Writing from Sources,
This written test will be directly based on Appendix A of your textbook Writing from Sources. While it would not be a good idea to memorize these pages in preparation for the exam, you should read through the lecture notes from Week Seven: Topics One and Two on Writing Essay Examinations and Summary and Response Essays. You will be asked to submit a short piece of writing in traditional essay format in response to a piece of text.
TOPIC 1 FYI
At the end of her textbook Writing from Sources, Spatt dedicates an appendix to helping the reader write essays when in examinations. This information can be accessed online via the attachment or the link www.bedfordstmartins.com/writingfromsources but I have also summarised her content for this lecture. This method of testing is widespread in university settings and although many of you may feel it isn’t a subject particularly relevant in a research writing class, it is certainly an aspect of writing that you will be faced with at some point in your academic career.
Spatt tells us that instructors give essay exams for three different reasons: they want to check that you have read the assigned passage, they want to test your analytical skills and they want to see if you can correlate your class notes with your class reading. Often times, these exams can be taken home to be completed or alternatively, they are in an open-book format. Just as mentioned in your lecture from Week One, you should read the assigned piece for understanding and make notations by annotating the passage. It is very important, however, that you understand the question as much as the segment that you are being asked to comment upon. “The person who wrote the question wants to pinpoint a single area to be explored…Most instructors are more impressed with aptness and conciseness than with length”(Spatt, 2011,A1).
The language that is featured in the question is very important. If the essay question asks you to summarize, state, list, outline, or condense a piece of writing, the instructor is primarily asking you to use your own words to re-explain the passage. Words like discuss, explain and explore are similar to those listed above, but ask you to be a little broader in your answer, with a more in depth approach. More exact still are words that ask you to compare and contrast, define, trace the causes, trace the effects, and analyze. These words still do not ask for your opinion, however. They instead ask you to elaborate on the text but not to give a personal comment. Instead, words like evaluate, interpret, criticize, justify, prove and disagree invite a personal response within the confines of the exam question. Make a point of looking at the way the essay question is worded. Different verbs will require different approaches. “A brilliant essay that ignores the topic rarely earns the highest grade…Don’t reinterpret the directions…”(Ibid, A3).
Essay examinations are often issued under timed circumstances, so the planning and pre- writing process needs to be fast and concise. Firstly, list the main points that you think of after reading the passage. Each point then should be ordered according to how you would like to address them in the essay. The points should then be developed adequately so that each is explained in full. Don’t hurry the essay along by not giving enough information on each concept simply because you are afraid you might run out of time. You must also refer back to the text on a regular basis and draw parallels between your thoughts and the words from the original passage. It is also important that you cite the title and author of the passage throughout your response.
Just with any academic essay, you should begin your writing with an introduction paragraph. Initially, identify the essay topic with the author’s name and title of the essay. State the writer’s approach as well as the approach you will be taking. Then, you should end the paragraph with your thesis statement, which responds to the essay question. After you have written the body of the essay “take time to proofread your essay, to locate grammatical errors, and to fill in gaps in continuity” (Ibid, A8). Ideally, 25% of your time should be spent on the reading and planning stage, 65% should be spent on writing the essay and the final 10% should be spent on proofreading the final document.
Week Seven, Topic Two: Summary and Response Essays
In an exam situation it is most likely that you will be given a Summary and Response essay. In this assignment the student must read a passage of published writing and then write a brief summary of the piece as well as give their opinion about the featured subject. Summary and response essays (also called Summary- Reaction essays) are used because the student can demonstrate his or her reading comprehension as well as show his or her writing skills by structuring an argument for or against a topic. As you will most likely encounter this type of assignment on a regular basis, it is helpful that you learn some useful tools that can be applied to your writing.
As with every assignment, make sure you understand the question being asked. Do you summarize the piece and then discuss every major element or should you simply say whether you agree or disagree with the author’s main point? Also, make sure you circle and write notes on the article as you read it. Write any questions about the passage or any quick thoughts that you have in the margins. Let the following questions guide your note taking:
What is the writer’s general subject and main point?
What goal does the writer hope to accomplish?
What kind of audience is the writer addressing?
Do you agree with the writer’s ideas?
Does the writer seem biased?
Is there information missing?
Can you identify thematic links with other works you have read?
Can you identify parallels with your own experience?
(Kirszner and Mandell, 1991, 2-3)
Your answers to these questions can then be put into the brief outline that you will construct before beginning your essay.
When you start to write your summary, mention the author’s name and the title of the article. Also, state the thesis of the article (In his speech I Have a Dream, Dr Martin Luther King argues that…). Try not to use big chunks of their text in your summary, but instead paraphrase aspects in your own words. However, if you decide to use the exact words from their writing remember to put the phrase in quotation marks. Finally, do not add your opinion about the content of the piece until you have presented the summary and are ready to begin the response portion of the essay.
Start your response with a sentence that sums up your overall thoughts on the article. (For example, “I agree with many points in Gloria Steinem’s article but feel that overall she should consider that men have the right to…”) Then, go into details supporting this main thesis. Look at the rough notes that you have pencilled in on the margins of the essay. Is there an overriding thought pattern or approach that you want to take in your response? If you disagree with the writer’s opinion, look over the article for a few areas that you can argue against. Make sure to clearly write which point of the article you are addressing, however. Feel free to use sentences like “Gloria Steinem argues… but I disagree. I believe…” so the teacher knows to which point you are referring. Try also to present supporting evidence that is solid and well formed, and not just a repeat of the information in the article.
Finally, as with all essays you should end with a conclusion paragraph. Perhaps, you could suggest how the subject of the essay could be taken further. Alternatively, you could state that although you disagreed with the article the debate that it presented led to a valuable discussion. It is here that you summarise your essay’s main points but do not simply repeat everything you have already covered.
Kirszner, L. and Mandell, S. (1991) Patterns for College Writing New York: St Martin’s Press.
FINAL TEST BELOW!!!!
Research Writing Final Exam
The below excerpt from essay what’s So Bad about Being So-So? By Lisa Wilson Strick appeared in Woman’s Day magazine in 1984. For your final exam you are to read the essay and then write a summary and response essay, agreeing or disagreeing (wholly or in part) with the writer’s view of competition today. Remember to write in a traditional essay format (with an introduction stating your thesis, a body of well written paragraphs, and a conclusion summarizing the main points of the essay).
Support your position with logical reasons, persuasive examples, or relevant facts. There is a 500 word limit and you are NOT required to refer to sources other than the featured article.
So what’s So Bad about Being So-So? Lisa Wilson Strick
The other afternoon I was playing the piano when my seven-year-old walked in. He stopped and listened awhile, then said: “Gee, Mom, you don’t play that thing very well, do you?”
No, I don’t. I am a piano lesson dropout. The fine points of fingering totally escape me. I play everything at half-speed, with many errant notes. My performance would make any serious music student wince, but I don’t care. I’ve enjoyed playing the piano badly for years.
Unfortunately, doing things badly has gone out of style. It used to be a mark of class if a lady or gentleman sang a little, painted a little, played the violin little. You didn’t have to be good at it; the point was to be fortunate enough to have the leisure time for such pursuits. But in today’s competitive world we have to be “experts”- even in our hobbies. You can’t tone up your body by pulling on your sneakers and slogging around the block a couple of times anymore. Why? Because you’ll be laughed off the street by the “serious” runners- the ones who log twenty- plus miles a week in their headbands, [expensive] running suits and fancy shoes. The shoes are a really big deal. If you say you are thinking about taking up almost any sport, the first thing the aficionados will ask is what you plan to do about shoes. Leather or canvas? What type of soles? Which brand? This is not the time to mention that the gym shoes you wore in high school are still in pretty good shape. As far as sports enthusiasts are concerned, if you don’t have the latest shoes you are hopelessly committed to mediocrity.
We used to do these things for fun or simply to relax. Have you noticed what this is doing to our children? “We don’t want that dodo on our soccer team,” I overheard a ten-year-old sneer the other day. “He doesn’t know a kick goal from a head shot.” As it happens, the boy was talking about my son, who did not-like some of his friends- start soccer instruction at age three (along with preschool diving, creative writing and Suzuki clarinet). I’m sorry, Son, I guess I blew it. In my day when we played softball on the corner lot, we expected to give a little instruction to the younger kids who didn’t know how. It didn’t matter if they were terrible; we weren’t out to slaughter the other team. Sometimes we didn’t even keep score. To us, sports were just a way of having a good time.
I don’t think kids have as much fun as they used to. Competition keeps getting in the way. The daughter of a neighbor is a nervous wreck worrying about getting into the best gymnastics school. “I was a late starter,” she told me, “and I only get to practice five or six hours a week, so my technique may not be up to their standards.” The child is nine. She doesn’t want to be a gymnast when she grows up; she wants to be a nurse. I asked her what she likes to do for fun in her free time. She seemed to think it was an odd question, “Well, I don’t actually have a lot of free time,” she said. “I mean homework and gymnastics and flute lessons kind of eat it all up.”
Ambition, drive and the desire to excel are all admirable within limits, but I don’t know where the limits are anymore. I think it’s time we put a stop to all of this. For sanity’s sake, each of us should vow to take up something new this week- and to make sure we never master it completely. The point is to enjoy being a beginner again; to rediscover the joy of creative fooling around. If you find it difficult, ask any two-year-old to teach you. Two-year-olds have a gift for tackling the impossible with zest; repeated failure hardly discourages them at all.
As for me, I’m getting a little out of shape so I’m looking into tennis. A lot of people I know enjoy it, and it doesn’t look too hard. Given a couple of lessons I should be stumbling gracelessly around the court and playing badly in no time at all.