By Julia Joseph
On November 1, I attended a presentation during which I learned about the values of clear, concise writing and ways in which a tutor can help a student develop a substantial thesis statement. Both presentations complemented each other in a way that illuminated the teaching of writing as a practice that is crucial to the production of organized, clear, and careful writing.
The first presenter talked about her experience on the Rutgers Review, one of the active literary magazines on campus. Not only does she help with the production of the magazine, but she has her own section in which her writing appears as well. During her presentation, she talked about the importance of making every word count. The writers for the magazine have to adhere to a word limit, which means they have to make their point in a relatively short amount of space. This goes for any kind of writing–especially the kind of writing that is done in the beginning of a student’s undergraduate career because such papers are usually limited to five pages. In my experience as a tutor, some students have expressed concerns about not being able to fill the five-page requirement; these students are often surprised when I tell them that five pages is not a lot of space to make their point, and that if they are having trouble, it means their argument needs more complexity and substance. These students also tend to think that writing meaningless or repetitive “filler” is the only way to complete five pages, but this misconception only proves that they are lacking the substance that is needed to write a paper. As the presenter stated, every word in a piece of writing counts, and therefore must be meaningful in order for the writing to be successful.
The other presenter talked about the tactics she uses during her tutoring sessions to help students develop a good thesis statement. She called her method “the 7 Steps to a 3D Triangle Thesis,” which she described as a thesis with multiple facets, and each body paragraph would be a facet of the 3D triangle. Her method serves to help students learn that a thesis statement is complex and opens up a paper to several points within a whole argument. During her presentation, she also noted the importance of being as specific as possible in writing. She always tells her students to “define their terms” because it’s easy for the writer to assume that the reader will understand everything, but it’s important to be as clear and specific as possible so the reader can easily follow the writer’s line of thought. This is a problem I often encounter with my own students; many times they will use abstract terms, or unspecific nouns like “this” or “it,” which they come to realize take away from the clarity of their writing.