ENGL001 Study Guide

Site: Saylor Academy
Course: ENGL001: English Composition I
Book: ENGL001 Study Guide
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Date: Sunday, July 21, 2024, 3:28 PM

Navigating this Study Guide

Study Guide Structure

In this study guide, the sections in each unit (1a., 1b., etc.) are the learning outcomes of that unit. 

Beneath each learning outcome are:

  • questions for you to answer independently;
  • a brief summary of the learning outcome topic; and
  • and resources related to the learning outcome. 

At the end of each unit, there is also a list of suggested vocabulary words.


How to Use this Study Guide

  1. Review the entire course by reading the learning outcome summaries and suggested resources.
  2. Test your understanding of the course information by answering questions related to each unit learning outcome and defining and memorizing the vocabulary words at the end of each unit.

By clicking on the gear button on the top right of the screen, you can print the study guide. Then you can make notes, highlight, and underline as you work.

Through reviewing and completing the study guide, you should gain a deeper understanding of each learning outcome in the course and be better prepared for the final exam!

Unit 1: What is College-Level Writing?

1a. Identify the elements of the rhetorical situation and rhetorical appeals

  • What does it mean to say that all writing is argumentative?
  • What is the difference between explicit arguments and implicit arguments?
  • What are the three most important elements of the rhetorical situation? How is the relationship between these components described?
  • Why is understanding rhetoric important to your own writing?
  • How do Aristotle, Plato, and the Sophists view rhetoric?
  • What are the main purposes of writing?
  • What are the key principles to understanding your audience?
  • What does it mean to understand the occasion of your writing?
  • What are the rhetorical appeals? How is the relationship between these components described?

Understanding rhetoric, the art of persuasion, helps writers create effective arguments. The Ancient Greeks shaped how we think about rhetoric, especially in terms of argumentation. Writing in college is rhetorical, which makes it argumentative. Implicit arguments are arguments that weave together facts and narratives, logic and emotion. Explicit arguments are arguments that have a noticeable and definable thesis statement followed by specific proofs, or evidence.

Aristotle's definition of rhetoric, that its primary purpose is persuasion, built on Plato's ideas of rhetoric as discovering truth through discussion. The Sophists, though, saw rhetoric merely as a means to teach speaking and writing skills.

The most important components of the rhetorical situation – purpose, audience, and context – and the rhetorical appeals – ethos, pathos, and logos – all work in a dynamic relationship to each other to communicate a message. 

Knowing the elements of the rhetorical situation will help you create an effective message. The main purposes for writing are to teach, persuade, and analyze. And when thinking about your audience, you should understand their previous experiences, knowledge, and expectations. Added to this is the occasion of your writing, which entails the context and conditions in which texts are created.

Ethos is the appeal to a writer's character or credibility. Pathos is the writer's appeal to the audience's emotions. Logos is the appeal to logic and reason. Kairos is the writer's appeal to their argument's timeliness.



1b. Practice techniques for identifying and writing for specific audiences and purposes

  • Why is it important to have a clear sense of who your audience is for a writing project?
  • How is your use of rhetorical appeals influenced by your audience
  • What are the four different types of audience for whom you are likely to write?
  • What questions should you ask when analyzing your audience?
  • What are the three primary purposes for writing?
  • What questions should you ask when identifying your purpose for writing?

Knowing and writing to your audience is the most important element of the rhetorical situation. Knowing what your audience needs and values will shape your tone and determine what rhetorical appeals you will emphasize.

Audience influences rhetorical appeals by shaping how you establish trust with them, determining which emotions pertain to them, and the kinds of evidence you use to support your reasons.

The four different audiences you are likely to write to are instructors, users, decision-makers, and internet skimmers. When analyzing audiences you should ask who the primary audience is, what factors impinge on how your audience will feel about the subject, and how knowledgeable they are about your subject.

The three primary purposes for writing are to teach, persuade, and analyze. When determining your purpose for writing, you should ask what your primary purpose is, if you have competing or conflicting purposes, what information you should emphasize, and how to organize the document.



1c. Describe writing as a process and explain how that process influences thinking

  • What is the difference between thinking of writing as a process versus writing as a product?
  • What are the key principles of process-based writing?
  • How does the process approach affect your writing? 
  • What are the main stages of the writing process?
  • What are the believing and doubting games? 

While the point of product-based writing is to produce texts quickly and typically without feedback, process-based writing expects writers to write multiple drafts that evolve based on feedback. Process-based writing empowers writers to think about their writing strategies and techniques and their own thinking simultaneously.

Process-based writing encourages writers to investigate their subjects, questioning their pre-existing beliefs, in order to create new meaning.

The main stages of the writing process are drafting, revising, researching, and editing.

The believing and doubting games can help you become a more productive writer. The believing game asks you to have faith in the writing process and stay positive, whereas the doubting game asks you to examine your ideas in a critical manner.



1d. Identify and avoid logical fallacies in persuasive writing

  • What is a logical fallacy?
  • What does it mean for an argument to be valid?
  • What are strategies to identify logical fallacies in your writing?

Logical fallacies are numerous and everywhere. Fallacies occur when a writer's reasoning breaks down. In order for your writing to be effective, it must have a valid argument, which is to be free of fallacies.

Some strategies to identify logical fallacies are to study the different kinds of logical fallacies and to highlight your claims to make sure they are not fallacious.



1e. Identify and practice the stages of the PWR writing process

  • What are the stages of the PWR model of writing?
  • What are the principles of effective prewriting?
  • What is freewriting and what are its benefits?
  • What is the three perspectives technique?
  • What are other prewriting techniques?
  • How can you use your knowledge of the rhetorical situation to help brainstorm?
  • What should you ask when generating topic ideas?
  • Why is revision important for effective writing?
  • What are some revision strategies?
  • What are the principles of peer response?
  • What are some different editing and proofreading techniques?

The PWR (Prewrite, Write, and Revise) model of writing emphasizes writing as a process. The prewriting (or invention) stage consists of freewriting and other brainstorming strategies that are intended to spark creativity and ideas. The revision process is intended to assess the strengths and weaknesses of what a writer has written so far.

The principles of effective prewriting are to be flexible, collaborate, and be organized. You can see this in freewriting, which describes writing without stopping, and helps you avoid writer's block and find your voice. Other prewriting techniques are mapping, clustering, listing, cubing, and asking the six journalistic questions.

Knowing the rhetorical situation helps you brainstorm according to your purpose and occasion, and helps you determine information and strategies that target your intended audience. Questions to ask when generating topic ideas include "Why do I care?", "What do I already know?", "What do I want to find out?", and "Who else cares about the subject?". 

Revision is important because it helps you assess the strengths and weaknesses of what you've written so far. Strategies to help you revise include asking focused questions, cut and paste activity, seeking feedback from others, and research. The principles of effective peer response are: Do not take on too much, do not worry about grammar and spelling, comment in writing, be polite, and balance praise and criticism.

Proofreading techniques can involve reading the paper backwards and reading the paper out loud.



1f. Practice critical thinking and reading skills essential to college writing

  • What are the elements of an effective reading strategy?
  • What are the elements of an effective writing-while-reading strategy?
  • What are the elements of an effective post-reading strategy?
  • What should you do when you get a paper back from an instructor?
  • Why should you practice literary criticism? What is the objective of literary criticism?
  • What are the popular schools of literary criticism?
  • What is critical thinking and why is it important?
  • What are key questions to ask when thinking critically about something you've read?

Reading, writing, and thinking go hand-in-hand, so the more effective strategies you have to strengthen them, the more effective your writing will be. Reading, writing, and thinking strategies require you to be an active thinker, ask specific questions relative to the task, and record your reactions and responses while you are reading. Post-reading, you should also record your reactions to the whole reading, plan your research, reread the writing assignment, and plot a timeline for producing the paper.

When you get feedback from an instructor, you should read all of their comments, assess your strengths and weaknesses, and plan what adjustments you need to make.

Literary criticism is a genre of writing where an author critiques a literary text, and is important to sharpen your critical faculties. Popular schools of literary criticism include New Criticism, Reader-Response, Post-Structuralism, and Archetypal Criticism, among several others.

Critical thinking is thinking clearly about your thoughts and forming a judgment, and it is important to help you understand arguments, judge information, and make inferences. Questions like "What is the argument that the writer is making?", "What evidence does the writer use?", "How does the writer present their ideas?", and "How is the writer connecting their ideas?" can help you think critically about something you've read.



Unit 1 Vocabulary

This vocabulary list includes the terms that you will need to know to successfully complete the final exam.

  • audience
  • critical thinking
  • ethos
  • explicit arguments
  • freewriting
  • implicit arguments
  • kairos
  • literary criticism 
  • logical fallacy
  • logos
  • occasion
  • pathos
  • prewriting
  • process-based writing
  • PWR model
  • purpose
  • revision
  • rhetoric
  • rhetorical
  • rhetorical appeals
  • rhetorical situation
  • valid argument

Unit 2: What Makes Academic Writing Unique?

2a. Identify various genres in academic writing

  • What is academic writing?
  • What is a discourse community, and how are they relevant to academic writing?
  • What is a personal narrative? What are this genre's defining characteristics?
  • What is the purpose of comparison and contrast? What are this genre's defining characteristics?
  • What is the cause and effect genre? What are its defining characteristics?

Academic writing is essentially an argument, using language to persuade someone to adopt a certain perspective. 

Discourse communities are groups of people who share mutual interests and beliefs, and are important for an academic writer to understand how different academic disciplines communicate differently.

A personal narrative is an argument based on storytelling. Personal narratives place readers into a significant experience, expand on the story's details, and integrate context, dialogue, and character development into the essay. Personal narratives must also convey the significance of the story.

Comparison and contrast essays analyze two subjects to illuminate subtle differences or similarities between them. These essays clearly explain what is being compared and why in the thesis, and utilize two main organizing strategies: subject-by-subject or point-by-point.

Cause and effect essays are written to explore causal relationships between different subjects or parts. This genre is deeply speculative and should employ qualifying words and phrases.



2b. Identify and practice developing the essential components of a written argument

  • What are the basic requirements of an argument?
  • What should you think about when developing your audience for an argument?
  • What are the different goals for writing an argument?
  • What is a thesis, and what are the criteria for an effective thesis?
  • How can you refine your thesis?
  • What are the three primary purposes of research?
  • What are the parts of the basic rhetorical structure of an argument?
  • What is the difference between a warrant and a claim?

An argument is a conversation, and a productive argument starts with a problem. It needs an audience, a goal, a thesis, research, and organization. When thinking about your argument's audience, you should explain concepts and terms, provide necessary background information, and develop your ethos and sense of fairness.

An argument's goals can be to accommodate a skeptical audience, explore all sides of an argument and reveal any flaws, and prove your own reasons by including evidence and by using rhetorical appeals. It should seek to solve a problem, persuade others, or convince the validity of a claim.

A thesis is the guiding idea of an essay, so it must be clear, specific, and simple to support. The thesis should be reasonable, controversial, and provable. It can be refined by testing it against the opposition, conducting research, and by being actively engaged in understanding the research results.

Research has three primary purposes: to provide factual information, provide arguments for your position, and provide arguments against your position.

An argument can be organized thusly:

  • Exordium: Hooks your audience and announces your topic
  • Narratio: Provides relevant background information of your topic
  • Confirmatio: Gives evidence to prove your claims
  • Confutatio/Refutatio: Addresses any opposing reasons and refutes them
  • Peroratio: Conclusion by way of discovery, explains the significance of the argument

A claim is your main point that requires reason and evidence, or warrants.



2c. Identify academic tone

  • Why is an appropriate academic tone important?

Choosing a tone that is too informal may weaken your credibility, but a tone that is too formal may make the writing sound too complex. Utilizing language appropriate to the academic context can help create balanced communication between writer and reader.

Review Use Appropriate Academic Language


2d. Explain how academic writing is a conversation between different writers and researchers

  • How is an argument like a conversation? What is a helpful metaphor for this?
  • What are some strategies to help you enter into the conversation about the argument when you write?

A writer will enter into a particular place and time with an idea or opinion, and try to react to everything that has come before. Think of it like joining a party and entering into the discussion when you arrive. To enter into the conversation, think about what happened and was discussed before you started writing, what is happening as you write, and what do you think will be your audience's response?

Review Understanding How Conversations Change Over Time


2e. Practice techniques for identifying the rhetorical situation and forming persuasive rhetorical appeals

  • What techniques can help you identify the rhetorical situation? 
  • What techniques can help you form persuasive rhetorical appeals?

Here are some techniques to help you identify the rhetorical situation:

  • Identify the circumstances surrounding the writing project. Write down what is going on in the world at large and how it relates to your project.
  • Reflect on your intended audience. Write down a list of what they already know about the topic. 
  • Write a research plan that considers what kind of research your audience will be persuaded by: Original research? Traditional research? Personal knowledge? Facts and figures?
  • Write down your purpose for writing: To teach, persuade, analyze, entertain, etc.
  • Determine the media of your project: Will it be published online or a printed report? Will visuals be needed? What kind of technology will you need?
  • Consider your voice, tone, and persona. Think about your stance to your readers – what do you want them to think of you? Is it appropriate to express your feelings, or to appear more objective?

Here are some techniques to help you form persuasive rhetorical appeals:

  • Ethos:
    • Your viewpoint must be consistent throughout the text
    • Do not use hyperbolic language
    • Maintain an even, objective tone
    • Explain concepts and ideas thoroughly
    • Address counter-arguments and successfully rebut them
    • Use a sufficient number of relevant sources and show that you understand them
  • Pathos:
    • Use humor
    • Use narration, such as storytelling or anecdotes, to humanize the issue
    • Use descriptive and attention-grabbing details
    • Use hypothetical examples to help readers imagine themselves in certain scenarios
    • Use visuals
  • Logos:
    • Research and include statistics that support your claims
    • Use "if/then" causal statements to appeal to reason
    • Provide relevant examples to demonstrate your point
  • Kairos:
    • Create a sense of urgency by appealing to a fast-approaching moment, in order to avoid missing some sort of opportunity
    • Create a sense of urgency and excitement by using deadlines or goals
    • Refer to current crises or impending doom



2f. Demonstrate competence in various rhetorical strategies and logical structures by developing, analyzing, and revising original essays

  • What strategies and techniques can you use to demonstrate rhetorical and logical competence in your writing?
Use the following steps to help you develop and revise your essays: 

  • Determine the rhetorical situation of the assignment (e.g., its purpose, context, and primary audience). 
  • Generate topic ideas. 
  • Determine what medium you should use.
  • Determine what appeals will most effectively persuade your audience (e.g., ethos, pathos, logos, kairos). 
  • Use a calendar to schedule time to write the paper.
  • Plan your research, if necessary. 
  • Construct and refine a reasonable, controversial, and provable thesis.
  • Follow the PWR method.
  • Plan your writing by prewriting, freewriting, listing, mapping, asking questions, or outlining. This is also a good time to reread the assignment instructions.
  • Write a draft, preferably days before the paper is due. An argument can be organized as such:
    • Exordium: Hooks your audience and announces your topic
    • Narratio: Provides relevant background information of your topic
    • Confirmatio: Gives evidence to prove your claims
    • Confutatio/Refutatio: Addresses any opposing reasons and refutes them
    • Peroratio: Conclusion by way of discovery, explains the significance of the argument 
  • Revise the draft to assess its strengths and weaknesses. This can also include proofreading for spelling and grammar errors.
  • Organize the ideas in your essay:
    • Introduction: Open with an intriguing example, provocative quotation, puzzling scenario, anecdote, or thought-provoking question. Be straightforward and confident in your introduction.
    • Body: Think about your paragraphing, especially transitions. Use the PIE (Point, Illustration, Explanation) format for your body paragraphs. 
    • In each paragraph, do you need to elaborate on the preceding paragraph or introduce a new but related idea? Continue a chronological narrative? Describe a problem or cause? Describe a consequence or implication?
    • Ensure that each claim you make is supported by evidence.
    • Conclusion: Play the "so what" game, return to a theme from your introduction, synthesize information (don't summarize), include a provocative insight or quotation, propose a course of action or solution, point to broader implications.



2g. Practice techniques for using research to support various logical structures and rhetorical strategies, including analysis, discussion, and comparison/contrast

  • What can you research to support your ethos?
  • What can you research to support pathos?
  • What can you research to support logos?
  • What can you research to support kairos?
  • What is a frame, and how do you use research to establish a frame for your analysis and discussion?
  • What should you research when analyzing an argument?
  • What kind of research should you conduct to support your reasons?
  • What strategies should you use for conducting research?
  • How can you assess your research, and why should you assess your research?

Research strategies for supporting your ethos include finding sources from authors who have specific experience or education related to your issue. When you integrate that source information, address their credibility. Appeals to pathos can be supported by researching emotional stories, even first-person accounts, plus images and other non-textual media, powerful direct quotations, and humor, and incorporating them into your essay. Researching logos appeals involves finding data or statistics and expert testimony. Supporting kairos appeals could involve researching current events, such as crises, usually found in political and social campaigns.

A frame is the section of an academic paper in which a perspective that has already been accepted by a specific discourse community is presented, in order to establish the point of view from which the rest of the essay will be analyzed. You will need to research that perspective – how it is defined by experts and what theorists have said about that frame.

When analyzing an argument, you should research the credibility of the writer and the writer's research.

Generally, you should research evidence that supports your reasons. Research should be authoritative and from trustworthy sources, appropriately cited, and ample enough to convince. Evidence derived from your research should appeal to your target audience's values and priorities. Your research should build upon what your audience already knows. You should present your research from general to specific, use diagrams and other visuals, make sure data is authoritative, and help the audience identify which elements of your research are important.

You should assess your research to create confidence in your authority. Ensure that you have consulted reputable sources, and have formatted your findings according to accepted standards.



Unit 2 Vocabulary

This vocabulary list includes the terms that you will need to know to successfully complete the final exam.

  • academic writing
  • argument
  • cause and effect
  • claim
  • comparison and contrast
  • discourse community 
  • evidence
  • frame
  • personal narrative
  • problem
  • reason
  • thesis
  • tone
  • warrant

Unit 3: How Do I Use Sources?

3a. Explain how to appropriately and effectively use outside sources in persuasive writing

  • What is evidence? What counts as evidence?
  • What are the different kinds of evidence?
  • What are the three ways of integrating outside sources into an essay?
  • What are some strategies to make sure you are using outside sources effectively?
  • What are ineffective ways of using outside sources and how can you fix them?
  • What is the difference between main points and sub-claims? How do outside sources relate to sub-claims?

Evidence is information that supports your argument. In persuasive writing, there are two kinds of evidence: primary sources – original documents, interviews, etc. – and secondary sources –information that has already been interpreted by someone else. Evidence could include observations, interviews, surveys, experiments, statistics and data, and even personal experience. Evidence can be integrated into your own writing through quotations, paraphrasing, and summaries.

Strategies to evaluate your essay and use of outside sources can include making a reverse outline, color coding evidence, and playing the doubting game.

Some ineffective uses of outside sources include:

  • Using sudden quotations. You can fix these by using signal phrases.
  • Starting or ending a paragraph with a quotation. You can fix this by remembering to analyze and interpret any quoted material you provide.
  • Too many quotations or quotations that are too long. You can fix these by deciding why the quote is there and what readers really need to know or think about the quote.
  • The quote does not fit the grammar of the sentence. You fix this by reading your essay out loud and listening to the grammar, to make sure it makes sense.
  • Parenthetical reference does not line up with Works Cited. Double-check to make sure each reference in your essay is detailed in the Works Cited.

Main points in an argument function as support for the author's thesis. They likely form the topic sentences for body paragraphs. They are supported by sub-claims, claims more specific to the main point. Outside sources are used to support sub-claims.



3b. Practice determining source credibility and describing source relevance

  • What is the CRAAP Test?

The CRAAP Test is a list of questions to help you determine the credibility and relevance of an outside source:

  • Currency: How timely is the information?
  • Relevance: How important is the information for your needs?
  • Authority: How credible and reliable is the source of the information?
  • Accuracy: How truthful and correct is the information?
  • Purpose: Why does the information exist?

Review Evaluating Information


3c. Practice incorporating counter-argument and defending a position

  • What is a counterargument and why is it important to address them?
  • Where should counterarguments appear in your paper?
  • What are three strategies for addressing counterarguments?

Counterarguments are alternate opinions that disagree with your argument. Addressing counterarguments helps build your ethos as a writer. Typically counterarguments appear early in the essay, after the thesis.

You can address counterarguments by acknowledging the alternative perspective, acknowledging the validity of counterarguments' objections, and refuting it with research-based evidence.

Review Counterarguments. 


3d. Demonstrate competence in critical reading and comprehension of source material

  • What are two ways of demonstrating your competence in critical reading and comprehension of source material?

One way of demonstrating your critical reading competence is by completing the CRAAP test for each of your sources. Another way is to evaluate the counterarguments you have identified and intend to address.



3e. Practice incorporating rhetorically appropriate quotations, paraphrases, and summaries into academic writing

  • Why should you incorporate appropriate quotations, paraphrasing, and summaries into your academic writing?
  • What are the three ways that writers incorporate outside source material?
  • What should you keep in mind when using quotations?
  • What should you keep in mind when using paraphrases and summaries?
  • Why is paraphrasing important?
  • What is the most effective way to incorporate source material?

Incorporating outside sources holds you accountable to your research, helps you clarify what you wrote, and builds your ethos. Writers incorporate outside sources through quotations, paraphrases, and summaries.

Quoting borrows the exact wording used in a source. Use quotations to provide evidence, support an argument, or illustrate an idea using another writer's unique words. Quotations are surrounded by quotation marks and are followed by a parenthetical in-text citation.

Paraphrasing borrows an idea found in a source and communicates this idea using different words and word order. Paraphrases should explain or simplify a passage that may be difficult to understand and help establish your credibility and maintain your voice. Use paraphrasing to communicate statistics and numerical data.

The most effective way to integrate outside sources is by mixing quotes and paraphrases, especially in the same sentence. Paraphrases are important in themselves because they help you avoid plagiarism, clarify complex ideas, and report only the essential information of an idea.



3f. Identify the risks of plagiarism and practice techniques for avoiding it

  • What is plagiarism?
  • What is common knowledge?
  • What are the strategies to avoid plagiarizing?

Plagiarism is when a writer uses the words and ideas of someone else and passes them off as his or her own. It is stealing the work of others. Common knowledge is information you knew before you took this course, and information that came from your own brain.

You can avoid plagiarism by:

  • Using citations for every quote and paraphrase
  • Using your note-taking skills to keep track of your sources
  • Consulting your style manual (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago)

Review Plagiarism.


3g. Practice the basic requirements of MLA, APA, and Chicago styles and formatting

  • What are citation styles?
  • What are the most common citation styles?
  • What is the difference between in-text citations and bibliographies?

Citation styles are how writers document reference information in their essays. Citations help readers locate outside sources referenced in your essay. There are in-text citations, or parenthetical citations, that inform readers of basic information of the source of the material; and there is a bibliography (or reference list, or Works Cited list) that lists the sources in more detail after an essay has concluded.

MLA stands for Modern Language Association and is typically used for essays written in the humanities discipline. APA stands for American Psychological Association and is typically used for papers in the social and natural sciences disciplines. Chicago style is typically used in history and philosophy disciplines.



Unit 3 Vocabulary

This vocabulary list includes the terms that you will need to know to successfully complete the final exam.

  • APA style
  • Chicago style
  • citations 
  • citation styles 
  • counterarguments 
  • CRAAP test
  • evidence 
  • main points 
  • MLA style
  • paraphrasing 
  • plagiarism
  • primary sources
  • quotations 
  • quoting
  • secondary sources
  • sub-claims
  • summaries

Unit 4: Finishing Touches

4a. Identify and apply concepts of style to academic writing

  • What does it mean to write in an academic writing style?
  • What should your sentence structure strategy be for academic writing?
  • What should your word choice strategy be for academic writing?
  • How can you use parallel structure in academic writing?
  • What is the difference between active and passive voice, and when should they be used in academic writing?

An academic writing style should be one that is simple and clear, but not too casual. You should vary your sentence structure between simple, compound, complex, and compound complex sentences.

Your word choice should be specific and clear, avoiding misused words or words with vague meanings. Be careful about using jargon, cliches, and loaded language, and replace long phrases with more concise words.

Parallel structure is when words within a sentence are united by consistent use of grammatical forms. Academic writing uses proper parallel structure within a sentence or list.

Passive voice occurs when you make the object of an action into the subject of a sentence; in active voice, the subject remains the "doer" of the action. Active voice should be your default academic voice, but there are occasions for passive voice, mainly in scientific writing, to emphasize an object, and when readers don't need to know who is responsible for the action.



4b. Practice applying stylistic techniques to a variety of writing exercises and assignments based on unique rhetorical situations

  • What are stylistic techniques to practice?
  • What are the four kinds of sentence structure patterns?
  • When should you use each sentence pattern?
  • How can you recognize awkward, vague, or unclear word choices?
  • What is wordiness, and what techniques can you practice to combat it?
  • What are cliches, and how should they be included in academic rhetorical situations?
  • What is the most important goal of academic writing?
  • How can you use key terms in your academic writing? What should you watch out for?
  • What are other strategies for successful word choice?

Stylistic techniques involve sentence structure, accurate and clear word choice, parallel structure, and voice.

Sentence structure patterns include simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. Simple sentences include just one independent clause: "Mr. Potato Head eats monkeys". Compound sentences are composed of two or more independent clauses, and connected by conjunctions or a semicolon: "Mr. Potato Head eats them for breakfast every day, but I don't see the attraction". A complex sentence includes one independent clause, plus at least one dependent clause: "Although I am curious, I am still skeptical". Compound-complex sentences include two or more independent clauses, plus one or more dependent clauses: "Mr. Potato Head said that he would share the secret recipe; however, if he does, Mrs. Potato Head will feed him to the piranhas, so we are both safer and happier if I don't eat monkeys or steal recipes". You should vary your sentence structures by arranging the clauses differently, and look for places where you can separate complex sentences or combine simple sentences.

When working on word choice, look for:

  • Misused words: The word does not actually mean what the writer thinks it does.
  • Words with unwanted connotations or meanings. These can distract your academic audience if unintentional.
  • Using a pronoun when readers cannot tell to whom/what it refers. 
  • Jargon or technical terms: Only used when necessary for your target audience. If you are writing for a professional audience, jargon may be appropriate, but if your audience are not experts, then avoid it.
  • Loaded language: Sometimes writers know what they mean by a certain word, but may need to spell it out more clearly for their target audience.

Wordiness is when you use words that your readers may regard as "extra" or inefficient. Typically, for any rhetorical situation, the more concise word choice you have, the more effective your writing is. Look for phrases that you can replace with shorter substitutes such as "If" instead of "In the event that…" and "Because" instead of "Due to the fact that…"

Cliches are catchy little phrases so frequently used that they have become trite, corny, or annoying. You should limit them in your academic writing. Examples include "agree to disagree" (replace with "disagree") and "last but not least" (replace with "last").

The most important goal of academic writing is not to sound smart – it is to communicate an argument or information clearly and convincingly.

Use repetition to highlight key terms in your academic writing. Repeating key terms emphasizes important points and signals to the reader that the argument is still being supported. Repetition contributes to your writing's cohesion. However, if you feel that your argument's clarity is escaping you, you are probably being redundant, and should look for synonyms or other ways to reword your sentences.

Practice these strategies for successful word choice:

  • Look up any words that you are not familiar with, and even synonyms, to ensure they are used appropriately in context.
  • Use accurate and strong nouns and verbs.
  • When you get stuck, try the slash/option technique to write out two or more choices for a confusing word or sentence. Pick the word that works best.
  • Look for repetition vs. redundancy.
  • Write your thesis in five different ways.
  • Read your paper out loud at a slow pace, to yourself or to someone else.
  • Talk through your argument as concisely as you can.
  • Have someone unfamiliar with the subject read your paper and point to places they find confusing.



4c. Apply techniques for using research to support various logical structures and rhetorical strategies, including analysis, discussion, and comparison/contrast

  • What research techniques can you use to support your writing?

Use the following steps to help you practice research techniques:

  • Review the primary purposes of researching: To provide factual information, and provide arguments for and against your position.
  • Gather evidence through your research: Print any electronic sources, observations, interviews, surveys, experiments, and personal experience.
  • Determine whether you have enough evidence by making a reverse outline, color coding your paper, or playing Devil's Advocate.
  • Make sure your sub-claims and counterarguments are supported by your research.
  • Evaluate the quality of your sources by doing the CRAAP test on them.
  • Integrate your research into your writing by using quotations, paraphrases, and summaries.
  • Determine the appropriate citation format (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.) and follow those guidelines.
  • Avoid plagiarism by using citations and taking careful notes about bibliographic information.



4d. Demonstrate competence in analysis, persuasion, and stylistic variation by developing, analyzing, and editing essays that embody various rhetorical, stylistic, and logical requirements

  • What does it mean to revise? Why is revision important?
  • How is revision different from proofreading and editing?
  • What are some steps in the revision process?
  • What is sentence-level revision?
  • What are some strategies for revising an essay's organization?
  • What is cohesiveness, and how can you check it in your essay?

Revision means to "see again", so it is an ongoing process of rethinking your paper. Writing is a process of discovery, so revision helps you produce your best work by helping you see what is really worth saying and if a reader is likely to understand what you are saying. Proofreading and editing take place at the sentence and word level, looking for small errors such as misspellings.

When revising, you should check the focus of your paper, think honestly about your thesis, and think about your purpose. Later, examine your paper's balance and check the organization, information, and conclusion.

Sentence-level revision asks you to examine each sentence and cut out extra or vague words, use forceful verbs, delete prepositional phrases, check sentence variety, and include precise word choice.

Paragraph-level revision asks you to examine the organization of the paper. You can accomplish this by creating a reverse outline, talking through your ideas, sectioning, listing and narrowing your topic, and visualizing your organization through clustering or mapping.

An essay has achieved cohesiveness when the words and ideas flow smoothly and connect logically. You can check for cohesiveness by reading your work aloud and asking if it makes sense, if the ideas flow logically and sound unified, and if there are any grammatical or usage errors that need to be fixed.



Unit 4 Vocabulary

This vocabulary list includes the terms that you will need to know to successfully complete the final exam.

  • academic writing style
  • active voice
  • cliches
  • cohesiveness
  • complex sentence
  • compound sentence
  • compound-complex sentence
  • editing
  • key terms
  • parallel structure
  • passive voice
  • proofreading
  • redundant
  • repetition
  • reverse outline
  • revision
  • sentence structure
  • simple sentences
  • stylistic techniques
  • word choice
  • wordiness