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1.1: Overview of the 15 Concepts

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    A good way to approach any academic text is to first preview and get to know the structure, purpose, and contents of the book you will be studying. This textbook is divided into 15 foundational concepts that will help you become a better writer. The best start would be to first familiarize yourself with these concepts before diving into the reading.


    • Being prepared and knowledgeable about the concepts you will be learning will help you to better absorb, understand, and retain the information.
    • You will have to start writing papers before you are able to go through all the chapters in this textbook, and yet as a college student, you will still be expected to include the foundational elements of writing in your essay, so start by reviewing and familiarizing yourself with these concepts and approaches.
    • By looking at an overview of the 15 concepts, you can get a “big picture” of writing, see the connections between the ideas, and see how they work together to help you write unified essays.
    • Getting to know a text gives you a level of comfort and ownership over that text and the confidence to navigate it well to later master its contents.


    First, look through the entire textbook. Look at its structure. How is the What? Why? How? structure used in each chapter? Where are the examples and the practice exercises located? Are answer keys provided? Next, carefully read the following overview of the 15 concepts covered in this textbook. Then test yourself with the practice exam afterwards to see if you are retaining the information.


    Here’s a brief description of the key concepts from each chapter in What? Why? How?


    To be a good writer you must also be an active and critical reader:

    • Use reading strategies BEFORE you read: learn effective reading habits; preview your text; determine purpose; draw on previous knowledge; predict what will happen.
    • Use reading strategies WHILE you read: identify major plot/argument points, underline or highlight key points and quotes as you read; take notes in the margins; add your own views and questions; use word parts (prefixes, roots suffixes) and context clues to figure out unknown vocabulary.
    • Use reading strategies AFTER you read: use discussion questions to explore the reading; use methods to organize and understand the reading; react to the reading through journaling and other focused writing and discussion activities.


    A good critical thinker…

    • Considers all sides of an issue
    • Judges well the quality of an argument
    • Judges well the credibility of sources
    • Creates convincing arguments using sound evidence and analysis
    • Effectively recognizes and uses ethos (ethics), pathos (empathy) and logos (logic) in argument


    Important to know:

    • Skyline English classes focus on text-based writing which promotes an understanding and analysis of the reading as students argue their point of view on what they have read. Students will use evidence from the texts to support their claims, but summary should not take over the essays.
    • General guidelines: meet page minimums, adhere to due dates, use paper formatting standards, follow the assignment, apply writing standards, seek additional assistance through tutoring and meeting with your instructor.
    • Know how to successfully create your own paper topics and arguments: brainstorm issues, form questions, answer questions with opinion, ask “so what?,” gather evidence.
    • Know how to successfully respond to assigned paper topics: read the assignment carefully, sum up the topic in a word or two, restate the assignment in your own words, circle/underline key words, count the parts, list the requirements.


    The best writing is done, not last minute, but through a process using these stages:

    • Freewriting: writing continuously letting thoughts unselfconsciously flow (often for about 10 to 20 mins) without regard to spelling, grammar, style etc., and no corrections are made. An excellent technique to push through writer’s block and to explore a given topic.
    • Brainstorming: is like freewriting in that you write down what comes to mind, but it is different because it is a list of words and phrases and not a string of sentences.
    • Journalist questions: creating questions using: Who?, What?, When?, Where?, Why?, and How?. Then, write out sentences or phrases in answer as they fit your particular topic.

    (4) THE WRITING PROCESS—Continued:

    • Clustering/listing: methods used to organize ideas. Clustering is an informal map of ideas with the main idea at the center surrounded by the supporting ideas and evidence. Listing is an informal kind of outline with the main points followed by supporting points and evidence.
    • Outlining: a formalized, logical overview of an essay in “skeletal” form consisting of the thesis, the main supporting points, and the specific evidence proving the supporting points.
    • Drafting: using an outline and focusing on proving a main idea, compose the essay and include an introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion. There will be multiple versions in the drafting stage as you get your ideas in the shape you want them to be.
    • Revising: the larger elements of writing generally receive attention first—the focus, organization, paragraphing, content, and overall strategy. Deals with chunks of text longer than a sentence; whole paragraphs can be dropped or added; changes can be quite dramatic.
    • Editing/Proofreading: checking such things as grammar, mechanics, and spelling. Don't edit your writing until the other steps in the writing process are complete.


    Important to know:

    • General formatting: double spaced, standard font, size 12, 1-inch margins on all sides.
    • Title page: contains 4 pieces of information in top left corner: student name, instructor name, course title and date. Contains page number in the top right of each page: student’s last name and page # (Smith 1). Also contains the student’s essay title which is interesting and original centered over the introductory paragraph.
    • Titles and Authors: italicize the titles of longer texts and titles of shorter texts go in quotes, capitalize all main title words, refer to authors by last name after you initially introduce them by full name.
    • In-text Citations: the general MLA rule is that you will include the page number in parenthesis after each quote, and when the author is not clear from the context, include author last name too (Garcia 431).
    • Works Cited: when writing about reading, always include a Works Cited page listing the text(s) you are writing on as well as any additional research you have done.


    Good practices:

    • Workshopping: read the essay out loud, don’t feel pressured, be tactful and never insulting, be honest, and balance your criticism with praise.
    • Rubrics: use the departmental rubrics to have a consistent and shared set of standards to evaluate your own writing and the writing of others.
    • Know the criteria for an A and strive to incorporate these elements in your essays:

      An “A” Essay—Excellent: Essay is an enlightening, unified, convincing, and original response with larger implications/significance.
    • Assignment Fulfillment: Thoroughly and effectively meets all requirements.
      • Thesis: Makes a clear, complex and enlightening argument about the text(s).
      • Organization: Presents a seamlessly fluid and unified structure that supports a central idea/thesis.
      • Development and Support: Provides logical, original, well-developed, and relevant evidence and analysis.
      • Use of Text and MLA Guidelines: Skillfully integrates relevant textual evidence demonstrating a deep use of the text(s) using proper format and documentation.
      • Sentence Style and Grammar: Demonstrates sentence skill, clarity, and variety with few, if any, grammatical or proofreading errors.

    (7) THESIS:

    The thesis is the main point of an essay, a focused, arguable statement which allows the reader to make predictions about the reading.

    Add your opinion to a topic to create a thesis: Topic + opinion = thesis

    Add the significance to make a more complex thesis: Topic + opinion + so what? = thesis

    Characteristics of an effective thesis (the 6 C’s):

    • The language is clear, straight-forward and can’t be misunderstood.
    • It is contestable and arguable. Ask yourself: Could someone disagree? The answer should be yes.
    • It is concentrated on a focused point: not too broad and not too narrow, but the right size for the assignment.
    • It is complex and delves into the larger significance or impact.
    • It is compelling and draws in your readers’ interest and makes them want to read more to see how you prove your claim.
    • It is directly connected to the prompt/question/assignment for the essay.


    There are a variety of ways to both draw your reader into your argument and close out leaving them convinced of your points. Here are some ways to begin and end an essay but don’t feel limited to these approaches:


    • Provide a brief anecdote (a short amusing or interesting real-life story) or interesting example that is relevant to the topic.
    • Incorporate a thought-provoking quote from the primary text or another outside source.
    • Use a striking fact or statistic.
    • Pose a relevant question that will get your reader thinking.
    • State a problem that will be analyzed or solved.
    • Connect your topic to a familiar experience the reader is likely to have had or a cultural reference they are likely to have shared.
    • State a misconception and then correct it.
    • Provide background information and/or history on the topic.


    • Reinforce the larger significance of the discussion showing your readers why the paper was important, meaningful and/or useful—answer the question “so what?”
    • Propose a course of action.
    • Make a prediction
    • Challenge the reader to look to the future.
    • Establish a sense of closure in your essay by linking the last paragraph to the first, perhaps by reiterating a word, phrase, reference or idea you used at the beginning.
    • End with a quotation from or reference to a primary or secondary source, one that amplifies your main point or puts it in a different perspective.
    • Offer opinions that your reader might not have accepted earlier.
    • Consider the implications or outcomes of your argument.
    • Try to solve a problem you have raised.


    One way to ensure that each of your body paragraphs is clearly focused, convincingly developed, and connects back to the thesis is to use the PIE strategy:

    • P = Point: the “P” is the point you are making in your topic sentence: a clear statement of the main claim you are addressing in that paragraph which directly supports the thesis.
    • I = Information: the “I” fills out the body of your paragraph with concrete information that supports the main point. Provide specific details in the form of examples, quotes, paraphrases, facts, personal knowledge, real life examples and experiences, etc.
    • E = Explanation: the “E” is your explanation of the significance of the information you provided as it relates to the thesis. “So What?” is important or can be learned? So what is the larger impact or significance?


    Important to know:

    • Plagiarism: always credit the sources that you are quoting or using ideas from. If you do not you can fail, be reported to the dean, and risk expulsion from college.
    • Quoting: smoothly integrate quotes (do not drop them) by attaching each quote to a phrase that introduces it, and then follow quotes with the proper citation and your own analysis.
    • Research: use good criteria to evaluate sources and effective search strategies. You should not use any source whose author/organization cannot be identified.


    Follow these steps:

    • Review the elements of an essay (focus, organization, development, sentence crafting).
    • Know how to successfully break down a prompt.
    • Create a rough outline.
    • Have a time management plan that includes prewriting, writing, and proofreading.
    • Practice!

    (12) LITERATURE:

    Know the main types of literary forms, the terminology, and the theories used to analyze them:

    • Fiction & Drama (plays): examine elements such as plot, characters, theme, symbolism, setting, tone, point of view, irony, climax, resolution.
    • Poetry: examine elements such as speaker, imagery, diction (word choice), rhyme and rhythm, metaphor, stanza, turning points, tension, theme.
    • Literary theories: historical/biographical criticism, new criticism, archetypal criticism, gender criticism, Marxist criticism, deconstruction, new historicism, cultural criticism, psychological/psychoanalytic criticism, reader-response criticism.

    (13) STYLE:

    Consider these different elements to make sentences that are clear, fluid and engaging:

    • Simplicity: Trim the fat by eliminating wordiness to say what you want to say clearly and directly.
    • Point of view: In academic writing, the 3rd person (he/she, they) is favored and appears more objective.
    • Word Choice: Use concrete words that directly engage the senses and give precise meaning.
    • Sentence Crafting: consciously create clear and focused sentences with energetic verbs and active voice.
    • Sentence Combining: Joining sentences can convey your ideas more fluidly and logically.
    • Parallelism: gives two or more parts of a sentence a similar form so as to give the passage a definite pattern and to give the ideas the same level of importance.

    (14) GRAMMAR:

    Review grammar concepts and target any topic you have struggled with. For each grammar concept, there are explanations, examples and practice exercises:

    Adjectives & Adverbs
    Dangling Modifiers
    Run-Together Sentences
    Subject-Verb Identification
    Subject-Verb Agreement
    Verb Tenses


    For those whose native language is not English, our ESOL teachers have included materials to help you succeed in a mainstream English class:

    • Parts of speech self-review
    • Tips to improve reading
    • Tips for addressing length in academic writing
    • Turning spoken English into written
    • Tips for reported speech
    • Turning questions into statements
    • Critiquing an author’s work
    • Agreeing and Disagreeing with an author
    • Proofreading tips for ESOL students
    Practice: Test what you have learned about the 15 concepts

    100 points total

    (1) CRITICAL READING (9 points):

    Name one strategy to can use before reading, one strategy to use while reading, and one strategy to can use after reading.

    (2) CRITICAL THINKING (9 points):

    Name 3 characteristics of a good critical thinker.

    (3) PAPER TOPICS (6 points):

    Skyline English classes focus on text-based writing. What does text-based writing promote?

    (4) THE WRITING PROCESS (6 points):

    Define freewriting:

    Define outlining:

    (5) MLA CONVENTIONS (9 points):

    What information goes in the top left corner of the title page?

    What information goes in the top right corner?

    What information goes in parenthesis after a quote?

    (6) EVALUATING WRITING (6 points):

    What are 2 good practices when workshopping a paper with your classmates?

    (7) THESIS (6 points):

    Define what a thesis is:

    What is a good formula to use to create a complex thesis?

    ___________________ + ___________________ + ___________________ = THESIS


    Name one possible approach for an introduction:

    Name one possible approach for a conclusion:

    (9) PARAGRAPHS (6 points):

    What does PIE stand for regarding paragraphing?

    P =

    I =

    E =

    (10) INTEGRATING SOURCES (6 points):

    What is a dropped quote and how can you avoid it?

    (11) TIMED WRITING (6 points):

    What are 2 of the recommended steps for timed writing?

    (12) LITERATURE (6 points):

    What are 3 fiction and drama terms we could use in analyzing a literary work?

    (13) STYLE (4 points):

    Which point of view is favored in academic writing? (1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person) and why?

    (14) GRAMMAR (6 points):

    Name 2 of the grammar topics covered in this textbook.

    (15) NON-NATIVE SPEAKERS (4 points):

    Name one of the topics a non-native speaker could use from this chapter.

    BONUS (5 points): What are the 3 question-words that make up the name for this Rhetoric (and also reflect the structure for each chapter)?

    This page titled 1.1: Overview of the 15 Concepts is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Skyline English Department.

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