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Before you start Writing Assignment #1, please read or review Chapter1.pdf on Reading and Writing for College
You may also want to read Sentence Types and Functions.pdf
Actions and watch this short tutorial in order to review the importance of sentence variation:
In addition, you may want to review this handout, transitional words and phrasesrevised815.pdf
Actions on transitional words and phrases AND more specifically this tutorial, https://wordvice.com/common-transition-terms-used-in-academic-papers/ (链接到外部网站。) on using additive words and phrases. Additive words and phrases are often used to add coherence or "glue" between sentences and ideas when writing a summary.
Directions for Writing Assignment #1 - Writing a Summary
Carefully read Basic Problem Mine is Better.pdf
Actions using the techniques for critical reading and writing in college. After you have determined the author's thesis and are able to recognize the main ideas and supporting details, you should prepare a brief outline to help you write the summary. Be sure to begin your summary with the author's thesis and to give the author credit for his ideas throughout, by using the author's name. You do not have to cite the page numbers for this first assignment. Please pay attention to coherence, word choice, and sentence length and structure AND read the rubric below which explains how I will grade this summary.
Please do not write about your opinion or point of view or use direct quotes when writing your summary.
LENGTH: Your summary should be approximately 1-2 pages, double spaced, one paragraph, using one inch margins.
|Category||Arts & Education|
|Budget||$50-70 (2-5 Pages/ Short Assignment) Approx.|
|Required Skills||CV & Resume Writing|
|Type||Open For Bidding|
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The Basic Problem: "Mine is Better" Vincent Ryan Ruggiero
It's natural enough to like our own possessions better than other people's possessions. 1 Our possessions are extensions of ourselves. When first graders turn to their classmates and say, "My dad is bigger than yours" or "My shoes are newer" or "My crayons color better," they are not just speaking about their fathers or their shoes or crayons. They are saying something about themselves: "Hey, look at me. I'm something special."
Several years later those children will be saying, "My car is faster than yours," "My football team will go all the way this year," "My marks are higher than Olivia's." (That's one of the great blessings of students-though they may have to stoop to compare, they can always find someone with lower grades than theirs.
Even later, when they've learned that iLsounds boastful to say their possessions are better, they'll continue to think they are: "My house is more expensive, my club more exclusive, my spouse more attractive, my children better behaved, my accomplishments more numerous."
All of this, as we have noted, is natural, although not especially noble or vi1iuous or, in many cases, even factual. Just natural. The tendency is probably as old as humanity. History records countless examples of it. Most wars, for example, can be traced to some form of "mine is better" thinking. Satirists have pointed their pens at it. Ambrose Bierce, for instance, in his Devil's Dictionary, includes the
1 One exception to the rule occurs when we are envying others. But that is a special situation that doesn't contradict the point here.
word infidel. Technically, the word means "one who is an unbeliever in some religion." But Bierce's definition points up the underlying attitude in those who use the word. He defines infidel this way: "In New Yorlc, one who does not believe in the Christian religion; in Constantinople, one who does."
For many people, most of the time, the "mine is better" tendency is balanced by the awareness that other people feel the same way about their things, that it's an unavoidable paii of being a person to do so. In other words, many J?libple J,l;lalize that we all see ourselves in a special way, diff1;1rent fr6m ,, .. everything that is not ourselves, and that whatever ,VIie assdciate with ourselves becomes paii ofus in our n1inds. People whb have this understanding and are reasonably secure and self- · confident can control the tendency. The problem is that some people do not understand that each person has a special viewpoint. For them, "mine is .better" is not an attitude that everyone has about his or her things. Rather, it is a special, higher truth about their particular situation. Psychologists classify such people as either egocentric or ethnocentric.
Egocentric People Egocentric means centered or focused on one's own self and interested only in one's own interests, needs, and views. Egocentric people tend to practice "egospeak." The term was coined by Edmond Addeo and Robe1i Burger in their book of the same name. Egospeak, they explain, is "the aii of boosting our own egos by speaking only about what we want to talk about, and not giving a hoot in hell about what the other person· wants to talk about." More impoliant for our discussion is what precedes the outward expression of self-centeredness and energizes it: egocentric people's habit of mind. Following
Addeo and Burger, we might characterize that habit as egoTHINK.
Because the perspective of egothink is very limited, egocentric people have difficulty seeing issues from a variety of viewpoints. The world exists for them and is defined by their beliefs and values: What disturbs them should disturb everyone; what is of no consequence to them is unimportant. This attitude makes it difficult for egocentric people to observe, listen, and understand. Why should a person bother paying attention to others, including teachers and textbook authors, if
. they have nothing valuable to offer? What incentive is there to learn when one already knows everything worth knowing? For that matter, why bother with the laborious task of investigating controversial issues, poring over expert testimony, and evaluating evidence when one's own opinion is the final, infallible arbiter? It is difficult, indeed, for an egocentric to become proficient in critical thinking.
Ethnocentric People Ethnocentric means centered or focused on one's group. Unlike egocentric people, ethnocentrics are not absorbed in themselves but rather in their race, religion, ethnic group, or culture, which they believe is superior to all others. This belief they consider above the normal process of examination and questioning. Faced with a challenge to it or even a situation in which they are called on to explain it, they will resist. In their mirids there is no point in examining or questioning it. The niatter is settled.
Ethnocentric people, of course, are not born but made. Their early training in the home creates the habits of mind that characterize them. As children, they tend to expect and need strong leadership and strict discipline from their parents and
· teachers. Also, they are rigid and inflexible in their views, unable to face problems for which the outcomes or answers are not clear. They have no patience with complex situations and meet their daily affairs with oversimplifications.
As adults, ethnocentric individuals tend toward inflexible categorizing. They recognize no middle ground to issues. Things are either all one way or all the other. If such people are not completely for something, they are completely against it. The political party or candidate of their choice, for example, is the savior of the country; the opposition can only lead the country to destruction.
For ethnocentrics, the measure of any person or idea, of course, is the person's or idea's similarity to their race, their religion, their culture, their value system. Whatever blends with their outlook is worthy. Whatever differs from it is suspect, threatening, dangerous. This is a sad and undesirable attitude to take. But ethnocentric people find it quite satisfying. Psychologist Gordan Allport offers this explanation:
By taldng a negative view of great groups of mankind, we somehow make life simpler. For example, ifl reject all foreigners as a category, I don't have to bother with them except to keep them out of my country. If I can ticket, then, all Negroes as comprising an inferior and objectionable race, I conveniently dispose of a tenth of my fellow citizens. If I can put the Catholics into another category and reject them, my life is still further simplified. I then pare again and slice off the Jews ... and so it goes. Ethnocentric people's prejudice has an additional function.
It fills their need for an out-group to blame for real and imagined problems in society. Take any problem-crime in the streets, the drug trade, corruption in government, the assassination of a leader, a strike in a major industry,
pornography, a rise in food prices-and there is a ready-made villain to blame it on: The "kikes" are responsible-or the "wops," "niggers," "spies," or "polacks." Ethnocentrics achieve instant diagnosis-it's as easy as matching column A to column B. And they get a large target at which they can point their anger and fear and inadequacy and frustration.
Controlling "Mine is Better" Thinking It's clear what the extreme "mine is better" attitude of egocentric and ethnocentric people does to their judgment. It twists and warps it, often beyond correction. The effect of the "mine is better" tendencies of the rest of us is less dramatic, but no less real.
Our preference for our own thinking can prevent us from identifying flaws in our own ideas, as well as from seeing and building upon other people's insights. Similarly, our pride in our own religion can lead us to dismiss too quickly the beliefs and practices of other religions and ignore mistakes in our religious history. Our preference for our own political party can make us support inferior candidates and programs. Our allegiances to our own opinions can shut us off from other perspectives, blind us to unfamiliar truths, and enslave us to yesterday's conclusions.
Furthermore, our readiness to accept uncritically those who appeal to our preconceived notions leaves us vulnerable to those who would manipulate us for their own purposes. Historians tell us that is precisely why Hitler succeeded in winning control of Germany and very nearly conquering the world.
"Mine is better" thinking is the most basic problem 'for critical thinkers because, left unchecked, it can distort perception and cormpt judgment. The more mired we are in
subjectivity, the less effective will be our critical thinking. Though perfect objectivity m:;i,y be unattainable, by controlling our "mine is better" tendencies, we c,an achieve a significant
· degree of objectivity. One way to gain that control is to keep in mind that, like other people, we too are prone to "mine is better" thinking and that its influence will be strongest when the subject is one we really care about. As G.K. Chesteron observed,
We are all exact and scientific on the subjects we do not care about. We all immediately detect exaggeration nan exposition of Mormonism or a patriotic speech from Paraguay. We all require sobriety on the subject of the sea serpent. But the moment we begin to believe in a thing ourselves, that moment we begin easily to overstate it; and the moment our souls become serious, our words become a little wild. The second way to control "mine is better thinking is to be alert for signals of its presence. Those signals can be found both in our feelings and in our thoughts:
Infeelings: Very pleasant, favorable sensations, the desire to embrace a statement or argument immediately, without appraising it further. Or very unpleasant, negative sensations, the desire to attack and denounce a statement or argument without delay.
In thoughts: Ideas such as "I'm glad that experts are taking such a position-I've thought it all along" and "No use wasting time analyzing this evidence-it must be conclusive." Or ideas such as "This view is outrageous because it challenges what I have always thought-I refuse to consider it." Whenever you find yourself reacting this way, you can be
reasonably sure you are being victimized by "mine is better" thinking. The appropriate response is to resist the reaction and force yourself to consider the matter fair-mindedly.
Sentence Types and Functions Choosing what types of sentences to use in an essay can be challenging for several reasons. The writer must consider the following questions: Are my ideas simple or complex? Do my ideas require shorter statements or longer explanations? How do I express my ideas clearly? This handout discusses the basic components of a sentence, the different types of sentences, and various functions of each type of sentence.
What Is a Sentence?
• A sentence is a complete set of words that conveys meaning. A sentence can communicate
o a statement (I am studying.) o a command (Go away.) o an exclamation (I’m so excited!) o a question (What time is it?)
• A sentence is composed of one or more clauses. A clause contains a subject and verb. Independent and Dependent Clauses
There are two types of clauses: independent clauses and dependent clauses. A sentence contains at least one independent clause and may contain one or more dependent clauses.
• An independent clause (or main clause) o is a complete thought. o can stand by itself.
• A dependent clause (or subordinate clause) o is an incomplete thought. o cannot stand by itself.
You can spot a dependent clause by identifying the subordinating conjunction. A subordinating conjunction creates a dependent clause that relies on the rest of the sentence for meaning. The following list provides some examples of subordinating conjunctions.
• After • although • As • because • Before • even though • If • since • Though • when • While • until • Unless
Independent and Dependent Clauses Independent clause: When I go to the movies, I usually buy popcorn.
Dependent clause: When I go to the movies, I usually buy popcorn.
Independent clause: I don’t like the ocean because sharks scare me.
Dependent clause: I don’t like the ocean because sharks scare me. What Are the Different Types of Sentences? Sentences are divided into four categories: simple sentences, compound sentences, complex sentences, and compound-complex sentences.
Definition A simple sentence contains one independent clause. Examples
• Johnny rode his bike to school. • Who is your best friend?
• She ate her lunch, took a walk, and went back to work.
A compound sentence contains two independent clauses. A coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) often links the two independent clauses and is preceded by a comma.
• She wanted to go on vacation, so she saved up her money. • I like apples, but my sister loves bananas. • Tim loves to read, and he also loves to hike.
A complex sentence contains one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. A complex sentence will include at least one subordinating conjunction.
• She went to class even though she was sick. • As John was arriving to work, he realized he forgot his lunch. • While I enjoy classical music, I prefer rock and roll because I play the drums.
A compound-complex sentence combines complex sentence and compound sentence forms. A compound-complex sentence contains one or more independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.
• Although she felt guilty for missing her friend’s birthday, she took her out to dinner the next day, and they had a great time.
• I try to eat healthy food, but because fast food is so convenient, I cannot maintain a healthy diet.
• If he got the job, he would have to commute 50 miles to work, so he decided the job was not worth it.
What Are the Functional Purposes of each Type of Sentence? Because each type of sentence can serve various functions, the writer should use the type of sentence that best communicates the purpose of his or her idea.
• Choose the sentence type that will most clearly and accurately convey the logic of your
idea. • Consider the amount of information your readers need, and consider the links the readers
need to process the information. • Vary sentence structures to pace your readers through your argument.
Functions of Simple Sentences Use simple sentences when presenting a limited amount of information. Although simple sentences may be shorter, they are not any less academic than other sentence types.
To declare a direct statement
• First, I will give background information about my project. • This conclusion is supported by extensive evidence.
To display a simple list
• The researchers created their hypothesis, conducted some tests, and drew their conclusions.
• My evidence comes from journal articles, periodicals, and books.
To give concise directions
• Please consider my application for the internship. • Turn to Table 1 in the appendix.
To ask a question • What is the true meaning of the poem? • What will this study mean to medical research in a decade?
Functions of Compound, Complex, and Compound-Complex Sentences
Compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences can serve similar purposes. The writer can tailor the amount of information he or she provides by adding independent and dependent clauses to simple sentences.
To combine similar ideas
• Compound: Recycling is an effective way of helping the environment, and everyone should recycle at home.
• Complex: Since recycling is an effective way of helping the environment, everyone should recycle at home.
• Compound-Complex: Since recycling is an effective way of helping the environment, everyone should recycle at home; we can all work together to protect our planet.
To compare or contrast ideas
• Compound: Van Gogh was a talented and successful artist, but he had intense personal issues.
• Complex: Although he was a talented and successful artist, Van Gogh had intense personal issues.
• Compound-Complex: Although he was a talented and successful artist, Van Gogh had intense personal issues; indeed, many say his inner turmoil contributed to his beautiful art.
To convey cause and effect or chain of events
• Compound: The researchers did not come to the correct conclusion, so they restructured their hypothesis.
• Complex: Since the researchers did not come to the correct conclusion, they restructured their hypothesis.
• Compound-Complex: Since the researchers did not come to the correct conclusion, they restructured their hypothesis, and they will attempt the experiment again.
To elaborate on a claim or extend reasoning
• Compound: Cell phones should not be permitted in class, for they distract students and teachers.
• Complex: Since cell phones distract students and teachers, they should not be used in class.
• Compound-Complex: Since cell phones distract students and teachers, they should not be used in class, and I encourage faculty to forbid their use.
2.1 Sentence Writing
1. Identify the components of a basic sentence.
2. Identify the four most serious writing errors.
Imagine you are reading a book for school. You need to find important details that you can use for an assignment. However, when you begin to read, you notice that the book has very little punctuation. Sentences fail to form complete paragraphs and instead form one block of text without clear organization. Most likely, this book would frustrate and confuse you. Without clear and concise sentences, it is difficult to find the information you need.
For both students and professionals, clear communication is important. Whether you are typing an e- mail or writing a report, it is your responsibility to present your thoughts and ideas clearly and precisely. Writing in complete sentences is one way to ensure that you communicate well. This section covers how to recognize and write basic sentence structures and how to avoid some common writing errors.
Components of a Sentence Clearly written, complete sentences require key information: a subject, a verb and a complete idea. A sentence needs to make sense on its own. Sometimes, complete sentences are also called independent clauses. A clause is a group of words that may make up a sentence. An independent clause is a group of words that may stand alone as a complete, grammatically correct thought. The following sentences show independent clauses.
All complete sentences have at least one independent clause. You can identify an independent clause by reading it on its own and looking for the subject and the verb.
When you read a sentence, you may first look for the subject, or what the sentence is about. The subject usually appears at the beginning of a sentence as a noun or a pronoun. A noun is a word that identifies a person, place, thing, or idea. A pronoun is a word that replaces a noun. Common pronouns are I, he, she, it, you, they, and we. In the following sentences, the subject is underlined once.
• Malik is the project manager for this project. He will give us our assignments.
In these sentences, the subject is a person: Malik. The pronoun He replaces and refers back to Malik.
• The computer lab is where we will work. It will be open twenty-four hours a day.
In the first sentence, the subject is a place: computer lab. In the second sentence, the pronoun It substitutes for computer lab as the subject.
• The project will run for three weeks. It will have a quick turnaround.
In the first sentence, the subject is a thing: project. In the second sentence, the pronoun It stands in for the project.
In this chapter, please refer to the following grammar key:
• Subjects are underlined once. • Verbs are underlined twice. • LV means linking verb. • HV means helping verb. • V means action verb.
A sentence may have more than one person, place, or thing as the subject. These subjects are called compound subjects. Compound subjects are useful when you want to discuss several subjects at once.
• Desmond and Maria have been working on that design for almost a year. Books, magazines, and online articles are all good resources.
You will often read a sentence that has more than one noun or pronoun in it. You may encounter a group of words that includes a preposition with a noun or a pronoun. Prepositions connect a noun, pronoun, or verb to another word that describes or modifies that noun, pronoun, or verb. Common prepositions include in, on, under, near, by, with, and about. A group of words that begin with a preposition is called a prepositional phrase. A prepositional phrase begins with a preposition and modifies or describes a word. It cannot act as the subject of a sentence. The following circled phrases are examples of prepositional phrases.
Read the following sentences. Underline the subjects, and circle the prepositional phrases.
1. The gym is open until nine o’clock tonight. 2. We went to the store to get some ice. 3. The student with the most extra credit will win a homework pass. 4. Maya and Tia found an abandoned cat by the side of the road. 5. The driver of that pickup truck skidded on the ice. 6. Anita won the race with time to spare. 7. The people who work for that company were surprised about the merger. 8. Working in haste means that you are more likely to make mistakes. 9. The soundtrack has over sixty songs in languages from around the world.
10. His latest invention does not work, but it has inspired the rest of us.
Once you locate the subject of a sentence, you can move on to the next part of a complete sentence: the verb. A verb is often an action word that shows what the subject is doing. A verb can also link the subject to a describing word. There are three types of verbs that you can use in a sentence: action verbs, linking verbs, or helping verbs.
A verb that connects the subject to an action is called an action verb. An action verb answers the question what is the subject doing? In the following sentences, the action verbs are in italics.
• The dog barked at the jogger. • He gave a short speech before we ate.
A verb can often connect the subject of the sentence to a describing word. This type of verb is called a linking verb because it links the subject to a describing word. In the following sentences, the linking verbs are in italics.
• The coat was old and dirty. • The clock seemed broken.
If you have trouble telling the difference between action verbs and linking verbs, remember that an action verb shows that the subject is doing something, whereas a linking verb simply connects the subject to another word that describes or modifies the subject. A few verbs can be used as either action verbs or linking verbs.
• Action Verb: The boy looked for his glove. • Linking Verb: The boy looked tired.
Although both sentences use the same verb, the two sentences have completely different meanings. In the first sentence, the verb describes the boy’s action. In the second sentence, the verb describes the boy’s appearance.
A third type of verb you may use as you write is a helping verb. Helping verbs are verbs that are used with the main verb to describe a mood or tense. Helping verbs are usually a form of be, do, or have. The word can is also used as a helping verb.
• The restaurant is known for its variety of dishes. • She does speak up when prompted in class • We have seen that movie three times. • She can tell when someone walks on her lawn. (is, does, have, and can are helping verbs and known, speak up, seen, and tell are verbs)
Whenever you write or edit sentences, keep the subject and verb in mind. As you write, ask yourself these questions to keep yourself on track:
• Subject: Who or what is the sentence about? • Verb: Which word shows an action or links the subject to a description?
Copy each sentence onto your own sheet of paper and underline the verb(s) twice. Name the type of verb(s) used in the sentence in the space provided (LV, HV, or V).
1. The cat sounds ready to come back inside. 2. We have not eaten dinner yet. 3. It took four people to move the broken-down car. 4. The book was filled with notes from class. 5. We walked from room to room, inspecting for damages. 6. Harold was expecting a package in the mail. 7. The clothes still felt damp even though they had been through the dryer twice. 8. The teacher who runs the studio is often praised for his restoration work on old masterpieces.
Sentence Structure, Including Fragments and Run-ons
Now that you know what makes a complete sentence—a subject and a verb—you can use other parts of speech to build on this basic structure. Good writers use a variety of sentence structures to make their work more interesting. This section covers different sentence structures that you can use to make longer, more complex sentences.
1.1 Reading and Writing in College Writing for Success [Author removed at request of original publisher]
1. Understand the expectations for reading and writing assignments in college courses.
2. Understand and apply general strategies to complete college-level reading assignments efficiently and effectively.
3. Recognize specific types of writing assignments frequently included in college courses.
4. Understand and apply general strategies for managing college-level writing assignments.
5. Determine specific reading and writing strategies that work best for you individually.
As you begin this chapter, you may be wondering why you need an introduction. After all, you have been writing and reading since elementary school. You completed numerous assessments of your reading and writing skills in high school and as part of your application process for college. You may write on the job, too. Why is a college writing course even necessary?
When you are eager to get started on the coursework in your major that will prepare you for your career, getting excited about an introductory college writing course can be difficult. However, regardless of your field of study, honing your writing skills—and your reading and critical-thinking skills—gives you a more solid academic foundation.
In college, academic expectations change from what you may have experienced in high school. The quantity of work you are expected to do is increased. When instructors expect you to read pages upon pages or study hours and hours for one particular course, managing your work load can be challenging. This chapter includes strategies for studying efficiently and managing your time.
The quality of the work you do also changes. It is not enough to understand course material and summarize it on an exam. You will also be expected to seriously engage with new ideas by reflecting on them, analyzing them, critiquing them, making connections, drawing conclusions, or finding new ways of thinking about a given subject. Educationally, you are moving into deeper waters. A good introductory writing course will help you swim.
Table 1.1 “High School versus College Assignments” summarizes some of the other major differences between high school and college assignments.
Table 1.1 High School versus College Assignments
High School College
Reading assignments are moderately long. Teachers may set aside some class time for reading and reviewing the material in depth.
Some reading assignments may be very long. You will be expected to come to class with a basic understanding of the material.
Teachers often provide study guides and other aids to help you prepare for exams.
Reviewing for exams is primarily your responsibility.
Your grade is determined by your performance on a wide variety of assessments, including minor and major assignments. Not all assessments are writing based.
Your grade may depend on just a few major assessments. Most assessments are writing based.
Writing assignments include personal writing and creative writing in addition to expository writing.
Outside of creative writing courses, most writing assignments are expository.
The structure and format of writing assignments is generally stable over a four-year period.
Depending on the course, you may be asked to master new forms of writing and follow standards within a particular professional field.
Teachers often go out of their way to identify and try to help students who are performing poorly on exams, missing classes, not turning in assignments, or just struggling with the course. Often teachers will give students many “second chances.”
Although teachers want their students to succeed, they may not always realize when students are struggling. They also expect you to be proactive and take steps to help yourself. “Second chances” are less common.
This chapter covers the types of reading and writing assignments you will encounter as a college student. You will also learn a variety of strategies for mastering these new challenges—and becoming a more confident student and writer.
Throughout this chapter, you will follow a first-year student named Crystal. After several years of working as a saleswoman in a department store, Crystal has decided to pursue a degree in elementary education and become a teacher. She is continuing to work part-time, and occasionally she finds it challenging to balance the demands of work, school, and caring for her four-year-old son. As you read about Crystal, think about how you can use her experience to get the most out of your own college experience.
Review Table 1.1 “High School versus College Assignments” and think about how you have found your college experience to be different from high school so far. Respond to the following questions:
1. In what ways do you think college will be more rewarding for you as a learner?
2. What aspects of college do you expect to find most challenging?
3. What changes do you think you might have to make in your life to ensure your success in college?
Reading Strategies Your college courses will sharpen both your reading and your writing skills. Most of your writing assignments—from brief response papers to in-depth research projects—will depend on your understanding of course reading assignments or related readings you do on your own. And it is difficult, if not impossible, to write effectively about a text that you have not understood. Even when you do understand the reading, it can be hard to write about it if you do not feel personally engaged with the ideas discussed.
This section discusses strategies you can use to get the most out of your college reading assignments. These strategies fall into three broad categories:
1. Planning strategies. To help you manage your reading assignments.
2. Comprehension strategies. To help you understand the material.
3. Active reading strategies. To take your understanding to a higher and deeper level.
Planning Your Reading Have you ever stayed up all night cramming just before an exam? Or found yourself skimming a detailed memo from your boss five minutes before a crucial meeting? The first step in handling college reading successfully is planning. This involves both managing your time and setting a clear purpose for your reading.
Managing Your Reading Time You will learn more detailed strategies for time management in Section 1.2 “Developing Study Skills”, but for now, focus on setting aside enough time for reading and breaking your assignments into manageable chunks. If you are assigned a seventy-page chapter to read for next week’s class, try not to wait until the night before to get started. Give yourself at least a few days and tackle one section at a time.
Your method for breaking up the assignment will depend on the type of reading. If the text is very dense and packed with unfamiliar terms and concepts, you may need to read no more than five or ten pages in one sitting so that you can truly understand and process the information. With more user-friendly texts, you will be able to handle longer sections—twenty to forty pages, for instance. And if you have a highly engaging reading assignment, such as a novel you cannot put down, you may be able to read lengthy passages in one sitting.
As the semester progresses, you will develop a better sense of how much time you need to allow for the reading assignments in different subjects. It also makes sense to preview each assignment well in advance to assess its difficulty level and to determine how much reading time to set aside.
College instructors often set aside reserve readings for a particular course. These consist of articles, book chapters, or other texts that are not part of the primary course textbook. Copies of reserve readings are available through the university library; in print; or, more often, online. When you are assigned a reserve reading, download it ahead of time (and let your instructor know if you have trouble accessing it). Skim through it to get a rough idea of how much time you will need to read the assignment in full.
Setting a Purpose The other key component of planning is setting a purpose. Knowing what you want to get out of a reading assignment helps you determine how to approach it and how much time to spend on it. It also helps you stay focused during those occasional moments when it is late, you are tired, and relaxing in front of the television sounds far more appealing than curling up with a stack of journal articles.
Sometimes your purpose is simple. You might just need to understand the reading material well enough to discuss it intelligently in class the next day. However, your purpose will often go beyond that. For instance, you might also read to compare two texts, to formulate a personal response to a text, or to gather ideas for future research. Here are some questions to ask to help determine your purpose:
• How did my instructor frame the assignment? Often your instructors will tell you what they expect you to get out of the reading:
o Read Chapter 2 and come to class prepared to discuss current teaching practices in elementary math.
o Read these two articles and compare Smith’s and Jones’s perspectives on the 2010 health care reform bill.
o Read Chapter 5 and think about how you could apply these guidelines to running your own business.
• How deeply do I need to understand the reading? If you are majoring in computer science and you are assigned to read Chapter 1, “Introduction to Computer Science,” it is safe to assume the chapter presents fundamental concepts that you will be expected to master. However, for some reading assignments, you may be expected to form a general understanding but not necessarily master the content. Again, pay attention to how your instructor presents the assignment.
• How does this assignment relate to other course readings or to concepts discussed in class? Your instructor may make some of these connections explicitly, but if not, try to draw connections on your own. (Needless to say, it helps to take detailed notes both when in class and when you read.)
• How might I use this text again in the future? If you are assigned to read about a topic that has always interested you, your reading assignment might help you develop ideas for a future research paper. Some reading assignments provide valuable tips or summaries worth bookmarking for future reference. Think about what you can take from the reading that will stay with you.
Improving Your Comprehension You have blocked out time for your reading assignments and set a purpose for reading. Now comes the challenge: making sure you actually understand all the information you are expected to process. Some of your reading assignments will be fairly straightforward. Others, however, will be longer or more complex, so you will need a plan for how to handle them.
For any expository writing—that is, nonfiction, informational writing—your first comprehension goal is to identify the main points and relate any details to those main points. Because college-level texts can be challenging, you will also need to monitor your reading comprehension. That is, you will need to stop periodically and assess how well you understand what you are reading. Finally, you can improve comprehension by taking time to determine which strategies work best for you and putting those strategies into practice.
Identifying the Main Points
In college, you will read a wide variety of materials, including the following:
• Textbooks. These usually include summaries, glossaries, comprehension questions, and other study aids.
• Nonfiction trade books. These are less likely to include the study features found in textbooks.
• Popular magazine, newspaper, or web articles. These are usually written for a general audience.
• Scholarly books and journal articles. These are written for an audience of specialists in a given field.
Regardless of what type of expository text you are assigned to read, your primary comprehension goal is to identify the main point: the most important idea that the writer wants to communicate and often states early on. Finding the main point gives you a framework to organize the details presented in the reading and relate the reading to concepts you learned in class or through other reading assignments. After identifying the main point, you will find the supporting points, the details, facts, and explanations that develop and clarify the main point.
Some texts make that task relatively easy. Textbooks, for instance, include the aforementioned features as well as headings and subheadings intended to make it easier for students to identify core concepts. Graphic features, such as sidebars, diagrams, and charts, help students understand complex information and distinguish between essential and inessential points. When you are assigned to read from a textbook, be sure to use available comprehension aids to help you identify the main points.
Trade books and popular articles may not be written specifically for an educational purpose; nevertheless, they also include features that can help you identify the main ideas. These features include the following:
• Trade books. Many trade books include an introduction that presents the writer ’s main ideas and purpose for writing. Reading chapter titles (and any subtitles within the chapter) will help you get a broad sense of what is covered. It also helps to read the beginning and ending paragraphs of a chapter closely. These paragraphs often sum up the main ideas presented.
• Popular articles. Reading the headings and introductory paragraphs carefully is crucial. In magazine articles, these features (along with the closing paragraphs) present the main concepts. Hard news articles in newspapers present the gist of the news story in the lead paragraph, while subsequent paragraphs present increasingly general details.
At the far end of the reading difficulty scale are scholarly books and journal articles. Because these texts are written for a specialized, highly educated audience, the authors presume their readers are already familiar with the topic. The language and writing style is sophisticated and sometimes dense.
When you read scholarly books and journal articles, try to apply the same strategies discussed earlier. The introduction usually presents the writer’s thesis, the idea or hypothesis the writer is trying to prove. Headings and subheadings can help you understand how the writer has organized support for his or her thesis. Additionally, academic journal articles often include a summary at the beginning, called an abstract, and electronic databases include summaries of articles, too.
For more information about reading different types of texts, see Chapter 12 “Writing a Research Paper”.
Monitoring Your Comprehension Finding the main idea and paying attention to text features as you read helps you figure out what you should know. Just as important, however, is being able to figure out what you do not know and developing a strategy to deal with it.
Textbooks often include comprehension questions in the margins or at the end of a section or chapter. As you read, stop occasionally to answer these questions on paper or in your head. Use them to identify sections you may need to reread, read more carefully, or ask your instructor about later.
Even when a text does not have built-in comprehension features, you can actively monitor your own comprehension. Try these strategies, adapting them as needed to suit different kinds of texts:
1. Summarize. At the end of each section, pause to summarize the main points in a few sentences. If you have trouble doing so, revisit that section.
2. Ask and answer questions. When you begin reading a section, try to identify two to three questions you should be able to answer after you finish it. Write down your questions and use them to test yourself on the reading. If you cannot answer a question, try to determine why. Is the answer buried in that section of reading but just not coming across to you? Or do you expect to find the answer in another part of the reading?
3. Do not read in a vacuum. Look for opportunities to discuss the reading with your classmates. Many instructors set up online discussion forums or blogs specifically for that purpose. Participating in these discussions can help you determine whether your understanding of the main points is the same as your peers’.
These discussions can also serve as a reality check. If everyone in the class struggled with the reading, it may be exceptionally challenging. If it was a breeze for everyone but you, you may need to see your instructor for help.
As a working mother, Crystal found that the best time to get her reading done was in the evening, after she had put her four-year-old to bed. However, she occasionally had trouble concentrating at the end of a long day. She found that by actively working to summarize the reading and asking and answering
questions, she focused better and retained more of what she read. She also found that evenings were a good time to check the class discussion forums that a few of her instructors had created.
Choose any text that that you have been assigned to read for one of your college courses. In your notes, complete the following tasks:
1. Summarize the main points of the text in two to three sentences.
2. Write down two to three questions about the text that you can bring up during class discussion.
Students are often reluctant to seek help. They feel like doing so marks them as slow, weak, or demanding. The truth is, every learner occasionally struggles. If you are sincerely trying to keep up with the course reading but feel like you are in over your head, seek out help. Speak up in class, schedule a meeting with your instructor, or visit your university learning center for assistance.
Deal with the problem as early in the semester as you can. Instructors respect students who are proactive about their own learning. Most instructors will work hard to help students who make the effort to help themselves.
Taking It to the Next Level: Active Reading Now that you have acquainted (or reacquainted) yourself with useful planning and comprehension strategies, college reading assignments may feel more manageable. You know what you need to do to get your reading done and make sure you grasp the main points. However, the most successful students in college are not only competent readers but active, engaged readers.
Using the SQ3R Strategy One strategy you can use to become a more active, engaged reader is the SQ3R strategy, a step-by-step process to follow before, during, and after reading. You may already use some variation of it. In essence, the process works like this:
1. Survey the text in advance.
2. Form questions before you start reading.
3. Read the text.
4. Recite and/or record important points during and after reading.
5. Review and reflect on the text after you read.
Before you read, you survey, or preview, the text. As noted earlier, reading introductory paragraphs and headings can help you begin to figure out the author’s main point and identify what important topics will be covered. However, surveying does not stop there. Look over sidebars, photographs, and any other text or
graphic features that catch your eye. Skim a few paragraphs. Preview any boldfaced or italicized vocabulary terms. This will help you form a first impression of the material.
Next, start brainstorming questions about the text. What do you expect to learn from the reading? You may find that some questions come to mind immediately based on your initial survey or based on previous readings and class discussions. If not, try using headings and subheadings in the text to formulate questions. For instance, if one heading in your textbook reads “Medicare and Medicaid,” you might ask yourself these questions:
• When was Medicare and Medicaid legislation enacted? Why?
• What are the major differences between these two programs?
Although some of your questions may be simple factual questions, try to come up with a few that are more open-ended. Asking in-depth questions will help you stay more engaged as you read.
The next step is simple: read. As you read, notice whether your first impressions of the text were correct. Are the author’s main points and overall approach about the same as what you predicted—or does the text contain a few surprises? Also, look for answers to your earlier questions and begin forming new questions. Continue to revise your impressions and questions as you read.
While you are reading, pause occasionally to recite or record important points. It is best to do this at the end of each section or when there is an obvious shift in the writer’s train of thought. Put the book aside for a moment and recite aloud the main points of the section or any important answers you found there. You might also record ideas by jotting down a few brief notes in addition to, or instead of, reciting aloud. Either way, the physical act of articulating information makes you more likely to remember it. After you have completed the reading, take some time to review the material more thoroughly. If the textbook includes review questions or your instructor has provided a study guide, use these tools to guide your review. You will want to record information in a more detailed format than you used during reading, such as in an outline or a list.
As you review the material, reflect on what you learned. Did anything surprise you, upset you, or make you think? Did you find yourself strongly agreeing or disagreeing with any points in the text? What topics would you like to explore further? Jot down your reflections in your notes. (Instructors sometimes require students to write brief response papers or maintain a reading journal. Use these assignments to help you reflect on what you read.)
Choose another text that that you have been assigned to read for a class. Use the SQ3R process to complete the reading. (Keep in mind that you may need to spread the reading over more than one session, especially if the text is long.)
Be sure to complete all the steps involved. Then, reflect on how helpful you found this process. On a scale of one to ten, how useful did you find it? How does it compare with other study techniques you have used?
Using Other Active Reading Strategies The SQ3R process encompasses a number of valuable active reading strategies: previewing a text, making predictions, asking and answering questions, and summarizing. You can use the following additional strategies to further deepen your understanding of what you read.
• Connect what you read to what you already know. Look for ways the reading supports, extends, or challenges concepts you have learned elsewhere.
• Relate the reading to your own life. What statements, people, or situations relate to your personal experiences?
• Visualize. For both fiction and nonfiction texts, try to picture what is described. Visualizing is especially helpful when you are reading a narrative text, such as a novel or a historical account, or when you read expository text that describes a process, such as how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
• Pay attention to graphics as well as text. Photographs, diagrams, flow charts, tables, and other graphics can help make abstract ideas more concrete and understandable.
• Understand the text in context. Understanding context means thinking about who wrote the text, when and where it was written, the author’s purpose for writing it, and what assumptions or agendas influenced the author ’s ideas. For instance, two writers might both address the subject of health care reform, but if one article is an opinion piece and one is a news story, the context is different.