Nuts and Bolts: A Review

In our writing workshops we have reviewed titles, introductions, claims, organization, and conclusions. Below are a series of questions and examples to summarize these workshops. You might use these questions during your revision process in the next week.

Titles: How do I write an effective title?

An effective title will most often have these elements:

  • Will grab the attention of a reader
  • Will interest potential readers in what you have to say
  • Will provide a clear sense of the subject and context (authors, key terms, books)

Here are examples:

Satrapi, Spiegelman, and Sacco: Confronting Cultural Crisis Through the Art of Comics

A Blog of One’s Own: Women and Authorship in the Digital Revolution

Dramas of Solitude: Narratives of Retreat in American Nature Writing

Songs of Ourselves: The Use of Poetry in America

The World is Blue: How are Fate and the Oceans are One

A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation

Mountains of the Mind: Adventures in Reaching the Summit

Introductions: Where do I begin?

Here are a few considerations to begin talking about where to begin:

  • Define Context: Describe a general understanding of the idea/topic (“a recognizable intellectual context”)
  • Create a disruption of that general understanding (will usually involve a word such as “however,” “yet,” “but”): this is where you come in, and is the path from what “they say” to “I say.”
  • Follow the disruption with a clear and specific claim that will organize the content and guide the reader through the remainder of the essay

Here are two examples from early versions of ITW essays:

When you listen to people talk about science and religion you are likely to hear that they are incompatible. People will say “the two contradict each other” or “science is based merely on fact while religion is based in belief or fiction.” However, this common belief that science and religion are incompatible is fueled by the lack of knowledge and understanding of a complex relationship between two ways of thinking about the world. The purpose of this paper is to argue that science and religion are harmonious rather than antagonistic. I will use Richard Dawkin’s outlook on religion to clarify what I take to be a fundamental misunderstanding of doubt and faith.

Increasing evidence of what we call today the Ice Age changed the nineteenth-century world view of nature: it modified scientific assumptions, challenged religious beliefs, and stimulated the popular imagination. However, the most significant change was how people thought about time. An increasing attention to mountains as alluring places, and the new idea of attaining the summit as a significant achievement, brought the human imagination closer to nature’s timeline than ever before. This gap between nature and culture re-established itself in the twentieth century. Technological innovation improved people’s lives at the same time it obscured the growing gap between the “deliberate pace of nature” and the “impetuous and heedless pace of man” (7). Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring urges its readers to reconsider their lives as a part of the natural world by re-examining the pace of modern life.

Claims: What is n effective claim? Consider “They Say, I Say”

Consider these elements of an effective claim:

  • Your take on the subject
  • Debatable (not both sides but rather acknowledge multiple sides of an issue)
  • Complex
  • Justifies what you are doing (significance of what you are doing)
  • Visible and well deliberately placed in the essay
  • Well constructed sentence or sentences (clarity)

Here are two examples from ITW papers:

From Social Networking to Productive Classroom Work: Special Technology for Special Children

Of course, with every technological advancement there are downfalls, but I think it is of the utmost importance for people to understand what technology is doing for these children. The positive benefits outweigh the negative when it comes to technology in special education classrooms.

The purpose of my paper is to inform people of the more positive, unknown, benefits to technology and its advancement. Acknowledging the fact that there are negative affects such as distraction and decreasing social skills when it comes to technology, I try to show how the positives outweigh the negative. Exploring many different kinds of assistive technologies and their purposes, I hope to help the readers become more optimistic. My paper is essentially an informative essay, but still touching on the opposing arguments.

Overuse Injuries in Youth Sports

Youth sports can be damaging to children (Counter: Youth sports are valuable in many ways; Counter to counter: Youth sports can be made more valuable if necessary precautions are taken) My research paper is written on the rising epidemic of overuse injuries in youth sports.  My paper is not written to undermine youth sports programs in the United States, but it is instead written to enhance the program.  The point of my paper is to emphasis the importance of educating the young athletes, parents, and coaches.  While there are many positive rewards and benefits to youth sports, there is definitely room for growth in the programs and improvement of the safety of the programs.  With more than half of the youth sport injuries being in the category of overuse injuries, there needs to be more education available to prevent these statistics from growing.  My paper also discusses treatment for already sustained overuse injuries. Youth sports could be made safer and the programs better if there is more knowledge.  There should be more knowledge and more education available for parents, players, and coaches.  While programs today do have education and certification programs, not all sports have these requirements, and ones that do have certification program requirements could be more in depth.

Organization and Transitions: How to Move from One Place to Another

Every piece of writing has a beginning, a middle, and  an end. But how does your writing move from one place to another? Following the steps below will help you 1) “see” the structure of your essay, 2) determine whether or not your thinking is actually going somewhere (“developing”) and 3) build in steps that move your argument (and your reader) to a different place from where you started. If step three proves difficult, then you may want to return to the all-important questions: Where am I going? Where do I want to take the reader?

1. Write a one-sentence summary of each paragraph in your essay.


1. Introduction to concept of deviance and the use of deviance to understand acts of nonconformity.

2. Discussion of the idea that deviance is part of human development and achievement

3. The importance of looking at deviance from a neutral rather than a biased point of view.

2. Break your one-sentence summary outline into parts or sections.


  1. Introduction to subject of paper and inquiry, outline of key questions and debates, importance and consequences of observing deviance differently (paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
  1. Examples of scholarly thinking that links deviance and creativity, examples of creative persons who have also spent time “behind bars” (paragraphs on Socrates, Galileo, Thoreau, King, Mandela)
  1. Deviance and the scapegoat figure, Columbine, Eric Harris and Dylan Kliebold and the music of Marilyn Manson.

Write a transition from each part of the paper to the next.


“So while we see that Manson belongs to the Church of Satan, we must also note his Episcopalian membership as well, which is something very few of us take the time to discover” (Lowry 54).

“After laying the foundation of seemingly negative deviant contexts, we can turn the tables in hopes to better understand the other half, the positive effects of deviation.”

Examples taken from sample essay “Positive Deviance: Unmasking a Common Phenomenon,” Think, Write, Learn: A User’s Guide to Sustained Writing Projects, Phyllis Benay, Kirsti Sandy and Collie Fulford, eds., Littleton, MA: Tapestry, 2008. 92-100.

Conclusions: How do I end my paper?

Here are a few suggested ways to conclude:

  • Summary (more than restatement): take on the “so what?” question.
  • Revisit claim (more than restate, as your reader is more informed about the subject)
  • Relate to your reader (“Now it is up to you,” With this information, consider. . . “)
  • Say something new: point to broader implications, further lines of research or inquiry, unanswered questions, actions to take based on information provided in the essay

 Here is an example:

From the beginning of his career to this most recent work, nature for John McPhee is a place where people are. McPhee’s documentation of the ways humans carry out their lives has broadened our thinking about nature and the role of humans in the more-than-human world. His portraits and place-based profiles of people will consistently challenge the reader to think in regional terms; his astonishing number of regional studies, moreover, will continue to offer readers an indispensable repository of human attitudes toward the natural environment. The more recent books about geology, finally, will continue to invite readers to think about the natural world in unfamiliar, if potentially enabling ways. For Bailey, McPhee’s later work is most importantly “about nature seen as completely as we can see it.” The consequences of McPhee’s project as a nature writer, from this point of view, are significant. McPhee’s essential lesson as a nature writer is that our understanding of the natural world is something we must continue to shape as we broaden and deepen our inherently limited human perspectives.