CRITIQUE Dear Jane, I read your persuasive essay with great interest. What strikes me most about your writing is its precision and focus—you have a natural ability to clearly and effectively articulate your ideas. Your writing is reflective, persuasive and accessible. Overall, you have done some fantastic work and provided a great foundation from which to start. However, I have a number of suggestions for you in order to improve upon this essay and take your writing to the next level. First of all, I would like to push your thinking on your thesis. Your fundamental argument is that because of the sheer work volume your generation manages, multi- tasking is a necessity. However, ‘multi-tasking’ is not clearly defined in your essay. You use examples like Facebook, iPhone, iTunes, and YouTube, but all of these tools are social connecting mechanisms or legitimate distractions from ‘real’ work. Therefore, I would like to see you sharpen your argument a little more. How do these tools help you to expedite research? How do you leverage these tools to help you accomplish ‘real’ work? In what ways are you truly ‘multi-tasking,’ that is using these tools at one time? Fleshing out the answers to these questions will help to make your essay infinitely clearer and more convincing. Next, I would like to address the issue of language style. Though I found your prose to be very precise, at times your language sounded too informal. I understand the temptation to revert to more colloquial expressions and word choice, since the research topic does ask for your generation’s point of view on a very modern issue—but this should be avoided in an academic, persuasive paper. For example, you write: “When offered so much, our generation refuses to sit back and miss the many things thrown at us.” “Finding a solution to de-stress our crazy lives is somewhat impossible.” Much of the lingo here is too colloquial—‘sit back,’ ‘thrown at us,’ ‘destress…crazy lives,’ etc. Though I do not advocate that your prose become more stilted, I would recommend that we take a second look at your essay to pinpoint vocabulary that should be elevated a notch. Word choice is another area where subtle changes can make dramatic improvements on your work. First of all, you should find a word that identifies your demographic—the demographic around which this thesis is built. I suggest ‘Generation Y,’ but you may find a term that you like better. I would also recommend that you pinpoint an expression for people’s habitual shifting between technological devices: below I suggest “media- surfing.” This will help to make your language more insightful and crisp, and inventing a term that makes good sense could also earn you a place on Wikipedia! Concision is important to consider in any writing form. However, in a persuasive paper like this, every sentence must introduce new facts, observations or analysis. Otherwise, your thesis loses momentum, and you lose your reader’s interest. For example, throughout your essay, you write: “Multitasking, even with its obvious drawbacks, is beneficial because of the many new resources and the ability to know more information faster and inescapable for our generation because of the heavy workload we are given.” “We possess the technology and the resources to expand our worlds far beyond what people could twenty years ago.” “With the amount of work Generation Y is expected to manage, we have no choice but to multitask. Our generation is given the burden and the potential of new technology and the many new inventions it makes possible.” You will see that I have worked to streamline your prose below, and consolidated these very similar observations. Again, in terms of your thesis—language here can also be sharper. What do you mean by ‘expanding your world?’ Again, are you referring to social networking, or more broadly to how you retrieve information and manage your own workload? On a final note, titles are often the most difficult part of an essay to write, because they can substantially enhance or detract from your paper’s impact. Your current title, Endless Opportunities, does not really encompass your theme or generate much interest. What kind of title can we create that will initially pique your reader’s interest and reflect the core argument of your essay? I look forward to hearing from you soon and working through a final revision together. I think you have done some fantastic work with this paper, but with a little more development, we can truly make it stellar. Best of luck! Sincerely, IvyEyes Editor REVISED ESSAY Generation Y and Multi-Tasking in the 21st Century: Adaptation or Handicap? Why do we multi-task? Does multi-tasking improve or impair the efficiency of our work? Do we overwork ourselves to the point of exhaustion? Are we actually learning what we study? Many researchers contend that Generation Y is overworked, stressed, and unproductive because email, iChat, iPhones and Facebook provide distractions from real work. Edmundson claims that we rely too much on technology and must slow down to learn anything well. His assertion is problematic, though, because to ‘slow down’ is impossible. In a universe where technology and, by extension, multi-tasking are irrevocable parts of reality, the onus is upon us to utilize technology in a way that enhances – rather than distracts from – the depth of our personal and professional experiences. Today’s high school graduates are busier than ever before, striving to complete all daily assignments, score a perfect 2400 on the SAT, attend the most prestigious, selective college, and land the ultimate job. With the amount of work Generation Y is expected to manage, we have no choice but to multi-task. In his article “Dwelling in Possibility,” Edmundson says of Generation Y, “They live to multiply possibilities. They’re enemies of closure… They always strive to keep their options open, never to shut possibilities down before they have to” (1). This tendency to “keep options open” – facilitated in large part by the volume and speed of information technology affords us – is a natural reaction to the increasing demands placed on us. To accomplish all that we are supposed to, we must do some of each rather than fully completing one task then systematically moving onto the next. We cannot find enough hours in the day to finish everything we are expected to do, and multi-tasking allows us to attempt to finish and streamline all that is expected of us. The multi-tasking that fuels our productivity, however, also threatens to keep us in a constant state of distraction. We experiment with new gadgets and computer programs while also finishing our day-to-day schoolwork, working on multiple college applications, and keeping good grades to gain entry into those highly selective institutions. Sports, friends and social activities stretch our lives to their fullest capacity. In past decades, televisions, VCR players and the like created widespread curiosity and dependency. Today, the concept of ‘channel surfing’ has been reincarnated and amplified: many would assert that we “media-surf.” In the technological world, history consistently repeats itself, and this is no exception. Technological innovations have provided us with limitless new information and stimuli: with the click of a mouse on a computer, or swipe of the finger on an iPhone, one can find the weather, stock reports, YouTube, and iTunes. With the clear advantages of multi- tasking, though, come several drawbacks. With the many opportunities given to us, we want to accomplish everything. But by doing everything, we end up never fully completing one thing. While multi-tasking does get more tasks completed faster, researchers like Edmundson maintain that we must learn to slow down, focus, and fully complete one task before moving to the next. Edmundson claims that by doing so much, we are not able to take it all in and therefore are not living our lives to the fullest. We are trying to “be everywhere now” (2). What he does not fully acknowledge, though, is that the world we live in demands that we are “everywhere now.” To resist this would be to reject the deeply entrenched rhythms and realities of modern life. These tools with which we multi-task not only help keep us connected to the world and network with our peers and professional circles; they also expedite our work and research. Without adequate time to work on each homework problem, read each chapter, and stay connected with the people in our lives, simultaneously working on projects represents our only viable option. Finding a solution to decompress or simplify our dynamic, fast-paced lives is somewhat impossible. Multitasking ultimately is beneficial and inevitable for our generation because of our increased workload and the technological innovations of the past two decades. Twenty years ago, the opportunities that technology offered were almost nonexistent. Today, computers have advanced from the size of a small room to a small device that fits in your pocket containing a cell phone, iPod, calendar, and computer all in one. Our world will continue evolving, spawning new, exciting forms of communication and making us busier. We will never be able to limit our desire to stay connected or to take on more work than we can handle. Computers will continue to get smaller, faster, cheaper and easier. Multi-tasking will be our lifeline. Edmundson goes on to argue that our generation is incapable of living in the now. He explains, “My students live in the future, and not the present; they live with their prospects for success and pleasure” (5). On the contrary, we are more “in the now” than ever, precisely because of our ability to communicate at all times. Our generation lives both for the present moment and for future possibilities. Watching television shows, checking the weather, reading the news, and downloading music on the computer are all simple, quick transactions. Our resources keep us intimately connected. We see the season premier of Gossip Girl on YouTube before it airs on television; we know the weather prediction for the next ten days; we have daily reports about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Having our fingertips on the future, so to speak, allows us to act accordingly in the present; we have high-reaching goals, and we work hard to achieve them. Juggling new technology and gadgets continues to aid us in being more “in the know” and more connected with what is going on in our world. Instead of trying to make our lives less stressful, we must find ways to effectively cope with the demands of the modern age. We should direct our energies not toward slowing down or scaling back on technology, but toward multi-tasking more mindfully. Rather than passively dawdling on Facebook or surfing through hours of YouTube footage, we must actively use these technologies to inform our goals. As we become experts at this sort of multi-tasking, we must find balance and effectively leverage these tools in ways can enrich the way we interact with others and impact the world.
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