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Expository Writing 101

  1. Nov 26, 2006 #1
    This is a completely ranting thread, I do not know if this is appropriate, but I just hate my expos 101 class so much!!!

    In my university, every freshman is required to take a writing course (if that person does not have the equivalent AP credit). What we do in that class is: we read totally unrelated articles, then we have to make completely irrelevant connections in a written essay).

    To be honest, this class has nothing to do with my career nor do I learn anything from it. The instructor grades our essays so harshly so that I am forced to spend a huge amount of time to polish my essay in order to get a... B.

    I do admit that college requires hard work, but instead of sitting in front of the computer for hours trying to find quotes in a article about some "idiot who dies in the wild because he wants to go camping" that can be twisted to fit into my essays of "BS", I could've been reading extra physics/math books I burrowed from the library or do extra physics problems/projects from my book....

    Due to my procrastination (I have a good excuse: Thanksgiving), I have to complete my essay tomorrow (Sunday). Which means 5+ hours in front of the computer getting my brain bored (and tortured) out of my skull...I guess I can always throw in a couple physics problems in between breaks...but anyway...

    Well, I guess that's enough of a rant of me. Does anyone else have similar experience? or am I simply an ignorant freshman+horrible writer who blames his failure on others?
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2006
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  3. Nov 26, 2006 #2

    Math Is Hard

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    Hate to break it to you, but if you are going into science, this is a skill you are going to need - although it might not look that way from your immediate perspective. If you have a hypothesis, you are going to need to do an extensive literature search and find everything you possibly can that's been done related to your inquiry. Then, you'll need to boil it all down, relate it, and summarize it nice and succinctly to support your explanation (or establish for your readers the competing explanation you want to refute and why). You do want to publish papers, I imagine?
  4. Nov 26, 2006 #3


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    I agree with Math is Hard that you need to be able to write well. This true no matter what kind of work you end up doing, unless it's something like flipping burgers. I don't do research, so I don't write formal academic papers, but I spend a lot of time writing lab handouts and manuals, Web pages about how to do stuff on the campus network, committee reports, etc.

    When my wife and I see the stuff that some of our colleagues or administrative staff turn out, we cringe. Having a PhD, all by itself, is no guarantee of even basic writing ability!

    tim_lou, maybe you can make a deal with your instructor to write about something that actually interests you?
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2006
  5. Nov 26, 2006 #4


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  6. Nov 26, 2006 #5
    I am not sure I would call you an ignorant freshman and/or horrible writer (I haven't seen your works to make that judgement call); however, part of college is learning to find connections between what you are doing and what you plan on doing. You are confused, that is all.

    What I would suggest in a writing course, such as the one you are in, and this is how I approach any course that doesn't deal directly with science or math, is to approach the course with the opinion that this will be a chance to work at a different way of thinking about how to address a problem. It may feel like "BS" but it will only feel that way if you look at it that way. If it is any solace, you can always do what I do, treat a writing course as a way to practice writing a logical process.

    And besides, it is always nice to have a means of looking at the world through more than one window.


    Good luck.
  7. Nov 26, 2006 #6
    phew, after 4 hours of torture, I am finally done... with my rough draft...

    My problem with my writing class, is not really about the amount of work I have to put int; rather, it is about the meaninglessness (if that is a word) of it.

    For instance, the "project" topic (that is what my instructor would like to call it) that I am working on is about the relationship between "the pursuit of happiness" and "economical, political and social problems". Okay, the topic is fair enough, but the problem is, I have to write this topic using the articles that were given.

    The articles include:
    1. "the futile pursuit of happiness", it basically states how one's prediction of how happy he/she might be in the future is not always accurate (this is not too bad, I can certainly relate it to the topic).

    2. an excerpt from a book about a young man who wanders into the wild of Alaska. He shoots animals and survives on his own. The author retracts the young man's journal and discuss his motives. (There is no real connection between 1 and 2, but regardless, I can suck something out of the text and twist it like a helicoid to make it fit into my essay)

    3. an article about how horrible the sewage system of a particular place in India is. It discusses the possible treatments and the projects engineers would like to undertake. (overall not a bad article, but how the heck can I relate to the other two? I honestly DO NOT know.) In the rough draft, I basically said that happiness partially caused all these pollution problems and discuss how similarly, the young man who wandered off in the wild could potentially ruin the ecological system by killing animals.

    I seriously do not know why there HAS to be a connection. I have no option; regardless of how lame, stupid, ignorant the "connections" seem, I have to make it, in order to write a paper with sufficient length. I just do not see the point of writing such "crap". I would rather spend extra time in the library to write a research paper about something like stem cell research, because, at least I can learn something about stem cells in the process.

    And yes I do want to publish physics paper in the future. I know that publishing requires hard work, but I can see the reward and the point of spending time doing such thing. It may not be fun but at least, I would learn physics in the process.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2006
  8. Nov 26, 2006 #7
    It's just exposing you to new ideas and ways of thinking. I remember that I had to write one paper on feminism and another on animal rights. I don't really care much to discuss either of those topics. However, now that the course is long gone, I look back and realize how much I learned. Sure, the material may have been forced down our throats, and the professor kicked our butts, but now I get A's on all of my lab reports (and they arent even my style of writing--as I enjoy creative writing).
  9. Nov 28, 2006 #8


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    I WISH I had only been required to read articles like that when I was taking expository writing in college. Our required reading was Freud's Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, Margaret Atwood's Surfacing and one other book that I can't even remember now. Try making a persuasive argument using real life examples when discussing Freud! I just wish I had been as clever as one of my classmates who had invented fictitious, nymphomaniac, exhibitionist roommate as the subject of all her examples! :grumpy:

    Keep in mind that the real point of the class is to learn to write a logically organized, persuasive argument, regardless of what it is you're asked to read or write about.
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