Issue For November 17, 2004
Writing Question of the Week
I want to write about teen pregancy. This is my first research paper and I really do not know how to start? I am looking for a thesis statement. I want discuss that not all teen are getting pregnant on purpose. Maybe violence in the home or not feeling loved. Any suggestions?
We have a step-by-step guide to writing a research paper on the OWL that might help you get started: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/research/r_ressteps.html
I think you should start with a question--perhaps "what are the causes of teen pregnancy?" Then, you can do research to find some possible answers to this question. When you find a compelling answer, that can be your tentative thesis statement and you can continue doing research to back that up.
I hope this helps. Good luck! --OWL Tutor
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This Week's Questions and Answers
Question #1: In practicum last week, the English department graduate assistants who work as tutors in the Writing Center here at Eastern Illinois University said that they would really appreciate hearing from other tutors who have found tactful but effective ways to talk to students about material in their papers that might have been lifted from research sources without proper acknowledgement. What do you say in that situation--and how?--Fern Kory, Assistant Director EIU Writing Center
I teach Academic Writing to international MBA candidates. Plagiarism and research documentation are a very big part of our curriculum. I have often seen that students who include "lifted material" in their papers do so quite innocently. They can talk about the importance of giving credit to the source and of constructing a research trail for their readers, and they can identify effective and ineffective paraphrasing, but they don't put 2 & 2 together when they actually write. In some cases, there is a cultural factor involved in that foreign student writers think that the exact words of the original thinker will carry more authority than their paraphrase. They also often think that sticking a citation note on a lifted section will cover their borrowing. As for approaching them in a tactful way, I try to be as honest as possible. If there are sections of their papers that they obviously didn't write, I show them the inconsistency in the writing styles. They usually recognize that and tell me that they borrowed the section from a source. Then I use the example as an opportunity to practice paraphrasing and documentation with them one-on-one. The rule of thumb that I follow is to allow the students to talk to me about their papers before I make any accusation.--Sharon Ronstadt
Question #2: In grade school english class, I was told that it is improper to end a sentence with a preposition. Recently, I heard on a radio program that this had been an incorrect rule that resulted in awkward sentences such as, "By whom is this poem?" I immediately released myself from this requirement. However, my co-worker doesn't believe it and wants the opinion of language experts. Which is the correct way to ask such questions? Whom did you give the money to? To whom did you give the money? Both?
Writing guidelines have softened the rule on ending with a preposition. The reason for the rule is partially psychological. The beginning and end positions of sentences are places of emphasis or stress. In other words, psychological studies show that readers remember the beginning and end of sentences, not the middle. Do you really want a preposition in a position of emphasis in your sentence? As a writer, you need to balance the location of words with readability. So, if your sentence makes sense to have a preposition at the end, go for it!--Dorothy J. McCawley, Ph.D.
I'm amazed that someone still cares about this grammar nicety. I've been a college English teacher for nearly forty years and have watched the old rule fade into oblivion. It did give rise to some fairly tortured circumlocutions in the old days. Ultimately, of course, the terminal preposition was a class-based indicator. People who used it were inferior to those who avoided it. Today we simply recognize that some situations expect more formal usage--and the terminal preposition is considered informal.
Who you going with?
With whom are you traveling?
Who's it by?
By whom was the book written?
What are you crying for?
Why are you crying?*
*Notice in the last example that an argument could be made for richer content in the informal usage.
The questioner's example: "Whom did you give the money to?" vs. "To whom did you give the money?" The first involves two old rules, both of which are fading away. Normally we would hear "Who'd you give the money to?" ("Whom" is gone and so is the prohibition against the terminal preposition.) In formal writing (or in the case of a trial lawyer questioning a witness), we would probably hear "To whom did you give the money?"
In all effective writing (and speech, for that matter), let your purpose and your audience determine the degree of formality that will get the response you hope for (for which you hope).
Funny story: Little girl calls from top of stairs, "Daddy, come read me 'Little Red Riding Hood.'" Daddy heads upstairs with copy of "Goldilocks." Little girl calls out: "Daddy, what are you bringing the book that I don't want to be read to out of up for?" Cute. Meaning is perfectly clear despite five terminal prepositions.
Real story: High School student writes dialogue: "What did you do that for?" Miss Pringle responds in red: "Avoid terminal prepositions." Student rewrites dialogue: "What did you do that for, huh?"--Robert L. Rosser
What's Happening on OWL
- OWL Eye on...Possible New Formats for OWL News? As part of the ongoing (and so far, completely invisible!) redesign of the Purdue OWL, we're looking to change the way the OWL News is presented, its content, and how its loyal readers like you participate in its construction. We welcome your ideas for changing up OWL News--send them to email@example.com. Thanks!
What's Happening in the Writing Lab
- OWL Eye on...Grammar Hotline One of the many services the Purdue Writing Lab offers the world community is a grammar hotline, which has even fielded questions from researchers for game shows, including Who Wants to be a Millionaire! Feel free to call us with your burning questions at (765)-494-3723. The grammar hotline is open during normal Lab hours while classes are in session: 9AM-6PM EST Monday through Thursday, and 9AM-1PM on Fridays.
- OWL Eye on...In-Lab Workshops for November
- Tuesday Nov 16 from 12:30-1:30 "Sentence clarity and combining"
- Wednesday Nov 17 from 3:30-4:30 "PowerPoint"
- Tuesday Nov 23 from 12:30-1:30 "Proofreading strategies"
- Tuesday Nov 30 from 12:30-1:30 "Using APA"
- Wednesday Dec 4 from 3:30-4:30 "Using MLA"
- OWL Eye on...ESL Conversation Groups Please join us for English conversation in the Lab! Fall 2004 M 1:30-2:30, Tu/Th: 4:30-5:30, W: 11:00-noon, F: 11:30-12:30
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