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Tutor profile: Thomas H.

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Thomas H.
Writing tutor for 3 years at Lawrence University
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Questions

Subject: Writing

TutorMe
Question:

What's the best way to form an intro paragraph for an essay? (College level)

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Thomas H.
Answer:

Personally, intro paragraphs are always the hardest part of a paper, partly because simply starting can be a monumental task, and partly because it can be difficult to figure out what to include. From my experience, it's a good idea to have brainstormed out what you want to talk about in your paper, and to have at least a rough idea of what your thesis will be. Depending on the prompt and subject, this could be done through a venn-diagram if it's comparative, a simple list of interesting points, or you could just try answering the prompt without any formatting. Once you have some semblance of a thesis in mind, the next thing you need to do is to give a slight introduction to the topic you're writing about. It doesn't need to be terribly long. For example, if your paper revolved around Pride and Prejudice and its role as a proto-feminist novel, don't give a lengthy summary of the book instead, say something like "Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" discusses important themes about marriage, morality, and women's agency in the Regency Era." This isn't to say you are prohibited from discussing plot-points, just make sure that it's relevant. From here, you should deliver your thesis, which should correspond to the body of your essay. For example, if your thesis is that Mr. Darcy represents the ideal husband to contemporary women at the time, then try to also briefly explain what women were looking for at the time and what Jane Austen believed the proper husband should be. Again, be brief about it; save a lot of your content for your body paragraphs. The goal of the intro paragraph it to simply inform the reader what your point is and the areas of content that will be connected to that point. Lastly, please don't try and "hook" the reader with anything cheesy. Don't start off with cliche lines like "Since the dawn of time..." or "Did you know that..". If you have strong opinions about the prompt or the content, that's fine, but they should be framed in a way that doesn't try to seem like you're being contrarian for the sake of it.

Subject: Study Skills

TutorMe
Question:

How does one prepare a final exam without overworking themselves? This assumes you are a college student.

Inactive
Thomas H.
Answer:

The biggest mistake (and arguably, the most common) mistake for students is to cram the night before an exam. The human brain is an organ of habit, and simply shoving facts into your head into the wee hours of the night simply doesn't allow it to retain the information as easily, especially when one is tired. However, if you make a habit out of studying over content that is particularly troublesome to you, then you will be more prepared. While that sounds obvious, it's still a great deal of work. If you know the date and content of the exam, start by parsing out the information into three rough categories: memorization, critical thinking, and essay writing. Depending on the subject, one of these categories will be the main component of the exam. For example, an English exam will almost exclusively revolve around essay writing, which in and of itself requires you to memorize some of the important themes and moments in the course literature. A Quantitative course, however, will revolve around critical thinking (or more generally, problem solving) and a bit of memorization of terminology. A Language course, might involve all three categories in equal measure. Once you've determined what you struggle with the most and/or what the main component of the exam will be, begin by studying the hardest subjects or the most prominent category first. You should probably give yourself a week or two in advance to study these categories, just so you can schedule out when and what you'll be reviewing. Doing so will establish it as a habit for long enough for it to be retained in your memory. The methodology of how you study is largely up to you, though I would recommend notecards and practice work, generally speaking. If you don't know what the essays will be about (which is quite common), then just be sure you've read through the course materials as thoroughly as possible. I would also suggest looking through past exams you've taken (if any) in that course, as that might allow you to predict what sort of essay prompts are generally used. Ultimately, this is all just a suggestion, and a very broad one at that. There's no secret answer to studying for exams and everyone's different when it comes to studying in general. Don't be afraid to branch out to different techniques if you find that your tried-and-true method for studying isn't cutting it!

Subject: English

TutorMe
Question:

What is the cultural and literary significance of the story of "Beowulf" from the perspective of the English language?

Inactive
Thomas H.
Answer:

The "Epic of Beowulf" is the culmination of centuries of cultural and lingual interaction in Britain. The story is written in a Germanic tongue that has adopted the Latin script that was now most commonly used amongst the literate class in Britain. The adoption of the Latin script to write in other languages (latinization) would soon become the predominant way of writing throughout Europe. Within Britain, this Latinized Anglo-Saxon script would soon push out the Pre-Roman languages and writing systems, namely that of the Celts. Literarily speaking, the hero of Beowulf himself represents a halfway point between Germanic Pagan themes and Christian themes. There are pagan themes of fatalism, but also the Christian theme of God's will and protection. Beowulf simultaneously is marked as having wyrd (or fate)- a classically Pagan idea- but also seeks out God's favor and protection throughout his journey. This synthesis would ultimately take on a Christian form, but the origins are clear.

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