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WR 122: Week 4 Zeroing in on your story, supporting your claims, and Common Issues in Writing

Agenda

  • Common grammar issues and choices
  • Supporting your claims
  • Zeroing in on your story
  • Nickel & Dimed
  • Crafting an outline

Grammar & Style

It's the difference between feeling your nuts and feeling you're nuts.

A few items of note

  • Voice
  • A note on word processing software: you should never rely on Microsoft Word or Google to catch your errors, but you shouldn't ignore all those squiggly red lines -- it's the bare minimum of proof reading you can do before turning in your work and many aren't doing even that.
  • Quotation ratio: no more than 10 percent of a written work should be quotations. It is best to paraphrase with attribution unless the author says it better than you ever could.
  • Look up unfamiliar terms: bandwidth
  • When I say you have to define key terms in your text, I don't mean that you should write, "According to dictionary.com x means..." I want you to analyze the text and see how the researchers or authors of your article define the concept. Then, take that information and weave it into the writing. For example, if I were writing about Karen Weese's article, I might say: In "This is Your Brain on Poverty," Karen Weese uses a phrase behavioral economists are currently researching -- mental bandwidth. In technology, bandwidth refers to the range of resources available for a particular activity like the amount of signal available for an internet connection to stream content ("Bandwidth"). Behavioral economists argue that the human brain has a limited amount of signal power or bandwidth for processing tasks and information. The more tasks and problems the brain must process significantly slows down speed and efficiency in decision-making.
  • Parallel structure
  • Affect/Effect
  • Gender-neutral and inclusive language in academia
  • Choosing the right verbs to support your subject: inanimate objects, entities, organizations don't feel/believe/act, people do. So, "PCC feels that serving students involves..." could be more accurate and clear if revised to "The faculty and administration at PCC feel...."
  • Comma splice, complete sentences, and fragments
  • Punctuation goes at the end of the sentence unless there is a quotation mark and the period is placed inside the quote like this." If there is a parenthetical phrase or in-text citation, the punctuation is placed after the parentheses (like this).
  • There, their, they're: beware! Make sure you are consciously choosing the right word, especially in cases like this one, and also with homonyms.
  • Capitalizing proper names: Kleenex or tissue, but not kleenex or Tissue
  • Repetition can be a powerful tool, but repetition can also be really boring because repetition dulls the senses. Repetition makes you want to stop reading and repetition makes me want to fall asleep. To many professors, this sort of repetition looks as if the student is trying inflate his or her word count in lieu of saying anything substantive. What are some other synonyms for repetition? How else might one avoid unnecessary restating of points? Revise this short paragraph in your journal.
  • Answering declarative statements...

It isn’t enough to say something is good or bad; always support your claims. In other words, connect what your source(s) say to what you have to say.

Our tiny kitchen is my favorite room in my home.

This statement, on its own, might lead a reader to ask: who cares?

A deeper exploration might go something like this:

Our kitchen is my favorite room in my home. It is where I can immerse myself in the preparation of a meal and set aside the stress of day-to-day life, which always seems to be pressing in on me. Chopping, measuring, and adjusting seasonings temporarily distracts me from politics and turmoil in the world, because these action focus my energies on something I can actually control: making a delicious meal for my family.

My main point here is that even personal writing needs evidence to support the claims you make.

To strengthen your claim, particularly in academic writing, you will want to enter into a dialogue with others, with experts on the topic you are exploring. To make my declaration above even stronger, I might add a quote from someone noteworthy.

Luciano Pavarotti, world-famous opera singer and noted food lover suggests, "One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” This is why my tiny apartment kitchen is my favorite room in my home. It is where I can immerse myself in the preparation of a meal and set aside the stress of day-to-day life, which always seems to be pressing in on me. Chopping, measuring, and adjusting seasonings temporarily distracts me from politics and turmoil in the world, because these action focus my energies on something I can actually control: making a delicious meal for my family.

Another way of supporting your claims is to include citations. Statements like, laughter is the best medicine read as opinion on their own. As a critical reader, my first thought here is, says who?

However, if I wrote the following the effect is quite different...

Kim R. Edwards and Rod A. Martin describe decades of research exploring the role of humor in our lives in their paper titled "Humor Creation Ability and Mental Health: Are Funny People more Psychologically Healthy?" Their findings are clear. Humor is, in fact, the best medicine (Edwards & Martin 10).

Zeroing in on your story

  • Carl Zimmer's Disappearing Seagrass
  • Karen Weese's This is Your Brain on Poverty

Topic (n): a matter dealt with in a text, discourse, or conversation; a subject. The topic of a story, article, movie, book, etc can be summarized simply with a phrase and requires little explanation beyond that. The plot of Star Wars explores good versus evil.

  • What is the topic of each of these pieces?
  • Now, what is main idea of each of these stories? What is their thesis?
  • I'd like everyone to spend 10 minutes in their group scanning headlines and identifying topic versus main idea in at least 3 news stories.
  • How can this conversation strengthen your topic proposals?

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed: on (Not) Getting by in America. New York, Henry Holt &Amp; Co., 2008.

  • What is the topic?
  • What are the larger themes explored?
  • What is her overarching thesis?
  • What were her methods?
  • Do you have any criticisms of her methods?

Crafting an Outline

  • An outline allows you to organize your ideas into a logical hierarchy where concepts, arguments, and ideas are placed in an order that will (hopefully) make sense to your readers. An outline helps you make sense of the mountain of research you've gathered and provides a skeletal framework to support your paper.
  • Here's a sample outline for a paper on poverty in America
  • I'm not picky about the set up of your outline -- if I can see order in the chaos then I don't care if you use Roman numerals or alphabetical headings. What I don't want to see is a vague outline with headings like "Introduction" and "Conclusion" that don't include what sources you plan on using, or a sense of how you plan on telling your story.

What's Next?

  • February 6: OUTLINE DUE
  • Find, read, and draft an annotated summary of Rebecca Altman’s Petrotopia
  • Scholarly Journals
Happy Writing!
Created By
Jenny Woodman
Appreciate

Credits:

Image credits: Jenny Woodman

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