Tips: Answering Badge Prompts and Good Writing Practices

From SFTropes
Revision as of 17:00, 29 April 2011 by Bmenn3 (Talk | contribs)

(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search
Edge’s Big Question.jpg

This page is dedicated to collecting advice for successfully completing the badge application assignments required in Famiglietti's ENGL 1102 class.

All the information is student provided, not official instructions or guidelines from the class professor. Use at your own discretion.

Contents

Rhetorical Awareness

To understand writing within the context of a rhetorical situation, it is first important to establish the meaning of rhetoric.

Rhetoric is the process by which an author creates and shares knowledge across communicative mediums (such as writing or speaking).

An important element of this process for the writer is the rhetorical situation.

- A rhetorical situation is a combination of factors that influence the creation of a communicated message.

An important element of this process for the reader is rhetorical analysis.

- Rhetorical Analysis is the process by which a reader studies the rhetorical situation and appeals of a given piece.

Examples of elements that make up a rhetorical situation would include the genre the message is written in, the writer's motivation, personal background, and purpose (which are not always the same), the medium through which it was presented, and the target audience, to name a few.

A thorough understanding of the rhetorical situation in a given piece helps the reader better understand the message presented within its context. In other words, the rhetorical situation sets up how the author intends the reader to view and receive the message, and is thus a critical part of the writing process. Its counterpart, rhetorical analysis, allows the reader to dissect the message(s) provided, and to fully understand it's context, and, by extension, any bias or influencing factors that my shape it.

Rhetorical Analysis

First, it is important to note that, within the context of the argument or message presented, the persuasiveness of a given argument is heavily dependent on the three major rhetorical appeals: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.

Ethos

Ethos refers to the author's (and, by extension, the speaker's) credibility. Ethos can be established in a number of ways. A more traditional and bureaucratic definition would refer to the author's literal credentials, such as what he or she has studied (and to what extent), thereby defining him or her as an "authority" on the subject. A more realistic definition would refer to the author's ability to keep an open perspective and include multiple facets and viewpoints on the given argument. If you as an author can include multiple arguments and counter-arguments in your writing as well as use them to support your overarching message, you can establish an ethos far greater than someone who prefers to flash titles and degrees as his or her justification.

An example of using multiple points of view to strengthen your argument would be to list multiple supporting viewpoints from unique and diverse sources. Select authors with backgrounds very different from your own (different countries of origin, races, gender, time periods, etc), to give your message a more "universal" appearance. It is also important to include viewpoints contradictory to your own (even if you have to come up with them yourself), as it demonstrates your consideration of the "bigger picture" and indicates that you as the author have a holistic, well-rounded view on the topic. You can rework counterarguments to support your own by dissecting them for the reader, pointing out major flaws that dismiss the severity of the claim, thereby making your argument appear that much stronger.

Logos

Logos refers simply to the logic presented in an argument. This is fairly self-explanatory. An argument without support is merely an opinion, after all.

If you wish to strengthen the logos of your writing, the most important process in research. Having your facts straight is crucial in argumentation on any level. More specifically, the use of quotes from other established sources is a great way of contributing logos (and in some cases ethos) to your argument. Don't forget that the structure of your argument and the implementation of your support also falls in the realm of logos, so be conscious of always connecting any facts and support back to the claim it belongs to. Leaving a bunch of floating facts and data with no clear correlation to an ultimate point is the quickest and easiest way to lose your audience!

Pathos

Pathos in its most basic form refers to the empathy a writer establishes from his or her audience; in other words, evoking emotion and imagination in your readers. Pathos can refer explicitly to empathy (genuine relatability) or it can refer to a unique or imaginative take on a given subject (demonstrated by the author). Pathos is the most difficult of the three to give tips on, as it is highly dependent on the writer's voice.

Injecting your own personality into your writing makes pathos in the writing much stronger. It's easy to spit out a dry regurgitation of facts and a complete list of sources down to the day and location published, but its much harder to do all of this AND make the reader interested in what you have to say. If it's an issue or concept that you personally identify with, don't be afraid to include that passion! If it doesn't hit that close to home for you, that's okay too. You can compensate for that by simply being creative with your sentence structure. Don't feel as if you can't include dynamics such as wit, sarcasm, metaphor, and hyperbole to add splashes of color to your writing. Just be sure that if you do, it is explicitly obvious as to its nature and intent, so that it is not misinterpreted for something else. Pathos can easily be described as a high-risk, high-reward element to writing, as not including enough personality will make your writing dry and dull, but overloading it with too much can obscure your message (and this balance is a much finer line than that for Ethos or Logos). Use your judgment and keep your audience in consideration as you determine the right amount of personal voice to include in your writing. Most of all, just have fun with it!

Think and recall what you have learned in the class, use emotion and imagination to write a successful and unique badge that stands out.

Rhetorical Situation

Additionally, we may consider other specific elements of a rhetorical situation, such as genre, author's purpose, the audience, and communicative mediums.

Genre

Genre is important to take into consideration, as it is the most direct source for context within a given piece. Is the piece factual (non-fiction) or fiction? Is it historical fiction? Is it Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Horror? The genre of a given piece will give its reader a plethora of information, as each particular genre has its own trends, themes, and stylistic mediums. For example, the genre of horror often criticizes a particular threatening aspect of human society through hyperbole (by turning it into a monster that represents an immediate and visible threat). Zombies are an excellent example of this stylistic representation, as they often represent the threat of the "mindless masses", groups who blindly accept and follow a particular ideology with little attempt at analyzing or understanding what they are following. They represent a threat through peer pressure, bringing others into the slowly growing horde by "eating their brains" or, in other words, suppressing their individual thoughts.

Author's Purpose

The author's purpose refers to the reason the author is writing, i.e. the author's intent. Considering this within a rhetorical situation is critical to understanding the fundamental why. Why did the author feel the need to write this argument about this subject? By attempting to uncover the author's purpose, the reader may come across bias or simply background factors from the author's life that affected his or her work. Understanding this context allows us to examine the credibility and applicability of the work, and to what degree the overall message holds true.

This is very important to keep in mind while writing a badge. You should know your purpose before you write it. That way, you won't just submit work, rather a response to what you have learned in regards to that work.

Audience

Considering the audience the piece is written to is another critical component to our understanding of the piece as a whole. For example, it is not obvious at first glance that Dr. Seuss's story about the Star-Bellied Sneetches is a lesson on racism and discrimination. This is because the lesson has been translated into terms more fitting for the target audience, that audience being small, innocent children. Understanding WHO the piece is written for can give us insight into the author's purpose, as well as paint us a clearer picture of the overarching message within the piece. In addition, understanding who we are writing to as authors gives us a better understanding of how we will need to structure our arguments and select our diction. When considering the rhetorical situation of a wiki page, take into account that your audience will be collaborating with you in composing the page.

Medium

As writers, it is very important we consider the medium by which our arguments are being presented. Our method of presentation is important, as it affects both our credibility as well as our receiving audience. For example, most would agree that information from a book is often more reliable than information from the internet. Likewise, you would take an essay more seriously if it were typed or written in pen rather than crayon. Additionally, posting your work on a blog or social media site is more likely to reach a younger audience, whereas printing it in a local newspaper will reach an older one. Understanding the medium you are presenting through helps define your audience and credibility as a writer. Be conscious of this as you design your work.

Stance and Support

Stance and Support truly go hand in hand; it is then fitting that they are viewed together as their own aspect in our grading rubric.

The writer's Stance can essentially be defined as his or her central claim within the piece. This may include any subtopics within the piece that are used to contribute to the central claim.

The writer's Support is defined as any logic, literal or implied, that is used to support the central claim (or its respective subtopics).

Stance

The writer's stance is the foundation for the paper, and as such it should be something you make clear to the reader early on. Your opening paragraph is the best place to do this (not very surprising that it's a common convention!). Sometimes you may feel that it is awkward to thrust a declarative statement with no backing into the reader's lap so early on in the paper. Don't worry, it's okay. Your essay is longer than one paragraph for a reason, so having a tag-line that is not fully explained is understandable, provided that you are sure to explain it in-depth before the end of your paper. It's also a necessary evil, as you need to give your audience insight into what you will be discussing. Besides, if you fear losing your audience in the first paragraph, then you clearly have bigger problems at hand than the potential awkwardness of your claim sentence (no offense =3).

You will want to keep your stance consistent throughout your paper, whether you tack on bits and pieces as you progress until you reach your conclusion with an evolved form of your original stance, or whether you split the stance into subtopics and then tie them together in the end. Regardless of what method you choose, CONSISTENCY IS KEY!!! A stance that falters, jumps around, or is too broad will leave your readers scratching their heads in confusion, and will seriously weaken the impact of your argument.

Finally, do be sure to restate your stance in your conclusion, and make sure it is clear how your previously argued points tie in to this stance. It helps give a sense of closure, rather than just giving some generic summary (making it obvious the writer didn't know how to end the paper).

Your opinion that is stated on the badge should be believable.

Support

Support is the lifeblood of an argument. No one will take your claims seriously if you can't substantiate them! In the realm of support, it's very hard to have too much. In other words, if you have supporting material, be sure to include it! Not doing so only deprives you of logos that your argument can reference. That being said, it is very easy to trail off and get lost in your support.

Thus comes the crux of the issue: attaching your support to a specific claim. You don't necessarily need to have all of your support directly relating to your thesis statement, however you need the support to be relating to something. A fairly typical format that is often used is something I like to call the Stance-Support Method. In it, you begin a new thought or idea relating to your stance, and then proceed to elaborate on it using support that directly relates to it. Lather, rinse, repeat. It's a very logical transition and removes a lot of organizational planning hassle. It's also very common, so if you choose to present your information this way, be sure to spice it up. Make the reader feel like they're taking an intellectual journey with you rather than listening to a laundry list of claims and ideas.

Alternatively, you can use an inverted method to present these claims. It's a method I personally tend to favor, and I will call it the Support-Stance method. On paper, this sounds absolutely terrible, as it requires that the writer go over significant support BEFORE tying it in to a specific statement. In practice, however, it can be incredibly powerful. Let me elaborate: A Support-Stance style paper would begin with a thesis statement that clues the reader in to what will be covered in the essay, but is intentionally somewhat vague so as not to be making any outrageous claims before substantiation is offered (it's how I combat the awkwardness of a thesis statement). It then moves through a series of supporting data narratively, guiding the readers through the support and the subtopics associated, and then ultimately arriving at the claim associated with the support and subtopics they just read through. It makes the readers feel as if they've discovered the claim for themselves rather than me simply telling it to them and expecting them to "stay with me" (a bit like Inception, no?). By taking the reader by the hand and guiding them through my thought process I used to come to the conclusion I did, I often feel that the ethos gained makes the reader much more receptive to my statement once it's been explained, rather than stating an opinion and explaining it afterward. I feel it eliminates that prejudicial moment the readers have when they read an unsubstantiated topic before they get into the evidence. It is my preferred style, but with it comes some inherent risks. First off all, organization can become a nightmare, because the writer needs to be concise with the support and quick to move to an ultimate point or the reader will become disinterested. Additionally, I've had many an English professor criticize this very tactic as a "rookie mistake", not realizing that my literary choices were fully intentional rather than accidentally putting some support before I made a stance. The benefits of this system are, first and foremost, an instant gain in ethos (as the reader feels they have discovered your claim and reasoned through it as you did, therefore they are more receptive and your argument has that much more impact). Second, since I tend to do dynamic analysis on the fly as I come up with support, its a style that lets me be creative and inject a significant amount of personal voice (contributing to my pathos). Overall I've figured out a way to overcome the potential cons and turned it into a unique style that works for me. It's certainly not the best style for everyone, nor is it the easiest. I simply wished to share it in the hopes that others may begin to think outside the box concerning how they define their own styles as writers.

Ultimately, whether you go Stance-Support, Support-Stance, or a different method entirely, you must be sure of one thing: Tie ALL support back to a specific stance! It is very, VERY easy for writers to get lost in summary, or to simply wallow in a giant pile of facts and data. Unfortunately, your reader will begin to mentally check out if he or she comes across any material like this. It is therefore very important that you are always relating your support back or moving it forward to your ultimate point. As long as you can relate all of your support to your argument, you will keep your audience's interest. In other words, do not let your support stagnate, be sure it is always moving towards a point that contributes to your stance.

Organization

Make sure the essay flows well, and all of your ideas are somewhat connected. Try to build your argument as you move on in your essay. Use transitions to build the flow of the essay. Make sure that your ideas are coherent and are not all over the place in your essay. Neatness of your paragraphs also matters, don't put your whole essay in one paragraph.

Structure

At this point in your scholastic career, organization should be a minor problem on average, considering we've all had many an English teacher that hammers the "five paragraph" structure into our heads. You know, the one where you have your opening paragraph, your three body paragraphs, each with their own sub-argument, and finally your conclusion? Although it's a fairly boring and unoriginal structure, it at least teaches us the fundamental ideas about setting up a coherent essay. However, unlike what those previous English teachers asked of you, just because you've learned the five paragraph template does not mean you have to stick with it!

Understand that organization simply means the physical structure of your essay. In other words, there is no default template, and there shouldn't be! Depending on the piece that you are writing, you'll need to select the design that effectively conveys your message (and that often requires a form other than our five paragraph friend). For most of the writing that we'll be doing in this class, a multi-paragraph style similar to the five paragraph template is often best suited, as we will often be asked to write narrative, argumentative, or expository essays on a particular piece or idea. I emphasize the word similar because the general format of the essay will be similar, but I do not wish to imply the specific paragraph tallies are. In other words, you do not need to go into every essay thinking that you need to dig up three main points to structure your three main body paragraphs around. Rather, you should use as many paragraphs as you need until you feel you have adequately explored and supported your argument. I would recommend at least two body paragraphs however, as it is rare that one would be able to make their entire argument in one paragraph (plus intro and conclusion). More likely than not, it would either be far too large (and would thereby overwhelm the reader) or far too shallow, not containing enough information and analytical depth to substantiate any major claim.

Additionally, do not feel that each paragraph must be solely centered around one idea, and that it may not exceed that one container. If you have a particular idea that has multiple facets and a lot of evidence, don't try and combine it all into a page-long paragraph, and certainly don't cut it down significantly to where it resembles more a half-baked idea with spotty support. Instead, feel free to expand over two paragraphs, it's perfectly acceptable. You also don't have to limit your paragraph to one idea, especially if your major points are closely intertwined. Again, feel free to cross-reference these points within your paragraphs. Just make sure that if you do, you do it artfully. In other words, don't make any outrageous claims in the middle of your explanation of another claim, as you will only lose focus and confuse your reader. Do, however, refer back to previous points to note how they relate to each other (if appropriate).

A good organizational badge response can really contribute to the quality of the badge and your work. Make your response more tidy and catching. That way, you can get a golden badge level.

Flow

Another important concept is essay flow. This is also a fairly straightforward subject. Flow refers to how well the reader is able to mentally navigate your essay. An essay that flows well is like a river with a nice tubing current: it will calmly carry the reader through, allowing them to easily absorb surrounding data. An essay that flows poorly, however, is like white water rafting: even if prepared for it, your readers will get jostled and spun around constantly and will arrive at the end of the essay disheveled . . . if they arrive at all. Flow is important to maintain throughout your essay, as you want to be able to get your message across to the reader without forcing them to re-read and dig around for it. The easiest way to establish basic flow is through the use of transitions, simple small statements that move the reader's focus from one idea to the next. You can do this by using entire sentences to relate to another idea or to establish new questions or thoughts, or you can simply use transitional words and phrases such as "Additionally", "Consequently", "Conversely", "Naturally", "Surprisingly", "Overall", "Because of this", "Finally", etc. You can create higher-level flow by allowing your argument to "snowball", starting with a main point, then moving through additional points that build off of your main point. This will allow you to make a culminating statement at the end that will have a lot of impact, since you have spent the entire essay building it up.

Introductions and Conclusions

This is probably the most difficult part of organization, specifically because introductory and concluding paragraphs are often terribly generic. It's difficult to come up with an interesting first few sentences to introduce the topic to the reader, and it is equally difficult to wrap it up without being reduced to generic summary. It is difficult to give specific suggestions on how to improve an introduction or conclusion, but I can give a few generic ones. First, try to use your introductory paragraph not only to provide some background, but to draw your reader in. This is your first impression after all, so try and use some clever wit or philosophical/intellectual questions to capture your reader's interest. Don't be afraid to ask the reader direct questions or make powerful (yet not outrageous) exclamations to get them thinking. If nothing else, just try to inject some personal voice (as your opening and concluding paragraphs are the two best places to do so). As far as your concluding paragraph, use it for more than a generic summary. Spitting back what you've already told the reader is an immature way to come to closure. Restating your thesis in an evolved form, however, is acceptable. It may also be acceptable to point out a few rhetorical questions meant to leave the reader with something to think about (use where appropriate).

As far as the big don'ts, DON'T use your introductory paragraph for "soft-shoeing." You know, when you throw down a few empty lines that sort of relate to your thesis, but on further examination are clearly just meant to take up space? We've all been guilty of it before, and you may have been able to pull some of it off during high school, but in the college game your professors will be able to spot that like hawks, and your grades will suffer accordingly (aside from it simply being wholly unprofessional and whatnot). Similarly, don't use your concluding paragraph to summarise what you've already said. If you're going to restate your thesis or some of your main points, only do so if you have advanced them since the beginning of the essay. Otherwise, your essay has essentially accomplished nothing and is just going in circles.

Conventions

This focuses mainly on how grammar affects your writing. You can do well on this section, as long as your grammar does not interfere with your message. To earn the highest use grammar to expand your message. Use conventions to make your message stick out.

Grammar and Punctuation

Grammar is referred to simply as the most basic set of rules for punctuation and general sentence structure. This advice will assume the reader has a basic understanding of the functions of nouns, verbs, adverbs, pronouns, clauses, conjunctions, and other such elements of grammar, as well as a fundamental understanding of the functions of basic punctuation marks, specifically periods, commas, apostrophes, exclamation points, and question marks.

My first piece of advice would be to watch your commas. Personally, I tend to be intellectually indulgent and write out very long, complex sentences that occasionally can run on. I typically go back and chop up these sentences to make them more manageable for the reader. As a result though, I tend to leave behind a handful of unnecessary commas simply because I miss them. This is when peer review comes most in handy, as you are more likely to write off a misspelling or misuse of punctuation in your mind than someone who is reading the piece cold. My only other piece of advice would refer to usage of the colon and semicolon. Specifically, I recommend that if you wish to be fancy and utilize the colon or semicolon in your work, be sure that you are indeed using it properly. The colon is used to separate an independent clause from a proceeding list, rule, or explanation specifically relating to the initial statement. A semicolon is used to link independent clauses in compound sentences that are not otherwise linked (i.e. through coordinating conjunctions, or "connectors").

Grammar and punctuation are foundations for constructing sentences that contain your response in badges. Correct grammar and punctuation will give your audience a good impression. You will show that you have the technical skill to write eloquent sentences.

Quotes and Citations

In general, you will need to call upon other sources during your writing to provide both support and credibility. It is always important that you put such references in quotes, and then cite the original author in parentheses at the end of the quote. If you paraphrase an idea from an author, simply list them in parentheses at the end of the sentence.

Finding and including quotes is easy. Integrating quotes seamlessly with your writing, however, is not. To utilize quotes in a way that advance your argument, try to work them in as part of the natural flow of a sentence. If you are able to accomplish this, you will be able to channel not only your voice, but the voices of other writers as direct supporters of your main argument. Occasionally, you may need to replace or add certain words to a quote to allow it to make sense within the context of the sentence. To do so, insert the words needed within brackets to indicate a paraphrase within the line. Below is an example of how to effectively utilize a quote within the flow of a sentence using paraphrase brackets:

Wescott watched her wane until she was a shell of her former self, and believed the reassurances of the doctors that “she’d wanted to die” because “[that’s] what I wanted to hear” (Watts 12).

Additionally, if you have a quote that is too large to use, or perhaps you only need bits and pieces of, you may separate out any unnecessary words by replacing them with an ellipse, indicated by three consecutive periods (. . .). An ellipse indicates to the reader that there is additional content in between the sentence fragments that has been removed (usually simply to keep the support concise). This brings up an important concern: do not try to manipulate a quote to support your thesis if it does not inherently support your thesis in its unedited form. You have to include a citation, and if a reader goes back to check your citation and discovers that you've misrepresented your source material, you will have a very disgruntled audience and any legitimacy your argument had will be shattered.

Design For Medium

This section of our grading rubric is addressing the stylistic design elements that contribute to the medium by which your piece is presented. This is highly dependent on the medium being presented, so for simplicity I will discuss the medium of the standard argumentative essay as well as this wiki, to provide both an applicable and unique example.

Considering the design for the medium of an essay would refer to any stylistic flair (most likely visual, considering an essay is simply a series of text) that the author utilizes to contribute to the essay in some way, often in a non-verbal fashion. Within the context of a traditional essay, there's not much that can be added beyond direct questions to the reader and exclamations. Trying to incorporate multiple font sizes or different font colors will only make your essay look goofy, mainly since the target audience is of collegiate level and above, and thus holds that an essay will be crisp and simple text for a modest professional look.

This wiki, and even this page, displays a significant amount of design for medium. The unique graphics displayed around the wiki are one specific example of using a non-verbal medium to contribute to the message of a given article or even site. The articles written above include italics, bold-face, and separated, explicit definitions, which are all design choices that contribute to the main message through specific visual emphasis and distinction. As you design your work, keep in mind the medium that it is presented in as well as your target audience, and make additions as necessary to contribute to your overall message non-verbally.

Good Writing Practices

Grading Rubric For The Class

Rubric.jpg

Personal tools