Learning:  William Lee Jackson

Home Resources Classes Personal Evaluation Learning

        A. On Teaching.

        B. Ten Commandments for Effective Study

        C. Some Thoughts on Outlining

        D. Why Write

        E. Notes on Writing

        F. Jill's Suggestions

 

ON TEACHING

 

First learning is something you have to do.  I can only do a limited number of things to help you learn.  One of them is to tell you what I have learned about the teaching learning process from my fifty or so years of involvement in it.  I already told you the first one.  Nobody teaches.  People learn.

 

       Beyond that I can tell you that learning is a five-step process.

 

        IMPACT or exposure through

                lectures

                reading

                and discussions

        REPETITION

                reading more

                hearing more

                or reviewing our notes

        UTILIZATION

            - doing something with the data

                thinking about it

                writing about it

                talking about it

                using it in other ways

        INTERNALIZATION

            - making the material our own

        REINFORCEMENT

            - using the material again and again.

 

     First is impact.  We cannot learn anything until we are exposed to it in some way.  We can read about it or we can hear about it or we can see it, but we must have impact first.  Usually in an academic environment, impact comes from reading an excellent text.

      Second is repetition.  We learn very little from a single impact.  It takes more than one.  In political campaigns, they say it takes seven exposures to get your message across to the voters.  Marketers say pretty much the same.  Thatís why so many college classes are lecture classes.  You read the material, and then you hear it.  If you read it and take notes on what you read, and you hear it and take notes on what you hear, you get to four impacts.  If you review your notes after you read and after class and before the test, that is seven impressions.
      Third is utilization.  Real learning does not take place until you use the information.  Thatís why we forget so much of what we have crammed into our heads for exams.  We have not really learned because we have not used the information.  Many people prefer objective tests, but essay exams are a very useful learning tool because they are one way that we have to force ourselves to use the information.

      Fourth is internalization.  This means making the data your own.  I have a problem with at lot of numbers that are important to my teaching.  I can never learn the size of the national budget.  I never really internalize it, because it changes all the time.  I can never be sure if that 1.7 trillion dollars is last yearís budget or the year before.  Some things I have learned, like the principle players in the Constitutional Convention of 1787.  They have not changed since I internalized them years ago.

       Finally is reinforcement.  You have forgotten some of the things you once learned because you do not reinforce the learning.  I teach a class on the Constitution every year or so and reinforce the learning.  Much of the detail of Mexican history I once knew is missing.  I do not teach that subject.  One of the best advantages of teaching is that it provides reinforcement for old learning.  I once knew a lot of science and it comes back if I review it.  Still it disappears quickly without reinforcement.  Except of course for the great names of the scientific revolution that I get to reinforce every year in History 102.

 

      Second, beyond those five steps, people learn in different ways.  I remember reading a biography of Knute Rockne when I was in junior high.  His trick to learning was to get the material in his head then walk around the room rolling a pencil between his palms as he reviewed over and over.

      I read fast and retain well.  When I want to learn a new subject I find five or six books on it and read them one after another.  If I really want to learn it, I prepare a lecture on it for my classes.  Every time I review my lecture notes, they get shorter.  You have to learn what techniques work best for you and apply them.  Some of you already have.  Others need to experiment.  As you experiment, keep in mind that people use several activities in the process of learning.

        The first of these is assigned readings.  I have selected a good textbook as the foundation for our learning.  It is only the foundation, but you should read and understand it.  If there are parts of it you do not understand be sure to ask about them in class.  Otherwise I expect you to know what is in the text.   Come to class prepared to deal with it.

         You should also read beyond the required text.  It is just a foundation upon which you should build with your outside reading and classroom activities.  I encourage you to read and share your reading with the class during discussion.
        A third activity is outlining.  It is an essential skill to complete learning.  I learned to outline very early in my academic career and tend to believe that everyone else did too.  You should outline the material from the text after your reading.  This helps you identify the major points presented in the text.  It also provides a good basis for review later.

        Class attendance is an aid to learning (at least that is my great wish).  I teach students who are striving to get an education under very difficult conditions.  I know that outside forces often keep you from class.   Therefore, I do not require attendance.  However, I believe that the things we do in class are important.  You should attend every possible class.  You should also participate in every aspect of the classes you do attend.  I do not disturb students sleeping in class, but I am sure their learning will be limited.

        You should take notes in class for many reasons.  First, just taking notes creates another repetition.  You hear it, and then you write it.  In addition, your notes become a good tool for review.  Ideally you should review them after class, at the end of the week, and again before the exam.  Thirdly, it is harder to sleep in class while taking notes.  Finally, your interest in class makes a good impression on the instructor.  Usually that makes the instructor think the class is better than most and do the best job possible.

        I believe discussion is a valuable part of the learning process.  It helps you test your understanding of the material.  It helps you practice your expressive skills.  It gives you plenty of time to ask any and all questions you have about the material.  It helps us all review the material.  It gives me an idea about what you think is important from the material and it helps you demonstrate that you understand.  Since discussion serves so many purposes, we will not always be at the level of discussion that you prefer.  Please be patient with us.  That is part of the learning process too.

        Writing is essential to my classes in political science.  As you will soon see, it is essential to the grading process.  Learning to write is one of those vital expressive skills we need to develop.  More than that however, writing is an important tool in learning.  We learn to write but we also learn by writing.  Writing requires you to review the material, to organize it, and to present it effectively.  Writing requires you to shift the unimportant from the important.  There is, perhaps, no more effective learning tool.

        Thinking is the only rival to writing as the most effective learning tool.  I urge you to do it constantly.  Think while you read actively with pen in had to write out your thoughts and questions.  Think about the lectures and the discussions.  Think about the evidence that was used to support statements.  Think about the unsupported statements. Think about what else you need to know.

 

Third, I have learned that all college classes have three distinctly different kinds of objectives.

First, we want to improve our cognitive skills -- learning, thinking and expressing ourselves effectively.

Second, we want to learn about the discipline we are studying.

Third, we want to learn something specific about the subject.

 

        All college classes give the students the opportunity to improve their

cognitive skills.   These are the skills which help you learn.  Learning how to learn is the most important thing to learn at college.  These cognitive skills include at the minimum:

        Gathering information, empirical data and ideas.

Thinking critically - analyzing and understanding.

        Thinking critically - reaching reasonable conclusions.

            Presenting oral and written arguments and conclusions.

        Cognitive objectives are by far most important.  Learning how to learn is the most important part of a college education.  You should learn how to find information.  You should learn how to think critically and reach reasonable conclusions from that information.  You should learn how to express those arguments and conclusions in good oral and written form.  If you do, you have made good use of your time in college.  If you do not, you may well become one of those thousands of college graduates who find nothing useful to do with their degree.  We will devote a portion of class time toward developing those skills.  We will spend time in class discussion.  We will spend time writing and re writing.  Some of you may not like that very much.  Some of you may find some of the subjects you take boring.  It does not matter.  What matters is learning how to learn and learning how to express yourself clearly.  Your college degree will open a lot of doors for you, but what happens after they open depends far more on the cognitive skills you have learned than the content of any of the classes you take.

        In addition all college classes want you to learn something about the discipline or the field of study.  That is why we have general education requirements.  It is important for you to know something about disciplines other than your major.

       

        When you study political science you should seek to understand the authoritative allocation of values in in terms of:

            The nature of political causation.

    The impact of politics on our daily life.

            How people and ideas shape the political agenda.

                How processes and institutions influence political decisions.

        In addition to learning to learn, all classes want you to learn about the discipline under study.  The content of classes will change in any discipline but the basic elements remain fairly constant.  The second objective of all my political science classes, is that you learn to understand the discipline.  One important element of that is the idea of political causation.  This is the notion that ideas and actions in politics have consequences.  Politics is the authoritative allocation of values. Political science is the systematic study of the authoritative allocation of values.  Decisions about that allocation are influenced by the ideas of those who make the decisions.   Decisions also influence the ideas of those who make them in the future.  This is the nature of political causation.

It is also important to understand the impact that politics has on our daily lives.  The values that are allocated by politics are, after all, things of importance.  That is what makes them valuable.  Which things are allocated authoritatively and which are not, as well as how they are allocated does indeed influence nearly every aspect of our daily life.

The most important aspect of that allocation for most of us to understand is agenda setting.  Before we can allocate values, they must appear on the political agenda.  People and events determine that agenda.  For most of us, this is the only aspect of politics that we can influence.

Beyond the agenda, processes and institutions, largely beyond our direct control, influence the decisions.  Still we are more likely to be able to influence them if we understand them.  All political science classes stress these four aspects of politics.

 

        When it comes to history, you should appreciate history as an object and method of study emphasizing:  

    The idea of historical causation.

    The integrative nature of historical events.

    The aesthetic, dramatic and humanizing nature of history.

    The contextual and evolving nature of historical development.

 

        Finally, all college classes what you to learn something about the specific subject of the class.   These objectives are defined in the class syllabus and usually discussed in class.  But they are never really the most important set of objectives.   If they were, we would require you to take specific history class rather than just some history classes.  Never be confused learning how to learn is the most important thing to learn at college.

 

Fourth, it is my primary job to stimulate you to learn . . .

    At the subject matter level

                the most important known data

                the methods used to gather and understand that data

                the bibliography of the subject.

    At the cognitive skills level

               how to gather data

               how to organize information

               how to analyze relationships

               and how to make reasonable conclusions

    At the expressive skills level

                articulating thoughts and ideas

                writing academic essays

                presenting research reports

 

Fifth, since each of us learns in different ways and brings different experiences to this class, my methods are designed to provide flexibility and encouragement for you to learn.  My classes include a mix of learning opportunities.  You are encouraged to complete assigned and outside readings, to attend lectures, participate in discussions - both guided and unstructured - and occasionally watch video.  My evaluation procedures encourage you to experiment with examinations, discussions, presentations, and academic writing - both research and reflective.  It is a topical approach.  You are expected to learn the material and to demonstrate your understanding of it in segments as defined in the syllabus for the class.  Since extension students are by definition motivated students I use no "make work" assignments so please be patient if we seem to be working on a different level than the one you would prefer.

 

Have fun and enjoy learning.

Below are a couple of brief notes which you might find helpful in that process. 

 

        A.  On Teaching.

        B. Ten Commandments for Effective Study

        C. Some Thoughts on Outlining

        D. Why Write

        E. Notes on Writing

        F. Jill's Suggestions

 

Ten Commandments for Effective Study

by Larry M. Ludwig, Kilgore College (TX)

 

1.  THOU SHALT BE RESPONSIBLE, AND THOU SHALT BE ACTIVE - FOR THERE BE NO OTHER PASSAGE TO ACADEMIC SUCCESS!      

 

        Responsibility means control.  Your grade in a class is relatively free of any variable other than your own effort.  Sure, you may have a lousy professor.  It happens.  But remember:  you are the one who has to live with your grade.  It goes on your grade report, not your instructor's.  If you are seeking a way of increasing learning and improving grades without increasing your study time, active classroom participation is your answer.  Look at it this way:  classroom time is something to which you are already committed.  So, you can sit there, assume the "bored student position" - arms crossed, slumped in the chair, eyes at half-mast - and allow yourself an "out-of-body" experience.  Or, you can maximize your classroom time by actively listening, thinking, questioning, taking notes, and participating totally in the learning experience.

II.  THOU SHALT KNOW WHERE THY "HOT BUTTONS" ARE, AND THOU SHALT PUSH THEM REGULARLY!!

        The next time you seat yourself in class, ask yourself these questions:

          - What am I doing here?

          - Why have I chosen to be sitting here now?

          - Is there some better place I could be?

          - What does my presence here mean to me?

        Your responses to these questions represent your educational goals.  They are the "hot buttons," and they are, without a doubt, the most important factors in your success as a college student.  College is not easy.  Believe it or not, there will be times when you tire of being a student.  And that's when a press or two on the hot buttons can pull you through!

III.  IF THOU HATH QUESTIONS, ASKETH THEM.  IF THOU HATH NO QUESTIONS, MAKETH SOME!

        Just as a straight line usually indicates the shortest distance between two points, questions generally provide the quickest route between ignorance and knowledge.  In addition to securing knowledge that you seek, asking question has at least two other extremely important benefits.  The process helps you pay attention to your professor and helps your professor pay attention to you.

IV.  THOU SHALT LEARN THAT THOU AND THY PROFESSOR MAKETH A TEAM - AND THOU SHALT BE A TEAM PLAYER!

        Most instructors want exactly what you want:  they would like for you to learn the material in their respective classes and earn a good grade.  After all, successful students reflect well on the efforts of any teacher; if you learned your stuff, the instructor takes some justifiable pride in teaching.           

V.  THOU SHALT NOT PARKETH THY BUTT IN THE BACK!

        Suppose you pay $50 to buy concert tickets for your favorite musical artist.  Do you choose front row seats or the cheap seats at the rear of the auditorium?  Why do some students who spend far more money on a college education than on concerts willingly place themselves in the last row of the classroom?  In class, the back row gives invisibility and anonymity, both of which are antithetical to efficient and effective learning.

VI.  THOU SHALT NOT WRITE IN THY NOTES WHAT THOU FAILETH TO UNDERSTAND!

       Avoid the "whatinthehellisthat" phenomenon experienced by most college students.  This unique reaction occurs when students first review their notes for a major examination.  Being unable to read, decipher, or comprehend the mess that passes for notes, students are likely to utter the expression that grants this particular phenomenon its name. 

VII.  IF THINE INTEREST IN CLASS BE GONE, FAKETH IT!

        If you are a good actor, you may even fool yourself into liking the lecture.  How do you fake interest?  You simply assume the "interested student position":  lean forward, place your feet flat on the floor in front of you, maintain eye contact with your professor, smile or nod occasionally as though you understand and care about what your instructor is saying, take notes, and ask questions.

VIII.  THOU SHALT KNOW THAT IF SILENCE BE GOLDEN -RECITATION SHALT BE PLATINUM!

        Recitation is not only good for checking whether or not you know something; it's perhaps the best method for learning it in the first place.  Reciting unquestionably provides the most direct route between short-term and long-term memory.

IX.  THOU SHALT KNOWETH THAT CRAM IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD!

       If there is one thing that study skills specialists agree on, it is that divided periods of study are more efficient and effective than a single period of condensed study.  In other words, you will learn more, remember more, and earn a higher grade if you prepare for Friday's examination by studying one hour a night, Monday through Thursday, rather than studying for four hours straight on Thursday evening.

X.  THOU SHALT NOT PROCRASTINATE - AND THOU SHALT BEGINNETH NOT DOING IT RIGHT NOW! 

        An elemental truth:  you will either control time or be controlled by it!  There is no middle ground.  It's your choice: you can lead or be led, establish control or relinquish control, steer your own course or have it be dictated to you.  When I ask students which they prefer, choosing their own path or having it chosen for them, they almost uniformly select the first option.  In spite of this response, however, failure to take control of their own time is probably the number one study skills problem of college students.

 

        A.  On Teaching.

        B. Ten Commandments for Effective Study

        C. Some Thoughts on Outlining

        D. Why Write

        E. Notes on Writing

        F. Jill's Suggestions

 

 

Some Thoughts on Outlining

        The topic outline is useful for quick reference.  It presents, in logical order, the topics and subtopics that a paper covers.  A thesis statement summarizing the central idea of the paper precedes it.  It then presents the major points raised in the reading in outline form.  The outline consists of headings for the major points developed, subheads for the points developed in support to the major points and sub subheads for the examples and data cited.

        I believe that outlining a very valuable tool in both learning and writing that too few students use effectively.  Preparing an outline of the reading helps you to visualize the relationship among ideas and examples used by the author.  It helps you to better understand those relationships.  It is also a good way of reviewing the material and creates a good study guide.  Of equal importance, practice in outlining and summarizing helps a student achieve a firm grasp of organization.  This will help the student in preparing outlines for their own papers and essays.

        Read the material as you normally do.  Then jot down the major themes, which were developed in the reading.  Now go back through the reading and prepare an outline as you read through the material again.  Make sure that the outline covers the subject that it treats of everything promised in the title.  An adequate outline is a kind of process of thinking through the reading.  Make sure that the parts of the outline are logically arranged.  If the outline is disorganized and ineffective, your have probably missed something important.  I seldom assign readings, which are disorganized and ineffective.

Making an Outline

One usually has at least some sort of informal plan of organization in her mind before beginning to wrote.  Often, such an informal and unwritten plan is enough.  Most of us, however, are unable to write a lengthy paper successfully without setting our overall plan down on paper.  Here are a few things to remember about outlining.

1.  There are three types of outlines:  the sentence outline, the topic outline, and the paragraph outline.  Do not mix the types; be consistent throughout your outline.

 

In the sentence outline, use complete sentences.

 

                            My Trip to Europe

 

I.  Preparation for my trip abroad took some thought.

      A.  I had to arrange schedules in advance.

      B.  I had to determine what kind of clothes to take.

           1.  I settled on taking all wash-and-wear fabrics.

           2.  I decided to take one pair of black and one pair of brown shoes.

 

II.  I found it best to live as the people of the country do.

      A.  It was cheapest to travel by train and bus.

      B.  I enjoyed ordering native food in each country.

      C.  I had better service by staying at inns rather than at American hotels.

  

In the topic outline, use phrases.

 

                   My Trip to Europe

 

I.  Preparing for the trip

    A.  Arranging schedules

    B.  Selecting clothes

         1.  Choosing fabrics

         2.  Deciding on shoes

 

II.  Living like the natives best

     A.  Traveling like natives

     B.  Eating like natives

     C.  Rooming like natives

 

 

In the paragraph outline, use a summary sentence for each paragraph in the paper.

 

                      My Trip to Europe

 

I.  In preparing for my trip I had to arrange my

    schedules in advance and decide on what

    clothing and shoes to take.

 

II.  I saved money by traveling as the natives do.

 

III.  I had many taste delights by eating the foods

      of each country.

 

2.  Use a consistent method for numbering and indenting major headings and subheadings.  The most common form is the following:

        I.  . . .

                A.  . . .

                        1.  . . .

                                a.  . . .

                                b.  . . .

                        2.  . . .

                 B.  . . .

         II.  . . .

 

Under any heading use at least two subdivisions or none at all.  That is, if you have Roman numeral I, you should also have at least one more division -- Roman numeral II.  If under your Roman numeral you have an A, you should also have at least a B.  A thing cannot be divided into fewer than two parts; thus, to divide Roman numeral I, you must divide it into at least an A and a B.

 

 

3.  Use parallel grammatical structure throughout your outline.

 

      Nonparallel                                       Parallel

 

Writing a Long Paper             Writing a Long Paper

 

I.   Gathering material           I.   Gathering

                                                     material

     A.  The library is a good       A.  Using the library

                place to start.

          1.  Reference books               1.  Using

                                                          reference

                                                          books

          2.  Magazines                      2. Magazines

          3.  Pamphlets                     3.  Pamphlets can

                                                            be used

     B.  Using live sources           B.  Live sources

           1.  Eyewitnesses                1. Eyewitnesses

                                                            can help

           2.  Authorities                    2.  Authorities

II.  Preparing the material       II.  Preparing the

                                                         material

 

4.  Do not use such vague terms as introduction, body, or conclusion for parts of your outline unless you follow the term with an explanatory phrase or sentence.  Such terms alone do not indicate the nature of the material.

 

5.  Give your outline some sort of sequential development.  You might arrange things in chronological order or more from the least important to the most important.  There are many possible sequences you might use, depending on your material.

---------------

Source:  Pierce College Writing Course Seminar

 

        A.  On Teaching.

        B. Ten Commandments for Effective Study

        C. Some Thoughts on Outlining

        D. Why Write

        E. Notes on Writing

        F. Jill's Suggestions

 

Why Write

 

        There are several reasons to learn to write well.  First, learning to think clearly and logically is far more important than all of the facts, figures, names and dates you will learn during your college career.  Writing about the subject forces you to think and to organize your thoughts.  Second, learning how to express yourself is also more important than that hard data.  Writing about the subject gives you the opportunity to practice.  Third, when you go out and do something with your degree, you will need to write far more than you will need to demonstrate your knowledge of hard facts.

        Thinking through a topic and writing an essay about it is an excellent learning tool, but you also want to demonstrate to the instructor that you understand the material.  The best way to achieve both of those objectives is to write a well-organized essay, which demonstrates an understanding of causation and integration.  Thatís easiest if you follow basic principles.

        Remember that your essay will only cover a tiny portion of the topic but an introduction shows your instructor that you understand the rest of the topic or assignment.  An excellent introduction puts your essay into the context of the topic.  It usually ends with a thesis, which is a one-sentence statement, which serves as a backbone to the essay.  Often the thesis is a one-sentence answer to the essay question.

        The body of your essay should develop that thesis.   I expect you to be able to identify four points to support your thesis.  Each should be explained in a paragraph, which presents one major point.  Each paragraph begins with a topic sentence, which defines the point.  It then proceeds to explain that point with supporting evidence or example.

        Use good form.

                 "All writing should have good form.  What good form is varies from genre to genre, subject to subject, etc., but one good definition of good form comes from Kenneth Burke:  'Form in literature is an arousing and fulfillment of desires.  A work has form in so far as one part of it leads a reader to anticipate another part, to be gratified by the sequence.'" (Kissam, p. 254)

Plagiarism will not be tolerated.

            Plagiarism is the act of using the words

    and ideas of others without giving proper

    credit.  Common varieties of plagiarism include:

    a.  having another individual write a paper

    or take an examination for a student; b.  directly

    quoting material without using quotations marks

    or proper indentation; c.  not giving credit for

    another person's original ideas and organization.

    Plagiarism and cheating are considered unethical

    actions and a violation of academic policy.

    (SMC p.29)

 ____________________________

Sources Consulted

        Philip C. Kissam, "Teaching Constitutional Law Differently", Constitutional Commentary, Vol. 9. pp. 237 - 257.

        Saint Martinís College Catalogue 1996 - 1997, p. 29.

 

        A.  On Teaching.

        B. Ten Commandments for Effective Study

        C. Some Thoughts on Outlining

        D. Why Write

        E. Notes on Writing

        F. Jill's Suggestions

 

Notes on Writing

 

        Students often complain about the limited applicability of school to real life, yet clear written expression is often a vital skill in one's professional and personal lives.  The ability to write clearly may be the most important thing you can take with you on leaving college.  Accordingly, writing counts in class assignments.  With this in mind, it's a good idea to remember the following points.  In fact, save the last two, you should take these to the grave !

 

        1.  Avoid cumbersome sentences.  They are generally murky and hard to follow.  As a rule of thumb, a sentence with over 30 words (or three commas) is usually cumbersome.  Remember that in the natural order of things each sentence, however, profound, must come to an end.  No sentence should wander like a wounded snake, slithering . . . bleeding words . . . yet refusing to die.

 

        2.  Similarly, words are precious.  Don't waste them! Don't use ten words when five will can do the job.  Dirty Harry doesn't talk much, but people still listen.  Harry would never say. "In my opinion at that point in time the Articles of Confederation were surrounded by an inevitable doom."

 

        3.  The above example also suggests that commas must be used properly.

 

        4.  Remember, sentences need active verbs.  Some examples of "sentences" without an active verb are:  "The kind of power need to pass though legislation."  "A sort of brotherhood that shares a common goal."

 

        5.  Make sure a sentence means what you want it to mean.  Example:  "Americans have long supported the need for affirmative action."  The "need" for affirmative action, if there is one, is racism !  While the sentence may be true, it was not what the writer intended !  From the same paper comes "Around the same time as Blacks were mounting their attack on equal rights . . ."

 

        6.  Don't use words unless you know what they mean.  Examples are:  "Everyone also wreaks the benefits . . ."  "There is virtuously no usefulness of it in modern society."

 

        7.  Don't be redundant.  Some examples within sentences are:

" . . . to overthrow the existing ruling government that exists" 

" Substantially less qualified than him in qualifications" . . . Remember that repetition can be a problem within a paragraph, page,

or whole paper just as within a particular sentence.

 

        8.  Don't spell stupidly, and read my comments.  We all make mistakes, but avoid the incredibly dumb ones. . .

 

        9.  Don't confuse possessives and plurals.  "Universities" is a plural -- not a possessive.   "University's" is possessive.

"Universities'" is the plural possessive.

 

        10.  Be sure verbs reflect the singularity or plurality of the nouns they apply to.  Don't use sentences like:  "Federalism are the system that"

 

        11.  Don't attribute a statement when its author is obvious.  In one case, sentence after sentence ran: "Marshall feels that . . .

                        Then Marshall says . . .

                        Marshall goes on to say . . . "

The first Marshall would have about done it.  For the next two or three sentences we could assume that M was still speaking.

 -------------------------

Source:  Political Science Teacher Summer 1989.

 

        A.  On Teaching.

        B. Ten Commandments for Effective Study

        C. Some Thoughts on Outlining

        D. Why Write

        E. Notes on Writing

        F. Jill's Suggestions

 

Jill's Suggestions

One student who took a number of political science classes with me at Saint Martin's College was once asked by a couple of new students for advice about writing essays in class.  Since those students also came to write very good essays, I thought I would share her advice with you. 

INTRODUCTION:  to introduce your subject, begin with the broad subject, and narrow it at the thesis.  Sometimes I use a Quote, or a restatement of someone else's opinion to introduce an essay.  For example, if I am going to speak about Weyerhaeuser's reforestation program, I may start by talking about ecology in general, or about the timber industry.  Another example, relevant to Political Science, if I were to answer the question:  "What were the ideological causes of the cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States of America?"  I would begin with some background information, such as:

         "Following World War II, the United States found itself in the position of world leadership, because it was the only allied homeland to remain unscathed by the battles.  London had been bombed, and it's buildings were reduced to rubble.  France had been trampled first by the advancing Nazis, and then by the allies.  The Soviet Union had been burned to the gates of Moscow. 

        While the American Marshall plan rebuilt Western Europe, the Soviets set up puppet governments within their sphere of influence, to protect themselves from future hostile nations.  As the Iron Curtain went up, so did the guard of the Capitalist world, as they remembered the revolutionary and capitalist ideology differences, the revolutionary beginnings of both economic systems, and the expensive nature of both ideologies account for the deeply rooted hostilities, that caused the cold war."

        A well organized introduction and thesis is the key to a well organized paper.  In writing your introduction, you can hint at the outline of your paper.  This will give it congruity, and help you to organize as you write.  In addition, the thesis would be included in the introduction, (but doesn't have to be...I am always being accused of writing mysteries...meaning I leave it for the conclusion!)

         The thesis can simply be the question restated as a statement.  The introduction includes the thesis.

        The causes of the cold war were rooted in the

                1.  ideological difference

                2.  revolutionary beginning and

                3.  the expansive nature of Capitalism

                        and Socialism.

Use these three pieces of information to complete the outline.

For ideological differences give at least three supporting details.

        A.  American Capitalism believes in a market economy.  Soviet Socialism believes in a more equitable distribution of wealth...based upon need rather than money.

        B.  American Democracy believes in the right of all to vote for leadership.  Soviet Socialists believe in the dictatorship of the proletariat.

        C.  Soviets believe that equality cannot be achieved if certain members of the society have more than the majority of the workers.  Americans believe in the work ethic...equality in opportunity which allows all members of society to become a Rockefeller.

     For the revolutionary beginnings of both ideologies give details as to why this would influence the ideologies.

        A.

        B.

        C.

 

Do the same for the expansive natures of both ideologies

        A.

        B.

        C.

 

The conclusion is usually a restatement of the thesis, in different words, usually followed by an additional fact.

 

        Sometimes you  cannot support each paragraph with three pieces of evidence, Don't panic, put your second best piece of evidence first, (II.) and your best last (IV).  Add all the pieces of support (A,B,C, or D) you can to the points.

 

        When writing your paper use connecting words to make it flow easily between the paragraphs.  (On your outline they are numbered with Roman numerals such as I, II)  These connecting words should make a reference back to the thesis, such as "First, the Capitalist and Socialist ideologies were a cause of the cold war hostilities."

 

        A.  On Teaching.

        B. Ten Commandments for Effective Study

        C. Some Thoughts on Outlining

        D. Why Write

        E. Notes on Writing

        F. Jill's Suggestions