Music is so important to poetry, that not developing it is equivalent to being tone deaf and trying to create a song. Remember, Sonnet means “Little Song” in Italian, and lyric poetry is so named for its musical qualities. Yet so many poets omit taking the time to train the ear.Continue reading →
In 2002, I was a frequent guest writer and columnist for a Louisville, KY magazine called The Snitch. With the rise of concern about prison education reform, I’m reprinting this article, which is still relevant. It first appeared in The Snitch of Louisville, August 15, 2002, under the title, “Teaching Inmates the Hard Way.”Continue reading →
I still own a 2007 Honda Fit Sport, a fun, lovely little car that’s versatile, has good milage for a gas-burner, and a rabid fanbase. Believe it or not, it was my first new car purchase, and I was so crazy about it I wanted to write about my experience.
Back when I worked as an editor and freelancer, I had a friend who owned (and probably still owns) Autochannel.com. I pitched him A More Perfect Fit and he took me up on the Honda Fit column. I was delighted when I discovered that my old columns were still posted. I still find them relevant, so enjoy.
This column has links to the others: “Toward a More Perfect Mileage”
In my second-semester composition course, a student asked a question about how to write introductions to research papers. I jotted down some notes for her, so my musing today is to offer some quick advice on how to get that research paper started by writing good introductions. This isn’t a “lesson” exactly, but I hope the notes are useful.
I think a good way to think of introductions is to be lean and quick. Many students at the beginning of my writing courses tend to begin with generic, vague, dramatic, and “grand gesture” comments. Do not do this!
For instance, DON’T write openings such as:
- “In our complicated [technological] world (or society or culture) of today…”
- “Since time began…” or “Ever since time began people have studied…”
- Other variations: “Since the dawn of time….” “As long as there has been history people have wondered…” etc. etc.
Just get right to the start. For example,
“Recidivism, known as the rate at which former inmates are re-arrested or re-sentenced for new crimes, is a looming problem for the American penal system.”
In one sentence you set up the general topic, the problem, give a definition, and are prepared to offer a couple of statements about the problem before informing the reader what the research question or thesis will be, which will typically appear at the end of the opening paragraph or two:
“This paper will evaluate whether or not prison education programs can provide a significant reduction in recidivism rates.”
There’s nothing wrong with being simple and plain in research writing. There’s no need to “dress up a topic with significance” because if it weren’t important you wouldn’t be writing about it. You don’t have to “sound smart” because a good research paper will be smart. It will do the talking for you.
Your introduction wants to:
- Inform the reader what you are doing and why.
- Interest the reader in reading further.
Often, a brief opening statement of a startling and/or significant fact about your topic will create interest and motivation, as well as reveal the need to write the paper:
“In 2017, 50% of new K-12 teachers hired left the teaching profession within five years (citation)….
Often, a (brief) anecdote will serve to set the stage for the research paper. It can even be personal.
“Only four years after receiving my freshly-minted teaching degree, I resigned from my teaching position in middle school and returned to college to pursue a new career.”
You can combine both approaches:
“Only four years after receiving my freshly-minted teaching degree, I resigned from my teaching position in middle school and returned to college to pursue a new career. According to the latest statistics, I’m one of 50% of brand-new K-12 educators who quit the profession before reaching their fifth anniversary…”
Keep it short, sweet, relevant and simple. You don’t have a lot of space to muck around and you want to get on with developing your paper.
I hope this answer helps you and other students deal with introductions!
You may also be interested in my article: Reducing Repetition
Researching primary sources is time-intensive. As I like to say, “there are no shortcuts.” But there are tricks research writers use to gather information. Here are four of these researching tricks that can help you more quickly and efficiently locate primary sources:Continue reading →
Students using research studies often are unaware of how to apply critical attention to details. Yet some details of even the most complicated sources are within even the beginning research writer’s ability to analyze. How to Use Sources More Critically shows how you can and should question source data with enough depth to note weaknesses, debatable issues, and limitations, often brought up by the source’s authors themselves.Continue reading →