Tutor profile: Alice W.
How do I come up with a good thesis?
Your thesis is a single sentence that encompasses the central point of your paper. It could be in the form of a question or statement. So first and foremost, you'll need to think about what exactly you want to get across in this paper. What is the biggest takeaway you want the reader to walk away with? A way I like to do this is: 1. Create a basic outline with a list of any research or supporting arguments I've collected. It could be as simple a list of bullet points 2. Review this outline and decide what my central theme is. What is the big thing that all this information ultimately connects back to? If no obvious theme is present, then maybe start thinking about a couple of things to cut out. 3. Think about my theme and then consider: if someone were to read my paper and then tell someone else what it was about in one sentence, what would they say? On the last part, it would be good to have someone proof read either your outline, or a draft you're working on. If they walk away with something completely different than what you're intending, then that is a sign you need to clarify your thesis a little more. Now as you're creating your thesis, remember that it is not the same thing as the introductory paragraph. The introduction briefly introduces the reader to the issue at hand, which sets the stage for stating your thesis. Your thesis, however, is one concise statement. Here's an example of a good thesis: "Ducks have always been a fun sight to see at the local park. Not only are they cute and fun to watch, but it's a common past time to go and feed them. Pretty much everyone has taken a few stale slices of bread, and distributed small pieces to a flock of eager ducks. Experiences like this have created some fond memories for us, but is it the same thing for the birds? Do ducks walk away with the same satisfaction we do? Unfortunately, they don't. In fact, bread is not good for them at all. **As well intentioned as we think it is, feeding bread to ducks is harmful to their health, and we should teach each other to use alternative, duck-friendly foods instead.** " The sentence that is starred is the thesis. Notice how the everything leading up to it sets the mood and provides context. Once I've stated the thesis, you now know exactly what is going to come next: bread is not good for ducks, here's why, and here are some foods we can feed them instead. The paragraphs following will all include that supporting information. Having a solid thesis like this helps you organize your essay better, cut out irrelevant data, and make your case much more convincing. Otherwise the reader doesn't know what the point is, and gets confused or loses interest. Don't forget to restate your thesis in your concluding paragraph. Your conclusion is to wrap it all up in a neat package with a quick summary of everything you just talked about. It could sound something like: "In conclusion, it is clear from all of this that bread is not a good thing to feed ducks, and we need to spread awareness about this." Notice I restated the thesis, but not in the exact same words. You can restate the thesis word for word if you want to, but it's more fun and creative to shake it up a bit. If your thesis was in the form of a question you wanted to answer in your essay, make sure to follow the restatement with the conclusion you came to. I.e. "Is bread actually good for ducks? The answer is no, it isn't, because...." Or if the question wasn't answered because you're talking about life beyond earth, for instance, and scientists are still discovering more about solar system, you could say: "Is there life elsewhere in the solar system? So far we haven't found anything, but there's still much to discover so maybe one day we will find life on another planet!" A thesis can be blatantly obvious or more subtle. The specifics will depend on what kind of essay your are writing, but no matter what, it ultimately is a single statement that sums up what the point of your essay is.
What is the difference between a paraphyletic and monophyletic group, and how do biologists use them?
When classifying different forms of life, biologists want to accurately group them with organisms closely related to them. Otherwise, classification isn't as useful or organized. So let's say you were describing a genus and mapping out the members of this genus on to a phylogenetic tree. Ideally, you'd want this genus to be monophyletic, which means that it includes a shared common ancestor and all of its descendants. If it does not include all of the descendants, it becomes paraphyletic, and paraphyletic groups are not very useful to biologists if the goal is to describe official taxonomic groups such as kingdom, phylum, class and so on because it does not provide a complete picture. Putting it another way, say you were creating your own family tree from great-great grandpa Ed onward. This family tree would need to include all the descendants of Ed in order to be accurate. If you made this tree, but then didn't include your oddball cousin Earl who is also descended from Ed, it would not be accurate, and it would be a nightmare for genealogists to use. Such a tree improperly classifies Earl, and as much as you might think he's weird, you don't want that. It's the same with taxonomy and systematics, just on a much bigger scale. It would not be a very useful or accurate way of teaching Kingdom Animalia, for instance, if I were to exclude mosquitos, because they are animals too. The only context in which a paraphyletic group would be examined by biologists is if they were trying to track to progression of a specific trait that may be present in some but not all members of a taxonomic group. Even then, it is done so with the understanding that looking at these alone does not constitute the group in its entirety. A few examples of monophyletic groups are: birds, mammals, butterflies, cartilaginous fish. A few examples of paraphyletic groups are: reptiles, boney fish, moths, dinosaurs What's cool with paraphyly though, is that when we do discover something is paraphyletic, it teaches us that the relationships connecting the tree of life are far more interesting and complex than we previously thought, and gives us the opportunity to reclassify stuff according to the new data.
How do I blur part of my image without blurring all of it?
There are two main ways to do this: 1. You can use the blur tool. It is a teardrop icon located in the toolbar. When you click on it, options will appear at the top that will allow you to adjust brush size, brush type, and the strength with which you want to blur. It works just like the paint tool, except instead of painting, it blurs whatever you click and drag over with your cursor. You can also change blur to sharpen or smudge by clicking and holding on the blur icon. This method is pretty useful if you're just looking to quickly blur or sharpen a specific part of your picture with precision. However, if you're trying to blur out large areas of a larger image, this may not be the most efficient method as even with larger brushstrokes you may not blur things evenly, and it's much more time consuming. 2. Create a layer mask. This is preferred if you're blurring larger areas, such as a background. Select your background layer, or most basal layer of the part you wish to blur and duplicate it twice (Layers>Create Duplicate Layer). Make sure you're on the second duplicate layer and then go to Filter>Blur. There are several options to choose from, but for our purposes, select Gaussian Blur. This will bring up a small window where you can tell photoshop how many pixels to blur at. The higher the pixels you choose, the more blurry it will be. This will blur the whole image but don't panic! This is where the magic of layer makes comes in. Once you apply the blur, go to the bottom of the layers window and find the icon that is a white rectangle with a dark circle inside. Click on it to create a mask, and a white square pop up in the layer panel next to the name of the layer you're masking. Select this white box, then select the paint tool. So long as you're painting on the layer, your options are black, white or gray. Using black, paint over the area you want to remain in focus, and voila! It comes back into focus! If you want it to only partly come back in to focus, you can use shades of gray or adjust the opacity of your paint brush. If you mess up and refocus a part you want blurry, switch to white and repaint that part. The nice thing about using layer masks is that it still allows you to be precise while also saving more time than just using the blur tool. This method also works just the same if you were wanting to play around with things like selective color saturation, curves, and grayscale. It can also be used in combination with layer modes too!
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