This section includes a response written by a professor to a student who was working on an independent study project. Reading through the response may provide you a better understanding of the application of concepts mentioned elsewhere on this writing web site. You may be able to apply the professor's comments to your own paper as you edit one of your rough drafts. Always remember: Your professors in Speech Communication are interested in your questions and writing problems. They can be useful resources. If you are invited to contact them for further help, do not hesitate to do so.

Professor's reply to a rough draft written during an independent study:

To the student:
Use the following comments to guide you through a close reading of the first few paragraphs of your paper. Edit these paragraphs, and then keep the comments in mind as you read the rest of your paper; apply the comments to other paragraphs when you see similar problems. Avoid simply reading the comments and changing the particular sentence or paragraph named; use the comments to learn how to closely edit your work.

You may have a good idea for an argument in this paper, but the form of the paper is interfering with the reader's ability to understand what constitutes your claim and your support. The argument is not clear. Providing a better organization for the paper can improve the reader's ability to identify the claims you are making and the evidence you present to support those claims. Perhaps some of the following comments will help improve the organization of the paper and make clearer the ideas you are presenting.

  1. Reread the first paragraph of the paper. Rewrite the paragraph to clarify whether this paper is focusing on the rhetoric of the event (eg "lies" and "gave the message that. . . .") or the sociological aspects of the event (eg "not allowing outsiders to participate"). The two are related; rewrite the paragraph to make clear the specific focus and make evident the relationship between the sociology and the rhetoric.

  2. The second paragraph. Notice that the first and second sentences are about the messages of "American society" toward "outsiders." Notice that the third, fourth, and fifth sentences are about something else--a related idea, but not the same idea. Divide this paragraph into two; develop each paragraph completely, but each with a clear central idea.

  3. The third paragraph. Revise this paragraph to repair the following:

    1. Make the meaning clearer in the first sentence. What do you mean by a parody? Make your intention more explicit.
    2. Repair the second sentence. It doesn't make sense right now partly because of the "issues" error.
    3. Repair the third sentence. You begin the sentence with "The questions" but you have not introduced anything as "questions" so the reader doesn't know what you are referencing.
    4. Rewrite the paragraph either in the third person (where you would refer to "the society" and "Americans") or in the first person (where you would refer to "we"). Don't mix the two.
  4. In the first paragraph on page 2, revise the sentences to use parallel structures. For example, look at the first sentence. When you list the items the paper will cover, you use very different structures for each item. You need to use the same grammatical structure for each. You name the items as "the development of the a new way of life," "what it meant to insiders," "the white versus the black perspective," and "how competition emerged into discontentment." If you use the construction "the development of . . ." in the first item, you need to use a similar construction in all the other items. For example, if you use "the development of . . ." in the first item, you might use "the discrepancy between . . ." in the third item. The point of using like constructions is to help the reader know that these four items all are weighted similarly, that they all are significant parts of the paper, and that they all are components of the rhetorical issue you will discuss. Revise the sentence you wrote in this fourth paragraph to make those four items parallel.

  5. Transitions between paragraphs must be strong to help the reader move from one idea to the next. Look at the beginning sentence in Paragraph 5 ("Competition is a story of . . ."). Rewrite this paragraph to include a better transition from the previous section to this one. Perhaps you will decide to make a division here and use a heading to start this next section. Perhaps you will add a sentence that ties these ideas (the one in Para. 4 and the one in Para. 5) together. Revise the transition between this paragraph and the next.

  6. Paragraph 5 also lacks cohesion. Cohesion is the quality of a paragraph that helps a reader stay on track throughout the idea presented in the paragraph. You can test the cohesion of a paragraph in an easy way. Separate the sentences of the paragraph onto another piece of paper, listing each sentence on a separate line. See if they fit together in any other way. A paragraph with well-developed cohesion cannot be constructed in any other sentence order than the one used without changing words around. In this paragraph, the leaps between sentences are too large; the sentences do not seem to follow one another in a particular order. Part of the problem is that too many ideas are being tied together without explanation of their relationship to one another. Rewrite the paragraph with the intent of improving the cohesion.

  7. Look again at the quotation you used in the third paragraph on the second page. Notice what you said in the sentence just preceding the quotation. Does the information in that sentence agree with the information in the quotation? Revise this paragraph to better match the comments you are making to the comments you are quoting.

  8. One reason your transitions are not working is that the organization of material is not clear. Using these first two pages, write a one-sentence summary of each paragraph. You have 7 paragraphs, so you should have 7 sentences. As you look at these 7 sentences, what pattern do you see? Are the ideas represented in these 7 sentences somehow related? Are some sub-ideas of others? Do they create a star shape? A pyramid? A straight line? Figure out how these ideas relate to one another and then present them in that pattern in the paper. Rewrite these first two pages in an organizational pattern that makes sense to you. Be sure the transitions between the paragraphs reflect that organization. For example, if you see all the ideas equally important, you will want to introduce them saying something like, "Five historical pieces are important to the development of . . ." Then you would present the five pieces, using transitions like, "next," "following that development," or "the last development."

  9. Look back again at the thesis for this paper. Check each of these 7 paragraphs to determine how the idea presented in each paragraph relates to the thesis. Look for signals in the paragraph that tell the reader how to hook this idea to the thesis. If no signals occur, revise the paragraph to include them.

  10. Now look over the first two pages as a whole. See if you can find a direction in which they move. Overall, as a reader reads from page one to page two, where have you moved that reader? Look to the end of your paper. Have you moved the reader far enough in those two pages? Have you moved over the material too quickly? How do you assess the progress you have made in the first two pages toward the goal of the paper?

I hope these comments help you revise your organizational plan to better serve your thesis. Cohesion, transitions, and paragraph development all are important toward making an effective argument in your paper. I believe you have the makings for the argument embedded in this paper; clearly you have thought about this topic and have developed some good ideas. The expression of that argument is not clear; as a consequence, the argument is not effective. It could be. Let me know if I can be of other help.