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Composition tips from a Composition teacher

Courtesy of Stephanie Rosenquist-David

Courtesy of Stephanie Rosenquist-David

Stephanie Rosenquist-David, Adjunct Faculty

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Composition classes often are filled with students who believe they are good enough writers, or who have the idea that writing just isn’t going to make a difference in their respective career(s).

Many will probably read this, thinking, good grief, what is this woman going to tell me about writing an essay that I didn’t already learn in high school After all, most students made it through high school English and probably have a good idea of what a basic research essay consists of.

Wellllllll………

Not so much.

While there are a variety of ways to research material for academic paper writing, there are basics that students need to understand. Research writing is learning certain necessities that will assist in solid research for any and all research projects. These habits and/or skills will be helpful in college class course work and eventually in all future careers.

Expectations

The idea that you are going to have to write this huge paper in a Composition class, filled with citations from outside sources that will defend your argument or stance on a topic, may seem a bit daunting; however, there are suggested methods, practices and tricks to researching and using the material found in writing methods that Composition professors will share.

Clearly, research writing is a substantial piece of academic writing that is inclusive to independent research on a topic to assist in describing and/or supporting the findings of such research material. For a Composition course (along with many other courses) you will be learning how to select a research topic that allows you to take a stance on one side of a debatable topic. The researched argumentative essay is one which you must make a claim, justify this claim with RESEARCHED support.

When you question a debatable topic, you tend to choose a side which you agree with; however, when you do select a debatable topic to research and then write about, you need to look at the entire perspective of the topic, meaning both sides of the argument, in order to determine if you have enough information to support your own belief. You should ask questions about the topic in order to begin research. Start with your topic in the form of a question and create an answer which you believe could be the result of your research.

The researched argumentative essay is a genre of writing that requires the student to investigate a topic; collect, generate and evaluate evidence; and establish a position on the topic in a concise manner. This essay is commonly in any number of courses, such as a capstone or final project for bachelor’s degrees or in first year writing or advanced composition courses. Argumentative essay assignments generally call for extensive research of literature or previously published material. Argumentative assignments may also require empirical research where the student collects data through interviews, surveys, observations or experiments. Detailed research allows the student to learn about the topic and to understand different points of view regarding the topic so that she/he may choose a position and support it with the evidence collected during research. Regardless of the amount or type of research involved, argumentative essays must establish a clear thesis and follow sound reasoning.

A Complete Argument

Perhaps it is helpful to think of an essay in terms of a conversation or debate with a classmate. If I were to discuss the cause of World War II and its current effect on those who lived through the tumultuous time, there would be a beginning, middle and end to the conversation. In fact, if I were to end the argument in the middle of my second point, questions would arise concerning the current effects on those who lived through the conflict. Therefore, the argumentative essay must be complete, and logically so, leaving no doubt as to its intent or argument.

The teaching of argumentative writing has been one of the most important elements in my life. I truly enjoy watching a Composition student move from hating writing to getting a kick out of seeing their paper grow and build over the course of a semester, to their surprise in finally forming a really good defense of their argument. While my classrooms tend to often debate those untouchable topics many students were not encouraged to discuss in their high school years, the underlying focus is to get each one to understand there is more to taking a stance on a topic, there is supporting the stance with evidence, proof and substantiation.

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Composition tips from a Composition teacher