The Fall 2012 semester is drawing to a close and it’s that time again—reflections. I entered the University of Michigan’s campus with low confidence in my writing skills as I have only focused on the aspects that desperately needed improvement. As three months have come down, I look back at the path of dust I’ve left behind. Of the multitude of subjects and writing techniques this class has touched on, I have absorbed information from each. Developing a thesis that provides an argument? Check. Providing a solid argument pumped with evidence and analyses? Check. Grammar and voice appropriately used? Check. The checks never seem to stop… My imaginary bucket list for Writing 100 is essentially checked off and I’m ready move forward.
As stated in my very first essay, my thesis statements were a hit or miss. There were times when my thesis was solid as a rock, my arguments just buffed and shined this figurative rock. Other times, my thesis would be a shot in the dark, what if I actually hurt someone because it was so bad? At the end of this term, I’ve noticed that thesis statements come more naturally and that it’s normal for me to find my argument before I can even begin to form a thesis. The flow of creating an argument fits perfectly into the thesis which flows straight into the skeletal structure of the rest of my essay.
The structures of my essays have always been a little shaky as stated in my interview. Like assembling a model of a human skeleton, I’ve got the basics in the right place, but sometimes I can so obviously miss a piece and then the final product is just incoherent and wrong. With my newly obtained argumentative thesis skills, I can avoid this problem a lot better. The logical flow lecture also helped in that every thesis will have a unique chronological flow based on evidence and the specific argument presented. Usually I just jump right into a paper and start typing, but for longer essays with multiple points, I find making an outline is much easier now as well. What’s surprised me the most is that I can even recognize if a paragraph has any place in my paper to make sense or if it just becomes farfetched and superfluous.
For the content of my papers, instead of being able to pull quotes from a book, I had to do my own research and determine which sources to use. This was a relatively new concept for me as most high school papers dealt with in class reading assignments and other book work. I found that I didn’t have too much trouble finding a source that I could use, what was difficult was summarizing the main idea of the source without chronologically describing it. By the time I reached my fourth research summary, I found I could point out specific points without any trouble. With this skill, I didn’t have to go back to the original article and find new points I could use in an essay because I had already covered the important aspects with quotes and analyses.
All the above listed have a built a foundation of abilities for me to use in forming an argument. From my senior year in high school, my high school teacher would tell me that when I actually make an argument, the content is sound and usually proves what I am trying to say. Other times, my arguments are convoluted and sometimes not even clearly stated. Now with the accumulated knowledge I’ve gained from this class, I know how to clearly state my argument without being too choppy, buff my arguments with the right amount of quotes, and offer analysis of why the quote is there and where it stands relative to the argument. I found this especially prevalent in my third paper about Earth Song by Michael Jackson. At first, I had not established my points clearly and started to chronologically summarize the video when I really just needed to pick out the important points and analyze. Previous papers sometimes consisted of a long block of quotes and little explanation, by the fourth paper where my opinion is expressed, quote blocks are seen a lot less. If my writing happens to include quotes, proper analyses are most often accompanied rather than a stand-alone found in my previous essays.
I look back at my old papers and think about the process I went through in writing it, I find that instead of staring at a blank document, I can either start instantly or meticulously plan out an outline where all my points are expressed and almost equally represented. From the beginning of the semester, I definitely think I improved because I don’t think about whether or not the paper will be good enough first time through, I just write until I’m finished. Afterwards, I go back and look at what I could remove or possibly add, especially with the help of the one-on-one meetings, I can recognize these patches in my writing quicker. As for aspects of developing a paper I could improve on, reviewing my work is still one of them. Due to my own procrastination, I tend to write papers close to last minute and then get fed up with editing my own work, which is really more important than having the written content itself. Once I can get self-editing under control, I believe I can depend on myself more for recognizing small errors and areas where I could add more material if necessary. Overall, this class has improved my confidence in my own writing and I feel prepared to go onto college writing.