Notes compiled from
-Tom Humble, AP Presenter and
-Internet Guide to Critical Writing
- -delineate major
points of work
- -maintains proportions
of original work's ideas
- -avoid personal
- -documents borrowed
- -logical, fluent
- -categorize: genus,
philosophical,ideological, social perspective
- -define by example,
context, analogy, opposition, experience,
tradition, description, etymology
- -identify limiting
- -appropriate details
and examples, vivid language
ON THE FIVE PARAGRAPH
The five-paragraph essay is
one type of classification paper. What was so magical
about the number five anyway?
Nothing, really. In analyzing literature, however,
students often find examining moments in the beginning,
and end of a novel or play makes good structural sense.
One can do a thorough analysis of the manner in which an
idea, a theme, image, etc. affects the entire piece of
literature. At some point in history, a teacher may have
on three body paragraphs as a way of insuring that
students thought through their ideas thoroughly. Three
paragraphs is not a mandatory number for all topics.
Argument of Causal
- -distinguish between
cause to effect OR effect to cause
- -considers singular or
- -recognize COMPLEXITY
- -avoids causal
fallacies: post hoc, singular cause, experiment
without controls, small sample, overstating case
- -develops with
appropriate details and causal language (because,
since, therefore,consequently, etc.)
- -analyzes a variety of
causes for single event OR synthetic-explains a
variety of different elements of some event.
In this structure, the
writer anticipates the reader's major objections to an
argument and deals with them in the
concession section. Let's say you set out to prove that
some novel is still relevant in this day and age. Your
reader's most effective argument against you would be
that the book was old-fashioned, dated. Therefore,
you anticipate that objection and deal with it before
turning to the assertion, evidence which you feel proves
Choose one of two
1) State the concession in
your introduction, making the thesis the assertion.
2) Use the mechanism to
write a four-part essay:
Body Paragraph #1 (in which
you discuss the major points your critics might make)
Body Paragraph #2 (in which
you then, in the same order, dismiss those points by
asserting that your view of
things on each point is a better way to interpret the
Remember: Always work
outward from the topic to a structure. If you begin with
a structure and try to make
a topic fit it, you may find some of your ideas won't fit
into the structure. If you find yourself in such a mess,
you'll know you need to find another structure which fits
- -states title,author,
date, genre, thesis
- -suggests in
introduction how the essay will be organized
- -textual PROOF,
- -maintains focus, app.
- -uses transitions,
strong action verbs
- -draws conclusions in
each paragraph AND in final paragraph
-similar to literary
analysis BUT states thesis which asserts characters
dominant impression upon the reader;
supports this impression by: actions, thoughts, physical
description, quotes,others' reactions
- -thesis incorporates
- -focus on relationship
between subjects, provides details for this
- -uses effective trans.
to connect similarities and differences
- -maintains parallel
structure -summarizes similarities/differences in
- -discusses the
significance of comparison
Let's say you were asked to
write an essay on the way in which two authors treated
the same theme, say, people in times
of economic hardship, perhaps Dickens in Hard Times and
Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath. First, you would need
think of your sub-topics. In this essay, those might be
setting (milltowns in Victorian England, the Dustbowl
the Depression in the U.S.A.), characters, and events.
Your essay would then have one of two structures.
The simpler one is:
In the section on
Steinbeck, you would be comparing and contrasting his use
of those elements with Dickens' way.
A more sophisticated structure, but one which some
writers have difficulty handling effectively, would be:
Setting (Dickens and
Characters (Dickens and
Events (Dickens and
Don't forget that, in
writing this paper, you are analyzing something you've
set up in the introduction that Dickens
writes better about people in a tough economic situation,
for example, or that Steinbeck is a more realistic writer
Dickens and keep that focus always before your reader in
the body paragraphs.
AP TERMS TO KNOW:
- tone shift from
paragraph to paragraph
- hyperbolic and
- level of diction
- specialized diction
- paucity of
- adverbs modifying
- words "A,"
"B," and "C" to
- compound sentence
- short simple
- balanced sentence
- main thesis
- authorial aside
- aesthetic quality
- point of view
- first person
- concrete evidence
- rhetorical question
- author as impartial
- extended metaphor
- addressing audience
- citations from well
- dramatic incident
- contrasts of
- *ad hominem*
- compare and contrast
- cause and effect
- extended analogy
- anecdotal narration
- extended definitions
- fact and assumption
- chronology of events
- Reading terms
- interpretation of
- simile and metaphor
- mixed metaphor
- heroic dimension
uses of language
("master" in lines 14-27 refers
- ambiguous reference
- antecedent of
"it" in lines 11, 12, and q24
- dangling participles
- person shift
- verb tense shift
- The phrase
- helps establish
- can be interpreted
- suggests that
- is probably intended
- The function
- the phrase
- this quoted sentence
- the *primary*
function of the second paragraph
- the word
"then" in paragraph seven
- this metaphor
- the fifth paragraph
to whole essay
- this sentence in the
- primary purpose
- use of images
- created impression
- assumption that the
(How to organize your
Read the passage once; identify the speaker,
situation, tone, and purpose.
Scan for the following; after finding these
devices--ask yourself how they relate to the
purpose of the speaker.
- organization of
- -is there one
- -deductive or
- -what is the
-diction (connotative, denotative,
- -imagery (metaphors,
sensual imagery,personification) -syntax
- binary qualities-
-point of view
- -expert test.
- -logical fallacies:
ad hominem, begging the question,
either-or fallacy, false analogy, hasty
non sequitur, post hoc argument,
authorization, red herring
- verbal level
- -denotation (lit)
metaphor, simile ,
onomatopoeia, apostrophe, epithet
to me by a member of the AP online discussion
- 1. subject verb
- 1a. s v ; however, s
- 1b. s v , but s v; s
- 1c. s v; s v; s v .
s v do or sc ; s do or sc
- 3. independent
clause : independent clause.
- general statement
(idea) : specific statement (example).
- Little Red Riding
Hood lied: wolves don't eat grandmothers;
they eat elk, bison,
- No one, however,
would deny that George Patton did what
- primarily expected
to do: he won battles.
- 4. a series without
- a, b, c
- a and b and c
- a, b, and c
a and b, c and d, e and f (paired items)
- 6. an introductory
series of appositives
appositive, appositive--summary word s v
- The petty, the
fallen, the cowardly--each played a role
on the stage of
Cervantes' vast human drama.
- 7. an internal
series of appositives or modifiers
- s appos. appos.
- The necessary
qualities for political life --guile,
ruthlessness, and garrulity--he
learned by carefully studying his
- 7a. s appositive v
- A sudden
explosion--artillery fire--signaled the
beginning of a barrage.
- A familiar smell,
fresh blood, assailed his jungle-trained
- 8. dependent clauses
in a pair or in a series (at beginning or
- If....., if......,
if......, then s v
when......, when..... s v
- s v that.....,
- When he smelled the
pungent odor of pine, when he heard the
chatter of jays interrupting
when he saw the startled doe, the hunter
knew he had reached
the center of the forest.
- 9. repetition of a
- s v key term or
repeated key term
- s v key term --
repeated key term
- s v key term,
repeated key term
- She was a good
mother, providing a good home for her
- He was a cruel brute
of a man--brutal to his family and even
more brutal to his
- 9a. variation: same
word repeated in parallel structure
- s v repeated key
word in same position of the sentence
- The government is of
the people, by the people, and for the
- 10. emphatic
appositive at end, after a colon
- s v word: the
appositive (the second naming).
- Anyone left
abandoned on a desert should avoid two
dangers: cactus needles and rattlesnakes
- 10 a. a variation:
- s v word -- the
appositive (echoed idea or second
- The relatively few
salmon that make it to the spawning
grounds have another old tradition to
deal with --male supremacy.
- 11. interrupting
modifier between s and v
- s, modifier, v
- s -- modifier -- v
- s (modifier that
- A small drop of ink,
falling like dew upon a thought, can make
- 11a. a full sentence
as an interrupting modifier
- s (a full sentence)
- s --a full sentence
- Juliet's famous
question--early in the balcony scene she
asks, "Wherefore art thou,
--is often misunderstood; she meant not
"where" but "why."
- 12. introductory or
- participial phrase ,
- s v , participial
- Guarding us with
their powerful guns, the heavily armed
soldiers at the Rio
- conference looked
- The heavily armed
soldiers guarding us with their powerful
guns at the Rio
- conference looked
- 13. a single
modifier out of place for emphasis
- Modifier , s v
- Frantically, the
young mother called for help.
- The general demanded
absolute obedience, instant and
- 14. prepositional
phrase before s v
- Into the arena
rushed the brave bulls to defy death and
- Into the valley of
death rode the six hundred
- 15. object or
complement before s v
- His kind of sarcasm
I do not like.
- Up went the steps,
band went the door, round whirled the
wheels, and off they
- rattled. (Charles
Dickens, THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP)
- 15a. complete
inversion of normal pattern
- object or complement
or modifier v s
- Down and the street
and through the mist stumbled the
- 16. paired
- Not only s v , but
also s v
- Just as s v , so too
- The more s , the
more s v
- The more the Texas
Ranger searched through the Hill Country,
the more elusive the
trail of train robbers became.
a paired construction for contrast only
- A " this, not
that" or "not this but
- Genius, not
stupidity, has limits.
- The judge asked for
acquittal --not conviction.
- I believe that man
will not merely endure; he will prevail.
- 17. dependent clause
as a subject or object or complement
- s (dependent clause
as subject) v
- s v (dependent
clause as object or complement)
- How he could fail is
a mystery to me.
- He became what he
aspired to be.
- 18. absolute
construction (nouns plus participle)
anywhere in sentence
construction , s v
- s, absolute
construction , v
- His blanket being
torn, Linus cried on Charlie Brown's
- The storm, its fury
abated, lights the way.
- 19. the short simple
sentence for relief or dramatic effect
- s v
- But then it
- Jesus wept.
- The buck stops here.
- 20. A short question
for dramatic effect
- (Interrogative word)
auxiliary verb s v ?
- interrogative word
standing alone ?
- question based
solely on intonation ?
- auxiliary verb s v ?
- Why did he go?
- James flunked modern
- Have you guessed?
- 20 a. the deliberate
- Now, on with the
- Fair enough.
- All to no avail.
- But how?
A Few Names of Other
- A.The segregating
style of serial structure "One ring
is always bigger
- than three. One
rider, one aerialist, is always greater
- B.The freight-train
sentence in serial structure--paratactic
"In a week or
- two, all would be
changed, all (or almost all) lost; the
girls would wear
- makeup, the horse
would wear gold, the ring would be
painted, the bark
- would be clean for
the feet of the horse, the girl's feet
would be clean
- for the slippers
that she'd wear. All, all would be
- C.The triadic
sentence in serial structure "Out of
its wild disorder comes
- order; from its rank
smell rises the good aroma of courage and
- of its preliminary
shabbiness come the final splendor."
- D.The centered
sentence in hierarchic structure
"The last time I visited
- New York, it seems
to have suffered a personality change, as
though it had
- a brain tumor as yet
Effectively: Getting Started on a Paper
The Introduction and Body
1. An introduction is a
contract between writer and reader. The writer promises
to deliver the goods
described in the introduction.
2. An introduction should
set up an essay about one key idea only. This paragraph
makes clear the
paper will be about one subject only.
3. An introduction should
contain carefully-chosen sub-topics.
These sub-topics make the
general idea of the essay more specific. They also move
from broad to narrow
(country to individual) and, depending on how the writer
interprets things, from least important to most or
most important to least or both, if the writer's point is
that one audience viewed the ideas one way and another
audience viewed them differently.
4. An introduction need not
State your thesis and give
your reader a general idea of the direction in which you
Writers encounter problems in this area in one of two
The first is by writing an
unnecessarily-long preamble to the thesis.
Throughout the ages, British literature has been
popular. Shakespeare is probably
the most popular British author... etc
The second way writers
create overly-long introductions is by placing in the
introduction material which
should go in the body paragraphs.
By doing this the writer
will have summarized the entire essay. One has no reason
to read any further.
5. Remember, you are
setting out to analyze something, not merely to show that
something is present in
a piece of literature.
Be sure there is a
relationship between the presence of the subject matter
and the impact it has on the work
of literature is present. Therein lies the ideal
cause-and-effect relationship at the heart of an essay
is present in this piece of literature, Y is possible.
The following introduction
Macbeth, shows how man's interaction with the
supernatural leads to unnatural acts,
which in turn cause disastrous repercussions in the
natural world. The characters of the play put their trust
in the predictions of witches and fill their lives with
unnatural acts of brutal murder. The con-sequences are
dire; all aspects of natural life that were thought
stable night and day, sleep, and mental stability plunge
tumult. The manner in which Shakespeare succinctly
dramatizes this chain of events makes it possible for
a modern viewer to enter the world of the play.
It works because the author
of this essay establishes a connection which allows for a
greater depth of analysis.
6. Design your introduction
so you have something to return to in your conclusion.
7. Set up your introduction
correctly or be prepared for the consequences.
Remember: if you stumble in
the introduction, your essay is in trouble. Critical
essays have a momentum of
their own once you set them in motion.
The Body of the
Most of you find writing
the middle of an essay the easiest task and for a good
reason. As we have seen,
if you have set up your introduction correctly, the essay
should, in part, write itself. What, then, should you
focus on in the body paragraphs?
1. Careful handling of
In choosing sub-topics,
always consider importance and order. Your reader should
be able to tell from the way
you've chosen and arranged your sub-topics exactly what
For example, if you've
chosen sub-topics you felt were equally important, the
reader should be able to see that
thought pattern. If you've chosen sub-topics you felt
were of unequal importance, the reader should be able to
spot that fact also, as well as some pecking order, from
the way you discuss them, from least important to most
or the other way around, for example.
2. Write topic sentences
which allow you to analyze.
Topic sentences are
analogous to theses. If you create a weak topic sentence
at the start of a paragraph, your
paragraph is in just as much trouble as an essay
proceeding from a weak introduction.
3. Wise selection of
passages from the text to illustrate your points.
The way to avoid a paper
which remains a series of shallow observations is to
support observations with your text.
Direct your reader's attention to certain brief moments
of the story, and analyze how they work.
4. Effective use of
A good place to begin may
be studying a list of transitional words in a grammar
text. Then, think of ideas,
sentences, and paragraphs as structures which need
bridges between them for the reader to cross. Practice
pulling part of one sentence down into the next to create
a kind of bridge. Practice making reference back to
the end of the previous paragraph when you begin a new
one. Your goal should be a smoothly-flowing text
from the first sentence to the last.
5. Balance amongst the
parts of your essay.
Your research paper
involves a comparison/contrast essay between two poems.
Say, you've finished a complete
draft of your paper and sat back to go over it. In doing
so, you take a visual fix and discover the section on the
second poem is twice as long as that on the first or that
the conclusion is considerably longer than either section
of the body. Chances are you need to re-think your essay.
Occasionally, such unusual proportions may be
appropriate. For example, if your main point is that one
poet is much more skillful than
another, you may
"dismiss" the first writer's work and go into
greater detail showing why the other is better.
As a general rule, however, some kind of logic should be
readily apparent in the appearance of an essay. If you
can't spot such a logic when you take your visual fix,
re-think your essay.