There is nothing more that The Study Dude wants for you than to learn what exactly it means to start your paper with a scintillating quote.
Well, in these articles, as The Study Dude, I’ll try to give you the study tips you need to help make your learning easier. I’ll also give you straight and honest opinions and personal anecdotes?even the embarrassing ones that you wouldn’t ever dare read about from any other study tip guru.
The book The Craft of Research by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams gives rise to part four of the Study Dude article.
Presenting Charts, Graphs, and other Visual Goodies
In your results of your paper, it is a good idea to present visuals. I don’t mean just one or two, I mean a lot of visuals. Visuals remain essential to the success of your thesis research. Yes, a thesis without visuals is like a grown adult missing a tooth right in the center of the mouth. The absence of visuals warns of amateurishness, incompleteness, and a lack of substance.
Now, you don’t have to be an art aficionado to do well with graphics and visuals. Yes, a course on Microsoft software might do you well if you feel you lack the know-how with computer generated charts, graphs, and tables. To get that knowledge, a wonderful course exists called Computers and Management Information Systems (CMIS) 245, offered by our very own Athabasca University.
PowerPoint offers a great deal of flexibility with making charts, too, including the ability to add shapes and arrows and certain types of structural charts. In PowerPoint, you can easily make Venn diagrams, for instance. Once you create your graphics in PowerPoint or Excel, you can take a screenshot or copy and paste it into Word or possibly export it directly into a word format. CMIS 245 covers a broad gamut of MS Word products, so go ahead and dig in.
– There are figures and then there are tables. Figures constitute anything visual that does not quality as a table. For instance, charts, graphs, photographs, sketches, etcetera all count as figures.
– Charts and graphs prove ideal for capturing quantitative (numerical) data.
– Tables, bar charts, and line graphs suit neophyte academics best. These figures are simple to learn and easy to implement.
– Just use horizontal lines (and sparingly) in your tables. Don’t have horizontal and vertical lines both present as they crowd the space and make the table confusing. Try to use your horizontal lines as underlines for your table labels only.
– Don’t make your bar chart 3-dimensional. 3-dimensional bar charts scream of amateurishness.
– Put labels to each of your rows and columns in a table and put tallies at the bottom or right hand side as needed.
– In tables, try to round your numbers so that you don’t have values such as 98.674 in a field.
– Try to arrange your bar charts so that they show a pattern (such as increasing or decreasing values).
Crafting Your Introduction and Conclusion with a Scintillating Quote
In the Communications Studies undergraduate program, I often wondered what was meant by the advice to start your paper with a catchy quote. I wondered if I should buy a reference book on famous quotes, look up the topic of my paper in the quote book index, and write-up the catchiest quote I could find. However, that approach would be stifling as there are only so many famous quotes to pick and choose from. Wouldn’t recycling some famous quote get redundant after a while? The answer is yes.
Many fiction books start a chapter with a famous quote. That’s the trend for fiction books, but for your paper, there is a better strategy not only for introducing your quote, but for concluding the paper with a quote as well. If you’ve ever been ensnared by the conundrum of not knowing how to tie your essay together, then the following advice will sit well with you.
While you should keep in mind that a famous quote at the start of your paper can sometimes be poignant, a basic formula for introductory quotations has been presented by Booth, Colomb, and Williams:
– Whatever you do, don’t start your paper with a dictionary definition. Dictionary definitions don’t provide adequate treatment to a concept complex enough to warrant a paper.
– Use a startling quotation at the beginning of your paper whenever the quotation reflects a lot of the keywords you use throughout your write-up.
– Take the startling or compelling quotation directly from one of your sources. Yes, take the quotation from the source that most poignantly highlights the main theme or question or argument of your paper.
– Try to have your final quotation in the conclusion reflect your introductory quotation, but have a slightly different spin or slightly different wording to it. Try to make your final quotation from the sources (most ideally from the same source as the introductory quote) more complex or more reliant on the argument in your paper.
– You can also use a fact or an anecdote to start your paper, but do again ensure that your concluding remark reflects this initial component in an illuminating way. Also, getting your startling facts from one of your most salient sources would serve you well.
What to Look for In Revisions
Revising a paper for a novice can prove challenging. I used to print out a copy of my paper and get my friend to read it. Typically, this friend would offer no solid advice, but instead circle one or two, at the most, spelling or grammatical errors and hand the paper back to me. I’ve come to learn that this type of advice just doesn’t cut it in academics. You need people to engage with your ideas like they are your readers having a conversation with you. Authors Booth, Colomb, and Williams, along with authors Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, know the value of engaging readers in a dialogue and ensuring you meet the reader’s need to grow from what you write.
For the structural parts of your essay, however, the revision should be more finely tuned. You need to know what constitutes a strong sentence. In all of my undergraduate and graduate education, for instance, it never once dawned on me to avoid passive sentences. No-one told me about the insidious nature of using passive sentences. In fact, my high school teacher told me to take delight in mixing passive and active sentences as the combination added interest. I took her literally and riddled my writing with passive sentences. Big mistake. You, however, should take the following advice of Booth, Colomb, and Williams on how to revise:
– Attend to sentence structure only after you organize your paper to your best ability and ensure your arguments are sound.
– Don’t write your paper with what are called nominalizations. Nominalizations are nouns derived from verbs or adjectives. For instance, “to wonder” is the verb and “wonderment” is the noun. Too many of these stuffy nominalizations make for an unbecoming read. Try to keep the simpler adjective or verb form intact.
– Plus nominalizations, those pesky nouns, serve up lots of cluttering prepositions and articles. (Articles include the words, “the”, “a”, and “an”.)
– Don’t be too stuffy and complex in your writing, but don’t be Simple Simon either.
– Aim for a simple subject that is the thing or idea you are discussing followed closely by a verb as this makes for clear easy to follow writing. Make the person or thing doing the action the simple subject. For instance “the purpose of the assignment …” has “purpose” as the simple subject whereas “the assignment aimed …” has “the assignment” as the simple subject (which is preferable as “the assignment” and not “the purpose” is the doer).
– Try not to use long subjects. Use short subjects wherever possible.
– Make the concept, person, or thing that appeared earlier the start of your subject wherever possible. In other words, use something familiar as the subject, and relegate the unfamiliar to the end of the sentence. Also, relegate the overly complex stuff to the end of your sentence.
So, there’s nothing to fear. The Study Dude is determined to make right for you all the wrongs I made in grad school?one A+ at a time.
Booth, Wayne C., Colomb, Gregory G., & Williams, Joseph M. The Craft of Research. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.