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############by Christopher T. Hank Introduction #Today, the process of admissions


for graduate programs is highly competitive. In addition to the quantitative data
(tests scores and academic transcripts) and other materials that you will be asked
to submit to a school's admissions committee, a piece of writing -- variously
called a "statement of purpose," "personal essay," or "statement of background and
goals" -- will probably be required as well. The overall application package will
represent who "you" are to people whom you will most likely not know personally.
The written expression of your qualities as an applicant will often be a very
important way for committee members to get to know why you are an acceptable
candidate for their program. Thus, it is essential to take great care in preparing
this part of your application. Because graduate schools make important selection
decisions that are partly based on what you say in this essay, the writing of it
can be an intimidating prospect. This handout offers some points to consider as you
undertake the writing of an application essay. Start Early! Be Thorough! #If you
have begun your application process early, take the time to investigate thoroughly
each institution to which you are applying. Go to the library and locate/browsethrough/read texts or abstracts by the school's faculty members who work in your
field or area of interest. Study and re-study the application materials sent to you
very carefully; in particular, read through the school catalog and required course
offerings. Find out if the school and program have web sites where you can learn
more about them. Taking these steps will familiarize you with the department, and
allow you to weigh its specific strengths and weaknesses in comparison to those of
other schools. While conducting your inquiry, take notes so that you will have
something to base your essay on. Additionally, if you happen to know anyone -- a
friend, family member, colleague, or teacher -- who has graduated from a school
that you are considering, ask her or him for information as well. Although such
people may be very helpful, be careful not to let their advice sway you too much,
unless you are quite sure that they are particularly familiar with the department
in question, and that their knowledge of it is up to date. What to Include #The
piece of writing that each school requests may be very different from that of
others; some programs may even ask for more than one essay. Before you begin to
write, study very carefully the essay directions on the application materials sent
to you by the school and by the specific department to which you are applying.
While some programs leave the content of the essay fairly "open," others may place
explicit content and length restrictions on it. Try to make sure that you have a
good idea of what you are being asked to write about. Whatever the particular form
of the essay asked of you, there are a number of basic areas committees are
interested in. When evaluating your application, each reader will ultimately have
this question in mind: "Why should we let you into our school?" In order to answer
this question, try to do the following: Clearly state your short and long term
goals; tell how university "X" can help you meet them. Describe your areas of
research and professional interest. You might indicate how your proposed studies
are located within a broad field. For example, someone applying to a composition
and rhetoric program might say, "I hope to examine the relationship between
rhetorical invention strategies and demonstrated ability to write for members of
diverse discourse communities." Or, someone applying to an engineering program
might say, "My particular interests are in optical communications, networks, and
signal processing. As an undergraduate research assistant, I studied the principles
of wavelet transforms, one of the most recent signal processing techniques, and I
developed software models using Matlab to simulate the transform process. Currently
I am investigating new applications of wavelet transforms. University X's program
in electrical engineering provides the direction and environment in which I can
pursue my work in optimal communications networks and signal processing." Give
specific reasons why you are interested in a particular field, as well as why you
have chosen this particular school to apply to. Refer to past experiences, both
academic and "real world," that are relevant to graduate study. Articulate what is
particularly valuable about the perspective that you will bring to the prospective
field of study and the specific department. Demonstrate your ability to think and
express ideas clearly and effectively. Show motivation and capacity to succeed in

graduate education. Write concisely and try to keep your readers interested.
Remember that they are reading many application essays and therefore, you need to
be considerate of their needs. Offer other information that demonstrates your need
and desire to be accepted by the program. Why this School? #Once you have developed
a sense of the faculty's interests and the department's special features, you can
make it clear in your application exactly why you want to attend that particular
school. What is it about the department's curriculum structure or general approach
to the field that makes you interested in being a student there? Don't waste your
valuable essay space, or your reader's valuable time, telling the reader how
wonderful or prestigious their institution is; people on the admissions committee
already know this. They want to know about you. Nonetheless, if there are special
programs or institutes at the school that seem appealing to you, briefly mention
that you are interested in becoming part of them. For example, state that you "want
to be a member of the XYZ Group for Blank and Blank Studies because . . .", but
don't tell them how great, well respected, and world-renowned this part of the
school is. If, during your research on the department's faculty, a faculty member
strikes you as someone whom you might be interested in working with, indicate this
in your essay; be concise and specific about why you want to work with this person
in particular. A word of caution here: Do not try to use this as a way to "butter
up" the admissions committee, because if there is any reason to believe that you
are not sincere, your application may be adversely affected. Again, mention the
person and how their work relates to your interest, but don't load this statement
with what might be interpreted as false or superfluous praise. Personal Information
#Some applications may ask you to give a personal history, telling about
experiences that you have undergone which have led you to decide to pursue graduate
education in a certain field of study. (If personal information of this sort is not
required, then you are under no obligation to provide it.) The information that
could be included in a personal-type statement is limited only by your own
imagination and life history, but you should be highly selective about what you
include. There are two things to watch out for: (1) saying too much and/or (2) not
saying enough. Some applicants may ramble on about themselves in a manner that may
appear self-indulgent and not very appealing to the committee. Remember, this is an
application essay, not an autobiography. Conversely, some applicants tend to say
too little, perhaps hesitating to promote themselves too explicitly or not knowing
what about about themselves would be interesting to people whom they don't know. In
such cases, perhaps focusing more on what you want to do than on what you have
already done (let your record speak for itself), may help in getting beyond selfinhibition. Generally, keep in mind that the points about your life that you
highlight should be somehow relevant to both your own interest in the field of
study, as well as to the concerns of the admissions committee. In judging what
information to include or exclude from your essay, try to balance academic, workrelated, and personal information in a manner appropriate to your situation, goals,
and the application requirements. Additional Considerations #If you have
additional, relevant information about yourself that does not easily fit into the
essay, or into any other section of the university's application, you may want to
include a condensed resume or curriculum vitae with your application package. This
is especially applicable to those who have worked professionally since having
graduated from school. Relevant items here might include work experience,
publications, and presentations, as well as language and computer skills. Also, if
you have experienced times of great hardship or extenuating circumstances that have
negatively affected your academic performance at any time, provide a short
explanatory statement. This is another one of those places where caution should be
exercised: you want to explain the cause of your poor grades, etc. without
alienating the reader by overdoing it. Once again, be specific and concise.
(Re)Writing #Although some people may be able to write an essay from start to
finish in one sitting, most would probably not be particularly satisfied with the
results of such an effort. Outlines, including a list of possible components to
include in the essay, are often a good way to get started on your essay. Some
writers prefer to start writing one paragraph at a time, re-arranging their ideas

for orderly flow later on. Whatever method you use (only a few out of many have
been mentioned here), make sure to allow time for revision -- don't start your
essay the night before you have to send it out! Ask others to read your essay and
give you honest feedback; tell them that it is important to know what areas they
find unclear
or unnecessary. Don't feel shy about asking for or receiving criticism; remember,
the effectiveness of your essay depends on your being able to present yourself in a
manner that is attractive to admissions committees. Comments such as "it's good"
are not going to be very helpful to you because they will not help you to improve
your essay. The Writing Center is available to offer suggestions on beginning,
revising and finishing your application essay, so make use of this valuable
resource. Also for ideas on form and style selected application essays that
students have written in the past are on file for you to browse-through at the
Writing center. After considering responses to your work, revise your essay until
you are satisfied with it. (Remember to spell check the final draft). Also, make
sure that your name and possibly the essay title -- for example: "Personal
Statement" -- is included in a header on the first page, and that your last name is
on a header or footer for each additional, numbered page (in case the first page
gets misplaced). Additional Resources #For more advice on how to approach
application essay writing, there are a number of extended treatments of this
subject, some of which may be available at your library or graduate studies office.
The graduate center at RPI has at least two books, as well as shorter documents
within graduate school guides, that may provide you with a more comprehensive
picture of application procedures than could be articulated in this brief handout.
Citation Styles ## HYPERLINK "http://www.rpi.edu/dept/llc/writecenter/web/apa.html"
#APA Style# ## HYPERLINK "http://www.rpi.edu/dept/llc/writecenter/web/mla.html"
#MLA Style#APA StyleIntroduction#"In 1928 editors and business managers of
anthropological and psychological journals met to discuss the form of journal
manuscripts and to write instructions for their preparation. The report of this
meeting . . . was published as a seven-page article in the February 1929 issue of
the Psychological Bulletin, a journal of the American Psychological Association
(APA). The group agreed that it would not dictate to authors; instead, it
recommended "a standard of procedure, to which exceptions would doubtless be
necessary, but to which reference might be made in cases of doubt" From the
Foreword to Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 4th
Edition. For a more comprehensive look at APA documentation guidelines, please
consult the 4th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological
Association. Copies are available in the Writing Center and the Rensselaer Library.
In using APA style, sources are acknowledged in two locations in your document: a #
HYPERLINK "http://www.rpi.edu/dept/llc/writecenter/web/" \l "references"
#"References" page# and within the body of your paper using # HYPERLINK
"http://www.rpi.edu/dept/llc/writecenter/web/" \l "citations" #In-Text Citations#.
All examples of citations are from the Publication Manual of the American
Psychological Association, 4th Edition. The "References" Page #All sources that you
use must be listed alphabetically at the end of your document on a page titled
"References", centered at the top of the page. The alphabetized list of sources
begins two lines down from this title; each citation is double-spaced within and
between citations. An example: References American Psychological Association.
(1992). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. American
Psychologist, 47, 1597-1611. Brown, H., & Milstead, J. (1968). Patterns in
poetry: An introductory anthology. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman. Each citation
begins with a standard paragraph indentation. The citations themselves are not
numbered; however, they are ordered on the page. There are two ordering principles
to keep in mind: alphabetical and numerical. Alphabetical By first letter of the
author's last name. i.e. Brown precedes Jones Letter by letter if the last names
are the same. i.e. Brown. A.R. precedes Brown. J.R. Alphabetize last names with
articles or prepositions as if the article or preposition is a part of the name.
Alphabetize numerals as if they were spelled out. i.e. 9 (nine) precedes 2 (two).
Alphabetize group written works by the first significant word of the group's name.

i.e. The American Red Cross precedes The Federal Communications Commission. If no
author is listed, the title shifts to the author position - alphabetize by the
first letter of the title.#Numerical One author entries by the same author are
arranged by the year of publication. One author entries precede multiple-author
entries beginning with the same last name. i.e. Brown, A.R. precedes Brown, A.R. &
Wallston, J. References for group authors where the first author is the same are
arranged by the second author's last name (or the first last name that differs
between the two citations) . References by the same author (or by the same two or
more authors in the same order) with the same publication date are listed
alphabetically by the title. ##Citing a Book#Format: # Author's last name,
first initial. (Date of publication in parenthesis). Title of the book underlined.
City of publication: Name of publisher. Example: #Harris, M. (1986). Teaching
One-to-One. Urbana, IL: NCTE. NOTE: Only the first letter of the title of books and
journal articles is capitalized (with the exception of proper names).Citing a Book
with more than one author #Format: #Author's last name, first initial, &
second Author's last name, first initial. (Date of publication in parenthesis).
Title of the book underlined. City of publication: Name of publisherExample:
#Mitchell, T.R., & Larson, J.R., Jr. (1987). People in organizations: An
introduction to organizational behavior (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. NOTE:
List authors in the order that they appear on the cover of the book regardless of
alphabetical order. Citing a Journal Article #Format:#Author's last name,
first initial. (Date of publication in parenthesis). Title of article - no
quotation marks. Title of the periodical underlined, volume, number, page numbers.
Example: #Bekerian, D.A. (1993). In search of the typical eyewitness. American
Psychologist, 48, 574-576. Citing a Journal Article with more than one author
#Format: #Author's last name, first initial., & second author's last name,
first initial (Date of publication in parenthesis). Title of the article - no
quotations. Title of the periodical underlined, volume, number, page numbers.
Example: #Borman, W.C., Hanson, M.A., Oppler, S. H., Pulakos, E.D., & White,
L.A. (1993). Role of early supervisory experience in supervisor performance.
Journal of Applied Psychology, 78, 443- 449. Citing the Internet #Format:
#Author's last name, first initial. (Date of publication or page update in
parenthesis). Title of source underlined, Retrieval information including date of
access, and source of information: URL. Example: #Land, T. (1996, March 31).
Web extension to American Psychological Association style (WEAPAS), Retrieved April
24, 1997 from the World Wide Web:http://www.beadslands.com/weapas. Citing an
Encyclopedia or Dictionary #Format: #Editor's last name, first initial. (Ed.).
(Date of publication in parenthesis). Title of the source underlined (edition and
volume in parenthesis). City of publication: Name of publisher.
Example:#Sadie, S. (Ed.). (1980). The new Grove dictionary of music and
musicians (6th ed., Vols. 1-20). London: Macmillan. Citing an Article or Chapter in
an edited book #Format: #Author's last name, first initial. (Date of
publication in parenthesis). Title of article or chapter. In Editor's first initial
and last name (Ed.), Title of the source book underlined (pp. starting page -ending
page). City of publication: Name of publisher. Example: #Bjork, R. A. (1989).
Retrieval inhibition as an adaptive mechanism in human memory. In H. L. Roediger
III & F. I. M. Craik (Eds.), Varieties of memory & consciousness (pp. 309-330).
Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. NOTE: For less well known cities of publication, you should
also include the postal abbreviation of the state or country where that city is
located.Citing Technical and Research Reports #Format: #Author's last name,
first initial. (Date of publication in parenthesis). Title of the technical or
research report underlined (report, contract, or monograph number in parenthesis).
City of publication: Name of publisher. Example: #Mazzeo, J., Druesne, B.,
Raffeld, P.C., Checketts, K.T., & Muhlstein, A. (1991). Comparability of computer
and paper-and-pencil scores for two CLEP general examinations (College Board Rep.
No. 91-5). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service. Reference Citations in
Text#It is of the utmost importance to give credit to the authors whose work you
are using. Any material in your document that is derived from another source either
by direct quotation, paraphrase, or inspiration must be cited immediately. Direct

Reference #When appropriate, and when it can be done so smoothly, you may wish to
cite your sources directly in your text. Example: #On page 276 of her study, Miele
(1993) found that "The 'placebo effect' . . . disappeared when behaviors were
studied in this manner." NOTE: Whenever you wish to edit out a portion of a quote
replace the edited section with an ellipse (. . .)Parenthetical Citations #A
parenthetical citation must include (if not already given) the first author's last
name or one significant word from the title of the source followed by a comma, and
the date of publication. If you are quoting something specific from the source, you
must follow the date of publication with another comma, and include the page where
the material is located. Examples: #She
stated, "The 'placebo effect' . . . disappeared when behaviors were studied in
this manner" (Miele, 1993, p. 276), but she did not clarify which behaviors were
studied. NOTE: When quoting another quote you must use single quotations ('') to
mark the beginning and end of the quoted quote.Miele (1993) found that "the
'placebo effect,' which had been verified in previous studies, disappeared when
[only the first group's] behaviors were studied in this manner: (p. 276). NOTE:
Whenever you wish to include words in the middle of a quotation, which did not
originally appear there, put those words in [square brackets].Notes on citing
multiple authors For a work with two authors: Cite both author's last names at
every reference. For a work with three, four, or five authors: Cite the all
author's last names at first reference, thereafter only cite the first author's
last name followed by "et al." For a work with six or more authors: Cite only the
last name of the first author followed by "et al." Punctuating your Citations If
your parenthetical citation concludes a sentence, you should place the period after
the parenthesis. If you place the parenthetical citation in the middle of the
sentence, you need not follow it with special punctuation, only that required to
make the sentence grammatically correct. If you use a block quotation, the period
should come before the parenthetical. Block Quotation #If the quotation that you
are using is more than 40 words long, you must use a block quotation. In a block
quotation, you should not use any quotations at all unless they are needed to
indicate a quoted quotation. To format a block quotation correctly you need to
begin the quotation on a separate line that is indented 10 spaces from the left and
right margin. The block quotation should have the same line spacing as the rest of
the document. Example: Miele (1993) found the following: The "placebo effect,"
which had been verified in previous studies, disappeared when behaviors were
studied in this manner. Furthermore, the behaviors were never exhibited again, even
when real drugs were administered. Earlier studies (e.g., Abdullah, 1984; Fox,
1979) were clearly premature in attributing the results to a placebo effect. (p.
276)MLA StyleIntroduction #The Modern Language Association (MLA) publishes a style
manual used primarily by scholars in literature and the humanities. The most recent
edition is MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 4th Edition, by Joseph
Gibaldi, Modern Language Association of America, 1995. For more complete
information on MLA documentation, please consult this manual. Copies are available
at the Writing Center, in the Rensselaer Library, and for purchase in the
Rensselaer Bookstore.Sources are acknowledged in two locations in your document: a
"Works Cited" page and In-Text Citations.The "Works Cited" Page#All sources you use
must be listed alphabetically at the end of your document on a page titled "Work
Cited," which is centered on the page at the top of the document. The listing
begins two lines down from this title; each citation is single spaced, but a double
space is used to separated citations, thus:Works CitedAuthors last name, first
name and middle name or initial (if any). #Book Title (underlined or
italicized). City of publication: Publishers, #Date ofpublication.Next
authors last name, first name and middle name or initial (if any).
#BookTitle (underlined or italicized). City of publication: Publishers,
#Date of publication. The citations are not numbered. Each citation begins
with a hanging indent, which means that the second and following lines of each
entry are indented five spaces under the first.Materials from different kinds of
sources, such as journal articles, books and the Internet, are cited in slightly
different ways. Examples:Citing a Book #Format:Authors last name, first name and

middle name or initial (if any). Book Title (underlined or italicized). City of
publication: Publishers, Date of publication. Example:Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. Loose
Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars. Oxford UP, 1992.Citing a Journal Article
#Format:Authors last name, first name and middle name or initial (if any). "Title
of the article in quotation marks." Name of the Journal (underlined or italicized),
Volume number, (Year) : page numbers for the entire article. Example:Williams, Joan
G. "Accelerated Fault Simulation: A Deductive Approach." Circuits Quarterly, 9
(1992): 212-220.Citing the Internet #Format:Authors last name, first name and
middle name or initial (if any). Descriptor or "Title of article in quotations
marks." Internet. (Date the article was posted, if given.)Available: Internet
address. Date you accessed the material.Example:Honeycutt, Lee. Communication and
Design Course Web Site. Internet. (1997) Available:
http://dcr.rpi.edu/commdesign/class1.html, Jan. 1998.Citing a Chapter #Format:
Authors last name, first name and middle name or initial (if any). "Title of the
chapter in quotation marks." In Book Title (underlined or italicized). First,
middle and last name of the editor, Ed. City of publication: Publishers, Date of
publication, pages on which the chapter appears. Example:Fraser, Kathleen. " The
Tradition of Marginality." In Where We Stand: Women Poets on Literary Tradition.
Sharon Bryan, Ed. NY: W.W. Norton, 1993, 52-65.Citing a Book with more than one
author #Format:First authors last name, first name and middle name or initial (if
any) and second authors first, middle, and last name. Book Title (underlined or
italicized). City of publication: Publishers, Date of publication. Example:Gilbert,
Sandra M. and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the
Nineteenth-Century Imagination. New Haven: Yale UP, 1979.In-text Citations #Any
material in your document which derives from other sources whether by direct
quotation, paraphrase, or inspiration must be attributed immediately and the
sources named either by direct reference or by parenthetical citation.Direct
Reference #If it can be smoothly done, sources may be cited directly in your text.
Examples:In a stunning scene on page 27, Bronte reveals the source of Heathcliffs
inner torment: "in an uncontrollable passion of tears [ , ] Come in! come in! he
sobbed. Cathy do come. "According to Henry Louis Gates, "[ r ]ace is the ultimate
trope of difference" (49).Any information not given directly in the text, must be
cited parenthetically (within parentheses).Parenthetical Citation #A parenthetical
citation must include (if not already given) the first word of the listing of the
source on the works-cited page (most usually the authors last name) and, in the
case of paraphrase or quotation, the number of the page on which the material
originally appeared.Example:To at least one American scholar, "[ r ]ace is the
ultimate trope of difference" (Gates 49).In a parenthetical citation, no
punctuation separates the naming of the source ant the page number.The title of the
work cited need not be named unless you are using two different works by the same
author, in which case you would then, in addition to the author, indicate the first
word of the title of the specific reference you are making:Example:(Gates, Loose
49).A page number need not be used if you have used an idea more generally
contained within the source material, but which you have neither quoted nor
paraphrased.Example:The word "race" has been used to reduce people to socially
constructed categories (Gates).The period follows the parenthesis unless you are
using a block quotation.Block Quotation #If the quotation you are using consists of
more than three lines of text, you need to use a block quotation. To accomplish
this, indent the lines of quoted text from both the right and left margins.If your
document is double spaced, the block quotation is double space as well.Example:Yet
consciousness is also an end in itself. Long traditions of working-class selfactivity have properly focused on concrete material gains or desired structures of
social organization, but only as instruments for enduring alienation and for
promoting democracy and justice. (Lipsitz 128)#In a block quotation, the period
marking the end of the quotation precedes the parenthesis.Types of Writing ##
HYPERLINK "http://www.rpi.edu/dept/llc/writecenter/web/revise.html" #Revising
Prose# Write in the active voice: Faulty: In each picture the responses are shown.
#Better:Each picture shows the responses.Use personal pronouns (I, we, our) when
they are appropriate and especially when they clarify your text: Faulty: It has

been found experimentally that genetically altered strawberries are frostresistant. #Better: In this experiment, we found that genetically altered
strawberries are frost-resistant.Write sentences that have people doing things:
Faulty: It was decided that company policy be changed to allow employee selection
of personal leave days. #Better: The personnel committee decided to change company
policy and allow employees to select their own personal leave days. Avoid
nominalizing (transforming verbs and adjectives into nouns): Faulty: We conducted
an investigation of the accident. #Better: We investigated the accident.Avoid
stringing nouns together and creating what scientist Peter Medawar describes as
"one huge noun-like monster in constant danger of falling apart." The following
examples are from Commerce Business Daily: "fluidized bed waste heat recovery
system demonstration" and "roof rock bolt bond integrity tester development." The
examples below are from Joseph Williams: #Faulty: Early childhood thought disorders
misdiagnosis often occurs as a result of unfamiliarity with recent research
literature describing such conditions. #Better: Physicians unfamiliar with the
literature
on recent research often misdiagnose disordered thought in young children.Maintain
parallelism: Faulty: The new regulations could cause problems for both the winners
and for those who lose. #Better: The new regulations could cause problems for both
winners and losers.Emphasize important words by placing them where they receive
natural stress, either at the beginning or, for even greater emphasis, at the end
of a sentence: Faulty: Rather than being a judge who pronounces the verdict, the
teacher becomes an editor who guides students' writing with this method. #Better:
With this method, the teacher becomes an editor who guides students' writing,
rather than a judge who pronounces the verdict. Place subordinate ideas in
subordinate constructions: Faulty: The value is 50 watts and is best determined by
actual test. #Better: The value, which is best determined by actual test, is 50
watts. Substitute descriptive verbs for vague verbs: Faulty: He went to the island.
#Better: He sailed to the island.Substitute lean words for ponderous expressions:
Faulty: Align the tubes in such a manner that they all heat at the same time.
#Better: Align the tubes so they all heat at the same time. Substitute familiar for
unfamiliar words: Faulty: Everyone should be cognizant of the danger of explosion.
#Better: Everyone should be aware of the danger of explosion. Avoid overused
expressions common to the business world: Faulty: Utilization of crystal clear
goals and objectives will optimize our capacity to prioritize our concerns so that
we will impact upon the major thrust of our company's future plans and prospects.
#Better: If we clarify our goals and objectives, we will be better able to
concentrate on what is most important for our company's future. Cut unnecessary
words: Faulty: After a time interval of one to two minutes, the tone usually stops.
#Better: After one to two minutes, the tone usually stops. Be precise: Faulty: The
cost must not be prohibitive. #Better: The cost should not exceed $100 per thousand
gallons. Avoid confusing pronouns: Faulty: As the temperature falls, a compressive
stress is exerted by the bezel on the glass because of its greater temperature
coefficient. #Better: As the temperature falls, the bezel, because of its greater
temperature coefficient, exerts a compressive stress on the glass. Keep sentence
elements in their proper order: Faulty: The sample to be analyzed first must be put
into solution. #Better: The sample to be analyzed must first be put into solution.
Avoid dangling modifiers: Faulty: Walking up the hill, my umbrella was blown away
by the wind. #Better: While I was walking up the hill, the wind blew away my
umbrella. Reduce strings of prepositional phrases: Faulty: The October 31 deadline
for submission of proposals in response to an invitation from the National Science
Foundation also applies to unsolicited proposals. #Better: The deadline for both
solicited and unsolicited proposals to the National Science Foundation is October
31.## HYPERLINK "http://www.rpi.edu/dept/llc/writecenter/web/thesis.html" #Thesis
Writing# Introduction#As far as I know, there's no etymological connection between
thesis and Theseus, but there is a metaphoric one. Theseus, mythical hero of
ancient Greece, found his way through the Cretan Labyrinth by following a thread.
Likewise, a thesis allows both reader and writer to find their ways through a
labyrinth of ideas by following a thread of thought. That is, a thesis crystallizes

the controlling idea of an essay and, thus, helps us to keep track of that idea as
it develops through the body of the text. If we were not able to formulate theses
and to understand and evaluate the theses of others, we would be hopelessly lost
amidst a maze of chaotic impressions, for there is no structure to experience
exclend that imposed by the human mind. When we formulate theses, we make
experience comprehensible: we organize the chaos. As researchers, we begin to pick
up facts and experiences that are relevant to our theses--just as magnets pick up
iron filings--and we leave what is irrelevant behind. Thus, for both reader and
writer, a thesis cuts through immense confusion to make one point perfectly clear.
A good thesis, then, is essential to a well-written analytical essay, and at least
four things are essential to a good thesis: it must be clearly defined, adequately
focused, well supported, and relatively high in the orders of knowledge. Defining
Your Thesis#Like topic sentences, theses can be simple (stated explicitly, either
in one sentence or in several consecutive sentences), delayed-completion (begun in
one sentence and completed at some point later in the essay), assembled (scattered
in bits and pieces throughout the essay), or inferred (never explicitly stated-left for the reader to surmise) (Braddock, 310-323). But however the thesis is
presented, it should be clearly defined, or, in the case of an inferred thesis,
clearly definable. Even if you have chosen to use a delayed-completion, assembled,
or inferred thesis, you should be able to articulate that thesis in a simple,
explicit statement. Two things happen when you fail to define your thesis clearly:
First, you don't know what you have committed yourself to--in fact, you may not
have committed yourself to anything. As a result, your paper lacks unity. A unified
essay is one in which all of your arguments, directly or indirectly, support your
thesis. (Although good writers do acknowledge opposing points of view and may even
concede a point here or there, they usually do so for rhetorical purposes--to
enhance their own credibility by indicating that they are aware of and capable of
responding to opposing views.) If you have not defined your thesis clearly, you
will not know what your arguments should support. Consequently, you will ramble:
some of your arguments will be irrelevant to any thesis your readers might infer;
others will be contradictory. Whatever unity you achieve will be largely
accidental. The second consequence of an inadequately defined thesis stems directly
from the first: when you don't know what you have committed yourself to, your essay
lacks unity, and your readers have no thread to help them find their way through
your thoughts. As you ramble, your readers grope. Focusing Your Thesis#A thesis can
be clearly defined and still lead to a rambling essay if it is not adequately
focused. A good thesis narrows your topic to an idea that you can successfully
develop within the framework of your essay. From the general topic of health
hazards, you might propose a thesis such as, "The average American is exposed to
many health hazards." This thesis, though clearly defined, is so broad that you
would never be able to cover it adequately in a short essay. You would wind up
either jumping from one health hazard to another, discussing each only
superficially, or zeroing in on one or two health hazards and, thus, failing to
demonstrate your own thesis. A more narrowly focused thesis, such as "The
Constitution of the United States should be amended to prohibit the production and
sale of cigarettes," commits you to an idea that you can carefully analyze and
defend in four or five pages. Supporting Your Thesis#The third requirement of a
good thesis, that it be well supported, might more properly be considered a
requirement of the essay as a whole. In any case, if the essay is to be effective-if it is to persuade readers of your thesis, or at least of your credibility--you
must provide arguments that are cogent and numerous enough to satisfy the critical
reader, and you must go on to support these arguments with facts and examples.
Orders of Knowledge#The fourth requirement of a good thesis is that it be
relatively high in the orders of knowledge. Benjamin Bloom divides cognitive skills
into five basic categories and arranges those categories (in ascending order of
complexity) into the following hierarchy: comprehension, application, analysis,
synthesis, and evaluation (Bloom, 204-207). In a similar hierarchy, Mortimer Adler
divides knowledge into three classes: statements of facts, statements about facts,
and statements about statements (Adler, 222-224). If your thesis falls at the

lowest level of either of these hierarchies, your paper will be nothing more than a
report or a survey. This is fine if that's all you intend your paper to be. But if
you intend your paper to be more than a report, you must develop a thesis that is
more than a statement of fact. For example, if your "thesis" is that "In
experiments conducted by the American Cancer Institue, 70 percent of the rats
subjected to cigarette smoke over a two-year period died of lung cancer," your
paper can hardly develop into anything more than a report about the experiments and
their results. However, if you draw some conclusion from this statement of fact and
make that your thesis, you advance to Adler's second order of knowledge: statements
about facts. At this level, your thesis might be "Scientific experiments suggest a
close link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer," or a less cautious
assertion, "Cigarette smoking is the major cause of lung cancer." With either of
these theses, you have an argument on your hands. You have made a statement that is
not entirely self-evident, one that will not be universally agreed with, one that
you will have to defend. But if you risk one step further and make a statement
about this statement, you generate the spark of a potentially informative,
provocative, and animated essay. For example, building on the proposition that
cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, you might propose that the Constitution of
the United States be amended to prohibit the production and sale of cigarettes.
Adler would classify theses of this order as statements about statements. As such,
they not
only encourage more stimulating essays, they also allow you to develop your essay
logically by referring back to statements at the two lower levels: you present
arguments (statements about facts) to support your thesis, and facts and examples
(statements of fact) to support your arguments. For example, to support the thesis
that the Constitution should be amended to prohibit the production and sale of
cigarettes, you can draw upon the argument that cigarette smoking causes lung
cancer; and to support this argument, you can draw upon the fact that in ACI
experiments, 70 percent of the rats subjected to cigarette smoke died of lung
cancer. Thus, theses that are statements about statements allow you to develop a
layered effect that is impossible to achieve in a report or survey. Tentative and
Definitive Theses#Finally, there is an important distinction between a tentative
and a definitive thesis. A tentative or working thesis is often valuable in the
early stages of the writing process in that it guides your inquiry into your
subject, suggesting questions, problems, and strategies. The best definitive
theses, however, generally come late in the writing process. Hence, the writing
process is not simply a means of codifying what you already know; it is a means of
pushing beyond the commonplace, of exhausting the obvious, and of discovering what
it is you ultimately want to say. A good thesis, though essential to a good
analytical essay, is not a panacea for sloppy exposition--there are scores of other
things you must consider as you compose (such as style, syntax, organization,
originality, punctuation, and diction). However, developing a thesis that is
clearly expressed, adequately focused, well supported, and high in the orders of
knowledge goes a long way toward ensuring the success of your essay. REFERENCES
Adler, Mortimer. Dialectic. London: Kegan Paul, 1927. Bloom, Benjamin, ed. Taxonomy
of Educational Objectives: Handbook I. New York: David McKay, 1956. Braddock,
Richard. "The Frequency and Placement of Topic Sentences in Expository Prose." The
Writing Teacher's Sourcebook. Ed. Gary Tate and Edward P. J. Corbett. New York:
Oxford University Press, 1981.## HYPERLINK
"http://www.rpi.edu/dept/llc/writecenter/web/abstracts.html" #Abstracts# What is an
abstract? #An abstract is a stand-alone statement that briefly conveys the
essential information of a paper, article, document or book; presents the
objective, methods, results, and conclusions of a research project; has a brief,
non-repetitive style. Although an abstract appears as the first section of a paper,
it should be written last. You need to have completed all other sections before you
can select and summarize the essential information from those sections. Many
abstracts are published without the complete paper itself in abstract journals or
in online databases. Thus, an abstract might serve as the only means by which a
researcher determines what information a paper contains. Moreover, a researcher

might make a decision whether to read the paper or not based on the abstract alone.
Because of this need for self-contained compactness, an abstract must convey the
essential results of a paper. Many publications have a required style for
abstracts; the "Guidelines for Authors" provided by the publisher will provide
specific instructions. This document describes general guidelines. What goes in an
abstract? #In doing any research, a researcher has an objective, uses methods,
obtains results, and draws conclusions. In writing the paper to describe the
research, an author might discuss background information, review relevant
literature, and detail procedures and methodologies. However, an abstract of the
paper should: describe the objective, methods, results, and conclusions; omit
background information, a literature review, and detailed description of methods;
avoid reference to other literatures. What is the style of an abstract? #The style
of an abstract should be concise and clear. Readers do not expect the abstract to
have the same sentence structure flow of a paper. Rather, the abstract's wording
should be very direct. For example, the following abstract is a self-contained
description of an imaginary physics project. The key elements of an abstract are in
boldface, and its style conforms to the suggestions above. Abstract This study's
objective was to determine the strangeness measurements for red, green, and blue
quarks. The Britt-Cushman method for quark analysis exploded a quarkstream in a He
gas cloud. Results indicate that both red and green quarks had a strangeness that
differed by less than 0.453 x 10-17 Zabes/m2 for all measurements. Blue quarks
remained immeasurable, since their particle traces bent into 7-tuple space. This
study's conclusions indicate that red and green quarks can be used interchangeably
in all He stream applications, and further studies must be done to measure the
strangeness of blue quarks. How do you write an abstract?#Writing an abstract
involves boiling down the essence of a whole paper into a single paragraph that
conveys as much new information as possible. One way of writing an effective
abstract is to start with a draft of the complete paper and do the following:
Highlight the objective and the conclusions that are in the paper's introduction
and the discussion. Bracket information in the methods section of the paper that
contains keyword information. Highlight the results from the discussion or results
section of the paper. Compile the above highlighted and bracketed information into
a single paragraph. Condense the bracketed information into the key words and
phrases that identify but do not explain the methods used. Delete extra words and
phrases. Delete any background information. Rephrase the first sentence so that it
starts off with the new information contained in the paper, rather than with the
general topic. One way of doing this is to begin the first sentence with the phrase
"this paper" or "this study." Revise the paragraph so that the abstract conveys the
essential information. For further information: Wilkinson, Antoinette Miele. The
Scientist's Handbook for Writing Papers and Dissertations. 1991.## HYPERLINK
"http://www.rpi.edu/dept/llc/writecenter/web/definition.html" #Definitional
Techniques# In the course of developing a report, essay, memo, etc. writers are
often called upon to define their terms. Some of the more common definitional
techniques used in professional and academic writing are described below. An
Aristotelian or formal definition assigns a thing to a genus or class and then
indicates the differences between the thing and other members of the class.
Example: Craps is a gambling game played with two dice in which a first throw of 7
or 11 wins the bet; a first throw of 2, 3, or 12 loses; and a first throw of any
other number (a point) must be repeated to win before a 7 is thrown--otherwise, the
player loses both the bet and the dice. An explication defines the meaning of key
words in an Aristotelian or formal definition. An example that might follow the
above definition: Dice are small cubes marked on each side with a number of small
dots, varying from 1 to 6. The number of dots on opposite sides always add up to
7. An operational definition refers individuals to a location or situation where
they might observe a phenomenon. Example: If you are driving south along a highway,
you will experience the Doppler effect if you listen to the sound of a car heading
north that approaches and then passes you. An analysis separates a whole into its
component parts. Example: Air is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, gaseous mixture
containing nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, neon, and helium. An example suggests

one member of a class of objects to convey an accurate impression of the entire


class. Example: The maple is an example of a deciduous tree. Graphics provide a
pictorial representation where lines, dots, arrows, etc. are configured into
representational patterns. Comparisons and contrasts suggest ways in which objects
or concepts are similar to or different from one another. Example: Both the maple
and the pine are trees; but the former is deciduous, the latter coniferous. An
elimination indicates what something is not to clarify what it is. Example: Clearcutting is not the removal of only a few trees in a forest area. An etymology
explores the origin and historical development of a word. Example: Synchronism can
be better understood if we realize that the original meaning of syn was together,
and that of chronism was time. History records the events in the development of
something. Example: It will be easier to understand what is meant by the discipline
of technical communication if we explore how it evolved. ## HYPERLINK
"http://www.rpi.edu/dept/llc/writecenter/web/genderfair.html" #Gender-Fair
Language# IntroductionOur language and society reflect one another, so it is
important for us as communicators to recognize and respect change in the meaning
and acceptability of words. Concern about the use of sexist language is part of our
increased awareness that the perceived meanings of some words have changed in
response to the changing roles of men and women in our society. For example, girl
once meant a young person of either sex, while youth indicated only a young man.
Now, girl applies only to young female persons, while youth can refer to young
persons of either sex. Just as you would not use girl with its outdated meaning,
you should not use other words connoting gender that do not accurately represent
the people behind them. If you write with nonsexist language, you write to
represent with fairness the gender identified in many words. Gender-fair language
minimizes unnecessary concern about gender in your subject matter, allowing both
you and
your reader to focus on what people do rather than on which sex they happen to be.
For example, the practice of using he and man as generic terms poses a common
problem. Rather than presenting a general picture of reality, he and man used
generically can mislead your audience. Research by Wendy Martyna has shown that the
average reader's tendency is to imagine a male when reading he or man, even if the
rest of the passage is gender-neutral. Therefore, you cannot be sure that your
reader will see the woman on the job if you refer to every technician as he, or
that your reader will see the woman in the history of man. On the other hand,
replacing every he with he or she attracts even more attention to gender and
defeats your purpose. This predicament merits special attention in scientific and
technical writing, where any ambiguity is unacceptable. Below are some examples of
how you can revise the most common sexist usages of he and man. PROBLEM: By using
either he, his, or him as a generic pronoun when the referent's gender is unknown
or irrelevant, the writer misrepresents the species as male. Solution 1: Write the
sentence without pronouns. Try to avoid conditional structures, generally
introduced by "if" or "when," which often require the use of pronouns. Original: If
the researcher is the principal investigator, he should place an asterisk after his
name. Gender-fair: Place an asterisk after the name of the principal investigator.
Solution 2: Use gender-specific pronouns only to identify a specific gender or a
specific person. Original: Repeat the question for each subject so that he
understands it. Gender-fair: Repeat the question for each male subject so that he
fully understands it. Solution 3: Use plural nouns and pronouns if they do not
change the meaning of the sentence. Original: Repeat the question for each subject
so that he understands it. Gender-fair: Repeat the question for all subjects so
that they understand it. Solution 4: Use a first- or second-person perspective.
Notice in the table below that only the third-person singular is marked for gender.
Table of Personal PronounsSingular #First Person - I, my, me, mine #Second Person you, your, yours #Third Person - it, she, he, her, him, its, hers, his Plural#First
Person - we, our, ours, us #Second Person - you, your, yours #Third Person - they,
them, their, theirs ##Original: The driver should take his completed registration
form to the clerk's window and pay his license fee. Gender-fair: You should take
your completed registration form to the clerk's window and pay your license fee.

Original: The principal investigator for this report has appended data tables to
his summary. Gender-fair: I have appended data tables to the summary of this
report. The following solutions produce language less fluent than Solutions 1
through 4. Solution 5: Use a double pronoun, i.e. s/he, he or she, he/she, him and
her. Original: Each supervisor will be at his workstation by 8 a.m. Gender-fair:
Each supervisor will be at his or her workstation by 8 a.m. Solution 6: Use an
article instead of a possessive pronoun as a modifier. Original: After filling out
his class schedule, the student should place it in the registrar's basket. Genderfair: After filling out a class schedule, the student should place it in the
registrar's basket. Solution 7: Sparingly use the passive voice. Original: If a
student wishes to avoid sex bias in his writing, he should examine these
alternatives. Gender-fair: These alternatives should be examined by any student who
wishes to avoid sex bias in writing. Note: Though not acceptable in formal writing,
a common speech pattern uses a form of they (they, them, their, theirs) as a
generic pronoun following everyone, anybody, and other indefinite pronouns:
"Everyone cheered when their team won the game." PROBLEM: By using man as a generic
noun to represent groups that include women, the writer misrepresents the species
as male. Solution 1: Use human, person, mortal, and their variations: humankind,
humanity, human beings, human race, and people. Original: The effect of PCBs has
been studied extensively in rats and man. Gender-fair: The effect of PCBs has been
studied extensively in rats and humans. Solution 2: Use a more descriptive or
inclusive compound word: workmen's = workers'; man-sized = sizable, adult-sized;
chairman, chairwoman = chair, chairperson, presider, convener. Original: The
governor signed the workmen's compensation bill. Gender-fair: The governor signed
the workers' compensation bill. With practice, you will use gender-fair
constructions more readily and with less revision. For more information on sexism
in language and how to avoid or revise it, please see the following bibliography.
References Christian, Barbara. "Doing Without The Generic He/Man in Technical
Communication." Journal of Technical Writing and Communication 16 (1986): 87-98.
Council of Biology Editors. CBE Style Manual. Bethesda: Council of Biology Editors,
Inc., 1983. Dodd, Janet S., ed. The ACS Style Guide: A Manual for Authors and
Editors. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society, 1986. Martyna, Wendy. "The
Psychology of the Generic Masculine." Women and Language in Literature and Society.
Ed. S. McConnell-Ginet, R. Borker, and N. Furman. New York: Praeger Publishers,
1980. Miller, Casey, and Kate Swift. The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing For Writers,
Editors and Speakers. New York: Lippincott & Crowell, 1980. Nilsen, Alleen Pace.
"Winning the Great He/She Battle." College English 46 (1984): 151-157 Styles of
Writing # HYPERLINK "http://www.rpi.edu/dept/llc/writecenter/web/critique.html"
#Critiques# When college professors ask you to write a critique of a text, they
usually expect you to analyze and evaluate, not just summarize. A summary merely
reports what the text said; that is, it answers only the question, "What did the
author say?" A critique, on the other hand, analyzes, interprets, and evaluates the
text, answering the questions how? why? and how well? A critique does not
necessarily have to criticize the piece in a negative sense. Your reaction to the
text may be largely positive, negative, or a combination of the two. It is
important to explain why you respond to the text in a certain way. Step 1. Analyze
the text #As you read the book or article you plan to critique, the following
questions will help you analyze the text: What is the author's main point? What is
the author's purpose? Who is the author's intended audience? What arguments does
the author use to support the main point? What evidence does the author present to
support the arguments? What are the author's underlying assumptions or biases? You
may find it useful to make notes about the text based on these questions as you
read. Step 2. Evaluate the text #After you have read the text, you can begin to
evaluate the author's ideas. The following questions provide some ideas to help you
evaluate the text: Is the argument logical? Is the text well-organized, clear, and
easy to read? Are the author's facts accurate? Have important terms been clearly
defined? Is there sufficient evidence for the arguments? Do the arguments support
the main point? Is the text appropriate for the intended audience? Does the text
present and refute opposing points of view? Does the text help you understand the

subject? Are there any words or sentences that evoke a strong response from you?
What are those words or sentences? What is your reaction? What is the origin of
your reaction to this topic? When or where did you first learn about it? Can you
think of people, articles, or discussions that have influenced your views? How
might these be compared or contrasted to this text? What questions or observations
does this article suggest? That is, what does the article make you think about?
Step 3. Plan and write your critique#Write your critique in standard essay form. It
is generally best not to follow the author's organization when organizing your
analysis, since this approach lends itself to summary rather than analysis. Begin
with an introduction that defines the subject of your critique and your point of
view. Defend your point of view by raising specific issues or aspects of the
argument. Conclude your critique by summarizing your argument and re-emphasizing
your opinion. You will first need to identify and explain the author's ideast.
Include specific passages that support your description of the author's point of
view. Offer your own opinion. Explain what you think about the argument. Describe
several points with which you agree or disagree. For each of the points you
mention, include specific passages from the text (you may summarize, quote, or
paraphrase) that provide evidence for your point of view. Explain how the passages
support your opinion. Source of information: Rosen, Leonard J. and Laurence
Behrens, eds. The Allyn & Bacon Handbook. 1994.## HYPERLINK
"http://www.rpi.edu/dept/llc/writecenter/web/labs.html" #Lab Reports# Overview
#Although engineering and science students are frequently required to write
laboratory reports, there is little printed information available about how to
write such reports. Furthermore, every discipline, every course, and every
professor seems to require a different format and style, and different kinds of
laboratory experiments are often reported in different ways. Hence, it is
impossible for this handout to describe one right way to compose a lab report. What
this handout does describe is a generally applicable format for the lab report,
leaving you to adapt this format to your particular situation. That is, you can
vary the format according to what is most appropriate for the lab work you're
doing. Always check with your professor or TA about the specific format he or she
desires. Title Page #The
title page provides the name of the lab experiment, the names of the lab partners,
the date, and any other information your instructor requires. Abstract #The
abstract is the report in miniature. It summarizes the whole report in one, concise
paragraph of about 100-200 words. As distinguished from the introduction, the
abstract tells the reader what will be done and lays the groundwork Also, the
abstract summarizes the report itself, not the actual experiment. Hence, you cannot
write the abstract until after you've completed the report. Before writing the
abstract, it is often helpful to summarize each section of the report
(introduction, methods and materials, procedure, results, discussion, and
conclusion) in one sentence. Then try to arrange this information into a short
paragraph. Remember, the abstract should be a precise and specific summary.
Introduction #Whereas the abstract summarizes the whole report, the introduction
presents the subject of the report and acquaints the reader with the experiment.
Typically, the introduction states the problem to be solved or the experiment to be
performed and explains its purpose and significance. It also provides whatever
background theory, previous research, or formulas the reader needs to understand
and perform the experiment (or solve the problem). Usually, the instructor does not
want you to repeat such information verbatim from the lab manual; you can simply
make the appropriate references to the manual. Methods and Materials (or Equipment)
#This section can consist of a list. Be complete, accurate, and precise.
Experimental Procedure #This section is a full descriptive narrative. Be complete,
accurate, and precise, listing all steps in the correct order. State what you
really did and what actually happened, not what was supposed to happen or what the
textbook said. Results #Again, give your actual results, not what should have
happened. Although results are usually presented quantitatively, you should always
introduce each block of information verbally and provide clear and accurate verbal
labels. Discussion #In this section, you must explain, analyze, and interpret your

results, being especially careful to explain any errors or problems. This is


probably the single most important part of the report, since it is here that you
demonstrate that you understand and can interpret what you have done. Conclusion
#Draw conclusions from the results and discussion that answer the question, "So
what?" Then go on to explain your conclusions. In this section, you may also
criticize the lab experiment and make recommendations for improvement. Such
criticisms and recommendations, however, should focus on the lab as a learning
experience; mere complaints about faulty equipment or amount of time spent are not
appropriate. Note: The results, discussion, and conclusion sections can be combined
in various ways. Use whatever combination is most appropriate for your situation.
References #Some reports require references at the end. Use the correct forms for
the particular field you are working in. Always consult your instructor about
reference forms, and check a style manual for the field. Appendices #Appendicies
may include raw data, calculations, graphs, and other quantitative materials that
were part of the experiment, but not reported in any of the above sections. Refer
to each appendix at the appropriate point (or points) in your report. For example,
at the end of your results section, you might have the note, See Appendix A: Raw
Data Chart. ## HYPERLINK "http://www.rpi.edu/dept/llc/writecenter/web/memos.html"
#Memos# Introduction #A common form of inter- or intradepartmental communication in
business and academia is the memorandum (pl. memorandums or memoranda), usually
called a memo. Memos are written by everyone from junior executives and engineers
to CEOs. Hence, it is essential to master this basic communication form. Memo
Format #Although memos are ordinarily formal, there has recently been a trend
toward a more personal style. Careful writers are able to achieve this style
without sacrificing clarity, grace, or precision. Unlike letters, which include
inside addresses, salutations, and complimentary closings, memos have just two
sections: the heading and the body. To simplify the communication process, many
firms and organizations use memo pads with predesigned formats. If you need to
construct a memo without such a memo pad, use the vertical format shown below:
Date: June 6, 1991#To: David Dunlop#From: Shawn Jackson#Subject: Language
Requirement Some people also use what is known as the horizontal format, where the
"To" and "From" fields are flush with the left margin, while the "Date" and
"Subject" fields are aligned with the right margin. Date: Write the full name of
the month or use its standard abbreviation (i.e., don't use numerals). To: If
company policy and your relationship with the addressee allow, you may omit
courtesy (Mrs., Ms., Mr.) or professional (Dr., Dean, etc.) titles. Generally,
however, address people of higher rank by title. For most format situations, use
the addressee's full name; for informal situations, first names or even nicknames
may be appropriate. If the addressee's name alone is not sufficient to ensure that
the memo will reach its destination, put an identifying tag, such as a job or
department title, directly after the addressee's name (for example, To: John
Hutchins, Payroll Office). If the memo is directed to several people, list their
names alphabetically or in descending order of their position in the institutional
hierarchy. If numerous names are required, you may use "To: See Below" and then
place the addressees' names at the end of the message. If the group is too large to
list all of its members individually, follow "To:" with an identifying
classification, such as "Faculty and Staff" or "Process Engineers." From: Place
your own name on this line, and do not use a courtesy title. If you believe that
the reader may not know you, then use a job title or department name to identify
yourself. If you choose to sign the memo to personalize it or to indicate
authorization, write your initials above, below, or to the right of your
typewritten name. Practices vary considerably in this respect, so it's best to
follow local preferences. A memo is always official even if it isn't signed.
Subject: "Re:" (Latin for thing, affair, or concern) is occasionally used in place
of "Subject:", but many of today's businesspeople regard "Re" as obsolete. The
statement of subject should be concise yet accurate, since it often determines
where or how the memo will be filed. Memo Content #Two words characterize a wellwritten memo: informative and concise. Make your memo informative by observing the
same principles that govern any writing process, the most important of which are

preparation and organization. Preparation: Determine the exact objective; you


should be able to state this objective in a single sentence. Know your reader(s),
and determine whether or not you need to cover fundamental issues or define
technical terms. Organization: Keep things under control. Present your material
coherently, and decide on the pattern of organization that best suits your purpose.
The two most common patterns of organization for business and technical memos are
deduction (decreasing order of importance) and induction (increasing order of
importance). Deduction: Deduction, presenting ideas in decreasing order of
importance, generally assumes that the reader is well acquainted with the topic
under discussion. In writing a deductive memo, present your most salient point
first (but don't simply repeat the "Subject" statement). This strategy spares
readers needless loss of time wading through data they may already know. Place
supporting facts in subsequent sentences for readers who may be unfamiliar with the
subject. Place the background data last. Those who want or need to read this
information to understand the message will take the time to do so; others may scan
it or bypass it entirely. Most business memos use this pattern of organization.
Induction: Induction, presenting ideas in increasing order of importance, draws
upon a different set of assumptions than does deduction. The reasons to use
induction vary, but they may include the following: you have to announce bad news
or your reader(s) may not understand the main idea without significant prior
preparation. In such cases, organize your thoughts by leading up to the most
forceful idea, and present that idea at the end of the memo. Keep in mind that such
memos often take longer to write. Memo Style #If writing a memo turns out to be
more difficult than you anticipated, you may find that a quick outline will help
you organize your thoughts. In composing such an outline, focus your attention on
the main ideas rather than on introductions or transitions. Strive to be plain,
direct, and concise while using a comfortable, natural style. Because memos are
generally brief, the outline need only provide structure and proportion;
nevertheless, it should not leave gaps in logic or omit important details. The
outline can take the form of brief phrases listed sequentially, thereby giving
order to the body and establishing relationships between the ideas. If necessary,
you can develop your outline into a rough draft by expanding your notes into
paragraphs. Write quickly, and pretend you are speaking to someone across the
table. In its final form, the memorandum should be clear and informative.
Generally, your tone will be neutral or positive, but you may occasionally have to
issue complaints or reprimands in memo form. Use caution in negative situations,
and be aware of the effect of your correspondence. If you are spiteful, blunt,
condescending, or too coldly formal, you'll wind up alienating people.
Ostentatious language, excessively technical jargon, or complicated syntax will
make you sound pompous. Hence, try to be cordial, straightforward, and lucid,
avoiding chit-chat, but striving toward a relaxed and conversational style. If you
project an image of consideration, you stand a much greater chance of being viewed
as knowledgeable and competent in carrying out your professional responsibilites.
References Baker, Sheridan. The Practical Stylist. 6th ed. New York: Harper and
Row, 1986. Bowman, Joel P., and Bernadine P. Branchaw. Business Report Writing.
Chicago: Dryden Press, 1984. Brusaw, Charles T., Gerald J. Alfred, and Walter E.
Oliu. The Business Writer's Handbook. New York: St. Martin's Press, Inc., 1976.
Houp, Kenneth, and Thomas E. Pearsall. Reporting Technical Information. 4th ed.
Encino, California: Glencoe Publishing Co., Inc., 1980. Mills, Gordon H., and John
A. Walter. Technical Writing. 4th ed. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1978.
Stratton, Charles R. Technical Writing: Process and Product. New York: Holt,
Rinehart, and Winston, 1984. Turner, Maxine. Technical Writing: A Practical
Approach. Reston, Virginia: Reston Publishing Co., Inc., 1984. Turner, Rufus P.
Technical Report Writing. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Rinehart Press, 1971. ## HYPERLINK
"http://www.rpi.edu/dept/llc/writecenter/web/presentation.html" #Presentations#
Introduction #Career advancement in both the academic and the professional arenas
may well depend upon your ability to communicate to a variety or audiences. For
example, you may be asked to present lab reports, technical briefs, or training
instructions. You can make the large task of constructing and delivering an oral

presentation more manageable if you divide the assignment into small goals and then
approach the overall task methodically. Being systematic in your preparation for a
talk helps with anxiety. Nearly everyone is nervous when speaking before a group,
and thus audiences are generally sympathetic. Luckily, most of the symptoms of
nervousness that plague the speaker remain hidden to the audience. Nervous tension
also allows speakers to deliver a charged rather than a flat performance. So relax
and enjoy helping your audience understand the technical information you can
deliver. You can use these instructions as a guideline to help you both organize
the material and structure your presentation to meet your audience's informational
needs. This handout helps you: # HYPERLINK
"http://www.rpi.edu/dept/llc/writecenter/web/" \l "audience" #understand your task
and audience# # HYPERLINK "http://www.rpi.edu/dept/llc/writecenter/web/" \l "Shape
your presentation" #structure your presentation# # HYPERLINK
"http://www.rpi.edu/dept/llc/writecenter/web/" \l "Frame Your Presentation" #frame
your presentation# # HYPERLINK "http://www.rpi.edu/dept/llc/writecenter/web/" \l
"Visuals" #select visuals#, and # HYPERLINK
"http://www.rpi.edu/dept/llc/writecenter/web/" \l "Practice" #practice for your
speech# Know Your Task and Audience #When you first begin this project, make
certain you can clearly explain what you are attempting to accomplish and for whom.
You can think about your task in these ways: Identify the topic of your
presentation in a complete sentence that explains the significance of this subject
to the listeners. Specify the kinds and amount of information that you must convey
to the audience. Identify many key points that you want the audience to understand.
List the important questions that you want to answer in your presentation. In
addition , you will need to carefully assess the knowledge, expectations, and
values your audience brings to the exchange. It is only when the audience's needs
are genuinely acknowledged by the speaker that effective communication can take
place. Determine the nature of the background information that the audience brings
to your subject by listing key terms and concepts that you can reasonably assume
they understand. Describe what the audience needs to learn from you about the
specific topic and focus upon these items as controlling concepts for your
presentation. Identify the significant values that the audience brings to the
presentation. Ask yourself: What are the notable characteristics of this audience?
Curious? Inhibited? Cautious? Eager? Expert? Novice? Does this audience respect a
formal or informal style? Does this audience value simplicity or complexity? Would
this audience respond more favorably to traditional or innovative approaches? Is
this audience participating voluntarily or by external request? All of the ideas
about your task and audience need to be shaped with the time and space constraints
you face. Shape Your Presentation #Consider the location, size, and spatial
arrangement of the presentation area, as well as the length of time associated for
the speech when you begin to envision your presentation. Match the length of time
for the presentation with the focus of your topic. Identify key physical
characteristics of the space, including size, seating arrangement, lighting, etc.
These physical constraints play into how you decide to organize your presentation.
An accomplished speaker should fully understand his/her subject. And one very
useful method for this is to organize your material as if you had to explain it to
another person. Classifications - organizes information into groups that share
common characteristics Partition or spatial divisions - organizes information into
major components and their minor sub-components. Segmentation - explains the
relationship of events over time Comparison - attempts to present one item in the
terms of another Cause and effect - describes and persuades by means of identifying
causal relationships Problem and solution - organizes material in response to a
dilemma Experimentation - organizes the information given, the purpose, aim,
materials, procedures, results, and discussion in that order Provide an
illustrative example for each main point and explain the relationship of the
example to the point it supports. Use a variety of different kinds of support or
proof for your statements, such as facts, statistics, examples, comparisons,
testimonies (an eye witness account or a direct quotation), narrative (a story).
This way you reach and persuade various members of your audience. Repeat key

concepts/points by expressing one idea in several different ways, thereby


reinforcing important points. So, for example, the problem-solution framework might
be appropriate for a speech on waste management. You could structure the
presentation as a series of key dilemmas, each one followed by a number of possible
responses, the first being the ineffective response, and the second the better
choice. Each time a problem is introduced, the listener could begin to anticipate a
range of possible solutions and thereby become more receptive to the information
that follows. With a stellar organization your presentation also needs a frame to
introduce and conclude it. Frame Your Presentation The Introduction #With an
attention-grabbing introduction, you can establish a framing device for the entire
presentation. You may find it more efficient to construct the introduction after
the body of the speech has been developed. Then you can clearly see the nature of
the technical material that must be introduced to the audience so that you attract
their interest and meet their informational needs. The introduction must draw the
audience's attention, identify your topic, and create expectations in the audience
that you will satisfy in the course of the presentation. Immediately gain the
audience's attention by connecting their needs/values/knowledge to the topic of the
speech. Maybe by including: an interesting fact, statistic, anecdote, etc. an
appeal to a common ground of understanding or experience between audience and
speaker a narrative or story to draw the audience into your domain an overview of
your speech to provide audience with a rational framework Create expectations in
your audience that you will fulfill in the course of the presentation. create and
repeat an organizational structure or pattern acknowledge and then answer questions
you know the audience will broach introduce and then reference key terms throughout
the course of the presentation offer periodic overviews and then periodic
summaries of material Your introduction will be half of the framing devices needed;
the other half is the conclusion.The Conclusion #An effective conclusion seems to
develop naturally from the structure and content of the preceding material. A
conclusion isn't simply a rewording of the introduction; the conclusion is a
separate and distinct part of your presentation and as such presents particular
challenges for you to meet. In it, you need to: identify for the audience the most
important point of the presentation connect with the framing context that you
introduced in the beginning reaffirm the connection between the audience and the
material presented Match the tone of the final remarks to what you perceive is the
audience's primary need. You might offer a summary of key points and/or sections of
the presentation a personal anecdote a restatement of the problem and a brief
summary of the solution a resolution of the shocking statistic an answer to a
significant question Even with an organization and frame, you still need to polish
your work with visuals and practice.Select Visuals #Since most people rely heavily
upon visual information cues, you can assist your audience by incorporating visual
aids into your presentation. These help you to emphasize key points your audience
will understand and remember. Choose these sparingly, otherwise they could become
distracting. Identify the purpose of your visual aid to clarify a key point to
provide
an illustrative example to model to summarize to entertain while informing Select
types of visual aids well matched to the needs of your audience with respect to
specific portions of your presentation. table - good for presenting groups of
detailed facts bar graph - can represent numerical qualities line graph - shows how
one quantify changes as a function of change in another quantity pie graph effective for depicting the composition of a whole diagram - similar to a drawing
but relies upon symbols flow chart - means of representing successions of events
organizational chart - usually depicts hierarchical arrangement Select presentation
vehicles (and make sure they're working) based upon the audience's seating
arrangement. overhead easel or chalkboard hand-out slides model computer screen
Critique your visual aid from the perspective of the audience's needs. Is it large
enough to be easily seen or is it too small and detailed? Is the contrast/color
effective or distracting? Does it clarify a difficult concept or introduce
confusion? Is the visual aid necessary or superfluous? Remember to Practice #You
can meet the needs of your audience best by personally connecting with them, and by

practicing your presentation. You need to Maintain eye contact with the audience.
Use natural hand gestures. Keep body movement quiet and natural. Maintain
appropriate voice volume. Avoid wearing distracting clothing or accessories.
Maintain a constant rate of speech. If possible, practice your presentation in the
very place you'll deliver it. Use you visuals when you practice so they integrate
well into your talk. Finally, don't feel you have to memorize the entire piece. In
many cases you will be able to use memory prompts such as note cards or an outline.
Most people find the more they practice, the more at ease they feel when they give
their presentation. Works Cited #Galke, Sue. 101 Ways to Captivate a Business
Audience, New York: Anacom, 1997. Morrisey, George L., etal. Loud and Clear.
Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1997. #Cover Letters: How to Sell Yourself#Your
application letter is one of your most important job-search documents. An effective
letter can get you a phone call for an interview, but a poorly written application
letter usually spells continued unemployment. The difference can be a matter of how
you handle a few key points. The following are some tips to help you develop
effective application letters. Individualizing Your LetterGive your readers some
insight into you as an individual. In the example below the writer chose to
describe particular experiences and skills that could not be generalized to most
other recent graduates. Draft your letter to show how your individual qualities can
contribute to the organization. This is your letter, so avoid simply copying the
form and style of other letters you've seen. Instead, strive to make your letter
represent your individuality and your capabilities.Addressing a Specific Person
Preferably, the person you write to should be the individual doing the hiring for
the position you're seeking. Look for this person's name in company publications
found at the University Placement Service, the Krannert Business Library, or the
Reserve Desk in the Undergraduate Library. If the name is unavailable in these
places, phone the organization and ask for the person's name or at least the name
of the personnel manager.Catching Your Reader's AttentionYour introduction should
get your reader's attention, stimulate interest, and be appropriate to the job you
are seeking. For example, you may want to begin with a reference to an
advertisement that prompted your application. Such a reference makes your reason
for contacting the company clear and indicates to them that their advertising has
been effective. Or you may want to open by referring to the company's product,
which you want to promote. Such a reference shows your knowledge of the company.
Whatever opening strategy you use, try to begin where your reader is and lead
quickly to your purpose in writing.First Paragraph TipsMake your goal clear.If
you're answering an advertisement, name the position stated in the ad and identify
the source, for example: "your advertisement for a graphic artist, which appeared
in the Chicago Sun Times, May 15, 1998,..." If you're prospecting for a job, try to
identify the job title used by the organization. If a specific position title isn't
available or if you wish to apply for a line of work that may come under several
titles, you may decide to adapt the professional objective stated in your resume.
Additionally, in your first paragraph you should provide a preview of the rest of
your letter. This tells your reader what to look for and lets him or her know
immediately how your qualifications fit the requirements of the job. In the example
letter, the last sentence of the first paragraph refers to specific work experience
that is detailed in the following paragraph.Highlighting Your Qualifications
Organize the middle paragraphs in terms of the qualifications that best suit you
for the job and the organization. That is, if your on-the-job experience is your
strongest qualification, discuss it in detail and show how you can apply it to the
needs of the company. Or if you were president of the Marketing Club and you are
applying for a position in marketing or sales, elaborate on the valuable experience
you gained and how you can put it to work for them. If special projects you've done
apply directly to the job you are seeking, explain them in detail. Be specific. Use
numbers, names of equipment you've used, or features of the project that may apply
to the job you want.One strong qualification, described so that the reader can
picture you actively involved on the job, can be enough. You can then refer your
reader to your resume for a summary of your other qualifications. If you have two
or three areas that you think are strong, you can develop additional paragraphs.

Make your letter strong enough to convince readers that your distinctive background
qualifies you for the job but not so long that length will turn readers off. Some
employers recommend a maximum of four paragraphs.Other TipsRefer to your resume.
Be sure to refer to your enclosed resume at the most appropriate point in your
letter, for example, in the discussion of your qualifications or in the closing
paragraph. Conclude with a clear, courteous request to set up an interview, and
suggest a procedure for doing so. The date and place for the interview should be
convenient for the interviewer. However, you're welcome to suggest a range of dates
and places convenient to you, especially if you travel at your own expense or have
a restricted schedule. Be specific about how your reader should contact you. If you
ask for a phone call, give your phone number and the days and times of the week
when you can be reached. Be professional. Make sure your letter is professional in
format, organization, style, grammar, and mechanics. Maintain a courteous tone
throughout the letter and eliminate all errors. Remember that readers often
"deselect" applicants because of the appearance of the letter. Seek advice. It's
always good idea to prepare at least one draft to show to a critical reader for
comments and suggestions before revising and sending the letter. Sample Letter311
Nestor Street#West Lafayette, IN 47902June 6, 1998Ms. Christine
Rennick#Engineer#Aerosol Monitoring and Analysis, Inc.#P.O. Box 233#Gulltown, MD
21038Dear Ms. Rennick:Dr. Saul Wilder, a consultant to your firm and my
Organizational Management professor, has informed me that Aerosol Monitoring and
Analysis is looking for someone with excellent communications skills,
organizational experience, and leadership background to train for a management
position. I believe that my enclosed resume will demonstrate that I have the
characteristics and experience you seek. In addition, I'd like to mention how my
work experience last summer makes me a particularly strong candidate for the
position.As a promoter for Kentech Training at the 1997 Paris Air Show, I discussed
Kentech's products with marketers and sales personnel from around the world. I also
researched and wrote reports on new product development and compiled information on
aircraft industry trends. The knowledge of the aircraft industry I gained from this
position would help me analyze how Aerosol products can meet the needs of regular
and prospective clients, and the valuable experience I gained in promotion, sales,
and marketing would help me use that information effectively.I would welcome the
opportunity to discuss these and other qualifications with you. If you are
interested, please contact me at (317) 555-0118 any morning before 11:00 a.m., or
feel free to leave a message. I look forward to meeting with you to discuss the
ways my skills may best serve Aerosol Monitoring and Analysis.Sincerely yours,
First LastnameEnclosure: resume###Adapted from:#Halpern, Jeanne W., Judith M.
Kilborn, and Agnes Lokke. Business Writing Strategies and Samples. New York:
Macmillan, 1988.
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