NOTE: In an effort to supply as much information as possible to help
students succeed in this course, the following hints, tips and
guidelines may be expanded or changed as needed:
GENERAL FORMAT FOR NON-FORMAL CLASS WRITING: more
specifics on| Introductions |
| Responses | The
Two-Part Response |Thesis
| Basic Citing. For model of
crediting/introducing text material being considered go to
Intros. Also consult
OWL for more information on
close-reading a text.
OPENINGS AND CUSTOMARY USAGES:
SEE CLASS TEMPLATE for a page
setup to use.
Titles: All response writing, as reflections, narrations, summaries, analysis, position pieces,
answers to questions, etc. must have a
(a phrase or
a two-part title,
not just a heading or restatement of the assignment)
A two-part title is made of topic/idea : opinion/position
(separated by a colon)
Running: a Healthy Habit (= topic and comment/opinion).
- When responding to a specific story, article or essay,
When responding to a specific question,
in class writing or for an exam:
begin by stating the title and author of the piece and the place where the reading was accessed. Example:
In the essay, "Mother Tongue," by
Amy Tan found in Backpack Writing,
by Lester Faigley, Tan reflects on her experiences as a Chinese-American woman.
2.2 - as
a rule, authors should not be referred to by their first name
only, but last name only is fine, as is using their first and last.
Varying usage is, of course, a good practice.
personal/subjective thinking, observations, etc. Do avoid a sort
of review or recommendation of the piece.
- If a summary
or other task is part of the requested writing, it is fine to
use subheadings that help organize the writing and avoid
preparing more than one document.
video demo of making a
3.1-- start the answer by restating the question or by including the essence of what is being asked in the opening sentence. For instance, question:
What is the meaning of "love?" An answer might be started this way:
"The meaning of love is defined in many ways." Then the answer would go on to name and give reasons and supports for the ways love might be defined.
3.2 - Identify and define key ideas and terms as they are used in the question or as they figure in the response
- Must be (for this
class...) a ONE SENTENCE declarative statement,
- without citations
- without using "I" or pronouns (this, that,
- should be able to "stand
alone," not depend writing before it, for full clarity.
- Must contain the TOPIC, the writer's
POSITION and for the persuasion essay, the primary
- Should appear somewhere near the "start" of
the essay, at end of paragraph 1 or 2, perhaps after any introductory "story element" to show the situation.
- will serve as a guide for
the paper to the key ideas, reasons and general order of
- should be reflected
in the 2-part title
Should be underlined in work for this class in early drafts
and in the proofed final version.
any texting usages and write out acronyms the first time they are used in a piece of writing
using the second person ("you"--
see below for more)
using absolutes, like "always, never," etc. Instead, use, "often, usually, mostly, almost always," etc.
questions in titles or to introduce ideas: e.g. Who was Abraham
Lincoln? Instead, direct statements, like, "Abraham Lincoln was
one our greatest American Presidents" is a much stronger, concise and
authoritative way to convey information.
directing or commanding the reader, e.g. "So, shop wisely." Instead,
this is a much less confrontational statement, "We should all shop
wisely." Only when the writing is set up as a clear "how to" or set of
instruction/directions, should writers use imperatives, i.e., commands.
using "Man or Mankind" to refer to human beings; instead, and more
accurately, use "humans," "humankind," or "humanity."
passives for this kind of writing--(e.g.
passive: "The cow was milked by Jack." --The direct statement:
"Jack milked the cow," is better (unless the "actor" is not
INCLUDE dictionary definitions (as many as needed...) of
unfamiliar and KEY words from EACH reading--even if they seem known...These can
be woven into the writing and included in the student's
personal glossary. The
only citation needed for these response writings is an in-sentence
reference like, "Dictionary.com [or encyclopedia...etc.] defines ___________ as "_______." Or if
different dictionary or encyc. is used, just state the title and edition. (For
more formal writing, or if there are several sources used, a
conventional Works Cited page would be included. If our handbook does not give
guidance about how to list definitions, the dictionary consulted
may, or to check the yourself enter it at EasyBib.com, under the
58 other examples tab.)
Writing a Summary--
Always start with a topic/theme related title...not just,
A summary is
a condensed version of a larger reading. A summary is not
"review" of the reading. It is
of the original piece and does not have to be long nor
should it be long. To write a summary, use
your own words to
express briefly the main idea and relevant details of the reading. The
purpose in writing the summary is to give the
basic ideas of the original reading:
it was about and
what the author wanted to communicate. A strict summary
does not make a clear value judgment about the writing or even
state whether or not the writing succeeded in what it claims to
communicate. That more subjective and evaluative information is
more in line with what a thoughtful
One way to think about the basic elements of the writing is
to take note of what or who is
the focus and ask the usual questions that reporters use:
Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
these questions to examine the reading can help write the
Sometimes, the central idea of the piece is
stated in the introduction or first paragraph, and the
supporting ideas of this central idea are presented one by one
in the following paragraphs. Always read the introductory
paragraph thoughtfully and look for a thesis
(main idea) statement.
Finding the thesis statement is like finding a key to a locked
door. Frequently, however, the thesis, or central idea, is
implied or suggested, which means it will be harder to figure out
what the author wants readers to understand. Use any hints that
may shed light on the meaning of the piece: pay attention to the
title and any headings and to the opening and closing lines of
writing a summary (or ANY material based on a a text): 1) copy
out the title (2) author
and (3) publishing source or place (i.e. a web location) the
piece was found.
This example formula for introducing this information works
In "[title of article, chapter, or book]"
from [ publication/ web location, etc.], author
shows that: [central
idea of the piece].
The author supports the main idea by (using,
providing, reflecting, stating, giving...)
personal experience, factual data, summarizing authorities, etc.]
and showing that [
results/outcome of main state the main idea
]. So, when responding to a specific question or focus, ALWAYS
restate the question or focus and briefly state how your thinking
addresses it. Then further explain and support with evidence from
the text to fully prove your thinking.
Depending on the length of the writing being summarized, a
fairly detailed statement like the one above and one or two more
sentences may be almost all that's needed. If the "reporter's
questions" are addressed (with brief explanation as needed for
clarity), the key points of the summary will be present.
Writing a Response
literature, essay, video or live presentation)
AS ABOVE, Be sure to include the title and author of the
writing to be discussed, i.e. :
" [title of reading]" from [place published or accessed], author
shows that: [central idea of the piece]. The author supports the
main idea by [using, providing, reflecting, stating, giving...] _____________________ and showing that
Response writings are informal, always from the
student's point-of-view and require that the student
has read and understood information presented. In
order to create an effective response, students need
to be honest, observant of the material and include
evidence from the reading to support their thinking.
- The response should have a brief opening,
which explains main idea of the writing and the
student's main reaction to the piece.
- The body of the response should contain
ideas/thinking that supports the student's
opinion, including facts, ideas, and theories.
- The conclusion should state or re-state why
the student has responded in the manner they
2. To Students:
writing is generally meant to provide the reader with a
better understanding of how you personally feel about a
particular subject. As such, when you write a response
or reaction essay, you will discuss your personal
thoughts and feelings on the subject at hand.
In many cases, a response or reaction essay is
written in response to a reading assignment, a
video, or a special event. When you write response or
reaction essays, you will discuss your personal feelings
on an issue. Therefore, you will write your essay in the
first person, which means you will use the word "I"
while writing the document.
You, as the writer, will utilize facts that you know,
information from your own experience or observations to
help support your opinion. For example, if you are
writing a response or reaction essay to something you
have read, you might say something like "In my opinion,
the story was very confusing because the author used too
many words that were unfamiliar to me and she changed
the point-of-view too often." Although someone else may
not have had a problem with the words or with keeping up
with the changes in point-of-view, it is a fact that you
did not know many of the words and that the author did
make frequent changes in the point-of-view of the story.
In that case, you, as a student/learner, are required to
look up the unfamiliar words and include them in your
After supporting your main idea (or thesis statement
if that is required) with the body of your response, you
will then need to write a conclusion. The conclusion is
used to summarize what you have said and to once again
state your main idea, or opinion. Be sure to state that
main idea in a different way than you said it in the
introduction, Finally, check over your work, add a
thematic title and write your final draft. (Summary
and response notes above are a mix of points from
various web sources and specifics supplied by this
The TWO-PART RESPONSE:
a thematic title (2)
an introduction identifying the reading
and author (3) add sub-headings to indentify the
"Summary" part and the "Response" part.
should be only 3-10
sentences (not as a bulleted list...) that restate
the events/characters of the reading, without
any evaluation or judgement, that is, objective/
should make up the
balance of the writing and be the reader's own
personal reaction. Specific observations and any
exact use of the author's words to support personal
reaction or thinking must have a credit to the
author--not by first names. Please use a
signal phrase to alert a reader that supporting
evidence will follow, e.g. 'Smith describes the
tree, "...." Please use the page number
(or the paragraph number if there is no page number)
to locate any exact quote. More specifics/details
GIVING CREDIT TO THE IDEAS OF OTHERS: The Basics
of Citing in MLA
ideas or quotations from a source--beyond personal thinking,
or experience--figure into writing, appropriate credit
be included. Certainly, most of us would find it hard to cite the
of all of our thinking, but because information from our text
materials, or another
identifiable source are part of most of these writings, writers should
simply make accurate credits. In parenthetical documentation style,
courtesy is very easy. Within the sentence, next to the cited
writers simply place in parenthesis, the
author's plain last name only
initials, titles, etc.) and the page number
of the information being cited, e.g. for an independent source, (Brown
34), or in a collection, e.g. (Brown in Faigley 57)--don't use "page"
or "p." in MLA. As in the example
here, the period which ends the sentence goes outside the close
mark--no . Credit can also be given as a grammatical part of the
but everyone should get comfortable with giving credit as part of our
behavior, as simple consideration, and because it adds to our
as writers. Also see: OWL Citing Guide
when no page numbers are present
(a web page or other reproductions):
Confirm that the document does not contain page numbers
and that its paragraphs are numbered. [For class
purposes it is acceptable to count and number the
paragraphs yourself. jt]
Format the numbered paragraph reference. Use
parentheses, abbreviate "paragraph" or "paragraphs" as
"par." or "pars.," followed by the paragraph number, as
in (par. 12) or (Daniels, pars. 3-5). For the author
inclusion, note the comma insertion that differs from
the format for page references.
Insert a short, identifiable version of the work's title
in the citation if multiple works by one author are used
as references. Place the short, identifiable version of
the title between the author's name and the paragraph.
An example is: (Trickle, "Bulwarks and Ballasts," par.
Read more: http://www.ehow.com/how_7789001_cite-paragraph-numbers-mla.html#ixzz2r9Dzn3k4
THOUGHTFUL, CONVERSATIONAL STYLE
The primary purpose of this writing is to
stimulate thinking and limber the "writing muscle," i.e. honest, individual
thinking. The most important part of this writing is that it not be reworked
and revised beyond what is needed for correct spelling and basic clarity. If it works to
think of this writing as a record of "internal" conversation, or even a
journal entry, writers can assume whatever allows a flow of ideas, and the
energy of speaking, into words.
Writers should delve into questions the reading may pose, or even speculate about issues the reading suggests.
THE RISKY USE OF "YOU"
Though "you" is commonly used in conversation, even in this informal
journal-writing style, writers should avoid using "you," especially when "I"
or "we" is more accurate. When making a general, non-specific reference
to what anyone might do, it is more accurate to use, anyone,
people, most everyone, even one, though it may seem a little stuffy
these days. For these writings, the use of "I" is fine to make it
very clear what each person's own thoughts or experiences are, or by using "we," to be
a bit more inclusive, or "a person," or still another general referent to indicate
broad human experience. Using "you" risks confronting or, even, accusing
the reader. This is not political correctness; it's just a matter of simple
and consideration. Also, to avoid making broad absolutes like, "Everyone
loves puppies," writers should be sure to allow for individual differences by using
usually, often, with these references--try, " Almost everyone loves puppies." Using "you" only when addressing
the reader directly, or when quoting someone else's use of it, will keep things
as clear and courteous as possible.
MAKE USE OF PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
In these reflective writings, it's very important for each student to use personal experience that seems connected to the
topic or the particular train of thought. Studies clearly show that we all seem to make sense of the world
by comparing what is new to what we already know. When we allow the nuts
and bolts of this process to surface in our thinking, we seem to make better
sense and so, make our writing more understandable and convincing. While
more formal, less personal writing may not make use of such material directly,
these looser, thoughtful pieces help us know ourselves and the grounding
of our ideas, still better. The confidence this background data produces,
increases the authority and clarity of our writing voice. Most of all,
ENJOY this chance to write from the heart as well as the analytic mind!
CONCERNS ABOUT THE WRITTEN WORD
While these writings are meant to be thoughtful but informal, writers
should also be comfortable with what the writing states. These aren't intended
as deeply personal confessionals, vents for anger, or soapboxes for one
reason or another. Writers should simply be sure that the ideas they put
down are both honest and appropriate to be shared with the class and the
instructor--or, intended or not--even with the wider world, in this internet age.