ENGLISH 101. ACADEMIC WRITING
Instructions for Lesson 27
You can bring Hacker's A Pocket Style Manual to the final exam and use it to check not only MLA documentation of citations but also grammar, punctuation, and other mechanical rules of the language. Finding sections in the book is very easy if you use the brief listing of contents (inside the back cover) and the more extensive index (pages 231-247).
You can make a last review of language by visiting Hacker's web site and reading language debates, a section that covers some of the more difficult "rules" on which experts disagree and also some of the most common errors that students are inclined to make.
If you have any remaining questions about standard American English after studying Hacker's book, raise them in today's class discussion or be sure to contact Dr. G and get them straight before the final exam.
2. Recommended exam procedure
Steps before the exam:
1. Research the exam question
("C" in the cow) to the point that you can perform step two.
Steps in the exam room:
6. Write down your outline, leaving lots of space for new
evidence to be added to level 3 of the outline.
sample exam essay
Plenty of Americans hope that free and fair elections in Iraq soon will establish a legitimate democracy that reflects the will of the majority of Iraqis, a government strong enough to help George II hunt down the terrorists and reopen the oil pipelines. But let's all hope that their elections aren't like ours--tens of millions are denied the right to vote, the will of the majority is not respected, and politicians are bought and sold by filthy rich interest groups. We should be cleaning up this stinking mess, not exporting it to potentially hostile nations.
A legitimate government rules by consent of the governed (Thomas Jefferson, qtd. in Kaplan). Therefore, the right to vote must not be denied (Susan B. Anthony qtd. in Kaplan). Yet in America today tens of millions remain disenfranchised. They include all Americans between the ages of minus nine months and plus 18 years. Let's give families full voting rights, equivalent to their nose count. And let's not forget grandma up in the psycho ward or the poor gramp on life support, either. Let freedom still ring for all of them, whether or not they still can stand in line all day at the polls or comprehend a butterfly ballot.
Our current election system is even more unfair to businesses. Unlike children and fetuses, our struggling corporations and partnerships have never voted and never will vote, until we reform our exclusionary laws. The patriots who founded our nation recognized that taxation without representation is tyrannical, and yet still in the twenty-first century business entities are taxed and regulated but denied seats in Congress. If American businesses are to compete in world markets in this new millennium, let them be given at least the rights to vote and to run for public office. And more than this, churches and faith-based charities must be granted these same powers. Why not let God vote? Why shouldn't He run for President! What sense can it possibly make to separate our powers from His?
Democracy further demands that votes actually count. A real democracy must reflect majority sentiment (Briffault), and its elections must be definitive (US Department of State), but under the present system of elections in America, the majority seldom if ever prevails. Almost none of our current elected officials at the federal, state or local level of government ever received the support of more than half of the electorate. NOTA walloped almost all of them at the polls. NOTA, not George II, should now be President of the United States. NOTA should be sworn in next January 20. When the majority of voters refuse to support any candidate, that office should be vacated until the next election. That's the will of the majority. Let government office buildings be leased out. Let parks once again be closed and preserved for the benefit of future generations.
You say: "Nobody ever will get elected under your plan." But a little campaign finance reform will address your concern. Sure, there's no incentive to vote today, but we can change that. All Americans will vote, if we provide the right incentives.
Under the current rules, as everybody knows, politicians must buy their way into office, and the cost of a seat in the government has become obscene. For the Presidential race in the 2004 election, $600 million was spent on advertising alone (Kosova and Bailey), so we can estimate that total campaign expenditures easily exceeded $1 billion. Yet the voters never received a penny of this money! The candidates paid all of it to the media companies who promoted them and to political consultants (a small group of hacks who are mostly ex-pols or former staffers). Campaign finance reform is needed to require that candidates purchase elections directly from the voters. A direct-payer system will distribute the money fairly, bolster the economy, and restore proper incentives for voting.
These proposals that I have described will stimulate popular interest in elections. They clearly will produce at least a 100% voter turnout. The government will become a money-maker for each of us, instead of a black hole sucking on our wallets. If we really want fewer enemies in Baghdad and the rest of the world, let's be careful to finish the American Revolution before we export it.
Richard Briffault. "Book Review of Alexander Keyssar's The Right To Vote." Michigan Law Review 100.6 (2002): 1506+. Electronic Databases. ProQuest. TC3 Coll. Lib., 26 Nov 2004. <http://www.proquest.com/>.
Justin, ed. Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. 16th edition.
Toronto: Little Brown & Company, 1992.
Kosova, Weston and Holly Bailey. "Can We Vote Yet?" Newsweek 1 Nov. 2004: 26E+. Electronic Databases. ProQuest. TC3 Coll. Lib., 26 Nov 2004. <http://www.proquest.com/>.
US Department of State, Bureau of Internal Information. "What is Democracy?" USINFO.STATE.GOV. Nov. 27, 2004. <http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/whatsdem/whatdm5.htm>.
There's a problem with exam writing. We can't revise. We have no computer (unless the exam is online) and hardly any time to fool around with editing. The exam is a "one-write" process, yet we don't want our "first draft" to look like a "rough draft." Poorly organized essays generally signal to teachers that we have "disorderly minds" or can't "think clearly" --meaning, I guess, that we need to take their courses all over again.
There's a solution to the one-write problem of essay exams. Thou shalt not plunge in. Do not take pen to blue book until thou knowest beginning, middle and ending. "Engage brain before ink," as I still recall one of my high school teachers sniping long ago, in the Age of Fountain Pens.
That was good advice, but few beginners are patient enough to follow it. Most freshman exams that I've read don't begin to get interesting until page four or so. The first page says "duh, let me repeat the question," and the next couple of pages say, "please wait, and a clear answer will come along shortly." But most readers don't wait. They read only a few sentences, maybe a few paragraphs at most, before passing judgment on the writer.
Planning a paper is a kind of prediction or foretelling of it. Once planned, the paper almost writes itself because the act of writing merely repeats what's already there, implanted clearly in mind, at least in outline. As best selling author Tom Wolfe describes.
Of course, our outlines must be well developed and detailed to guide our pens unfailingly when the actual writing takes place. How can we predict, as thoroughly as possible, what we will write on the exam --especially if notes are disallowed in the exam room?
Standard advice calls for three steps: brainstorming, grouping, and outlining. The three steps should be performed in order, at least a few days prior to the exam, and the final outline should be reviewed at least several times a day until the time of the exam. Commit the outline to memory and rehearse it as often as possible in the hours leading up to the exam. Repetition "potentiates" our brain neurons, so that they will fire at our command.
Brainstorming (getting "C" for our cow)
Brainstorming is what we've before called listing. In a quiet place where there are few distractions, begin to list on paper or on computer all of the facts and ideas that come to mind about the exam topic. Items in the list don't need to be worded artfully or in complete sentences (as long as the meaning of the words is clear). They don't need to be listed in any particular order. They don't need to be profound or directly on point. The idea of brainstorming is only to generate materials that possibly might be used in the writing process later. Continue brainstorming until the storm has passed, and the facts and ideas have stopped flowing. Sometimes several brainstorming sessions are needed to generate a robust item list.
Fuel your brainstorm by asking The Six Magic Questions: who, what, where, why, when, and how. At least some of these questions will be applicable to any given exam topic. For example, in "individualism or community," the who-question might lead to listing names of specific individualists and of specific communally-minded people. The what-question might lead to identifying specific activities that characterize one type or the other. The where question might lead to interesting ideas about locations that attract rugged individualists or conformists . . .
Bolster your brainstorming with research. Look for expert opinion, public opinion, scientific research, facts and statistics, news stories, sound bites and quotes, examples and illustrations bearing on the topic. Use technology to help you: Take the key words and plug them into a search engine such as Google, and see what you come up with.
Brainstorming with a small group of serious fellow-brainstormers can be very helpful in generating ideas. Online chat rooms, bulletin boards, and emails can be good alternatives to personal meetings.
Grouping (getting "O")
Grouping is organizing the brainstormed list until the items are in logical order. Don't group and brainstorm at the same time. Have the brainstorm list as complete as possible before trying to organize it. When grouping, look for logical connections among various items in the list. Can you classify most of the items under three to five general headings? I look for three to five groupings because a minimum of three and a maximum of five main points are covered in a standard essay.
When grouping for the English 101 final, keep in mind that the instructions call for a "narrowed persuasive thesis," meaning that an argument of some sort is to be made about the topic. That is, your paper must make a claim: either a policy claim (X ought to be done), or an evaluation claim (X is better) or a substantiation claim (X exists or X is true). Recall Dr. E's lecture on reasoning. To be persuasive, your claim will need to be backed with evidence. Try grouping your brainstormed list according to various claims that could be made about the topic. Then look at the groups to see how much evidence has been mustered for each claim. What claim has the most evidence to support it? What claims have the least? Is there more evidence to be added to strengthen the claims? Is there more evidence that weakens them? Weigh the "pros" and "cons" within each claim.
One way to organize a list of brainstormed details is to color it with highlighters or colored pencils. Another way is to rewrite the master list as a set of category lists. Using a computer to cut and paste and shuffle items between categories allows great flexibility in reorganizing; a similar effect can be achieved with the use of note cards or post-it notes by physically rearranging the individual notes on a tabletop or floor.
When the brainstormed list has been grouped, some groups may consist of only one or two items. Decide whether to expand the category with additional items, or whether to delete it.
Outlining (completing O)
Outlining lays out the general plan of the essay. It takes the list a little further toward essay form. Recall that a good working outline will have three levels: thesis, arguments, and evidence. The "groups" of items on your organized list will be the arguments. What are they? The "items" in each group will be the evidence. Which ones are most important? All of the groups, summarized in any one sentence of your choice, will be the thesis. What exactly is the thesis? Spell it out and repeat it to yourself until you have it memorized. The thesis will be your overall guide as you write. It will help to shape the arguments and the evidence
The form shown below (I call it "LITE TEA") may be helpful in the final stages of the outlining or planning process. Fill in the blanks with enough specific detail so that you will have good content in mind when the time comes to write. Commit the plan to memory in the days leading up to the exam, and walk into the exam room knowing exactly what you are going to write. The only surprise in the exam will be examiners' sources, but don't let them throw you off your plan. Write the essay that you had in mind; bring in the examiners' three citations in the simplest way you can.
And now it's time for LITE TEA
Body Section 1: Reasons and Evidence to Support the Thesis
Body Section 2: Second Reason and Evidence
Body Section 3: Third Reason and Evidence
Body Section 4: Reasons and Evidence that Do Not Support the Thesis or paragraph "for further study"
acronym for this essay model is
The problem of timed exams is overcome by taking time to prepare for them.
Left: Greek oracle or sibyl, ancient counter- part to the Jewish prophet, predicts the future. Image from a classical bowl.
First you need inspiration! You might try crowning yourself with laurels, listening to a bird song, and pouring a libation. Whatever.
left: from the Parthenon scultures by Phidias. They're taking the cow to be sacrificed to Athena. Thanks to this noble animal, soon there will be steaks all around!
Left: Now that's pretty!