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The Introduction
Directed Summary + Thesis
Your Assignment
• In the kind of essay you are writing, you are responding to
a series of questions—not writing an essay on a general
topic (like you would be if you were writing a research
paper or general essay).
• Therefore, you should NOT have a general introduction on
the topic. You may, however, have a short attention
getter (or hook), but this is optional.
What is a Directed Summary?
• The first question of the essay topic asks you to
produce a focused or directed summary; that
should be the main part of the introduction for
your paper.
• A directed summary is a kind of summary that
responds to only a particular aspect of a piece of
How to start:
• The directed summary should begin with an identification
of the author, title, and main point of the essay you are
working with. (FYI: the author’s full name is given at first
mention; after that, use only his/her last name. Also, the
titles of essays are put into quotation marks.)
• Sample:
• In “Some Close Encounters of a Mental Kind,” Stephen Jay Gould
discusses the ways in which our eyes and memories are flawed.
• NOTICE: I am punctuating and capitalizing the title
What’s next?
• Following your opening sentence, you should provide a
complete response to the first question of you Essay Topic,
which is this: “
does Gould attempt to
in the credibility of what
• NOTICE: I have marked some key words in this question. What
you need to do is think about how Gould tries to convince
readers to accept his points.
• NOTE: “How” is a more complicated question word than “what.”
• Directed summaries are often longer than
general summaries—because you are being
asked to discuss a focused point, and you
need to locate all aspects of that point.
You’re not just talking about the main
ideas of the overall essay; you are
exploring the specifics of a particular
aspect of it. And, ironically, this often
takes longer to do.
A good rule of thumb for a developed
directed summary is two-thirds of a page
(for the directed summary only—an
attention getter (if you use one to open the
essay) wouldn’t count as part of this
length, nor would your thesis). A developed
directed summary that is rarely less than
2/3 of a page. Often, they are longer.
Verb Tense
• Write the “summary aspects” of a directed summary in the simple
present tense; however, you might need to switch to the simple
past tense when you report an author’s examples. For instance,
you might have a sentence like this:
• Gould discusses how two memories can get tangled together to form a
third, false memory when he reports his faulty recollection of Devils Tower,
where he went first as a fifteen-year-old and then later as a forty-fiveyear-old.
• Notice the switch of tense. The “summary” verbs are in the simple
present tense, while the verb reporting about Gould’s past is in the simple
past tense.
More information
• Remember to write the directed summary in your own words. In fact,
AVOID QUOTES so that you demonstrate your reading comprehension
• A directed summary should NOT include your opinion, your examples,
etc. It is simply a response to the first essay topic question and reports
what an author (in this case Gould) thinks about a focused issue.
• Your thesis (an answer to the 2nd Essay Topic question) is most often
found after your directed summary—at the end of the introduction, but
it’s not considered part of the directed summary itself. In fact, the
thesis works as the transition between the author’s ideas and yours.
Directed Summary Strategies
• When I have to write a directed summary, what I like to do
is to read each paragraph of an essay carefully, looking for
what it can tell me about the question I’ve been asked to
respond to. Then I think about that question and write
notes in my own words, really trying to break things down.
This is actually my freewriting for my directed summary.
Following are my notes on the first two paragraphs of
Gould’s essay. Notice that I am thinking about what he
says and what he implies. Compare them to your notes!
• We’ll read each paragraph aloud first.
Paragraph 1
• Well—Gould’s already shaking my belief in what is seen by
reminding me of the problems associated with eye
witness testimony, and he’s raised the stakes of this topic
too. It’s accurate to say that people have gone to prison
for committing crimes they didn’t commit. It’s accurate
to say that wars have been waged because of faulty
interpretation of what is seen. These are both
undeniable facts, so my belief in what I see is already
being shaken.
Paragraph 2
• Here, Gould makes us doubt by bringing up the point
that we have to register sights correctly and then
store them. He implies that the brain is a great
thing, but it has so much to do that it CANNOT
possibly store everything without making errors. Also,
he reminds readers that we—as primates—put so much
stock (maybe too much) into what we see that we
might discount other senses. So, basically, he’s
reminding us just how flawed we are.
Let’s continue
• I’ll read each paragraph one at a time, and now
it’s your turn to tell me what you wrote.
Comprehension Check
• The three ways we can be fooled:
1. Perception Errors: problems with how we see something
2. Retrieval Error: we can get two memories mixed up
3. Retention Error: we can “lose” part of a memory over
• How do Loftus’s experiment and Gould’s personal
experience relate to these concepts?