Archive for November, 2011
Journal articles are a staple for anyone in academia who is past middle school age. Whether you’re reading about the Moorish conquest of Spain, the discovery of DNA, or a study of teenage internet use, journal articles are inseparable from the education process. And, with textbooks ballooning in costs in recent years, teachers and professors have increasingly turned to article print-outs as a way of saving money.
But plodding through a dense journal article can be an incredibly tiresome affair, as anyone who has done so will probably acknowledge. When the semester starts to drag, or when you find yourself besieged by other obligations, reading that article about Latin American theater may seem more burdensome than reading the dictionary or doing medical coding. However, ideas from the article could be on a final test or paper. What to do?
Here are some suggestions for getting the most out of a journal article in the shortest amount of time:
Read the Abstract
Most journal articles have an abstract that accompanies the article and was written in order to secure its publication. As a short and condensed synopsis of the paper, the abstract can be very helpful for the hurried student. It should, in the space of one paragraph, convey the article’s hypothesis, general findings, and general conclusion.
Focus on the Conclusion
When the abstract comes up short in providing sufficient detail, you may want to check out the article’s conclusion. While not all articles will have an explicit section dedicated to the conclusion, each one should include a few final paragraphs that sum up the article, much in the same manner as the abstract, but do so with a bit more detail involved. At the same time, however, make sure to focus on the evidence presented in the conclusion and less on any broader implications of the study.
Prioritize and Pick Out What Matters
Many teachers and professors assign a journal article with the only goal being that their students understand the main idea contain therein. If this is the case in your class, reading the abstract and the conclusion should be sufficient. If the details matter, however, you can still refrain from having to plod through the whole thing. One way to do this is by focusing in on the topic sentences, which – in true expository form – often convey the fundamental point of a given paragraph. Another approach is to find a digitized form of the article online. The article can then be searched by keyword, allowing you to narrow in on those ideas that are most important to your class.
Ultimately, reading an article slowly and carefully is always the best way to understand its meaning and reasoning. But if you want to more efficiently gain an effective level of comprehension, focusing on the abstract, the conclusion, and the most important details is likely the surest way to make that a reality.
Technology has vastly changed the educational landscape in recent decades. The introduction to the classroom of tablets, easy internet access, and learning management systems (LMS) has altered the way teachers present new material and students process it. Nevertheless, some things about formal schooling show no signs of changing anytime in the next couple generations. Children will always have to read and write. They will always be taught certain basics in math and history. And, at least based on how things currently stand, they will always have to write the expository essay.
The expository essay is both loved and hated by those in the education world. Some claim that it instructs children in the fundamentals of writing, instilling in them the central abilities to analyze, interpret, and tie everything together. Others deride expository essays as limiting and formulaic, arguing that it restricts a child’s writing ability and breeds generations of youngster’s who have no love for the art.
Regardless of your opinion, it’s hard to say that the expository essay is not conquerable. By being aware of its structure and following a few key steps, there’s really no reason why you can’t excel on your expository assignment – whether you love it or hate it. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
The Thesis is Everything
The most important part of writing a successful expository essay is coming up with a strong and clear thesis statement. The thesis must be arguable, you must be able to support it with evidence, and that evidence must be able to be broken down into body paragraphs. Ultimately, every element of the essay revolves around the thesis: the introduction builds to it, the body paragraphs aggregately support it, and the conclusion considers its implications.
Build Body Paragraphs Around Your Evidence
Whether your essay discusses a work of literature or a political controversy, you’re going to want to break it down into pieces of evidence in order to support your argument and fit the expository context. When planning a body paragraph, make sure to build it around that paragraph’s key piece of evidence. Then, set-up the evidence with a sentence beforehand and explain it with a sentence or two afterwards. Then, once the evidence is in the paragraph and enclosed by your analysis, add a topic and concluding sentence that best connect the evidence to your surrounding paragraphs and to the thesis.
Separate Yourself From the Rest
In the likely case that you’re writing this expository essay for a class, there’s a good chance that you’ll come up with a solid thesis and decent supporting paragraphs and a perfectly acceptable conclusion – just like many of your classmates. To truly separate yourself from the rest, look to make your transitions as smooth as possible and your conclusion as strong and far-reaching as you can. Organize your paragraphs in a way that naturally lead to seamless transitions for example, and don’t be afraid to discuss larger implications of your argument at the end of your conclusion. It is also helpful to have a wide repertoire of transitions from which to pull. If done right, your essay will be greatly strengthened as a result.
There are many other methods and means of improving your skills as an expository writer. Although a sometimes boring and formulaic essay approach, the expository assignment certainly forces you to think about structure. In any piece of writing, it’s undeniably an important component to consider.