Grissom's Grammar and Composition

This blog is for any student writing papers for college, for current and former students in my Communications Cluster at Lindenwood University, and my students at St. Charles Community College.

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I write for myself, for the web, and for everyone who gets me. I've been on a fasting liquid diet, traveled to Europe, and raised 2 kids. And I'm directionally challenged - I get lost a lot.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Due The Week of July 30th

Monday Class: Outline and First Draft of the Research Paper (remember, bring two copies - one in a folder for me), the readings listed.

Wednesday Class: Skills Assessment Exam, Journals 1-4, Assignments 1-3, the readings listed.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

How to Create an Outline for Your Paper

Answer the Following questions before you construct your outline.

1. What is my main point/thesis about this subject?

2. What are the main reasons I believe my thesis is true?

3. What details and evidence do I have to support each of these reasons?
With these answers in mind, write your thesis first, then organize your main points under it.

Example: Answers to Questions
Question 1. My Thesis: Star Trek's Captain Kirk is a more likable starship captain than the next generation Star Trek's Captain Picard.

Question 2.

Roman Numeral I. Kirk shows more conflict in moral dilemas while Picard considers following orders more important.

Roman Numeral II. Kirk makes mistakes, like other human beings, while Picard only makes minor errors.

Roman Numeral III. Kirk agonizes over the death of any crew member while Picard only cares if the officers closest to him are killed.

Question 3. Supporting evidence for point I.

A. episode where Kirk is used as a disease carrier to help kill off people on an overpopulated planet. Dialogue from specific scenes shows his conflict.

B. Captain Picard is faced with several situations where he would have followed the prime directive and let humans/aliens die if not for the intervention of other crew members. Dialogue shows his obesession with "the right way to do things"

Then the resulting outline would start like this:

Thesis: Star Trek's Captain Kirk is a more likable starship captain than the Next Generation Star Trek's Captain Picard.

I. Kirk shows more conflict during moral dilemas while Captain Picard considers following orders more important than anything else.

A. In one episode Kirk is used as a disease carrier to help kill off people on an overpopulated planet. His reaction to this shows his humanity.

1. Dialogue with Spock shows his conflict.

2. His scene with the girl from the planet shows his remorse.

B. Captain Picard is faced with several situations where he would have followed the prime directive and let humans/aliens die if not for the intervention of other crew members.

1. A planet is about the explode, but Picard doesn't try to help until Data contacts a little girl on the planet.

2. Wesley rebels agains the captain in an episode about the Prime Directive.

You get the idea. You may not have all your evidence yet; that's o.k. Just show me you know what your major reasons are and what evidence you can use to support them.My spacing is off because of blogger's formatting, so be sure you indent supporting information. Follow the spacing example on page 11-12 in our Writer's Reference book. Microsoft word also has an outline template that does the spacing for you.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Assignments #1 & #2

Monday Class

As some of you may have realized, I forgot to give you back assignments #1 & #2 in class Monday. If you'd like your comments, send me an email with any questions or concerns. Fortunately it looks like everyone is on the right track in terms of choosing a controversy. If you didn't have your preliminary thesis on there, send it to me and I'll make sure it expresses your point clearly.

I'm going to try to email everyone their comments, but it may take me until Friday. If you send me an email, you have a shot at getting my feedback more quickly. My apologies for forgetting.

The Play and Journal 12 Instructions

Your last journal is a review of the play. Remember to save your ticket stub and program and turn them in with the journals.

Just a some quick tips on what I'm looking for in Journal 12:

In your journal about the play, review the following like a movie reviewer.

Plot - What is the overall story and does it make sense?

Characters - Are they realistic and interesting?

Dialogue - Does the dialogue seem authentic and help explain the plot?

Staging - Does the staging add to or detract from the meaning of the play?

Theme - What is the overall message of the play?

Tell me what you think of each element and give examples to support your judgments.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Reminders for This Week- July 23-27th

Monday Class: Due tonight- Assignments 1-3 and Journals 1-4. Put them in the same folder. Be sure assignment #3 isn't attached to the first two because I'll be taking it home to grade. I will return assignments #1 & #2 tonight. The Skills Assessment Test is tonight, so bring paper to write on. You may use one of your books or your notes for the test.

Wednesday Class: No class this week. You have the week of the play off.

Thursday Night: Remember to attend the play this Thursday night and keep your ticket stub and program to turn in with your final journal.

The Monday night class will not meet on Labor Day. The classes will be out of sync until then, so please note you can't miss your regularly scheduled class and attend the other starting this week.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Six Tips for Taking Essay Exams

1.) Circle key words.
Words like describe, explain, show, compare, and summarize help tell you what the instructor is looking for in the answer. Circle them and focus on what the word asks for.

2) Spend more time on high point questions.
If you know how many points a question is worth, write more on the questions that are worth more points.

3) Give examples.
Show you understand the concepts. Copying down points from the book does not show you understand them; it only shows you can copy.

4) Try to be Neat.
Most instructors expect crossed out words and so on, but be as neat as you can about it. Make sure your writing isn't too small or your ink/pencil too faint to read. If your pen bleeds through the other side of your paper, write on one side only. Number your pages to help your instructor grade the exam.

5) Pay attention to the time limit.
When you start the exam, it's a good idea to budget how much time you have to spend on each question. Budget more time for the larger point questions, but make sure you have time to get to all of the test.

6) Don't finish early.
If you look around and everyone else continues to write for an extended period, you probably need to go back and flesh out your answers with more details and examples. Instructors notice if you finish early, yet your test answers are sketchy. The best test scores are usually from those who spend the full time working on the test.

Skills Assesment Exam This Week: Review

Most of the questions on the test are covered in pages 1-42 of your Subjects and Strategies book:
  • Techniques to Get the Most out of your Reading
  • The Stages of Writing
  • Preliminary and Final Thesis Statements

I will also ask about introduction and conclusion techniques, and what goes into writing specific essay forms like narration, description, definition and so on.

Commas, fragments, and run-on sentences will also be covered. Bring paper and pen, and remember you are allowed to use one of your books or your notes for the exam.

Research Tip - Google News Alerts

Google has a new form that lets you sign up for Google news alerts based on key words.

Example: If you are doing a research paper on the guest worker program, you type key words like "guest worker program" and "immigration" into the google alert request, and it will send you the latest news stories containing these words from papers all over the country.

Some stories will be repeats of the same information, but you get a news flash if something happens regarding your topic. You can go back and cancel the alert when you are finished using it. It's great for researching current issues.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

When is it Right to Be Wrong?

This article discusses the difference between literal correctness and awkwardess in writing. I happen to agree with the author of the piece - yes, even though the subject is singular, I think the plural pronoun is less awkward here. And I love the E.B. White quote at the end:"The ear must be quicker than the handbook."

So even though it is correct to say "May I ask when my article will be published," it sounds a bit cranky to me. So I subsitute "can" which literally means do I have the ability to ask the question rather than asking permission- but also sound more laid-back. We've used it wrong so often, it is starting to be right.

Where Can I Do Research?

Start With Lindenwood's Library
To do research from home, you will need your Lindenwood I.D. number. Follow the directions for signing in. If you want to check out materials, you will need your student I.D.

Contact the reference librarian for Butler Library at Lindenwood for specific reference sources for your topic. You can call them, or e-mail if you are at a distance site.

Other Places to start doing Research:

NPR.org The National Public Radio site has programs like Morning Edition and Talk of the Nation that discuss controversial issues. You can listen to archived versions of the programs on your computer if you have a media player. It is a great place to browse for current topics and find experts to research further.

FirstGov.gov is the official portal to all U.S. government agencies. Here you can find information by topic on subjects such as health, education, technology, agriculture, history, arts, and culture.They also have an extensive reference section on data and statistics for the United States such as crime rates, census data, and economic indicators. It’s an excellent source for a variety of subjects.

Refdesk.com is a free reference site that has link to all the major news outlets like CNN, MSNBC, ABC and more. Scroll down a bit to find the listing for news sources.

The Librarians Internet Index researches websites and then recommends them on their page. It has lots of great links to credible websites that public librarians have researched for their patrons.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Topic Ideas for the Research Paper

One of the best ways to organize topic brainstorming is to think of major categories and look for controversies within the subject. Listed below are some possible topics. Most are too large right now for a 10-12 page paper, so be sure to narrow them down.

Consider your favorite subjects as well; there may be something controversial about your hobby or interest: fighting in hockey, laws to protect bicylists, environmental concerns for vacation homes...

These topics have been discussed recently:

Medicine
Regulation of over the counter herbs/medications
Health care costs
Anti aging and plastic surgery treatments
AIDS in Africa
Genetic counseling
Genetic manipulation of people/crops
Plastic Surgery for Teens
Gastric Bypass Surgery
Childhood Obesity Issues

Privacy
Google protest about releasing user records
Wiretapping American citizens
Buying personal information on the internet
Employers forcing employees to quit smoking
Internet censorship
Employee surveillance
Patriot act

Education
Sex education
On-line education vs. brick and mortar
No Child Left Behind
Standardized testing
Cost of College
Arts Funding Cut for Schools
School Security
Cheating

Politics/Social Issues
Rebuilding New Orleans
Torture vs. coercion in interrogation
Alternative energies
Homeland security issues
Immigration Issues
Requiring I.D. for voters
Electronic Voting Machines
Deaf Culture vs. Cochlear implants
Off-shore Gambling
Minimum wage
tobacco tax

Media
Reporters revealing sources
Sports Stars salaries/crimes
NASA/Manned space travel
Music/video pirates
Rap Music Lyrics
Liberal/Conservative Bias in Media
Advertising Images of Women

For more topics, Northwestern University also provides a list of hot topics to consider writing about.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Information on the Play Thursday, July 26th

For our extra class, we will be attending "She Loves Me,"at St. Charles Community College. I recommend you call the box office at 636-922-8050 to secure your tickets. They are $5 with a student I.D. and $7 for the general public. Children under 10 aren't allowed in productions, but you may bring other family members.

See their website for more information. The plays are in the Fine Arts Building. Check out the campus map and see the directions listed underneath it for further information.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Five Tips for Oral Presentations

1. Don't Try to Cover Everything
Students are often worried they won't have enough information to speak for five minutes or longer, so they try to cover everything in their paper. You won't have time. Take it from someone who has seen many presentations. You must summarize your paper - hit the highlights for us.

2. Have an Introduction, Conclusion, and Transitions
You've already written an introduction that gets our attention - use it for the oral presentation also. The same goes for your conclusion. "I guess that's it," as a conclusion isn't as satisfying to your audience as a technique that wraps it up for us. You also need transition words and phrases, just like in your writing: "After I crashed my car...", "When I realized what happened....." ,"The second step...", "In contrast...." Highlighting the transitions in your paper or writing them on notecards helps you remember them for your speech.

3. Talk So We Can Understand You
Speak loudly enough, clearly enough, slowly enough, and grammatically enough to make your presentation understood.

4. Practice
Off the cuff speeches usually show that they are. You also don't want to go way over or under the time requirement, so practice it at least once keeping in mind you usually speak slightly faster in front of an audience.

5. Visuals Are Appreciated
A visual can be as simple as a photograph or as complicated as a power point presentation (we have equipment at our site; you must have it on a flash drive or CD to use it). It also gives your audience something to look at besides you. So if you are self-conscious when speaking, a power point presentation can help divert attention from you.6. Show EnthusiasmHopefully you picked a topic you love. Now show us that enthusiasm for the subject. People passionate about their topics make them more interesting to their audience. Do you want to listen to a speech by someone who is bored with what they are saying? I don't.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Ways to Get As

For most teachers, an "A" paper is original and goes above and beyond the requirements of the assignment – but not as much as you might think. Targeting a few specific areas of the paper can give you an opportunity for an A with surprisingly little extra effort.

1) Work on the Title

A creative title sets the tone and suggests this paper will be more interesting than average papers. It’s a great first impression for your reader. While titles like “How to Bake Bread” are descriptive, they are dull and uninspired. And it actually isn’t too hard to come up with a decent title.

One of my favorite methods is to take a tired cliché or well known quote and rewrite it. Brainstorm what cliché’s are associated with your topic. Is your paper about animal experimentation? “Man’s Best Friend,” can become “Man’s Best Experiment? For her paper on bread baking, one of my students came up with “The Bun Also Rises,” a play on Hemmingway’s book title the The Sun Also Rises. Check out cliché.com for listing of clichés.


2) Work on the Introduction
Starting with a thesis statement is a traditional method for beginning a paper, but spend some time creating an introduction to lead into your thesis. Get your instructor interested in reading more by telling a brief story, using a description, or providing a surprising statistic or fact to create interest in your topic. For example, tell us a real story about a dying patient and we will be more interested in reading about end of life issues.


3) Use Better Words
After you've done several drafts of your paper, go through your essay targeting nouns, verbs, and adjectives to look for better words to replace the current ones.


Nouns: It’s not just a dog, it’s a poodle. Specific nouns create a more specific picture in the reader's mind.


Verbs: Use the same idea for verbs. Did the poodle mince, prance, bounce, lope, or zoom?


Adjectives: It's the same for the adjective, angry. If the poodle is angry, is she irritated, enraged, pissed, irate, or cross?


4) Say Something New
If you can, pick the type of paper no else wants to do or the side in a subject no one usually argues. After an instructor has read 40 papers on “Preventing Drunk Driving” a paper about anything else will be fresh and original in comparison.
Caution: If you have strong feelings about an issue, it’s a struggle to write a view you don’t agree with. Don’t try to go against your convictions. Choose a topic you have few strong feelings about, or come up with new arguments for the usual side.


5) Don’t Forget A Conclusion
Once the paper is finished, don’t forget to create a conclusion that wraps up the topic. Don’t trail off just because you are done. Try one of the following techniques:
Look into The Future – speculate on what will happen with this topic in coming years.

Tell Us What to Do – Now that you have explained your topic, what action can your reader take to make a difference?

End With a Quotation– Check Bartlett's Familiar Quotations on-line for a quote that sums up the topic for your audience.


6) Clean Up the Paper
We all get tired at the end of a long project, but leaving your paper full of typos or ignoring the paper formatting style your instructor requires leaves a bad last impression that can undo all your efforts to get an A. So proofread it, or have someone you trust take a quick look for errors, and if the instructor wants your last name and page number on every page, make sure it’s there. One or two errors won’t do you in, but more than that will certainly make a potential A into only a high B.

Due for Next Week- Final Version of Short Paper 1 & Draft of Short Paper 2

-Final draft of Short Paper 1 - including first draft, sketch outline, and written assignment title page. Place it all in a two-pocket folder with your name on the front. For my Monday class, I haven't given you the title page yet. I will have copies to give you on Monday to put with your paper.

-Assigned Reading listed in the course outline

-First Draft of Short Paper 2- I won't be collecting it; you will be doing some peer review with your fellow classmates, just like you did on the draft of Short Paper 1.

-Don't forget to work on the journals and grammar exercises as you go.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Eight Introductions That Hook Your Reader

The introduction of your paper draws your reader into the topic and encourages them to continue reading. Here are eight methods you can use to hook your reader and keep them reading.

Caution: Be sure to ask each instructor if he or she requires your thesis to be in the first paragraph after your introduction technique. Some instructors allow it at the end, but some prefer it in the first paragraph.

1) Tell a Story
We like reading about people more than ideas or issues. Your audience will connect with your topic if you show them how it affects real people. If you are writing about plastic surgery for teens, tell me about Jessica’s nose job and I will read on to find out how it turned out.

2) Describe Something
Help us see the topic by using your senses to describe something about it. Seeing people, organizations, or events can connect us with the subject. For example, if your paper is on prison reform, you could start with a description of the prison conditions you are protesting.

3) Use a Quotation
Find a well turned phrase about your subject to get your audience’s attention. For example, Mark Twain said, "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." This might be a jumping off point for a discussion of book censorship. Check out Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations for ideas on your specific topic.

4) Use a Surprising Fact or Statistic
If you run across a surprising piece of information when writing or doing research, chances are it will surprise and interest your audience also. If you tell us half of all women will have heart disease, we will be interested in what your topic has to say about cardiovascular care. Show us something we didn't know, and we will conclude you have more information that may be valuable.

5) Go for Common Ground
This method works especially well if you are writing an argument paper. If you can find something both sides agree on, remind them of that common belief at the beginning and they will be more willing to listen to your side. Discussing an education issue? The majority of your audience will want students to get a good education, so start with that common goal and show how your issue connects to better learning.

6) Ask a Question
Asking a question makes your audience think about your issue; just make sure to answer the question in your paper. You don’t have to have the best answer, but you should fulfill the promise you made in asking the question by contributing your opinion. Writing about Internet censorship? Ask us what the Internet will look like in ten years, and then talk about your issue’s impact.

7) Start With a Controversial Thesis
If your thesis is controversial, start the paper with it. If you suggest reinstating the draft or eliminating Social Security, your reader will be curious enough about your provocative position to keep reading.

8) Provide Background Information
If we need a brief history to understand your topic, then give us the background – but only what we need. Some students use background information as space filler and bore themselves and their instructors with unnecessary background details. If you're writing about stem cell funding, a brief definition and explanation of their use might be in order, but we don’t need to know how they were discovered, or what cells are.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Before You Turn in an Assignment

Think about how much time it takes to rewrite an entire paper or construct a last minute works cited when you find out you misunderstood the assignment or forgot a requirement.

Understanding your assignments saves time and stress, and leads to a much better grade. Here are some steps to take before turning in an assignment.

1. Read the Assignment Carefully
Often instructors explain an assignment in class and students forget to read the fine print on the actual assignment handout. If your instructor gives you an assignment in writing, read it carefully because it may include extra requirements like an outline or outside research. If he or she gives assignments verbally only, be sure to write down the details in your notes. Leaving out too many required elements leads to a much lower grade.

2. Circle Key Terms
After you read the assignment or write it down, circle key term that help summarize what the assignment is about. Assignment words like: write, explain, define, narrate, persuade, answer, explore, describe, compare, and show help you see what an assignment is asking for.

3. Discover its Purpose
Figure out why the instructor is assigning this project. What do they want you to learn from doing it? How to do research? How to write a particular type of essay like a comparison and contrast paper? Focusing on what the learning experience is about can help you zero in on the essentials and learn the most you can from an assignment. Then you won't end up accidentally writing a narration paper when you were asked to do a description.

4. Ask Questions
Instructors are usually happy to answer any questions about assignments, and your interest in getting it right shows you are trying to do a good job and sets the right tone when they grade the assignment later.

5. Check for Examples
Be sure to look at any examples the instructor has included. If he or she doesn't, ask if there is an example you can consult. Even if there isn't an entire example assignment, instructors will often give verbal examples that help you complete the assignment correctly.

6. Reread the Assignment
A few days before your assignment is due, take one last look at the assignment sheet or your notes about the assignment. You are probably doing lots of reading for other assignments, so you may forget minor requirements even if you read the assignment thoroughly the first time. Do this a few days before your assignment is due so you can add any last minute requirements without a time crunch.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Class Schedule Update

The Monday night class will meet tonight in Room 250B. There should be signs up to identify the room.

The Wednesday night class for this week has been rescheduled for this Thursday night at Westport, from 6 -10 p.m. We will be meeting in room 250B.

Next week the regular schedule will resume, with both classes meeting in 250B.

Email if you have any questions.

Update on Class

I have a call in to Westport about rescheduling our Wednesday night class. As soon as I hear back from them about a room for Thursday, I will post it here.