2.1: Understand how an assignments wants you to use texts
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Remember the first two questions from the last chapter.
What assignments are associated with this reading? What will your professor expect you to know about this reading?
All of the other questions follow from these to questions, and I encourage you to revisit the questions throughout the semester. Ultimately, you're reading texts to do something with them. In writing classes, you will have to write about the texts. When you're asked to use texts, then you'll have to present their ideas in your essay. Whatever else you have to do, you'll have to start here. In general, there are three ways to present the ideas from a text:
- Summarize -- name the author and restate in your own words the general points of a text
- Paraphrase -- name the author and restate in your own words a specific ideas from a text
- Quote -- name the author and "present the exact words from a text in quotation marks"
Pay attention to clues in your assignment instructions that will tell you which of these three ways of using texts you will need to successfully complete your assignments. Consider these two examples again
"Quote from the story and analyze how the growth of the main character."
"Explain your first two weeks of college through the concept of socialization from Chapter 5 of the textbook."
The first is straight-forward: select quotes that will let you break down the story into parts, use the quotes to explain how the parts of the story work together.
The second is less clear. To explain a concept, you should start by summarizing. But, as you work with specific details from your experience, you will want to paraphrase and quote more specific parts of the concept that directly relate.
Note that these two prompts ask you to use different kinds of reasoning. The first is deductive: you will draw a conclusion out of the pattern created by the evidence. The second is inductive: you will start with the principle of socialization and then apply it to the evidence of your experience.
In college, as in life, you will face various writing situations with different levels of clarity in the instructions. Fortunately, you are learning a variety of strategies that should help you to cope with whatever situation arises.
- Imagine you are describing a movie to a friend. Would you summarize? paraphrase? quote? some combination of the three?
- Are there other situations in life that require you to summarize, paraphrase, or quote?
[adapted from The Word on College Reading and Writing by Babin, et al]