Preparing for a new semester? Here’s the first installment of a few quick tips I’ve put together for college humanities students writing about literature and history.
Be specific and remember: ANALYSIS, not summary. Persuade your reader. Make a strong, complex, focused argument and support it with evidence from the text upon which you build and expand that argument.
1. Getting Started and Staying Text-focused
One good way to get started without making a generalization (e.g., “Since the dawn of mankind…”) is by using a structure something like this somewhere in the first few sentences of your paper: “In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the river functions as a geographical and metaphorical location that… That is, …” Build your idea if necessary and then insert SPECIFIC EVIDENCE FROM THE TEXT; make another insightful claim related to and building upon the first claim(s); support this claim with specific evidence, etc. (In _______, this complex, interesting thing that is not obvious happens, and here’s how…) Don’t simply list examples and evidence. Rather, use them to support and expand your ideas. Connect and develop your ideas and evidence with transitions. Show the reader how the evidence works to support and build your ideas.