Ideas and Examples

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This semester I’ve been stressing ideas and examples.  For some reason my students seem to have trouble recognizing the difference between the two. And without ideas, they have a difficult time writing the kinds of papers I tend to ask them to write. So this semester I’m trying something new: a response sheet for every essay they read. The type of work required on this sheet has really helped. I think the key question on the sheet is “How do you know?”  It has helped my students to started figure out the textual clues that point to ideas and concepts: they show up in quotation marks or italics; they’re followed by some sort of definition; the author uses key words like “theory,” “model,” “concept,” or “idea.” It’s a skill that I find need continual reinforcement—particularly this semester.  I’m piloting a version of our second semester course that incorporates research, and of course one of the most important things students will need to find for their research topic is an idea: some theory or model or paradigm that they can use to analyze an example or specific material. I’m calling it the “Stuff” and “Ideas about Stuff” model.  For me, all academic research results from the interaction of those two components: stuff and ideas about stuff.  But, hey, maybe that’s another post.
About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.