Course notebook, 4th Edition Updated for Visions of America Textbook

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HIS 202


Updated for Visions of America Textbook





Lesson 1: "Course Introduction: How to Succeed in this Course / Effective Writing”


Learning Objectives:
1. Understand the Course Objectives.
2. Understand the Attendance Policy.
3. Understand the policy on Academic Dishonesty.
4. Understand the course’s Instructional Methodology, to include use of Learning Objectives (LOs) and Identification and Significance (ID/SIG) Terms.
5. Understand the Course Requirements, to include when and what the graded events are, what you are responsible for on each one, what the Writing Assignment requirements are, and how you will be graded on it.
6. Understand how to organize and effectively write an essay.



• Writing should transmit a clear message in a single, rapid reading and be generally free of errors in grammar, mechanics, and usage.

• Good Writing is:

– Clear

– Concise

– Organized

– Right to the Point
• Put the recommendation, conclusion, or reason for writing – the “bottom line” – in the first paragraph, not at the end.

• Use the active voice.

• Use short sentences (normally 15 or fewer words).

• Write paragraphs that average 6 to 7 sentences in length.

• Use correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

• The active voice is direct, natural, and forceful

verb form.

• The active voice shortens sentences.

• The passive voice hides the “doer”of the action.
• The passive voice normally uses one of the forms

of “to be”, plus a verb ending in “-ed” or “-en”.

Examples are: “is requested,” “were beaten.”

ACTIVE: Michigan beat Michigan State.

PASSIVE: Michigan State was beaten by Michigan.


• Research

• Plan

• Draft


• Proof

Research includes identifying the task and topic, collecting information, analyzing how it supports or refutes the topic, developing a thesis statement (controlling idea), and determining what additional information that you need to complete the task.

Planning means that you decide on your thesis statement, develop an outline to support your thesis, and write out a tentative introduction and conclusion. To plan is to determine where you are going, how you are going to get there, and how to know when you have arrived.
Drafting is when you sit down, develop an outline, and begin writing. At this stage you do not worry about how the paper reads, but want to get the ideas on paper quickly.
Revising is the hardest part of writing. This is where you read the draft to determine if each word, sentence, and paragraph supports the thesis. This is when you identify the ideas that do not belong in the paper. It is also where you ensure that you have shown the linkages between your ideas, and how they all come together to support your thesis.
Proofing is the final task and is where you check to see that the paper is written as it should be. It is a good idea to have another person proof the writing as it is difficult to catch every error when you have been working on a paper. Use the proofing input to develop your final paper.


• Write the topic of your essay in the center of a sheet of paper.

• Using single words and short phrases, jot down everything you know about the topic.

• On a second sheet of paper, arrange the words and phrases on the first sheet into three or four topic groups.

• Determine where you need to complete additional research.

• Write your thesis statement in a single declarative sentence on a third sheet of paper.

• Below your thesis, draft a tentative outline.


Thesis: The argument or position which the author makes with regard to the subject under discussion.

Main Points: The principal reasons (usually three or four) why your thesis is correct.

Supporting Points or Evidence: These show why your main points are correct. These are normally each linked to only one main point. Each main point will have its own supporting points or evidence (usually three or four points per main point).



• Paragraph 1:

– Thesis

– First Main Point

– Second Main Point

– Third Main Point

• Paragraph 2: First Main Point

– 1st Supporting Point / Evidence

– 2nd Supporting Point / Evidence

– 3rd Supporting Point / Evidence

• Paragraph 3: Second Main Point

– 1st Supporting Point / Evidence

– 2nd Supporting Point / Evidence

– 3rd Supporting Point / Evidence

• Paragraph 4: Third Main Point

–1st Supporting Point / Evidence

– 2nd Supporting Point / Evidence

– 3rd Supporting Point / Evidence

• Paragraph 5: Consideration of Opposing Viewpoints

• Paragraph 6: Conclusion: Restatement of Thesis and Main Points


• A solid essay will normally consider the opposite position and show why the author’s argument is superior.

• Be sure to point out what parts of the opposing argument are valid, but then discuss why your position is better.

• Normally this is done just before your concluding paragraph.

The purpose of the evaluation instrument is to assist students in understanding how

effective they are as writers, and what changes they may need to consider to improve their

writing skills.
The evaluation instrument contains four Major categories and several subcategories.

Each subcategory contains a Likert rating scale (5 being Most Effective and 1 being

Most Ineffective) to use in evaluating student writing and space for your comments. Record

in the comment section the evidence from the essay that supports your observations along

with short suggestions that the writer needs to consider to improve his/her writing skill.
Scoring: Most Effective = 5, Most Ineffective = 1
a. Title/Subject -- An information or persuasive essay will have a title that draws attention to the subject matter in the paper. An information or decision paper will clearly state the subject in the purpose paragraph.
Most Effective: An information or persuasive essay title is descriptive, arrests, and grabs readers attention. An information or decision paper narrows and precisely states the subject.

Adequate: The title or subject is stated in broad terms, or it may raise expectations beyond what the essay or paper can support.

Most Ineffective: No title, the title is not descriptive, too broad, or requires subtitles to clarify. The subject of an information or decision paper is omitted or stated so broadly that it requires several sentences to clarify the writer's intent.
b. Opening/Purpose -- How effective is the opening paragraph in focusing the reader's attention on the specific topic or purpose. For example, the purpose of a written product, regardless of the format used, may focus on informing the brigade commander that 30% of the brigade failed to qualify with the M-16.
Most Effective: Identifies the topic and stimulates the reader interest.

Adequate: States the general purpose of the essay.

Most Ineffective: Abrupt, unrelated to the topic, does not creates interest in the topic or unrelated to the topic.
c. Thesis/CI (Controlling Idea) -- This refers to the writer's bottom line, the position that he/she takes on the subject under discussion. Do not confuse this with the purpose statement (see above). For example, your purpose is to inform the brigade commander about the 30% percent failure rate, but this statement fails to communicate why the failure rate is so high. A thesis/controlling idea would provide the reader with the bottom line: "Thirty percent failed to qualify because of damaged rifles."
Most Effective: Compelling, creates momentum, challenging.

Adequate: Succinct, focused.

Most Ineffective: Thesis omitted, too broad, vague, wordy, not clearly focused.
d. Main Points -- The introduction of the product should include the main points of the document. The writer does not develop the main points in the introduction, but merely states the main points so that the reader can see the writer's logic in support of his/her thesis/controlling idea.
Most Effective: Logically supports the writer's thesis.

Adequate: Logical and clear.

Most Ineffective: Not identified, not clear, illogical, difficult to follow.

a. Evidence -- The evidence consists of the facts, information, and opinion and analysis of the same to support the major points and therefore the essay. However, evidence rarely stands by itself. The writer provides an analysis that tells the reader how the evidence supports the thesis/controlling idea.
Most Effective: Comprehensive, clear analysis that shows how the evidence consistently supports major points, minor points, and thesis.

Adequate: It is relevant and accurate, but writer does not always show how the evidence supports the thesis.

Most Ineffective: Irrelevant, sketchy, inadequate, and excessive use of quotations, but no analysis show how the evidence supports the major points, minor points and thesis.
b. Organization -- The organization of the material reflects the writer's purpose. The writer may begin with material familiar to the audience and proceed to introduce new material not familiar to the audience. However, the writer organizes the product it must reinforce what he/she is saying.
Most Effective: Most Effectively reinforces essay, shows clear relationship between main and supporting ideas; uses deductive and inductive logic as appropriate.

Adequate: Uses some deductive and inductive logic.

Most Ineffective: None evident, awkward, or no clear relationship between ideas.
c. Main Points -- It is critical that writers provide both sides of a position, even for an information essay or an information paper. This gives credibility to the writer along with providing the additional information the reader needs to understand. The main points themselves may consist of one supporting and one opposing a particular position.
Most Effective: Gives the opposing point of view. Is persuasive in supporting a specific point of view, and not biased.

Adequate: Leads the reader to the author's point of view by presenting a distorted view of opposing points of view, or only a cursory examination.

Most Ineffective: Gives only one viewpoint. Is incomplete, evidence stacked in the author's favor.
d. Use of Sources -- What sources does the writer use to support his position or conclusion. Does the writer's sources support the thesis/controlling? Are they merely facts and opinions? Are they used out of context? Are they even needed? Are there any questions that the evaluator must consider.
Most Effective: Evidence and analysis of evidence reinforces the major points.

Adequate: Only gives opinions and facts with little or no analysis of evidence.

Most Ineffective: Omits sources, uses sources out of context. Does not document sources.
e. Transitions -- Effective transitions help the reader to follow the writer's thinking from point to point. Weak transitions can leave the reader floundering trying to understand the writer's intent.
Most Effective: Smoothly connects the major and minor parts so that the reader can clearly see how the writer develops his/her thesis.

Adequate: Effectively led the reader.

Most Ineffective: Omitted, vague, mechanical throughout.

III. CONCLUSION. Good writing will include a conclusion that summarizes the writer's position, restates the thesis/controlling idea, does not add new material that is not introduced in the paper, and brings closure to the topic.
a. Summary
Most Effective: Reinforced or synthesized the discussion.

Adequate: Smooth, restated key ideas, reviewed essential ideas.

Most Ineffective: Missing, vague, incomplete, mechanical, new material added.
b. Restatement of Thesis
Most Effective: Synthesized the paper.

Adequate: Restated to reinforce essay.

Most Ineffective: Omitted, changed the thesis, mechanical, introduced a new thesis.
c. Closure
Most Effective: Fully integrated into the overall pattern of the essay.

Adequate: Definite and planned.

Most Ineffective: Omitted, indefinite, inadequate, mechanical routine.
IV. STYLE -- Style describes how the writer communicates the message intended. This includes the words selected to convey a thought, sentence and paragraph structure, grammar, punctuation and spelling. The format the writer uses to convey the message must be appropriate to the audience and the requirement.
a. Format -- Does the writer use the appropriate format for the requirement. For example, the writer who produces an information paper using an essay format would be using the information format. The same is true if the writer produces a decision paper but uses the format for an information paper.
Most Effective: Correct format for the requirement.

Most Ineffective: Incorrect format for the requirement.
b. Word Choice -- Are the words of the essay appropriate for the task. For example, a writer who uses technical jargon in a paper for an audience without a technical background would not be effective because the audience most likely will have difficulty understanding the intended message.
Most Effective: Precise diction at appropriate level.

Adequate: Adequate word choice, some jargon.

Most Ineffective: Imprecise, vague, pretentious, overuse of jargon.
c. Sentences -- Long wordy sentences increase the difficulty to communicate clearly and concisely. Do the sentences express coordination? Are they primarily written in the active voice. Where the writer uses passive voice does he/she use it appropriately? A general rule of thumb for sentence length is that sentences will average 12 to 20 words. Some may be shorter, some longer, but when you add up the total words and divide by the number of sentences the average will be somewhere between 12 and 20 words.
Most Effective: Written to express coordination, proper use of passive voice.

Adequate: Clear, concise, Most Effective subordination and coordination.

Most Ineffective: Too long or short, excessive passive voice, fragments, and run-on sentences.

d. Paragraphs -- Not only must the paragraphs advance the ideas of the writer, but generally they are short averaging 6 to 8 sentences. Again, like sentences, some paragraphs may be shorter, some longer. However, when you add up the total sentences in the paper and divide by the number of paragraphs the average will fall somewhere around 6 - 8 sentences.

Most Effective: Fully integrated into essay, advanced the ideas.

Adequate: Well focused, concise.

Most Ineffective: Poor focus, too long, topic did not advance essay.
e. Grammar -- Grammatical errors can spoil an otherwise excellent paper.
Most Effective: Only one or two errors.

Adequate: Very few grammar errors.

Most Ineffective: Numerous errors, became a major distraction.
f. Punctuation -- Does the writer punctuate appropriately? A few errors don't really get in the way of the reader. However, numerous errors increase the reading difficulty.
Most Effective: Only one or two errors.

Adequate: Very few errors.

Most Ineffective: Numerous errors, made reading difficult.
g. Spelling -- Spelling and capitalization become important when they get in the way of what the writer is trying to say. Numerous misspelled words and poor capitalization increase the reading difficulty.
Most Effective: No misspellings, no capitalization errors.

Adequate: One or two misspelled words or capitalization errors.

Most Ineffective: Numerous misspelled words, poor capitalization.
Once you have the controlling idea, add your support paragraphs and an introduction (if needed) and a conclusion (if needed). What you have is a rough plan or outline. Now you're ready to write your first draft.
Step 3 -- Drafting is an important step. The draft is the bridge between your idea and the expression of it. Write your draft quickly and concentrate only on getting your ideas down on paper. Don't worry about punctuation and spelling errors.
Use your plan. State your controlling idea (the bottom line) early and follow the order you've already developed. When you have the ideas down and you're satisfied with the sequence, put the paper aside. You've finished the draft, and you need to get away from the paper for a while before you start to revise.
Step 4 -- Revising is looking at the material through the eyes of your audience. Read the paper as if you have never seen it before. Find where you need to put in transitions; look for places that need more evidence.
Then write another draft making the changes you've noted and using a simple style. Package the material so it's easy to read by using short paragraphs and labels (if necessary).
Step 5 -- Proof. Now you're ready to proof the draft. At this point, forget about substance, organization, and style; concentrate on grammar, mechanics, and usage. You may want to have someone else read the paper, too. Sometimes other people can find errors you can't because you're too close to the problem.
When you finish, write the final draft, making the corrections. Mission accomplished.

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