May 20, 2007

My Autopilot Pen

Your paper lacks focus.

What is your thesis?

Pick ONE of your ideas to fully develop into a research paper. [Insert questions here that probe students with possibilities based on the mess they've submitted.] Your subject is too broad.

Be sure to clearly define the purpose of your paper with a thesis statement. Let that purpose guide you as you write.

Be sure to cite your sources as you go along.


Where are your sources?

Who? [As in, experts alluded to in the writing.]

Start with what YOU have to say and use experts to help you support your ideas. It should not be a patchwork quilt of source information that the reader has to sew together to understand what you are trying to communicate.

What point are you trying to make?

Where's your Works Cited page? (I capitalize it so that they might also.)

Why haven't you cited the sources listed here [Works Cited] in your paper?

Are these the best, most reliable sources available? [In relation to the overuse of Wikipedia.]

Earlier today I felt guilty about finding too many things wrong with my students' rough draft research papers. I know some positive feedback would go a long way, but DANG! I'm back to wondering if some of them have seriously just fallen off the turnip truck. Some of the papers I've read today were such a total train wreck. I suppose I could have complimented them on their use of complete sentences--even though those sentences were not fitting together to form cohesive thoughts.

It's times like this I really hate being an English teacher.

My biggest pet peeve--and I wish that one year my students would realize this--is reading a paper and trying to solve the puzzle of purpose. Yo kid, it's not my job to figure out what your paper is about! You are suppose to tell me with your writing. It's not like we don't go over thesis statements time and time again. I believe that some of them just don't get that it's a conscious effort to craft a thesis. Many of them treat it as if were an optional thing to do in writing.

Writing is hard work. It takes patience and practice. I can tell which students have slaved for hours trying to pen just the right words. In our fast-paced world, I commend their patience to practice what many of their classmates consider an old-fashioned form of communication. I'll keep working on the rest of them.

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