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Writing Assignment Sourcebook: Glossary

A reference guide that writing instructors and others involved with writing and literacy studies may find useful is The Literacy Dictionary, edited by Theodore L. Harris and Richard E. Hodges. The terminology glossed here is defined very briefly, in the specific context of the SUNY Stony Brook writing program's curriculum, but should be generally useful to other users.

Abstraction–the ability to distill essential message or meaning from a text. An essential skill for summarizing and many kinds of analysis.

--in this context, usually an examination of the elements of a text to reveal how the text operates as a whole.

Argument--a writer's informed, supportable opinion or stand. Also the summary of this stand, which usually comprises the thesis of an essay.

Audience Awareness--a writer's assessment of the mindset, opinions, and personal traits of his or her readers and how these factors may influence their understanding of his or her writing.

–a world-wide-web based interactive learning and classroom-management system which includes an announcement board, grade book, class e-mail list accessible to instructors and students, discussion forum, essay drop-off, assignment folder, and many other features.

Blow-Ups– a generative revision method in which new paragraphs are inserted which add depth and detail to the preceding, original sentence.

– an acronymn for Buch Method Revision. In a term coined by Richard Buch, a generative revision technique which consists of inserting new sentences into a drafted paragraph which provide detailed observations on the preceding sentences.

Close Observation–deep penetration of a text, idea, context, situation, etc. which allows the observer to construct patterns or find meaning not immediately apparent. (See also Close Reading)

Close Reading– reading of a text which allows the reader to penetrate the surface or apparent meaning, bringing outside knowledge or personal experience and associations to bear on the words. (See also Close Observation)

Collaborative Writing
–a text co-written by a team of writers (in this case, usually students in a class), either handwritten in a traditional classroom or computer-generated in a networked computer classroom using interactive software such as DIWE Interchange or a web-based discussion format such as Blackboard Discussion Forum. (See also Networked Computer Classroom, DIWE, Blackboard)

Collage–an informal exploratory or expressive essay, related to the informal or personal narrative essay but frequently without a precise thesis and loosely structured with a minimum of transitions. The collage allows the writer to concentrate on developing fluency at a paragraph level and allows for an intuitive organization.

–the skill of being able to create effective interpersonal communication between the members of a group.

–writing which is presented in a format acceptable to one's audience, community, or writing instructor. Correctness is not necessarily a standard of inherent value, but being able to maintain standards of acceptability is a survival skill for academic writers, in fact so much so that it has frequently been confused with "learning to write." In class, correct writing varies according to the assignment, the phase of writing (such as freewriting or graded draft), the genre, and other factors. Most of our writing instructors allow for multiple revisions which facilitate better proofreading. (See also Mechanics, Grammar, Proofreading)

Course–course in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at SUNY Stony Brook, usually WRT 101, 102, 103, or 201. See the Program website for further details.

Description–the ability to recreate a physical or emotional effect through words.

Dialogue-Writing–re-creation of a conversation scene as if it were occurring in real time, usually by using direct quotation and attributing this to specific characters.

Direct Quotation
–an exact reproduction of another writer's words in a text, set off by quotation marks and identified by author. (See also Paraphrasing, Summarizing)

DIWE–an acronym for Daedalus Interactive Writing Software.

Essay Planning–pre-writing strategies and techniques, such as freewriting on the essay topic, writing a proposal, outlining, research.

Freewriting–unplanned, unstructured writing which is usually not graded or evaluated.

Generative Writing–writing, usually unstructured, which leads to a greater flow of ideas and usually to more structured and developed writing. Freewriting, journal writing, reading responses, and other types of brainstorming exercises are common types of generative writing.

Genre–in this context, usually meant to indicate a type of academic essay (such as personal narrative, researched argument, textual analysis, summary and response, profile, or survey essay). In the larger context, genre is any generally recognized classification of texts, such as short story, novel, play, epic or lyric poem, essay, etc.

Genre Distinction–the skill of being able to distinguish between different types of genres, and by doing so be able to determine the purpose and audience of a particular text.

–the structure of language. In the context of writing instruction, frequently misapplied to mean correctness in a written text ("good grammar," "bad grammar"). (See Correctness)

Group Revision Exercise–an exercise which teaches revision strategies or allows students to employ revision strategies on each others' writing, usually done in small groups of two to six.

Holistic Revision (also referred to as Generative Revision)–a process in which the writer seeks to improve the entire essay (i.e., strengthen the argument, improve the support, improve overall clarity and organization, add depth and detail) rather than simply revise for local and superficial errors.

– in a term coined by Francis Christenson, phrasal modifiers which are inserted into sentences to give more depth and detail.

In-Class Essay–an essay written under time-constraints and supervised by a instructor or test proctor, usually without time to revise.

Individual Revision Exercise–an exercise, done by a single student, which teaches revision strategies or allows the student to employ revision strategies on his or her own writing.

Individual Writing Assignment
–any non-collaborative writing assignment, such as a portfolio essay or a freewrite, done by a single student.

Informal Essay
–an essay in which the writer uses his or her own experiences, thoughts, memories, opinions, etc. to make a focused observation or argument. The diction is conversational and less formal than that of most academic essay genres.( See also Personal Narrative, Narrative, Reflective Essay)

Interpersonal Communication–in this context, discussion which facilitates the writing process, between class members, between the writing instructor and individual students and/or groups of students, between members of small groups and/or partners, and between interviewers and interviewees. Interpersonal communication is an especially important component of peer evaluation.

–an interaction, usually between two people, in which one person asks the other questions about his or her life, career, opinions on particular topics, etc. This is usually done as preliminary work for writing an essay or article some or all of the obtained information, such as the Profile essay. (See Profile)

–a notebook or folder in which a writer regularly writes. Frequent journal writing is a course requirement for all WRT 101 classes and many more advanced classes. It encourages the development of fluency and creativity, and provides a medium for essay planning.( See also Reading Response)

Logical Reasoning–a catch-all term for inductive and deductive thinking, frequently used as support for an argument or thesis. Frequently used by writers to point out the flaws (logical fallacies) in an opposing point of view.

Materials–items the teacher will need to provide or have the students provide in order to complete the assignment, other than paper and pen, such as a chalkboard or a specific text.

Mechanics–usually refers to correct spelling, punctuation, and paper format (such as proper heading and pagination as indicated by the instructor or by MLA or APA). (See also Correctness)

Metaphorical Thinking
–thought in which unlike objects are compared to one another, frequently for an aesthetic effect: the use of figurative language to express a point of view.

–a text which re-creates a scene or series of related scenes, or a series of events: a story. In these assignments, narrative is usually an abbreviation for personal narrative, an essay which re-creates an event, events, scenes, or series of scenes which happened in the writer's experience or to someone that the writer knows, usually with a thesis. The narrative in this case serves as support for the thesis. The personal narrative, also referred to as the informal essay or reflective essay, is one of the three required academic essays for the WRT 102 portfolio. (See also Personal Narrative, Informal Essay, Reflective Essay)

Networked Computer Classroom–a classroom with enough computers for each student and instructor with interactive software (such as Blackboard, Common Place, or DIWE) and a connection to the World Wide Web. At Stony Brook, the two classrooms which fit this description are the EWC and History Lab.

Oral Presentation–in this context, usually an informal but organized summary of individual or group work during class discussion, graded or non-graded.

Paragraph-Level Revision–revision which employs techniques to structure paragraphs more effectively or to add depth and detail at the paragraph level.

Paraphrasing–restating the words of another writer in one's own words. Paraphrases must be identified by author to avoid plagiarism. (See also Direct Quotation, Summarizing)

Peer Evaluation–an evaluation of a text by a peer (a classmate, colleague, or workshop member) rather than by an instructor or workshop leader. Instructors frequently provide a list of evaluation techniques or criteria for peer evaluators to follow.

Personal Assessment–a writer's evaluation of his or her own writing or other classroom performance.

Personal Narrative
–an essay which re-creates an event, events, scenes, or series of scenes which happened in the writer's experience or to someone that the writer knows, usually with a thesis. The narrative in this case serves as support for the thesis. The personal narrative, also referred to as the informal essay or reflective essay, is one of the three required academic essays for the WRT 102 portfolio. (See also Narrative, Informal Essay, Reflective Essay)

–methods which a writer uses to convince his or her reader of the validity of an argument, including appeals to emotion as well as logic.

Placement Exam–a timed and supervised essay, supervised by a test proctor, which determines incoming students' placement into a writing class (at SUNY Stony Brook, WRT 101, 102, or 103).

–The portfolio system used by SUNY Stony Brook and many other universities to maintain a literacy competence among undergraduates was developed to replace the former "exit essay" test which is still used by many institutions. The portfolio allows undergraduate writers to revise their writing and present their best work as proof of their writing skills. At least two writing instructors must agree that a student's portfolio is at passing level for him or her to complete the writing requirement.

Process Writing–a text in which a writer documents and reflects upon his or her process in writing another text. Frequently used as a method of Personal Assessment, and helpful to writing instructors in assessing their students' needs and progress as writers.

Profile Essay
–an essay which relies on the personal experience of another as its source. Writers interview someone about his or her life and work and transform the interview into a biographical description of the person, focusing on one particular dominant impression of the person or some aspect of the person's professional life.

–a methodical examination of a completed text for errors in syntax, spelling, mechanics, formatting, etc..

Proposal–a formalized plan for an essay, usually an persuasive essay, in which a writer states his or her planned argument and the ways in which he/she intends to support it.

Reading Response
–a writer's thoughts and feelings after reading a text, done in class or as homework, frequently written in a journal. It may include, but is not limited to, analysis of the text.

–texts which are assigned to a class by an instructor to facilitate discussion and writing by the class.

Reflection–a meditative exploration of an idea, text, topic, writing process, or one's general state of mind, frequently written in a journal or in freewriting.

Reflective Essay
–an essay of a personal nature in which the writer uses his or her subjective opinions, observations, thoughts, feelings, and experiences to support a thesis. ( See also Narrative, Personal Narrative, Informal Essay)

Research–a gathering of outside materials, usually texts, which provide a writer with information on his or her topic and support for his or her thesis.

Researched Argument
–an essay which proposes an argument and supports it with evidence obtained during research. One of the three required academic essays for the WRT 102 portfolio.

–a re-creation or invention of a series of related events occuring within a proscribed period of time. A written scene does not usually have a thesis, but it may be used to support a thesis in a personal narrative essay.

Sentence-Level Revision–revision which focuses on meaning and clarity at the sentence level, including but not restricted to syntax, word choice, and mechanics. (See Mechanics, Syntax)

Small Group Discussion
–discussion of an assignment, assigned text, or student writing by groups of usually two to six students. The groups then usually report back to the instructor and entire class in a full class discussion.

–the quality of a text which is determined by genre, appropriateness and tone of word choice, the writer's audience awareness, and the individual imprint of personality which the text bears to readers. Style is often considered along with correctness, but is distinct from it. (See Correctness)

–the skill of abstracting and condensing essential features of a text.

Summary and Response Essay–an essay which the writer summarizes an outside text and then provides his or her own thoughts, feelings, and associations stimulated by the text. This may include but is not limited to an analysis of the text. (See Text Analysis)

Survey Essay
–an essay which uses data collected from a survey designed and implemented by the writer as the source for a small, social science research report. Writers learn to analyze and organize information coherently while being exposed to the notion of discourse communities in the academy.

–in this context, usually refers to acceptable, understandable word order in a sentence.

Text–usually refers to a cohesive unit of words which can be read and understood. The most commonly encountered texts are classified by genre, such as poem, short story, essay, etc. More recently, also taken to mean any cohesive entity that can be understood through analysis. In the second context, a text can be a painting, a photograph, an advertisement, a building, a human face, etc.

Text (or Textual) Analysis
–the holistic understanding (reading) of a text by examination of its particular characteristics. In the context of these assignments, a genre of academic essay which presents an argument about a text by supporting the argument with a holistic understanding of a text by examination of its particular characteristics. One of the three required academic essays for the WRT 102 portfolio.

–in an essay, a writer's argument or focused observation which is supported by the body of the essay. A thesis can be supported by personal experience, by outside research, by logical argument,

Thesis Development
–the process of choosing, focusing, and fine-tuning an argument, frequently by processes such as brainstorming, freewriting, and discussion. (See Essay Planning)

Time-Management–the skill of pacing one's essay planning, thesis development, and essay composition during a timed essay or during the duration of any writing assignment.

Transitions–connective devices in writing (words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs) which bridge sections of a text to make it seem more cohesive.

Voice– the individual imprint of personality which a text bears to readers. In addition to an individual writer's voice, a literary movement or era, a nationality, etc. can be said by some to have its own voice (i.e., the voice of Victorian English writing, the voice of modernist poetry). (See Style)

Writing Across the Disciplines–a method of writing instruction which does not divorce writing from the content of other academic disciplines, and which acknowledges the requirements of existing academic genres in other fields of study.

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