Link Search Menu Expand Document

Textbook Cheat-Sheet

Fall English

Habits of Mind of Academic Writers

  1. Inquiring. Begin with questions that lead to rich and complex insights.
  2. Seeking and valuing complexity. Reject binary thinking, think from a multitude of perspectives, and accept uncertainty.
  3. Understanding academic writing is a conversation. Build upon others’ contributions and engage in dialogue.
  4. Understanding that writing is a process. No piece of writing is ever fully completed; continuously draft and revise.
  5. Reflecting. Don’t lose the greater picture and rethink what you read and write.

Reading and Understanding

Steps of a Rhetorical Analysis

  1. Identify the situation. What motivates the writer? What conversation are they entering?
  2. Identify the writer’s purpose. What does the writer aim to make readers do or think about?
  3. Identify the writer’s claims. What are their main and supporting claims?
  4. Identify appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos. Which methods does the author use to convince the reader?
  5. Identify the writer’s audience. Who is the writer aiming to convince? What is their target audience?

Steps to Writing a Paraphrase

  1. Decide whether to paraphrase. Do you need to summarize or quote?
  2. Understand the passage. Identify key words, phrases, and ideas.
  3. Draft your paraphrase. Replace key words and phrases with synonyms or alternative phrases. Experiment with word order and sentence structure.
  4. Acknowledge your source. Protect yourself from plagiarism charges.

Steps to Writing a Summary

  1. Describe the author’s key claims. What are their main ideas?
  2. Select examples to illustrate the author’s argument. How do they justify their ideas with evidence?
  3. Present the gist of the author’s argument. What is the intersection of their ideas and purpose?
  4. Contextualize what you summarize. Where was the piece written? What is the conversation the writing is entering?

Back to top.

Arguments and Claims

Identifying Types of Claims

  • Claims of Fact are assertions that define, classify, or establish that a problem or condition has, does, or will exist.
  • Claims of Value are an evaluation of a problem or condition that has, does, or will exist.
  • Claims of Policy are an argument that a condition should exist; a call for change or solution to a problem.

Steps to Analyzing an Argument

  1. Identify the type of claim. Is it a claim of fact? Value? Policy?
  2. Analyze the reasons used to support the claim. Are they recent? Relevant? Reliable? Accurate?
  3. Identify concessions. Is there another argument that even the author acknowledges is legitimate?
  4. Identify counterarguments. What arguments contradict or challenge the author’s position?

Rogerian Approach to Argument

  1. Convey to readers that their different views are understood.
  2. Acknowledge conditions under which that view is valid.
  3. Assist the reader in finding common ground.
  4. Create mutually acceptable solutions on clearly defined problems.

15 Types of Logical Fallacies

  1. Erroneous Appeal to Authority. Author claims to be an authority but is not.
  2. Ad Hominem. Focusing on the person making the claim, not the claim itself.
  3. Shifting the Issue. Author draws attention away from the issue instead of offering evidence.
  4. Either/Or Fallacy. Author will take two extreme positions and force the reader to make a choice.
  5. Sweeping Generalizations. Author attempts to draw a conclusion without providing sufficient evidence.
  6. Bandwagon. Author uses support of others to justify your support.
  7. Begging the Question. Asks readers to accept a premise that is also the conclusion.
  8. False Analogy. Persuading that something is true by using a comparison that is not reasonable.
  9. Technical Jargon. Boosting up the author’s credibility artificially by using esoteric words.
  10. Confusing Cause and Effect. Difficult to establish one factor influenced another.
  11. Appeal to Fear. Appealing to irrational fears and prejudices.
  12. Fallacy of Division. Assumes wwhat is true of a whole must always be true of its parts.
  13. Hasty Generalization. Draws a conclusion about a group with a sample size too small.
  14. Straw Man Argument. Makes a generalization about a group without actually citing a specific writer or work.
  15. Fallacy of the Middle Ground. Assumes that the middle position beteen extreme positions must be correct.

Back to top.


Steps to Identifying Issues

  1. Draw on personal experience. Build your argument from a personal sense of what is important, puzzling, uncomfortable, wrong, or curious.
  2. Identify what is open to dispute. What challenges what you think or believe?
  3. Resist binary thinking. Accept complexiites.
  4. Build on and extend the ideas of others. Open up to new ways of looking at the issue.
  5. Read to discover a writer’s frame. What theories or ideas shape the writer’s focus?
  6. Consider the constriants of the situation. Formulate your argument to meet needs and constraints of the context.

Steps to Formulating an Issue-based Question

  1. Refine your topic.
  2. Explain your interest in the topic.
  3. Identify an issue.
  4. Formulate your topic as a question.
  5. Acknowledge your audience.

Constructing Writing

Steps to Establishing a Context for a Thesis

  1. Establish that the issue is current and relevant. Point out the extent to which others have recognized the problem, issue, or question that you are writing about.
  2. Briefly present what others have said. Explain how others have addressed the problem, issue, or question you are focusing on.
  3. Explain what you see as the problem. Identify what is open to dispute.
  4. State your thesis. Help readers see your purpose and how you intend to achieve it—by correcting a misconception, filling a gap, modifying a claim others have accepted, or stating an hypothesis.

Steps to Writing a Synthesis

  1. Make connections between and among different texts. Annotate the texts you are working with from an eye of comparison.
  2. Decide what those connections mean and how you want readers to understand them. Decide what similarities and differences mean to you and what they might mean to readers.
  3. Formulate the gist of what you’ve read. Identify an overarching idea.

Steps to Integrating Sources Into Your Writing

  1. Take an active stance. You guide where your paper is going, not your sources.
  2. Explain the source. Explain the material you quote, paraphrase, or summarize.
  3. Be fair to your sources. Do not unfairly represent the content, and show what you change with ellipses and brackets.
  4. Use signal phrases to introduce and identify the source. Use short quotations with the grammar of your own sentences.

Common Verbs in Signal Phrases

claimsdemontratesimpliespoints outtates
commentsdisagreesindicatesproposestakes issue with

Revision and Sources

The Composition Pyramid

TopSituation, Issues, Thesis, Audience
MiddleOrganization, use of sources to support thesis
BottomStyle and grammar

Steps to Identifying Sources

  1. Consult experts who can guide your research.
  2. Develop a working knowledge of standard sources.
  3. Distinguish between primary and secondary sources.
  4. Distinguish between popular and scholarly sources.

Steps to Skimming

  1. Examine the table of contents and index.
  2. Read the introductory sections.
  3. Skim for the argument by reading topic sentences.
  4. Check notes and bibliographic references.

Steps to Evaluating Library Sources

  1. Examine the table of contents and index. Consider the most relevant chapters and headings to your topic and the list of relevant subjects.
  2. Read the introductory sections. Get an overview of the author’s argument.
  3. Skim for the argument. Read topic sentences to determine the source’s relevance to your research. Go deeper to assess the type and quality of evidence the author uses. Note whether the author uses credible evidence to support the argument.
  4. Check the notes and bibliographic references. Identify other writers an author refers to and the titles of both books and articles. (Are the names and titles cited in many other works?)
  5. Assess the information for accuracy and credibility. Find out about the author’s educational background and relevance to the topic, issue, or question that the author addresses. Consider the types of evidence the author uses, the source of data, and whether the data can be verified.

Steps to Evaluating Internet and Social Media Sources

  1. Evaluate the author of the content. Is the author an expert?
  2. Evaluate the organization that supports the content. What entity funds the content and what is the extent of its credibility?
  3. Evaluate the purpose of the content. What are interests of the site, and what is it trying to do?
  4. Evaluate the information. Identify what type of information appears and the extent to which it is credible.

Steps to Writing an Annotated Bibliography

  1. Present key ideas. Describe what the research is about.
  2. Analyze. Explain what the author responds to, purpose, potential gaps, and credibility.
  3. Determine relevance. Discuss how this research may be used in your own argument.

Principles Governing Plagiarism

  1. All written work is accepted as your work.
  2. The wording of something you submit is taken to be your own.
  3. Concepts and ideas given in a paper are assumed to have originated from you.
  4. Online materials used for a paper also apply to these principles.
  5. Writing can be corrected and revised with reference books or with a peer group, but it cannot have been revised substantially by someone else.

Steps to Avoiding Plagiarism

  1. Always cite the source. Signal that you are paraphrasing, summariziing, synthesizing, or quoting your sources.
  2. Provide a full citation in the bibliography. A full citation must be provided at the end of every paper.