Paper Writing Tips • All essays must be typed, double-spaced, with standard one-inch margins and twelve- point font. All block quotations should be double-spaced as well. • Drafts: Most excellent papers are written in drafts. I am happy to read and critique drafts of papers at any stage, anytime before the paper is due. • Late papers will be graded down by one third of a letter grade for each day late. Exceptions will be made only in the case of actual emergency, or for those students who have arranged extensions in advance. I am always available to discuss the need for extensions anytime before the paper is due. • Plagiarism: an automatic F for the entire course. Please see course web page, and/or see me about this important topic. A powerful essay includes the following elements: • Thesis: the paper has a main thesis or argument, and a series of related points. The paper is thesis driven. • Title: Every paper needs one. It may be an accurate description of your argument (“Whitman‟s Debt to Emerson”), or it may reflect straightforwardly or ironically on your argument (“A Romantic‟s Romantic: Whitman and Emerson Revisited”). • Organization: the paper has an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Arguments are clearly explained, developed, and supported. Paper has focus, unity, and can be understood with relative ease. • Paragraphs: each paragraph is a mini-paper, with a thesis (the topic sentence), and a body (the supporting material). As a general rule, each paragraph should have at least one quote as its focus. • Quotes: use well-chosen quotations to support your argument. Be sure to include a clear explication or gloss of the quotes you use, so that you explain the significance of the quotes. Always include the page number for the quote (or the line number for poetry). • Transitions: smooth and clear transitions from one idea to the next between sentences and paragraphs. Quotes need to be logically and smoothly incorporated into your writing. • Style: sentences are varied and complex, but not verbose. Word choice is accurate. Phrasing is graceful. Complex ideas are clearly articulated. Paragraphs are an appropriate length for the ideas they present. Other Tips: • When describing a text, ALWAYS BEGIN WITH THE PRESENT TENSE: e.g. “In the end, Roderick kills his sister,” “Whenever Delano voices his misperceptions, Cereno replies „doubtless.”” • Avoid over quoting: it is almost never appropriate to quote the same passage twice. Also, be prepared to comment fully on any long quotes—or cut the quotes down accordingly. • Avoid under quoting: as a general rule, each paragraph should have at least one quote, no matter how brief, at its center. • Avoid plot summary; rather, substitute interpretation, analysis, and argument. Write as if you‟re writing to an audience of highly respected scholars in the field. • If a quote takes up more than four full lines, format as a block quotation (indented 10 spaces. Please continue to double space). • Quote text EXACTLY as it appears. • Make sure that quotes flow smoothly and logically into your writing; sentences must always be complete. • Don‟t invent paraphrases that you frame in quotation marks. I call these “false quotations”—they have no place in a college paper. Neither do clichés; if you‟re tempted to put a cliché in quotation marks, please consider dropping the cliché entirely. • Avoid grand generalizations; rather, stick to your arguments about the text(s) at hand. Sentences that start with “Throughout history” or “Since the dawn of time” or “Humans have always” are probably grand generalizations. • Always indicate line breaks when quoting poetry (use a “/” or write out exactly as it appears, line breaks included). • Italicize or underline the titles of book-length works. Use quotation marks for shorter works such as poems, essays, short stories. Example: The Scarlet Letter, “The Fall of the House of Usher.” • You are not always required to use a comma to introduce a quote. Punctuate as you would to make a grammatical, smooth flowing sentence. • NEVER attribute written work to an IT (unless the speaker happens to be a robot or a machine). All other text is produced by humans: authors, editors, narrators, speakers, characters. “IT” almost never “says” anything. • Examples of correct punctuation with quotations, but no page numbers: --“a great combat between a mouse and a snake,” --“a great combat between a mouse and a snake.” --“a great combat between a mouse and a snake”: --“a great combat between a mouse and a snake”; --if a ! or a ? is part of the original quote, it goes inside the quotation marks --if a ! or a ? is part of the your sentence, and not in the original quote, it goes outside the quotation marks. • Examples of correct punctuation with quotations and with page numbers: --“a great combat between a mouse and a snake” (217), --“a great combat between a mouse and a snake” (217). --“a great combat between a mouse and a snake” (217); --“a great combat between a mouse and a snake” (217): --if a ! or a ? is part of the original quote, it goes inside the quotation marks, not after the page number; --if a ! or a ? is part of the your sentence, and not in the original quote, it goes after the page number, or at the end of your sentence when your sentence ends.
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