On Monday, as an exercise in developing a thesis or main claim, you and your classmates collaboratively, in groups of four, examined the opening paragraphs of Tom Junod’s Esquire feature “The Falling Man” and crafted a thesis statement. The sample thesis that I wrote in class as a model for you appears below.
Sample Thesis Statement/Main Claim
Esquire writer Tom Junod begins “The Falling Man” with an uncharacteristically long paragraph to recreate on the page the lengthy vertical passage of the 9/11 victim immortalized in Richard Drew’s photograph.
If I were to write an analysis of the opening of “The Falling Man,” I would develop my essay with textual evidence–words and phrases throughout the first paragraph–to illustrate the linear movement of the unidentified man from the beginning of the first paragraph to its conclusion.
The September 2003 issue of Esquire presents the opening paragraph of Junod’s article as two long columns that mirror the Twin Towers in Drew’s photograph on the facing page. (See the image below the title of this post.)
Your Revision in Progress
Today in class you received your handwritten drafts with my notes to you, and you began your revision work on your laptops. As you continue to revise your analysis of “Blogs vs. Term Papers” or “Skim Reading is the New Normal,” keep in mind our textbook authors’ words about effective thesis statements:
“The thesis of an analytical paper is an idea about your subject, a theory that explains what some feature or features of your subject mean. A good thesis comes from carefully examining and questioning your subject in order to arrive at some point about its meaning and significance that would not have been immediately obvious to your readers” (Rosenwasser and Stephen 180).
Also keep in mind our textbook authors’ explanation of the difference between analysis and argument: The claim that an analysis makes is often the answer to the question, what does it mean? The claim that an argument makes “is often an answer to a should question” (Rosenwasser and Stephen 7-8).
More on Tom Junod’s “The Falling Man”
Unless you subscribe to Esquire, the magazine’s paywall will deny you access to the full text of the feature, but you can access it through the HPU Library site by following these steps:
On Wednesday you will submit your worksheet for the second lesson in the Check, Please! course. The assignments that I wrote as models for lessons one and two appear below.
Check, Please! Sample Assignment for Lesson One
In the first lesson of the Check, Please!, Starter Course, Mike Caulfield, author of the course and Director of Blended and Networked Learning at Washington State University, introduces the four-step SIFT approach to determining the reliability of a source: (1) “Stop,” (2) “Investigate,” (3) “Find better coverage,” and (4) “Trace claims, quotes, and media to the original context.”
One of the most useful practices presented in lesson one is what the author terms the “Wikipedia Trick.” Deleting everything that follows a website’s URL (including the slash), adding a space, typing “Wikipedia,” and hitting “enter” will yield the site’s Wikipedia page. The Wikipedia entry that appears at the top of the screen may indicate thesource’s reliability or lack thereof.
The most memorable segment of lesson one is the short, riveting video “The Miseducation of Dylann Roof,” which begins with the narrator asking the question, “How does a child become a killer?” Produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center, it documents how algorithms can lead unskilled web searchers down paths of disinformation. In the worst cases, such as Roof’s, algorithms can lead searchers to the extremist propaganda of radical conspiracy theorists.
In the second lesson of the Check, Please!, Starter Course, Mike Caulfield, author of the course and Director of Blended and Networked Learning at Washington State University, focuses on investigating a source, the second step in the SIFT approach that he introduces in lesson one.
One of the most useful practices presented in lesson two is Caulfield’s follow-up to the Wikipedia strategy that he outlines in the previous lesson. After he reviews that strategy, Caulfield explains how to use the control-f keyboard shortcut (command-f on a Mac). Typing control-f (or command-f) will open a small textbox in the upper right of the screen. Typing a word you are searching for will highlight the first appearance of the word in the text. Hitting return will highlight each subsequent appearance of the word.
Lesson two introduced me to fauxtire, a term for websites such as World News Daily Report, based in Tel Aviv, that present themselves as satirical but in fact serve primarily to perpetuate disinformation.
Perhaps the most memorable portion of lesson two was the side-by-side comparison of the websites for the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Pediatricians. Though at first glance the two appear comparable, using the Wikipedia strategy reveals their profound differences. While AAP is the premiere authority on children’s health and well-being, ACP was founded to protest the adoption of children by single-sex couples and is widely viewed as a single-issue hate organization.
Turning from summary to commentary is a move you made in your Check, Please! worksheets and one that is similar to the move you will make in your analysis.
The authors of your textbook note that “[s]ummary is important to analysis because you can’t analyze a subject without laying out its significant parts for your reader” (6).
Your Check, Please! worksheet assignments require you to begin with a brief summary or presentation of the lesson’s significant parts. Summaries are objective by definition. They present the subject, not the writer’s opinion of it, and they do not include first- or second-person pronouns in singular or plural form (“I,” “me,” “we,” “us,” or “you”).
In the second paragraph of your Check, Please! assignments–and any subsequent paragraphs you include–you turn from summary to commentary. After answering the question, what is it? with your summary, you comment on the lesson with answers to one or more questions, such as these: What was most useful? What was most memorable? What was most instructive?
Rosenwasser, David and Jill Stephen. Writing Analytically, 8th edition. Wadsworth/Cengage, 2019.
And from Summary to Analysis
Similarly, in your analysis you will turn from summary to commentary but your comments will require a more sophisticated move. In your analysis, you will turn from laying out your subject’s significant parts to an analysis, or close study, of how some of those parts contribute to its overall effect. In your eyes, what does it mean, and what evidence can you offer to support your claims?
Backtracking to Notes
To begin the process of developing my analysis, I reread “Blogs vs. Term Papers” to look for patterns. What struck me as I reread Matt Richel’s article was the difference in the amount of the space devoted to old- and new-school writing practices, the contrast in the diction, or word choice, in the passages that addressed the two, and the article’s movement from old to new to old to new again. From there, I developed a tentative thesis that follows the summary in the paragraph below.
Introductory Paragraph Ending with a Thesis
In “Blogs vs. Term Papers,” Matt Richtel reports on the debate in higher education on how best to teach writing in the digital age. While some professors have followed the lead of City University of New York’s Cathy Davidson, replacing the traditional term paper with shorter, more frequent blog assignments, their detractors—including Douglas B. Reeves, columnist for The American School Board Journal and William H. Fitzhugh, editor of The Concord Review—argue that blog writing lacks the academic rigor that fosters critical thinking. For Andrea Lunsford, professor of writing at Stanford University, pitting blogs against term papers creates a false opposition. Rather than replacing term papers with blog posts, Lunsford requires students to produce multi-modal assignments: term papers that evolve into blogs, websites, and video presentations. Although Richtel’s article appears to present an objective report on the disagreements among experts, a close examination of the diction and structure of “Blogs vs. Term Papers” reveals a preference for the innovations advocated by Professors Cathy Davidson and Andrea Lundsford.
On Wednesday, you will submit your worksheet for your second Check, Please! lesson and you will begin revising your analysis in class.
Today in class you began planning and drafting your analysis longhand. If you devoted more time to planning than drafting, you are not off track. Both steps are important Your aim was not to reach a conclusion today but rather to begin a process of discovery that will lead you to an analysis, one that you will continue to craft for two more weeks.
Move 2: Define significant parts and how they are related.
Move 3: Make the implicit explicit. Push observations to implications by ASKING ‘SO WHAT?’
Move 4: Look for patterns of repetition and contrast for anomalies (THE METHOD).
Move 5: Keep reformulating questions and explanations” (Rosenwasser and Stephen 16).
Friday marks our third Wordplay Day of the semester. To prepare for class and to up your game, browse the Scrabble site’s Tips and Tools.
Next week you will complete lesson two in the Check, Please! Starter Course and submit your completed worksheet in class on Wednesday, September 15. That due date and the ones for your other Check, Please! lessons are included on the course calendar in the syllabus. If you were absent from class today, you can download and print the worksheet from the link below or from Blackboard.
Today in class we will use the “Notice and Focus” strategy as we examine a page of Art Spiegelman’s graphic memoir Maus. As the authors of your textbook observe, the strategy “help[s] you to stay open longer to what you can notice in your subject matter” (Rosenwasser and Stephen 17).
We will closely examine the page featured above, write what we notice (not what we think or like/dislike about it), and discuss our observations as a way of moving toward analysis.
Afterward, we will study an analysis of the page that I wrote as a model for my students last semester. An MLA style copy of the analysis can be downloaded from the link that follows. The assignments that you submit to Blackboard–your own analysis and your other major assignments for English 1103–should follow the same format.
At the beginning of class on Wednesday, you will submit your completed worksheet for the first lesson in the Check, Please! series. If you did not receive a copy of the worksheet or you have misplaced yours, you can download and print a copy from the link below.
On Wednesday you will also begin drafting your analysis in class. That prelimary draft and the first drafts of all of your papers will be handwritten in class. Be sure to bring loose leaf paper, a pen with dark ink, and your copies of “Blogs vs. Term Papers” and “Skim Reading is the New Normal.”
Rosenwasser, David and Jill Stephen. Writing Analytically, 8th edition. Wadsworth/Cengage, 2019.
In class today, I distributed copies of two sample introductory posts for us to examine before we turned our attention to your own blogs. As you prepared to study the sample introductions, I asked you to keep in mind the “Cures for the Judgment Reflex” that your textbook’s authors outline in Chapter 1. As a preface to the cures, the authors offer this general rule:
“[T]ry to figure out what your subject means before deciding how you feel about it. If you can break the judgment reflex and press yourself to analyze before judging a subject, you will often be surprised at how much your initial responses change” (Rosenwasser and Stephen 11).
This semester we will follow that general rule each time we examine a text as a subject of analysis.
An additional copy of the exercise (with the two sample introductory posts) can be downloaded from the link below.
Remember that you need to email me your blog address, or URL, so that I can link your WordPress site to the course page. Most of you in the 9:15 class have already done that. Many of you in the 10:40 class still need to do so. If you encounter difficulties creating your blog or your first post, email firstname.lastname@example.org. My students have maintained WordPress blogs since 2013, and no student has ever experienced a problem with a blog that WordPress wasn’t able to resolve eventually. If your blog isn’t up and running, don’t panic. Take a deep breath and email WordPress.
Along with the exercise, I distributed copies of the worksheet for the first of your five lessons in the Check, Please! assignment. Some of you in the 9:15 class left before I handed out the worksheets. If you did not receive one, you may pick up one in class on Friday, or download and print one from the link below.Submit your completed worksheet in class on Wednesday, September 8. That due date and the ones for your other Check, Please! lessons are included on the course calendar.
Friday marks our second Wordplay Day of the semester. To prepare for class, review the Scrabble site’s “Tips and Tools.” Unless you encounter technical difficulties with WordPress, your introductory post should be published before Friday’s class. We will begin examining your introductions in class next week. An additional copy of the blog overview and introductory assignment can be downloaded from the link below.
On Monday, after reviewing the material we covered in the first week of the course, we turned our attention to the newspaper column that you read for class, “Skim Reading is the New Normal,” by Maryanne Wolf, Director of the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA.
Although Wolf’s Guardian column, like Matt Richtel’s article “Blogs vs. Term Papers,” is a newspaper piece, it is not a work of objective reporting. Rather than reporting on the ideas of researchers, educators, and consultants, as Richtel does in The New York Times, Wolf presents the findings of linguists, psychologists, and cognitive scientists whose recent work supports her claim that “[w]e need to cultivate a new kind of brain: a ‘bi-literate brain’ reading brain capable of the deepest forms of thought in either digital or traditional mediums.”
Exposition, Analysis, and Argument
Matt Richel’s article “Blogs vs. Term Papers” is exposition; it’s primary aim is to convey information. Wolf’s column is an argument. In our textbook, Writing Analytically, the authors offer this explanation of the difference between analysis and argument: The claim that an analysis makes is often the answer to the question, what does it mean? The claim that an argument makes “is often an answer to a should question” (Rosenwasser and Stephen 7-8). Similarly, Wolf’s argument is the answer to a need question. Her answer is “[w]e need to cultivate a new kind of brain.”
Matters of Style
In newspaper headlines, only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized.
In MLA (Modern Language Association) style, all words except articles, prepositions, coordinating conjunctions, and the to in infinitives are capitalized—unless the word is the first or last in the title or subtitle.
Newspaper articles include a space before and after the em dash.
MLA style includes no space before and after the em dash.
For more examples of documentation style, see OWL, Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab, and Writing Analytically, 255-63.
In class on Wednesday, I will distribute copies of two sample introductory posts for us to examine before we turn our attention to your own blogs.