Diane Hostetler | Tom Kerns | Brian Saunders

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Some Frequently Asked Questions - Answered




Writing the paper Once:

Don't do it. The essence of writing is rewriting. It helps to clarify your ideas and it helps to define orderly support of your ideas. Few if any writers write clearly and effectively on a first draft. That is why we write many drafts before the final paper or essay is written. Ask for feedback and rewrite. That is the only way to write effectively.

The Thesis:
This is the basic argument that you are advancing in the essay or paper you are writing. This should be an arguable or debatable statement, not a factual statement. It should be one you feel strongly about and it should be the basis for all of the supporting material in the paper. All paragraphs should be directly related to the thesis which is usually stated in the first paragraph of your paper, and the thesis should be about the assigned texts, not about the world. The following paragraphs will itemize your support for your argument in specific terms; point by point you will use supporting quotations or references which will prove to yourr eader that your argument is worthwhile.


Why Can't I use "I think" or "I believe that:"

You can but I won't like it much. The essence of good writing is clear, uncluttered, economic sentences. 'I think' is implied in the very nature of the paper you are writing and to state it is redundant.


Unified, Coherent Paragraphs

A paragraph is the major tool for supporting your thesis. These are the coherent blocks that give the reader a sense of your argument in 'chunks' with breaks in between each idea that you discuss. Each paragraph states and develops a supporting idea. The unifying idea of the paragraph is usally stated in the topic sentence; most often this is the first sentence of the paragraph. (Sometimes there is a unifying idea rather than a unifying sentence, but this is extremely rare.) Whether implicitly or explicity stated, an idea must unite the sentences of the paragraph. If the sentences do not RELATE, then REMOVE them. Just as if the paragraphs do not RELATE to the THESIS, REMOVE them.

A pargraph may make several points, but the points must be related and the nature of the relationship must be indicated so that there is, in effect, a single unifying point. Transitions help to make your reader aware of the coninuity and coherence of the paragraph. Some obvious (but certainly usable) transitions are; moreover, however, but, for example, the next, in addition. Transisions help to take the reader from point to point and make it easier to follow the arugment you are making and the support you are using.

In-text MLA Citation

This citation mode is the mode which uses parenthetical citation within the body of the text and is ALWAYS used with a works cited page. These citations offer minimal information about sources, not enough for an interested reader to locate them. That is why the works cited page in incoluded so that biblographic information about each source referred to in the reading is available.

Some information:

  • the citation must appear in the same paragraph in which the quote or information appears.
  • the citation is usually at the end of the sentence.
  • if there are several facts or quotes in the same sentence that come from different sources then the citation comes immediately after the information or quote.
  • place the last name of the author plus the page number inside the parenthesis
  • if you have already introduced the author's name, just give the page number in parenthesis
  • do not use "p" or "pg" for "page"; just give the number
  • for a long quotation that is more than three lines, set it off by indenting it and single-spacing it. End the quotation with a period and then place the citation in a parenthsis without a period. When you have a longer quote that is set of this way, you do not need to put quoteation marks around the quote.
  • A site which may be of help to you IS:

Active and Passive voice:

Because I am always advising you to use the active voice in your writing, I am providing a brief explanation of what that means:

The Active Voice indicates an action on the part of the subject; whereas the passive voice states that the subject is acted upon. Excessive use of the passive voice leads to a weak style; ample use of the Active Voice adds power to your statements. Using the Passive voice tends to lead to wordy sentences which are usually less effective. An example:

The sculpture was carved by Michelangelo.

Michelangelo carved the scultpure. (shorter, better)

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© Diane Hostetler, Tom Kerns, Brian Saunders