Commentary on Expos Paper

The comments I made on this paper are a bit harsh–but I tried asking many questions…I find that they best way to get a student to seriously think about their topic is to engage them in intriguing conversation. If the tutor makes the subject relevant and interesting to the student, then there’s a chance that the paper may improve. I go through the paragraphs one by way and ask several questions regarding the theory of the paper and the usage of quotes–I try to read it objectively and if something doesn’t seem to flow, I comment on it. There is room, however, for the student to debate me on points. Nothing is say is quite so set in stone…all things are questions and assumptions…if a student can offer me a reason for why a particular phrase sounds general but is not, I would be more than willing to listen.

I don’t want to patronize the students, I want to treat them like a peer–and they come for the truth about their writing…I want to talk with them and play the Devil’s Advocate so that they can start defending their papers of their own will–then it becomes an issue of pride to them. It is amazing what the spirit of competition can do to a student’s work.

By asking questions, they are forced to make connections–since the comments are paragraph by paragraph, we can follow along with their train of thought and identify what can be improved, step by step.

Well, from the beginning the student in question did not follow the prompt exactly; the paper is not a full five pages, the name is not in the top left corner of the page and the title is quite ambiguous. As these are the basic blueprints for the paper, I would suggest that the student remedy these mistakes before working on the content of the paper.

Now, the First Paragraph: The First sentence was compiled of seemingly contradictory adjectives (selfish and commendable) that are never really explained throughout the paper–at least, not clearly. In addition, the paper is FULL of general and abrupt statements that seem to “float” in their own meaning without back-up; “McCandless and his journey forge a relationship between an individual and his agency.” This is followed by a comparison of individual needs versus an awareness of the environment–and it’s difficult to follow…I always recommend to my students to write as though the reader has never read the articles that are in discussion; that being said, “variable of context” is never defined. Even though the thesis is clearly stated, it’s poorly constructed and seems unsupported by the introductory paragraph. I would suggest incorporating the author’s names and the names of the articles into the thesis…–It takes its position at least somewhat throughout the paper.

The Second Paragraph: “Each Individual has to aspire to accomplishing a set of goals determined by society,” My response to this statement is, “Who Says”? Then, the following statement is incredibly ambiguous—particularly because “variables of context” has yet to be defined or alluded to. Another confusing aspect of the second paragraph is that the student quotes Twenge and states that the focus of the needs on the individual is not necessarily “isolationist” –then states that McCandless (like GenMe) has “a similar goal to accomplish”—but then quickly states that unlike the Boomers and Generation Me, “McCandless embarked on a journey that was completely isolationist.” This, to me at least, seems too rapid of a transition. I wonder if the first quotes regarding being “self-absorbed or isolationist” are really necessary if they are going to be contradicted soon after. So awareness of self is similar to what GenMe and the Boomers want—but not in complete isolation—and the goal is not always for “personal fulfillment” but sometimes based solely on the environment? A bulk of the quotes in the second paragraph seem irrelevant to the point trying to be made…In addition, Gladwell’s quotes and relation to the journey of “self awareness’ in regards to the environment seemed tacked on to the end—the connection is hard to understand.

The Third Paragraph: The first sentence is ambiguous—That being said, the topic sentences in this paper seem too general to follow. “Individual agency is difficult to accomplish when individuals live solely within the guidelines of society” –What exactly are the guidelines to society? Is it pressure from “civilization” versus “the wild?” Then, the student utilizes a quote by Twenge that probably should have been used near the beginning of the people when explaining “process oriented manner.”

Following that quote, there is a clear discussion that seems to explain the meaning of the whole paper—but it is all grouped together. The sentence “He rejected the relationships within his life and took control of his agency” is particularly good and correlates with the vague statement made near the beginning of the paper regarding “forging a relationship between self and agency.” If anything, I would suggest to the student that perhaps the “awareness of self” leads to the birth of a new agency that comes from denouncing society—or civilization. Also, the quote about “tinkering with the environment” is a good following quote explaining changing one’s atmosphere to change one’s self. However, I would argue that the tone of this discussion sounds incredibly positive—How does this connect with the adjectives listed in the beginning of the paper—Is it completely “selfish”—or is this word being used in a positive light? In addition, I would ask the student to please define the “Power of Context” near the beginning of the paper—Possibly in the Introduction…in this way, one could explain the variables of context as well—the definition seems to come far too late in the paper.

The Fourth Paragraph: The topic of “selfishness” is connected to supposed narcissism—so, okay. But, I’m a bit confused about the issue of “personal awareness.” In the previous paragraphs, it  seemed that one abandoned civilization to gain a better perception of themselves and to understand oneself to a greater extent….the fourth paragraph seems to suggest that  “They feel as though they already are aware of themselves and this is how narcissism builds”…–So, do they know themselves, or don’t they? Also, there is another general statement that seems out of place and not properly supported; “Individuals on a journey seem to be oblivious to the basic ideas of cause and effect.” Gladwell is also not well-connected to this paper—he seems like an afterthought even though the environment is mentioned from the very beginning of the paper. Also, the last few lines of the fourth paragraph are general and vague—“The individuals were also too concerned with that they needed to think about the consequences of their actions” –What were they concerned with? What are the consequences? Also, what was the destination that they’re all trying to get to? Then the student goes on to say that this type of concern reads as narcissism, but has the ability to affect others—how is this thought relevant?

The Fifth Paragraph: So, “Creating a changed perspective is the most successful way to enact social change”…ok, then the quote regarding the Baby Boomers. But, following that quote is a statement that is vague—“The Boomers based their perspective on how children should feel after their own feelings” –what does that mean? Also, the “Broken Windows Theory and the “Power of Context” come far too late in the paper in regards to individuals acting on experiences around them.  Another general statement—“Individuals search for ways to improve their experiences and the outcome of their experiences.” According to what?

As for the Conclusion—

The paragraph seems completely General and entirely irrelevant to the paper—there is no restatement of the thesis or discussion of any specific ideas. It needs to be re-written entirely.

  • Vague sense that student’s voice is contributing to the conversation—and ambiguous statements.
  • Little coherence from paragraph to paragraph—Difficult to follow and lacking connections

All in all, I’d say this paper was between a C and an NP.


About amandap781

Junior at Rutgers University English/Linguistics Double Major
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