Writing in Response

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  • Edition: 2nd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 7/16/2015
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's

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Writing in Response is a flexible, brief rhetoric that offers a unique focus on the critical practices of experienced readers, analysis and reflection, the skills at the heart of academic writing. It helps students compose academic essays by showing how active reading and exploratory writing bring fresh ideas to light and how informal response is developed into polished, documented prose. Extensively class tested, Writing in Response emphasizes the key techniques common to reading, thinking, and writing throughout the humanities and social sciences by teaching students the value of a social, incremental, and recursive writing process. The new edition includes more on working with digital tools, more help for writing, and updated readings.

Author Biography

Matthew Parfitt (Ph.D., Boston College) is an Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Chair of the Division of Rhetoric at Boston University’s College of General Studies.  In 2002 he received the Peyton Richter Award for interdisciplinary teaching. He is coeditor of Conflicts and Crises in the Composition Classroom—And What Instructors Can Do About Them and Cultural Conversations: The Presence of the Past.

Table of Contents

Preface for Instructors

About the Author

Introduction: Writing in Response to Reading

"What Does the Professor Want?"

The Values of the Academy

Academic Discourse

Why Do College Instructors Assign Writing?

Critical Thinking

"Live the Questions"

Checklist for Understanding Academic Discourse


Part I. Responsive Reading

Chapter 1.  Reading with a Purpose

Making Sense

Academic Reading: Reading with a Purpose


Guidelines for Analyzing Rhetorical Context

Your Own Contexts

Guidelines: Analyzing the Purpose of Reading

Identifying the Genre of the Text

Guidelines: Analyzing Your Motives for Reading

Clearing Space to Concentrate

Some Sources of Difficulty

Identifying Arguments

Ad Council, Start Talking Before They Start Drinking [advertisement]

Thomas Ball, The Freedmen’s Memorial [photograph]

Reading Critically

The Principle of Charity

Checklist for Reading with a Purpose


Chapter 2., Active Reading

Reading through the Text for the First Time

Read From Beginning to End

Keep a Notebook and Pen Nearby

Mark Up the Text

*Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar (annotated by student Katelyn Richerts)

*Student Sample Annotated Paragraph, First Reading

*Student Sample Annotated Paragraph, Second Reading

Note the Knowledge Problem, Thesis Statement, and Key Claims

Note Divisions, Turning Points, and Signposts

Note Things That Puzzle You

Gloss Unfamiliar References

Reading Journal: Thoughts, Claims, and Questions

Record Your First Thoughts

*Student Sample Reading Journal, First Entry

Identify the Problem (If Possible)

Restate Two or Three Claims

Ask Two or Three Questions


Read Slowly

Develop Your Marginalia

A Basic Dialectical Notebook

Layers: The Dialectical Notebook as Palimpsest

*Double-Entry Notebook with a First Layer of Notes

*Double-Entry Notebook with a Second Layer of Notes

*Double-Entry Notebook with a Third Layer of Notes

Reading Journal: Further Thoughts

Timed Free-Writing

Two or Three More Claims

Respond to Your First Questions

Write Down Two More Questions

Checklist for Active Reading


Chapter 3. Further Strategies for Active Reading

Variations on the Dialectical Notebook

A Question-Centered Triple-Entry Notebook

Guidelines: Taking Double- or Triple-Entry Notes on a Computer

A Quotation-Centered Triple-Entry Notebook

Adapting the Dialectical Notebook Method

Analyzing the Argument

What It Says/What It Does

*Partial Analytical Outline of "Be a Gamer, Save the World"

Constructing a Radial Map of the Text

Evaluating the Argument

Reading With the Grain and Against the Grain

Believing and Doubting

Representing Another’s Idea’s Fairly and Accurately

Writing a Letter to the Author

Talk Out Your Ideas

Use Class Discussion

Discuss With a Friend, Classmate, Tutor, or Professor

Checklist of Further Strategies for Active Reading


Part II. Composing the Essay

Chapter 4. Writing to Discover and Develop Ideas

The Value of Exploratory Writing

The Writerly versus the Readerly

Exploratory Writing

Knots and Questions

Sample Exploratory Writing

Checklist for Exploratory Writing

The Benefits of Writing Daily

René Magritte, The Liberator [painting]

Guidelines: Keeping the Censor at Bay

Making Meanings

You Can Always Write More

Focused for Focused Exploratory Writing

Checklist for Exploratory Writing


Chapter 5. Developing an Argument

Argument as Structure

The Components of Argument: Motive, Claim, and Support




A Typical Workflow

Drafting a Thesis Statement

The Role of the Thesis Statement

Drafting the Argument

The Modes of Persuasion: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

Types of Reasoning



Types of Evidence

An Argument Matrix

Guidelines: Making a Three-Column Document

Anticipating and Incorporating Counterarguments

Drafting Paragraphs

Drafting Introductory Paragraphs

Drafting Body Paragraphs

Drafting Concluding Paragraphs

Revising: a Recursive Process

Revising Your Thesis Statement

Limiting Your Thesis


Revising Paragraphs




Strengthening Paragraph Cohesion

Varying Paragraph Length

Concluding Paragraphs

Checklist for Developing an Argument


Chapter 6. Organizing the Essay

Thinking Like a Reader

Organizing an Argument Essay

Keep Your Own Argument in the Foreground

Separate Out Claims and Develop Each Argument Fully

Address the Counterarguments

Establish Common Ground with the Reader

Drafting an Organizational Plan

Clustering and Diagramming

Guidelines: Creating Cluster Diagrams on a Computer

Revising Organization: Constructing a Sentence Outline

Work Out the Nucleus of Your Argument

Get Started with a Basic Sentence Outline

Revise the Outline

Guidelines: Constructing an Outline

Look for Relationships That Suggest an Organizational Plan

Organizing a Long Essay

Revised Sample Sentence Outline

Organizing an Argument Essay: A Basic Model

Marc Dumas, Human Rights for Apes: A Well-Intentioned Mistake [student essay]

Organizing an Argument Essay: A Second Example

Wendy Sung, A Campaign for the Dignity of the Great Apes [student essay]

Clarification Strategies

Metadiscourse and Programmatic Statements

Transitional Expressions


Composing Titles

Checklist for Organizing an Argument Essay

Organizing an Expository Essay

Organizing an Exploratory Essay

Comparing the Argument Essay and the Exploratory Essay

Sample Essay in Argument Form

Kelly Riveria, A Fatal Compromise: President Franklin Pierce and the Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854 [student essay]


Sample Essay in Exploratory Form

Greg Fernandez, Exploring the "Whys" of History: Franklin Pierce and the Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854 [student essay]


Rogerian Rhetoric

Checklist for Organizing an Exploratory Essay


Part III. Attending to Style

Chapter 7. Crafting Sentences

Sentence Grammar



Grammatical Sentence Types

Guidelines: Using Grammar Checkers

Rhetorical Sentence Types


Writing Longer Sentences by Using Coordination and Subordination

Telling a Story with Active Sentences

Expletive Constructions

Checklist for Crafting Sentences


Chapter 8. Writing with Style

Some Famous Styles

John Lyly

Walter Pater

Virginia Woolf

Martin Luther King Jr.

Annie Dillard

Plain Style

Principles of Plain Style

Ways of Pruning Excess Verbiage

1. Seek Out Empty Phrases

2. In General, Prefer the Active Voice

3. As a Rule, Cast Sentences in Positive Form

4. Avoid Unnecessary Qualifiers

Choosing Specific and Concrete Words

1. Ways of Finding Specific Words

2. Choosing Concrete Words

3. Use Caution with "Fancy" Words, Jargon, and Neologisms

4. Using Verbs to Bring Life and Action to Sentences

5. Using Metaphors and Figures of Speech

Avoiding Monotonous Sentence Patterns

1. Use a Variety of Sentence Types

2. Experiment with Word Order

The Roots of English: Simple Words

Old English

Middle English

Modern English

"Copious" Style: Developing Key Ideas

Achieving a Balance of Rich and Plain

Writing in Academic Style

Some Principles of Academic Style

Checklist for Writing with Style


Part IV. Conducting Research

Chapter 9. Getting Started on a Research Project

The Purpose of Research

Managing the Research Process

Developing a Research Strategy

Two Sample Schedules for Writing a Paper

A Three-Week Schedule

A Seven-Week Schedule

Getting Started: Scouting for a Topic

Understanding the Big Picture

Using an Encyclopedia

A Note on Wikipedia

Selecting Sources and Narrowing Your Focus

Using College Research Libraries

Using Your Library’s Electronic Catalog

Finding Books Online with Google Books and Open Library

WorldCat and Interlibrary Loan

Finding Scholarly Articles

What Are Scholarly Journals and Articles?

Using an Interdisciplinary Full-Text Database as a Starting Point

Using Databases to Find Scholarly Articles

Google Scholar

Finding Newspaper and Magazine Articles

Consulting a Reference Librarian

Digging Deeper

Checklist for Planning a Project and Finding Sources


Chapter 10. Working with Sources

Working with Scholarly Articles

Working with Books

Refining Your Research

Narrow Down Your Topic to a Particular Question or Problem

Use Citation Notes and Bibliographies to Point You to Other Sources

Keep a Working Bibliography

Sample Working Bibliography

Use Specialized Reference Works

Other Sources

Field Research




Dynamic Internet Sources

Evaluating Sources

Books and Periodicals (Print and Electronic)

Web Sites, Blogs, and Other Internet Sources

Web Site Evaluation Guide

Reading Critically to Develop a Position

Read for the Gist: Identify the Writer’s Argument, Purpose, and Position

Take Notes

Drafting and Revising

Establish Your Own Position and Develop a Working Thesis

Foreground Your Voice

Use Quotations Purposefully

Integrate Sources Effectively

Writing an Acceptable Paraphrase

Guidelines: When and How to Paraphrase

Writing a Summary or Abstract

Use Sentence Templates

Edit and Polish


Checklist for Working with Sources


Part V. Readings

*Michelle Alexander, Drug War Nightmare: How We Created a Massive Racial Caste System in America

*Nicholas Carr, Is Google Making Us Stupid?

*Geoff Dyer, Blues for Vincent

*Rana Foroohar, What Ever Happened to Upward Mobility?

*Malcolm Gladwell, The Order of Things

Adam Gopnik, Bumping into Mr. Ravioli

*Jane McGonigal, Be a Gamer, Save the World


Appendix: Documentation

Documentation and Scholarship

The Function of Citation in a Scholarly Conversation

Avoiding Plagiarism

Guidelines: What to Cite

Soledad Gonzalez, Do High School Students Share the Right to Free Speech? [student essay]

Documentation in MLA, Chicago, and APA Styles

MLA Style

Main Features

Chicago Style

Main Features

APA Style

Main Features

Latin Documentation Terms

Tools to Help with Citation

Checklist for Documentation



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