Copyright 2011 by Gary Pullman
Your teacher has assigned you an essay in which you must make a claim that is based upon three related points. You start with your claim:
Mr. X is an ineffective instructor because __________________________________, __________________________________, and __________________________________.Now, all you have to do is fill in the three blanks, giving reasons that support your claim. You think back over the course and come up with the following fillers for the blanks (the reasons that support your claim):
Mr. X is an ineffective instructor because he is impatient with students, he does not lecture on a level that is appropriate to his freshmen students, and he assigns class work and homework that do not relate to the course objectives.That was easy, you think. This assignment should be done in no time at all!
You begin by brainstorming, and before you know it, you have drifted far from the first point in your thesis (Mr. X’s impatience with students). You let your hatred for the instructor lead you astray. Without being aware of doing so, you started thinking of how rude he is to students, how he tells lame jokes, and how he wastes class time telling personal stories about topics that do not have anything to do with the assignments or subject matter content on the syllabus. You also remember him being inconsiderate to a couple of students. As an example of an anecdote, he told a story about a fat man who tried one diet after another without success until he realized he had to change his hole lifestyle, get off the couch, and exercise as well as reduce his caloric intake--and there was a fat guy in class! Likewise, he made a point about avoiding sexist and racist language in essays--and there was a black chick in the class and half the students were women!
Before you know it, you have slipped away from your first point (Mr. X’ impatience with students) and started to write about his insensitivity, rudeness, and inconsideration toward students.
Let’s say you stayed on topic as you wrote about the second and third points in your thesis, Mr. X’s inappropriate level of communication during his lectures and his assignment of class work and homework that do not relate to the course objectives.
That means two thirds, or sixty-six percent, of your essay will actually remain on track, while a third of it will be sidetracked--if you don’t check the points in your thesis sentence against the points in your body paragraph’s topic sentences (and, equally importantly, the body paragraphs themselves).
Here’s a handy dandy way to do just this (before you hand in your paper) and save your grade.
Create a table that has three columns and four rows:
Label the top rows like this:
Now, as you check the points in your thesis against the points in your topic paragraphs (and the development of these points in the topic sentences’ respective body paragraphs), place “YES” in the “Match?” column if the points match or “NO” if they do not match.
Your matching game shows that the first point in your thesis sentence does NOT match the point in your first topic sentence or the way that the point in the topic sentence is developed in its body paragraph and that the second and third points in your thesis sentence DO match their counterparts in the second and third topic sentences and are developed correctly in these topic sentences’ respective body paragraphs. You have uncovered a very important error in your paper.
Fortunately, there is an easy way to correct the error and save your grade!
Simply change the second point in your thesis so that it matches the point that you actually make in your first topic sentence and support and develop in its body paragraph. Instead of turning in your paper with the original thesis sentence, turn in a revision with the corrected thesis sentence, which NOW reads:
Mr. X is an ineffective instructor because he is rude, inconsiderate, and insensitive toward his students; he does not lecture on a level that is appropriate to his freshmen students; and he assigns class work and homework that do not relate to the course objectives.Notice we had to replace the commas between the items in the series with semicolons because the items in the first of the three phrases now contains commas, which the original phrase lacked: “he is rude, inconsiderate, and insensitive toward his students.”