ongoing debate or, how do other critical perspectives complicate your findings?

35 Final Reminders Send your paper via regular mail, not via a method that requires my signature Aug 1 deadline is the postmark date NEW: also me a copy of your paper Works cited=works you actually cite ONLY My is

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