Tutor profile: Grace P.
So, I'm doing okay in my English course and my essays are usually coming back with okay grades, but my teacher keeps leaving notes on my essays saying I need stronger thesis statements. I kinda get what thesis statements are, but I don't know how to make mine better. Can you explain some more?
Yes! This is a question that comes up a lot in writing, and this is what I always tell people: Your thesis statement is your North Star. That is to say, the function of your thesis statement is that it is guiding the entirety of the rest of your paper. Typically your thesis statement is the last 1 or 2 sentences in your first (Introduction) paragraph. Whatever your thesis statement is suggesting is what you will spend the rest of your paper proving. When you write your thesis statement you should be asking yourself: If I could have the readers of my paper walk away knowing one thing, what would I want it to be? The answer to that question will be the foundation of your thesis statement. For example: Your teacher gives you a prompt about bugs - you're suppose to convince your audience that one bug is cooler than another. You think that lady bugs are the supreme figure of the insect world so you need to craft a thesis statement saying that. It's possible to have a thesis statement that says, "Ladybugs are the supreme figure of the insect world.", but that statement is pretty weak. The way to make it better is to give one or two SOLID examples as to why your opinion/argument is correct. Whatever your why is, at least when you are writing things for academic purposes, should be backed up by a scholarly source - you don't have to bring up a source in your thesis (but you can!), but you should bring up the source later in your paper. All that said: Remember - Your thesis is your North Star. Your thesis is the main thing your audience is taking away from your writing. Your thesis should have a "why" it's an important or correct statement. Hope that helps!
Subject: Study Skills
I've been trying really hard in my history class, but my grades still aren't good. I feel like I'm studying enough, but no matter what I do, I never do as good as I want to. Do you have any tips on what I should do to improve?
Firstly, I'm sure it's frustrating to feel like you're putting all your effort in and not making progress - before I recommend any study skills tips, I want you to take a deep breath and put all that behind you. We're going to start on a fresh page, so let's let go of the pressure for a little bit while we figure out what works best for you. The first thing I would recommend is figuring out how you learn best: do you have other classes that you're doing really well in? How do you study for that course? Is it different than how you study for history? By identifying what you do WELL, we'll be able to take whatever is stumping you in history and change it to fit your learning style. (I'm happy to talk about the different learning styles with you more later if you'd like.) Secondly, I would say: find a consistent time to study. Even if you're only setting aside thirty minutes a day, once you get into the habit of working on things, it's going to be a lot easier to see where things get confusing or when you get discouraged or confused. Plus, the more consistent time you spend studying, the better you'll remember things for tests (instead of just trying to force yourself to remember everything last minute).
I've never taken a poetry class before but I have to for part of my general education classes...I have to analyze this poem but I don't like poetry, I've never really read any, and I have no idea how to start, what should I do?
One of the most interesting things about poetry is that it doesn't always follow typical standards for grammar or spelling, or almost any other "traditional" English rules you've probably heard before. It can be tricky to switch into the "poetry brain", but there's a few key things I usually tell people to help them start: 1) poems usually focus a lot on sensory detail (describing a smell, a taste, how something looks, how a place smells, how something feels) - the describing words the author uses throughout their poem can tell you a lot about the mood they were trying to convey - look for describing words and think about what image you think they're trying to paint for you! 2) outside of the actual words written on the page are trying to show you, a lot of poems are written in a funky way on purpose - maybe the spacing between lines seems kind of abrupt, or maybe the author doesn't use any punctuation - these style choices can also help you break down what kind of voice the author was trying to use - ask yourself if the poem seems rushed or if its dragging along, look to see if they spelled anything weirdly, try reading the poem out loud and see if that changes the way it feels. You might want to write notes in the margins while you're observing things - it will help you draft a more complete analysis later!
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