Issue For September 13, 2007
Writing Question of the Week
This is usually a question submitted by an OWL user to the OWL Tutors. If you have a question you need answered quickly, ask one of our OWL Tutors or call the Writing Lab's Grammar Hotline at 765-494-3723. And remember, both services are free for everyone!
I wanted to ask you to please help me state an argument. How do I write topic sentences and how to make my essay be effective? The problem I have is that I am English 2nd Language and struggle to understand the topic presented. Please help!!!
I can point you to a couple of resources on the OWL that may help you with the types of academic writing you're worried about.
This link talks about the thesis statement, or the main argument in a paper: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/545/01/
This link might help you understand the way that paragraphs are structured in academic writing, and the way that topic sentences guide a reader: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/545/01/
In terms of your difficulty in understanding various parts of what is being asked of you because of your ESL status, there is a section on the owl filled with various activities and tips for you: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/683/01/
There are more links for ESL writers to the right hand side of the page. There are also likely resources in your community for new speakers/writers of English. Often writing centers at universities, in community or adult learning centers, and in cultural centers have people trained to help you navigate English documents and assignments.
Hope this helps and good luck,
The OWL Help Nest
Each week we publish Purdue OWL News readers' requests for advice or information and the responses from other Purdue OWL News readers.
Can someone describe to me what academic plagiarism is? How does this differ from other types of plagiarism? --Jar, Yala, Thailand
Plagiarism is plagiarism is plagiarism! It is stealing another person's words and/or ideas and claiming they are your own. Today it is unfortunately quite simple to do by merely copying a pasting from the Internet. To avoid plagiarism, always note the name of the site, author's name, URL, and date you retrieved the material.
--Judy Henn, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology
We have a thorough resource devoted to discussions of plagiarism on the Purdue OWL: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/589/01/
--OWL Staff, West Lafayette, IN
Writing comes really easy to me and when a teacher assigns a paper, I write one draft and it seems so good that it ends up staying mostly the same all the way to the final draft. My question is, does anyone else relate to this and should I be trying to work harder on the writing (even though it is perfect)? --Katherine, White Swan High School
Writing is putting your thoughts on paper. You're fortunate this comes easy to you, but that's just the beginning.
You have to be open minded: you have to be willing to question yourself - to explore the heart of what you want to say. This could mean looking at a topic from a different perspective or finding alternative ways to express your thoughts.
Working on your writing (sharpening your skills) will help you express yourself better. This means finding the best way to say what you mean by correcting grammar, deleting unnecessary adjectives and adverbs (like "really"), eliminating clichés and wordiness, working on sentence variety, and more.
I write a weekly research column in a newspaper - people ask questions about the state, and I research and write the answer. The answer must be relevant, interesting to readers and contain no more than 400 words. My first draft - no matter how interesting or good I think it is - is never what appears in the paper.
Someone much wiser than I said, "All writing is rewriting." Even this answer required much editing.
Good luck. You're on the right track.
--Marlene Clark, Middlesex Community College
I completely relate to you, Katherine. At this point in your life, though, essays are easy to write for someone that is a natural at it. Once you get into university, you should spend more time writing and research more on the topic. Professors tend to be more nit-picky in university.
If you plan on going beyond basic English courses, you'll definitely need to spend more time on writing and reading. I didn't worry about that problem until I got my first B essay back in the university, but it really kicked me into gear.
--Maegan, Sam Houston State University
Unless you're getting results of 100% every single time you hand in an assignment, Katherine, your writing is not perfect (as the lack of a space between 'writing', the opening parenthesis and 'even' clearly proves). As to whether you should be trying harder, that's entirely up to you. If you're happy with the results you're getting, keep doing what you're doing. A lot of writers feel their first drafts are the best. But if you think you can do even better, go for it. You might surprise yourself.
My first reaction to this question was to throw up my hands and say, "Is she for real?" Oh, the arrogance of youth! On reflection, I think Katherine deserves a thoughtful answer. I am both a published writer and a teacher of English and I have NEVER written a perfect anything, even after several drafts. They may come close, they may be good, but perfect? No. True writers will tell you they're never satisfied; we seek excellence, not perfection. I hope Katherine has a teacher who looks at each draft, makes comments, and offers advice to her.It takes continual effort to improve what we want to say to the reader, and it's the writer's responsibility (and joy) to edit, revise, and rewrite until the ms is as clear and honest as possible. If you can say "this is as good as I can make it," that's as close to perfection as you'll ever get.
--Maria Murad, National American University
I do this as well, and have made it to my final undergraduate year in college doing so. Rather than a rough and final draft, however, what I usually do is write out an outline, which I sometimes revise several times depending on the length of the project, code my notes to the outline, give the paper a quick read through when I'm done with my typing, and then, having aimed to have the paper completed ahead of deadline, give it a few days before printing and submitting in case I think of something else I would like to add. Obviously this is not the stock advice given on writing papers, but were I to do rough drafts, I'd never get the paper done because I would just keep revising it.
I think its important to understand that what constitutes "good writing" is context-dependent. The norms and standards for what makes good writing depend on the discourse community conventions in which you are writing. For example, a piece of good writing in a high school English class (thick description, narrative style) would not be acceptable in a college-level biology class or a business writing class. So while you seem to have mastered one writing context, there are many other contexts for writing that you probably have not yet experienced. Go into these contexts with an open mind, understanding that the rules for successful writing change with each new audience and purpose you encounter.
Our powerpoint presentation on the Rhetorical Situation may be helpful to you: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/625/01/
--Dana Driscoll, OWL Webmaster, Purdue University
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The Purdue OWL is pleased to announce the launch of our new splash page. The new design and new features are based on user-centered design theory and usability research conducted over the past two years . We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our participants who have helped us adapt the OWL to more effectively suit users' needs and expectations. We would also like to thank you, the OWL users, for all your wonderful, helpful feedback. The OWL is a free resource that is here to serve you so please continue to let us know what you think. Usability research on the OWL is ongoing, and a great way of providing feedback is through the OWL Usability Survey. If you haven't completing our questionnaire, please consider doing so. We would love to hear from you about changes to the OWL.
Revised resources for the OWL splash page include the user-centered Suggested Resources list, new links to the OWL and the West Lafayette, IN, Writing Lab areas of the site, Featured OWL Resources, Most Popular Resources, a new link to the Purdue OWL News, and a link to OWL Podcasts (coming soon).
The user-centered Suggested Resources list is based on categories of OWL visitors. This feature will help guide users to resources tailored for their needs. Clicking on a user-based link will take visitors to a page that lists OWL materials created for specific types of users. Though you may not fall into one of the categories of users, we hope this new resource will still help you more quickly locate and use what you need on the OWL. As always, you may use the search feature on the splash page to locate specific resources quickly.
New links to the OWL and the Writing Lab areas of the site now integrate text and graphics. Clicking on the orange OWL image or the link below the image in the text will take users to OWL resources (handouts, PowerPoint presentations, workshops). Clicking on the green Writing Lab image or the link in the text below this image will take users to the Writing Lab area of the site tailored for Purdue students, staff, and faculty at the West Lafayette, IN, campus.
The Featured OWL Resources area of the new splash page updates each time you visit the site. You may click on the link to view the featured OWL resource.
The Most Popular Resources lists our top six resources. Millions of visitors each year visit these resources, and we are now happy to provide quick access to them.
OWL visitors may read the latest Purdue OWL News by clicking on the new image. Later this fall, you will be able to click on the OWL Podcast image to hear short discussions on writing, rhetoric, and other composition issues.
We hope these changes will make your OWL time more productive and more enjoyable. Please contact us if you have any questions.
What's Happening on the OWL at Purdue
- OWL Eye On...Usability changes. Our new homepage/splash page is now live. Look in the upcoming Fall semester for further usability changes for the inner pages of the OWL including a new navigation system, revisions to the design, and a new search bar.
- OWL Eye On...User-Centered areas. With the release of our new splash page, we also have released a series of user-centered pages that help guide our visitors to appropriate OWL resources for them. These new pages include:
- ESL Instructors and Students: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/678/01/
- Grades 7-12 Instructors and Students: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/677/01/
- Non-Purdue College Level Instructors and Students: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/679/01/
- Parents: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/680/01/
- Purdue Instructors and Students: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/682/01/
- Workplace Writers: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/681/01/
What's Happening in the Writing Lab
- OWL Eye On...Resume and Cover Letter Workshop. The Writing Lab will be holding a Resume/Cover Letter workshop on September 18th from 2 - 3PM. . The workshop will take one hour and is open to everyone.
This week's OWL News was edited by Dana Driscoll, OWL Webmaster and H. Allen Brizee, OWL Coordinator.