Friday, December 14, 2012

Academic Writing Part I


Addressing the prompt

The very first part of writing an academic paper is to properly address the prompt. Consider the following:

To what extent did the Jacksonian Era (1824-1848) live up to its moniker as "the Era of the Common Man." Consider at least two of the following-Reform Movements, Economics, Politics.

Let's break it down bit by bit.

1. To what up to
The preceding phrase informs the writer that the answer should be a judgement of quantity. Possible answers must include words of measure such as- completely, not at all, somewhat, not at all.

2. ...the Jacksonian Era (1824-1848)
It is very important to address the time period and not focus solely on the presidency of Andrew Jackson. The key is the window provided by the dates. 1824-1848 is a twenty-four year span. Andrew Jackson was only president for eight of those years. The danger of focusing on the "Jacksonian" part of the prompt is that it effectively precludes oneself from volumes of history and sixteen years worth of activites. An alternative misstep would be to preclude Jackson from the paper all together. If it is named the Jacksonian Era there is a pretty good chance that researching AJ would be a really good idea.

3. ..."the Era of the Common Man."
This is the most important part of the prompt. This phrase is the main idea, it will find a nice tidy home in the thesis statement, every topic sentence and ultimately in the conclusion. Understanding the main idea of a prompt is key to writing a concise, well argued paper.

4. "Consider at least two of the following...."
It seems obvious, but a writer should address at least two. The bonus of this kind of prompt is that it allows the writer to play to their own strengths. A writer should choose two that a.) best support their thesis and b.) they have the most information on.

5. "Reform Movements, Economics, Politics."
A writer should love seeing this kind of prompt. These are the topics for the paper. The exact words should be in the thesis and topic sentences within the paper.

In the next blog I will address structuring the essay. This series will ultimately address outlines, topic sentences, thesis statements, introductory paragraphs, facts, analysis and conclusions, and style. Ultimately, I plan to design a graphic organizer to assist students, at all levels, in planning and executing well structured academic essays.