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Tutor profile: Eileen G.

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Eileen G.
Experienced Librarian and Educator with a Passion for Research
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Questions

Subject: Writing

TutorMe
Question:

I need some advice about how to write a good introductory paragraph for my argumentative research paper.

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Eileen G.
Answer:

Your introductory paragraph should accomplish a few things: 1. Provide a "hook" that gets your reader interested in the topic. 2. Describe enough of the background to let your reader know what the nature of the issue or problem is that you are attempting to address. I other words, why should the reader care? 3. Clearly state your thesis so that your reader knows what you will argue, and how you will support that argument. Avoid getting into a long detailed history of your topic in the intro paragraph, but save that material for the background section of your paper after your intro. While a selective quote or statistic might be useful as a "hook," avoid frontloading your paper with data and citations. You will want to use those as you build your argument throughout the body of your paper. Your introductory paragraph should ideally end with your thesis statement, which is generally a single sentence (maybe two) that clearly states your argument. The best thesis statements may also take into account the counter viewpoint and may "list" points that will be major features of your argument. Here's an example: "Although many schools have restricted play time due to the demands of testing, recess has been shown to improve children's physical fitness and social skills, reduce rates of obesity, and may even improve learning and test scores." Unless your assignment asks you to use "I" statements and specifically refer to your personal opinion, avoid using first person pronouns at all. Here's an example of how removing the "I think" section can strengthen the thesis. "I think school districts should invest in school counselors and psychologists to help students recover from the psychological setbacks brought on by the COVID-19 crisis." BETTER: "School districts should invest in school counselors and psychologists to help students recover from the psychological setbacks brought on by the COVID-19 crisis." If you want to share your draft paragraph with me, I can give you more specific pointers.

Subject: Shakespeare

TutorMe
Question:

Why is Measure for Measure called a "problem play"?

Inactive
Eileen G.
Answer:

The notion of "problem plays" in Shakespeare can change depending on which Shakespearean scholars one refers to, but one reason some plays are considered "problem plays" has to do with them not neatly fitting into the definition of "comedy" or "tragedy." In Shakespeare, tragedies generally end in the death of the protagonist or indeed the death of many leading characters. Labeling a play a "comedy" doesn't necessarily mean that it is primarily funny (and indeed Shakespeare uses "comic relief" in notable scenes throughout his plays, including tragedies and histories). Comedies in Shakespeare typically resolve with a happy ending, often with one or more marriages or betrothals at the end. Matchmaking is a common device in a comedy. Some comic plays are darker than typical comedies, and involve abuse of power and threats of violence that make them seem more tragic, while still attempting to resolve in a happy ending. Plays which deal with controversial themes in and of themselves can also be labeled as "problem plays," often because in performance, or in the teaching of the play, the themes need to be dealt with as problematic in some way in terms of social impact and historical understanding. In performance, directors may make choices to highlight the issues revealed in the play. Some examples include anti-Semitism in "Merchant of Venice," misogyny in "Taming of the Shrew," and racism in "Othello." While some scholars don't categorize problem plays in this way, there usually are aspects of the play that don't neatly fit other categories, and themes that resolve uncomfortably if at all. We can see all of these things at play in "Measure for Measure," which deals with sexual harassment and abuse of power in ways that seem all the more relevant today in the #MeToo era. In the context of this powerful theme, and the ways in which the play unfolds like a tragedy, the ending is that much more problematic. Think about how the typical "comedy" ending comes into play here. Although we may see the Duke as a good and righteous man (despite letting things getting a bit out of hand while he walks around in disguise), do we as an audience really think that Isabella wants to marry him? Throughout the play, she has presented herself as a pious woman who is dedicated to God and determined to live her life as a nun. Her speeches center around virtue, mercy and justice, and yet she is rather silent at the end as her fate is proclaimed in a neat and tidy way in the guise of a happy ending. This "problem" has been a challenge for many productions of the play, and directors and actors have had to devise their own interpretations of how the characters feel at the ending, and what is likely to happen for them next.

Subject: Library and Information Science

TutorMe
Question:

I'm supposed to write a research paper using "academic sources" but I don't know how to tell if my sources are appropriate. Can you help?

Inactive
Eileen G.
Answer:

Great question! Starting your search with databases provided by your library can help, since there is often a way to limit your search to "peer reviewed" or "scholarly." Peer Review is a quality-control process that academic journals use. Many academic sources are also available on the open web if you know what to look for, and using Google Scholar can help with that. To distinguish a scholarly journal article from a "popular" magazine, newspaper, or blog, look for these things: 1. Authority. Is the author of the work an expert in the field, or a reporter who writes on a range of topics? Academic sources will usually list the author's credentials and say if the person is a professor (or researcher or doctor) connected with a university or research organization. 2. Citations. Is the author citing their sources within the text and/or listing references at the end? Popular articles sometimes do a little of that, but academic sources usually include lots of citations. 3. Tone/audience. Is the overall tone and writing style directed at a general audience of non-experts like in a magazine or newspaper, or is it more complex and relying on the reader to be fairly well educated in the subject area? Scholarly journal articles are usually much longer than popular articles as well. 4. Advertising. Usually, academic sources don't rely on ads like magazines and commercial websites do. (In fact, they charge a lot of money unless they are "Open Access," so your school or public library are also great for saving you $.) 5. Images. Popular sources often use photos and other images as illustrations or as a way to catch your eye. Academic sources are more likely to use charts and graphs, with minimal images unless the subject matter relies on images as evidence -- as with art history. Have you already found some articles that you can identify as either academic or popular? Books can also be divided into popular and scholarly. You may be able to identify whether the publisher is a university press or not. You should still look for references and citations, and check the credentials of the author. If you tell me about your topic and your assignment requirements, I'll help with search strategies that can help you find appropriate sources. I can also give you feedback on the sources you are planning to use, if you want to send me some titles and links. Happy hunting!

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