Writing Committee Lexicon: Draft
Purpose: To create a consensus among those teaching English 1101 and 1102 regarding the content and goals of this sequence. Terms
Certain entries contain links to expanded discussion of the topic and methods of applying it in the classroom.
Audience: The assumed reader of the text who brings with her a set of assumptions, values and expectations. Students should assume, unless otherwise directed in class, that they are writing for an academic audience.
Critical Strategy: Understanding how texts can be variously interpreted by taking different critical approaches. Students should learn to develop critical strategies by understanding how to ask questions of a text beyond, “Is the author right?” Students will learn to ask questions about form, internal and social context, and rhetorical strategies in order to develop ways of taking texts apart. A basic familiarity with diverse strategies helps students in their own comprehension as well as facilitates understanding of secondary material.
Essay Organization: Effective essay organization produces an essay that has an adequately developed beginning, middle, and end—all of which cohere and create a meaningful and satisfying whole. A well organized essay has an internal logic that simultaneously adheres to and fulfills the requirements of the topic and the thesis.
Excessive Collaboration may be a good idea gone bad; or more correctly, perhaps it is a good idea merely misused. Students collaborate excessively when the end result of all the idea swapping, sharing, brainstorming, and conferring has been to obliterate one student’s voice and replace it with that of another. Student writers collaborate excessively when they abandon, wittingly or unwittingly, their own words and adopt, claiming them as their own, the ideas or exact phrasing of their collaborator.
Explication: As distinct from plot summary, explication concentrates on analyzing ways an author uses a variety of literary and rhetorical elements to create a total effect, providing well developed, detailed points and drawing effective conclusions.
Extemporaneous Writing: Any number of writing activities, which students undertake during a class period, designed to stimulate the learning process and encourage the development of students into logical, analytical and insightful thinkers. Having the ability to formulate a complex response in a short period of time is a fundamental skill needed in any discipline. Some extemporaneous writing will be formal (the in-class essay) while other forms of informal in-class writing may include brainstorming, written responses to directed questions, essay quizzes and group activities.
In-class Essay: A timed writing assignment that requires students to think through a specific question (which they do not receive ahead of time) and produce a clear, thesis-driven response that demonstrates their ability to write grammatically clear and structurally coherent prose and to develop ideas with sufficient depth, drawing upon appropriate, well explained examples. At least one timed essay each term should be 60 minutes long and worth 15% of the course grade.
Paragraph Unity: A paragraph is unified when all of its sentences advance the claim (the “controlling idea”) made about the topic in the topic sentence.
Personal Response: Students write about their own ideas, opinions, and experiences in connection to the assigned text. While less formal than explication, essays must respond to the actual language of the text with direct references, quotations, and well developed, organized ideas.
Recognition of Complexity: Writing that sees beyond the obvious, elementary, or superficial in order to inform, interpret, or analyze in a manner which reveals depth of thought, clever observations, subtle connections, and thoughtful conclusions. Complex thesis development enhances or influences what readers already know or understand about the topic.
Research-Based Writing/Interpretation: Writing in which the student’s thesis is informed, supported, and developed with the aid of primary and secondary research. Primary research means working in the field, in the laboratory, with raw data, or original documents. Secondary research involves discovering what others have learned and written about the chosen topic, providing objective facts, knowledgeable interpretations, and expert evaluations.
Revision: The process of rethinking one’s writing and ideas so as to make them more persuasive. Revision requires more than correcting a few grammatical errors and adding or deleting a sentence here and there; rather, revision requires a reassessment of both a paper’s content (its evidence, its logical plan, its thesis) and its presentation to make those elements contribute more effectively to the whole.
Sequencing: A means of developing discourse fluency by ordering writing tasks, either within the scope of a single assignment or over the course of a semester, so skills build from one to the next assignment.
Standard English: The formal, grammatical dialect of English required in American colleges, professions, and businesses, disallowing slang, technical jargon and regional or non-standard expressions that are used in a less formal or conversational context.
Standard Expository Modes: The strategies that provide means for the development of ideas that support the thesis. They may be used singly within the essay or in combination, and they include the following: narration; description; classification; definition; example; comparison/contrast; cause and effect; analogy; process; and, argumentation/persuasion.
Techniques of Invention: The process whereby writers discover ideas to write about. In a text-based writing program, techniques of invention are inextricably intertwined with the process of reading: in other words, the daily class activity of critical reading becomes an act of invention. Students will learn to apply techniques like brainstorming, clustering, outlining and close analysis as means of invention.
Text-based Writing: Expository writing that takes as its subject another writer’s text (be it verbal, visual, or oral) with the intention of analyzing and explicating that text for the purpose of illuminating how the text makes meaning. The aim of text-based writing is to enable students to recognize the text as a construction made up of choices that are subject to debate, interpretation, and further analysis. Successful text-based analysis will implement smoothly, grammatically blended quotes and paraphrases—documented according to all MLA requirements—in order to analyze components including, but not limited to, theme, character, style and method.
Thesis: A thesis operates as a contract between the writer and the reader of an essay, delineating the essay’s position and scope. A thesis makes a specific claim about the meaning of evidence pertinent to a topic that requires proof; in other words, it is an interpretation that is not obvious to others.
Thesis-Driven Writing: Regardless of an essay assignment’s rhetorical requirements, the foundation of thesis-driven writing rests on the construction of a focused and purposeful thesis statement that establishes a framework for ideas which everything else that follows in the writing arises from and applies to.
Topic Sentence: A topic sentence functions, on the level of the body paragraph, in the same way that a thesis functions for the essay as a whole: it announces the topic of the paragraph and makes a claim about that topic that the rest of the paragraph will prove through illustration and analysis of specific evidence. Sometimes this claim is called the “controlling idea” of the topic sentence.