Question 1. Compare and contrast the steps in the writing process, detailing each one. Describe how writing an essay would be compromised if any of the steps were omitted.
There are five steps to the writing process. The first step is called prewriting and it is a way of organizing one’s thoughts and putting them on paper. It is best to do a pre-writing activity before beginning an essay. The second step is planning. This process is the use of careful thought in selecting the main idea, topic sentences and layout of the paragraphs. The third step is called drafting and this technique generates ideas that support the topic by creating a `rough` draft. In this step, one does not concentrate on grammar, spelling, or punctuation. The fourth step is revision. Revision is important in order to make decisions about how it will be possible to improve upon the essay in its rough draft form. This process will not only allow the writer to look the essay from a different point of view, but it also serves as a method of picking places where the writing could be clearer, more interesting, more informative and more convincing. The last step of writing process is proofreading, which is the final stage of the editing process. At this time, the writer must focus on surface errors such as misspellings, and mistakes in grammar and punctuation. One should proofread only after finishing all other editing revisions.
If any of these steps are omitted, it would not be possible to reshape or revise the essay, for each step builds on the previous step. One cannot proofread without a revised draft, nor could one revise what has not yet been written. Therefore, each step of the writing process serves as a fundamental and powerful tool.
Question 2. Describe and explain how references sources should be evaluated. What four questions should be asked when evaluating an article or a book? What information can be garnered from the answer to these questions?
References sources should be evaluated by reviewing the length, readability, publication date, and author of the information. Length is the first consideration because summary length could be roughly between one hundred to several thousand words. In order to cut down on research time and to eliminate invalid references, one must be able to scan the information quickly for relevant data. Once the length has been determined to be of use, the writer should decide if the source is readable. The source will be proved worthless if the information appears to be invalid, poorly researched, or unsupported by evidence. Most importantly, the information should be written in such a way that the researcher can easily understand it. The third concern is the publication date, for it helps to ascertain the timeliness of the source. Topic areas of continuing and rapid development, such as the sciences, demand more current information. On the other hand, topics in the humanities often require material that was written many years ago. At the other extreme, some news sources on the Web now note the hour and minute that articles are posted on their site (Critically Analyzing Information Sources 2006). Finally, the last question that must be asked concerns the author of the source. What are the author’s credentials, institutional affiliation (where he or she works), educational background, past writings, or experience? Is the book or article written on a topic in the author’s area of expertise? For example the reader or writer can use the various Who`s Who publications for specific subjects as well as the biographical information located in the publication itself to help determine the authors affiliation and credentials. (Critically Analyzing Information Sources 2006).
Cornell University Library, Critically Analyzing Information Sources. Retrieved October 15, 2006, from http://www.library.cornell.edu/olinuris/ref/research/skill26.htm
Question 3. List the five prewriting methods and discuss how each one can improve the generation of thoughts and ideas for a selected topic.
Brainstorming: prewriting technique in which the writer lists whatever comes to mind on a specific topic. It will assist the writer in coming up with a variety of topics from which to choose, and these topics will come from the writer’s own experiences and interests. Freewriting is a prewriting technique in which the writer produces nonstop writing on a topic for a specified amount of time; the flow of words does not stop, even if the writer repeats the same written word/s. It allows the writer to determine how much he or she already knows about a topic, as well as to come up with ideas or explanations. Invisible writing is prewriting technique in which the writer turns off the computer monitor and freewrites for a specified amount of time on a given topic. The writer will not be able to concentrate on what’s on the screen; rather, this is similar to freewriting. Clustering is prewriting technique which employs both left and right hemispheres of the brain in generating thoughts on a given topic; the topic is written in a circle in the center of the paper, and ideas are mapped out from the central word like quills on a porcupine; both images and words may be used. This technique provides not only ideas on a topic, but a possible outline to use in the essay. Narrowing the topic is prewriting technique in which a very broad topic is reduced to a much more manageable one. A writer who cannot narrow the topic is likely to produce a rambling, unfocused essay.
Question 4. Consider the following topic sentence of a paragraph: The weather seems to have a mind of its own. Would it be easy or difficult for the writer to develop a paragraph around that sentence? Explain your answer.
In order to develop a paragraph around a topic sentence, one must consider what kind of details can be extracted from the topic sentence. When taking apart the sentence “The weather seems to have a mind of its own”, the writer can find several different important elements. The first is a purpose, in that the paragraph will discuss weather patterns in a particular area. The writer can then assume that the weather has been unseasonable or unpredictable. The next element is detail. Saying that something as non tangible as the weather has the ability to think lends itself for discussion. The perfect paragraph might be phrased like this: first, the writer will discuss recent weather patterns as well as a forecast for the immediate future. Next, the writer will compare these weather patterns to what is usually expected in that area or at that time of year. The writer should include details as to the impact of the weather on life in that area. Did the writer have an outside event that was hindered by rain? Did a sudden cold front leave the writer without the proper clothes? A personal touch to the paragraph can relate the weather to the writer’s thoughts and feelings. Finally, the paragraph will conclude with its topic or thesis sentence, “The weather seems to have a mind of its own”. Therefore, the paragraph contains a topic sentence that is supported by evidence.
Question 5. Describe and explain how the organization of a carefully crafted thesis statement builds an essay’s framework. What are some of the problems that can be seen in the body of an essay if the thesis statement is not well crafted?
The first purpose of a thesis statement is to help the reader identify the most important idea of an essay, book or other source material. Second, it identifies to the reader what the writer’s point is going to be. Finally, the thesis statement provides the writer with a plan to follow. Since the writer knows exactly what the important idea is, he or she can ensure that all details that follow will support the thesis statement. Using the thesis as a plan will not only save time, but it will necessarily eliminate unimportant, ancillary details.
When a thesis statement is not well crafted, the body of the essay will have some (if not all) of the following problems. First, the body of the essay will not be focused on a single topic. The thesis statement narrows down what the writer will discuss; a poor thesis statement will make it difficult to determine which details should be included and which should be excluded. If a thesis statement is too narrow, there will be a limit to the information that can be provided to the reader. A good thesis statement gives the reader a purpose for reading. Without knowing the point a writer is trying to make, the reader cannot determine whether or not the point was proven. Finally, a good thesis statement is like the foundation to a house: the foundation is not only built to support the house, but to anticipate any added featured the builder might include. A poor foundation leads to a poorly built house.
Question 6. Your assignment was to write a paragraph on your favorite meal. Your rough draft is returned, with the following comment: `…good topic sentence, but your support is weak.` Explain how you would use the suggestions/techniques in your textbook to improve the effectiveness of your supporting details.
The first method I would use was not in the textbook but would be helpful nevertheless: I would determine in what ways my support is weak by having someone else read my paper. I would ask them in what ways the topic sentence was not supported. A second pair of eyes is necessary when the writer is too close to be objective.
Next, I would go through the suggestions in the text one by one and carefully audit my writing in order to determine which of those suggestions are missing or misinterpreted. I would ask myself; did I supply details that supported my topic sentence? Are those details important and specific to the topic? Most importantly, is my writing vague?
In order to fix the problem, I would first address the details that were intended to support the topic sentence. I would make sure that those details related only to the topic sentence and did not go off on an unrelated tangent. This would also be a good time to rewrite any sentences that did not meet these criteria. Next, I would make a list of each detail, leaving plenty of room in between and do some freewriting. Each detail needs to be elaborated upon with relevant ideas in order to make them much clearer and to provide explanation where it might be considered vague. Finally, I would offer the rewritten essay to a reader to once again determine if they can identify my topic sentence and conclude whether or not the supporting details proved my thesis.
Question 7. Explain how the fundamental rule for subject-verb agreement is compromised by the four `problems in subject-verb agreement,` discussed in your textbook.
The fundamental rule of subject-verb agreement is that the verb must agree with the intended number of the subject. It can be compromised in four different ways. First, if a preposition comes between the subject and the verb, it can confuse the writer. The writer would do well to cover the offending preposition in order to determine subject-verb agreement. Second, an indefinite pronoun (one which does not refer to a specific person, place or thing) can compromise the subject. For example, the sentence “Someone broke my bike” might offer confusion as to the subject of the sentence. The subject is someone, therefore ‘broke’ must agree with ‘someone’ and not ‘bike’. Most English requires the subject to come before the verb, so the third problem can occur when the subject comes after the verb. An example: “Riding his bike, Joe crashed into the tree.” ‘Riding’ needs to agree with ‘his’, and once again, not with ‘bike’. Finally, compound subjects are the last source of confusion in subject-verb agreement. The sentence “ Mike threw the ball towards Wendy” can be perplexing. Is the subject Mike, who threw the ball, or Wendy, to whom the ball was intended? The subject, of course, is Mike, because Mike initiated the action.
Question 8. Discuss the significance of the effective writing characteristic–coherence, explaining why it is referred to as the `mortar` of a paragraph. Also describe the two writing tools that can be used to assure coherence exists in the paragraph.
Coherence means that the ideas are logical and easy to follow. A reader should be able to read one point and have some idea of what is going to come next. One might also refer to that format as linear. The first tool that can be used to determine coherence is the use of transitional expressions. A transition makes it easier to go from one idea to another. Examples of transition words are “First, next, last”. This makes it easier for a reader to understand how to go from one step to the next (First, walk to the corner. Next, turn left. Last, stop at house number 1143.) Examples of transitional phrases are: “Contrary to, in addition to, above all, with this in mind” These examples lead the reader logically through the writer’s train of thought. (Contrary to popular belief, that animal is not a mammal. In addition, the animal is a reptile. With this is mind, it should be kept near water).
The second tool is repetition, and this is used to cement the connections between the ideas of a paragraph, much like mortar holds together the bricks of a house. A good way to use repetition is the old adage, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them”. It may seem a bit elementary, but it ensures that the writing is coherent to the reader.
Question 9. Explain the importance of the technique of descriptive writing and how it can be achieved, using the tools described in your textbook: sense impressions, spatial order, and dominant impression.
Descriptive writing is a technique used to paint a picture for the reader. The writing is much more convincing for the reader if the reader feels as if he or she is there. The first tool is called sense impressions, and this utilizes the five senses (sight, taste, touch, sound and smell) to offer a more vivid image to the reader. An example of this technique is the following sentence: “The chocolate-chip cookies left the oven a golden brown as the sweet scent wafted through the room.” The reader can picture the freshly-baked cookies and imagine how good they smell. The second tool is spatial order. This provides the layout of what is taking place in the book. This can be accomplished from side to side, top to bottom, outside to inside. Knowing where the details are located adds coherence for the reader. Example: “The bed sat in the middle of the bedroom, directly beneath the window. To the left, a dresser and chair were placed against the wall. To the right of the bed was a large closet.” The last tool is dominant impression, where the writer provides an overall sense of what is going on through the use of detail. “The family sat at the table, none of them speaking. Mother clenched the napkin in her fingers while frowning at her son.” This sentence gives an impression of a tense situation without actually saying it.
Question 10. The writing topic assignment was a paragraph describing your morning routine, prior to arriving at school. Your draft is returned, with the following comment: `good content, but too many unnecessary verb shifts.` Explain the process you would use to analyze your paragraph and the revisions you would make to correct the verb shifts.
Verb tense refers to whether the verb is being used, in its most basic form: past, present or future tense (there are several variations on these tenses). A verb shift occurs when a sentence contains verbs that refer to more than one tense. In order to correct the unnecessary verb shifts, the first step would be to read over the paragraph and determine one’s own understanding of what the sentences are supposed to mean. The next step is to review each sentence aloud, taking note of the verbs used. At this point, the writer has two options. The first is to decide if different tenses are truly taking place in each sentence; and if they are, fix the verbs so that they are representing the correct tense. Example, “The term paper contains errors that ruined the meaning” This sentence should be corrected so that “ruined” becomes “ruined” The other option is to change the tense of “contains” to “contained”. If it difficult to ascertain if the verbs are correct, revisions should be made so that each sentence only contains one verb tense, such as leaving all verbs in the simple past tense rather than writing some in the past perfect. Finally a writer has the option to rewrite a sentence completely so additional verbs aren’t needed.