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How To Write the College Essay CRTW 201 Dr. Fike.

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1 How To Write the College Essay CRTW 201 Dr. Fike

2 A Word from Your Professor Students: I am often asked, “What do you WANT in a paper?” One of my favorite responses is to say, “A better question is ‘What does the paper need to be a good paper?’” The following slide show answers the latter question. If you study it carefully, you will also have an answer to the former. Dr. Fike

3 What is the most important element of a good paper? Write down some possible answers in your notebook.

4 My Answer: Focus. What is your definition of “focus”?

5 My Answer A narrow illustration that you discuss throughout the paper. Every paper must have a focus.

6 How To Get to a Focus Area of inquiry Topic Focus Question (how or why or how good?) Thesis

7 Another View Area of inquiry  topic  focus  question  thesis.

8 The Parts of a Thesis Qualification: Although/Despite…. Controversial idea about the focused topic. A reason why: because…. Note: The thesis must include and be about the focused topic.

9 What Is a Controversial Idea? For our purposes, It is not a fact. It is not a generalization. It is a point (something not self-evident) about your focused topic. The thesis must include and be about the focused topic!

10 Example of Narrowing a Topic Area of inquiry: Psychic experiences. Topic: Near-death experiences. Focus: My student’s near-death experience in a swimming pool. Question: Was it real or imagined? Controversial idea: It was real. Thesis: Although psychologists might insist that oxygen deprivation caused my near-death experience, I will argue that it was real—that it was extra-psychic rather than merely intra-psychic—because what I perceived while on the bottom of the pool matched others’ accounts of my accident and rescue.

11 The Classical Argument Introduction with thesis. Background information. Arguments. Objections and replies. Conclusion with implications about the self. See the separate link to the classical argument on our course home page.

12 Introduction Begin with a statement about your topic or focused topic. Conclude with your thesis statement. It is not necessary to state your question, but it is a good idea to do so, at least in your prewriting. The introduction should NOT begin with your thesis statement or with a universal generalization (e.g., “In the history of the human race…”).

13 Background What to do: Tell your story. What NOT to do: Begin paragraphs with facts about events. Even when narrating, you must still create a structure of topic sentences. Make sure that topic sentences (the first sentences in paragraphs) are the most general statements in your paragraphs. Make sure that topic sentences echo the thesis statement’s language. Take a word or words from the thesis and put them in the topic sentences.

14 Arguments Two organizations are possible: –All arguments, all objections, all replies. You might have a whole paragraph or paragraphs for each category. –Argument, objection, reply; and so forth until you have examined all arguments. You might deal with each triad in a paragraph. Which you choose depends on the nature of your project, but I suggest the former. The latter may be more helpful during the prewriting stage.

15 A Proper Triad Controversial idea: Students should not walk on the grass at Winthrop University. Argument: Walking on the grass at Winthrop is bad because it creates ruts. Objection: Driving on the grass might create ruts, but feet do not create ruts. Tires cause ruts; feet do not. Reply: Granted, walking on the grass does not create ruts if “ruts” are only indentations created by vehicles, but walking on the grass does abrade the sod in a way that is rut-like. Prolonged walking could cause ruts even though no tires are present.

16 An Improper Objection Argument: Walking on the grass at Winthrop is bad because it creates ruts. Objection: Walking on the grass is okay because it saves time. Note: If your argument is about ruts, your objection must also be about ruts. Do not change the subject.

17 A Further Point About Replies A reply has two parts: –Concession: Giving a little ground to the opposition. –Rebuttal: Directly replying to the objection in order to affirm the argument and, by extension, the thesis. –Example: Concession: Granted, walking on the grass does not create ruts if “ruts” are only indentations created by vehicles, Rebuttal: but walking on the grass does abrade the sod in a way that is rut-like.

18 Conclusion What to do: Refer to some of the points that you have made in the paper. What NOT to do: Merely summarize what you already have said. What to do: Go beyond what you have said in the paper. See next slide for more.

19 What To Do in a Conclusion Now that you have demonstrated your thesis statement, place your focused topic in a slightly larger but not universal context. Example: Now that you have shown that there are rationally justifiable reasons for believing your NDE to be an extra-psychic experience (i.e., your consciousness was actually outside your physical body), examine what the implications of this belief might be. Questions: –Now that you know that your consciousness can leave and return to your physical body, does this belief lead you to any conclusions about the nature of the self? –In particular, how might your new perspective enhance your understanding of death? –How might your newfound understanding lead to further psychic unfolding? –What connections to the reading material can you forge?

20 In Other Words When you wrap up a paper, reflect on the thinking that you have done about your thinking and try to answer these questions: What have you discovered about yourself as a thinker, and has the writing process changed your thinking in any way?

21 Questions About Paragraph Length How long should your paragraphs be? Is there a minimum length? Is there a maximum length?

22 My Answers Minimum: At least 5 sentences. Definitely no one- or two-sentence paragraphs. Maximum: Not more than a full page in a 4-5 page paper.

23 Next Question What are some ways to connect your paper to the material that you have read/researched?

24 My Answers You could do it in various ways: –A quotation. (Please, say “quotation,” not “quote.” Use “quote” as a verb but not as a noun.) –A paraphrase. –A brief summary. –An analysis. You are not limited to the material in our book, but each paper must contain at least one reference to something we read. Make a connection that enhances your argument rather than merely satisfying my requirement. Where to do it: –In the introduction. –In the body. –In the conclusion. –Throughout the paper. Which is best?

25 My Answer It depends on your project, but if you refer to a text in the introduction, you are more likely to refer to it in the body and conclusion as well. The result will be greater unity. Sticking a quotation in only to satisfy the requirement is pretty lame. It is way better to do something with it to enhance your argument. Often you will find that information (one of our elements) goes well in the background section of the classical argument.

26 Ways To Include the Reading Material With the grain: You agree with something that we read. Against the grain: You disagree with something that we read. Which of these leads to a better paper?

27 My Answer Reading against the grain is better because it allows you to suggest that the author missed something. The result is a more interesting and engaging paper.

28 Ways of Organizing Paragraphs Deductive: Begin with a topic sentence  provide support. Inductive: Begin with support  end with a topic sentence. Which should you do in this class?

29 My Answer Write deductive paragraphs. Begin each body paragraph with a topic sentence. You will boldface your topic sentences and underline your thesis statement. Your introduction and conclusion will not have topic sentences.

30 More on Topic Sentences As stated above, they should echo the thesis statement. They must also function as hinges between paragraphs. What NOT to do: Do not write topic sentences that are like yoghurt and sourdough (take a little from one batch and add it to the new ingredients to make a new batch). Topic sentences need to connect the new paragraph to the one before it, but they should not be choppy or mechanical.

31 CRTW 201 How does freshman writing differ from writing in this course?

32 First, a similarity Here is the classical argument: –Introduction with focus and thesis –Background –Arguments –Objections –Concession and rebuttal –Conclusion

33 Here Is One of Nosich’s Writing Assignments How to prepare to write an argumentative paper: –Start with your conclusion. –Figure out crucial assumptions (stated and unstated). –State reasons that need support (factual support, further argumentation). –Pick out the weakest part of your argument. –Acknowledge its weakness (to yourself and to the reader). –Spell out the strongest argument against your point of view.

34 Comparison Classical Argument –Intro (focus, thesis) –Background –Arguments –Objections –Concession and rebuttal –Conclusion Nosich’s Assignment –Start with your conclusion (thesis) –Factual support –Arguments –Weakest part of your argument –Acknowledge weaknesses in arg.

35 Question for You What is the difference between the classical argument and Nosich’s assignment?

36 My Answer Assumptions: Instead of just driving the car, you have to know how and why it runs. This course involves thinking about your thinking, and that involves considering assumptions, background stories, impediments, and other elements that Nosich lays out in his book.

37 What Is Nosich’s System? See the circle on page 51. See the list on pages 71-72. See Figure 4.1 on page 140 and Figure 5.2 on page 178.

38 Nosich’s Elements of Critical Thinking The Elements Purpose Question at Issue Information Conclusions Concepts Assumptions Implications and consequences Point of view Context Alternatives The Standards Clarity Accuracy Importance/relevance Sufficiency Depth Breadth Precision

39 How Do Nosich’s Elements Relate to the Classical Argument? The Elements Purpose Question at Issue Information Conclusions Concepts Assumptions Implications and consequences Point of view Context Alternatives The Classical Argument Thesis Question in intro par. Background Thesis Arguments THIS IS NEW The conclusion Objections/replies Background Objections

40 What’s the Point? The point is that there is major overlap between Nosich’s system and the classical argument with which you are already familiar from freshman year. But, again, Nosich asks you to go more deeply into your thinking. Rather than merely stating what you think, you must also explore why you think it. The further point is that tools like pages 71-72 in Nosich’s book are a great guide for the thinking you need to do as you plan your papers.

41 Emphasis on the Last Point You MUST do a lot of prewriting—“go around the circle”—before your try to write your papers for this course. END

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