As we begin developing arguments for academic writing, I want to share some excellent resources brought together by the University of Iowa Writing Center. Additionally, if you have questions about how to cite using MLA, you can use the Purdue Owl for help. (*Note: there are specific guidelines for citing Shakespeare, which you can find here. Look specifically at “in-line citations.”)

College-level writing is substantially different from high school writing for a number of key reasons. First, while the five-paragraph structure is a sound foundation for learning how to write, it can also be confining and limiting to an argument. In college-level writing the goal is to move away from facts, which are the basis of the five-paragraph structure, and move on to making claims and interpretations. Basically, college-level writing is much more interested in your opinions and ideas rather than just what is going on.

Because this style of writing depends upon your own argument far more than answering Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How, it is important to bring together evidence to support your points. In intermediate-level college writing, as a general rule, each piece of evidence can structure a paragraph. But, it is important to understand what provides good evidence so that you are effectively making claims. This is where, in our class, close reading comes into play. As we have been practicing in our blog posts, you need to find textual evidence that you can analyze with clear language that directly connects the quote/evidence to your overall point.

But, how do you know you have a good overall point? A strong thesis is the backbone of good college-level writing. It must say something insightful and not obvious, it must be a claim that can be refuted, and it must open-up the text in a meaningful way. All this seems like impossible demands, but I promise you can do it! Find something you’re intrigued by in the material – it can be a character, a particular scene, an illustration, a word that reappears, imagery, a literary trope, etc. Then, try to explain to yourself why it caught your attention. While this does not necessarily lead directly to an argument about the text/film, it can show you what you find appealing or interesting. But, whatever it is that you investigate for this paper, it is crucial that your paper hold itself together along one thesis statement.

Writing is definitely a process and not a stasis; writing requires thinking, organizing, evidence collection, drafting, revision, editing, and discussion – it is not a four hour chunk of time at a computer. Therefore, the writing assignment for my class requires that you demonstrate drafting, evidence collection, discussion, and revision.

For all the writing help and advice collected by the Writing Center, check out their resources page. Writing tutors are also available for appointments, and you can sign up for a time slot online.

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