Initially I started this course (English 102) at assignment three. I first came into this class and had to explore how I take notes when I start an assignment. I perceived this to be so I can have a better grasp of my study habits. It also helped me understand how I interpret the readings I chose to read for each assignment. After evaluating my note-taking skills I began the first two assignments at home. The introduction assignment introduced the author that I worked with in this semester. I only had to read one paragraph of his work and I had to respond accordingly. I really thought that the excerpt given was just a rant; I didn’t see it evolving at all because he used several different quotes within. I saw his writing as only giving examples and not exploring his views on the topic. During assignment one I reviewed how James Loewen uses sources, in Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, to set up background information for his argument and for his readers to follow his train of thought. I then expressed my feelings about how I agree with his use of quotes to support his work. When beginning to explore more of his work I began to notice that he uses these quotes for establishing background while supporting the argument he is making. I started to understand his point of view. He explores his ideas after giving quotes and relates the two. I started to change my writing style in order to adapt his.
In assignment two I had to take into account Loewen’s work and think critically about what he is saying. I wrote down my train of thought and the “what ifs” I had during the process. I also explored the effects of the reasoning I used in answering my own questions. I really had to learn to start taking good notes. Not only notes from each chapter but also writing down my thoughts or any questions I had to familiarize myself with his work. I had to work on justifying my own opinion while creating the foundation for my critical thinking. I tried to focus on his work as a cause while making mine an effect. During assignment four we looked at a different chapter of Loewen’s book; one we chose. After analyzing what he says throughout the chapter we started to look at our own writing and question it. This was to help me improve my writing and be able to find my own flaws within it. While reading my chosen chapter I had to develop questions about his motives before I start my work. I learned to create my inquiry from these questions. I had never done that before and it was hard changing my frame of reference that I had while writing it. I think it was because after writing and revising I already felt like my paper was complete so I didn’t see any errors. I learned that a paper isn’t ever finished; it can always be revised. I tried to focus on that while reviewing each assignment.
In assignment five we had to account for one more article: “Indians”: Textualism, Morality, and the Problem of History by Jane Tompkins. I compared and contrasted the underlying message in her work with that of Loewen’s. I also had to look at what I chose to write about and question why I chose these parts for my paper. I had to articulate how I use each author’s quotes within my own writing. I really used Tompkins’ work to view Loewen’s motives and quotes differently. I realized that maybe he used his sources out of context instead of explaining what they actually meant. While revising my paper I took into consideration that I don’t need to justify Loewen’s work, I just had to express how I felt about it in comparison to Tompkins’ work. Realizing this helped me develop some of my thoughts more clearly.
In assignment six I really had to start developing my controlling purpose. I had to relate and develop my thoughts along with the two authors. I had to review my writing process by questioning myself and expand on my ideas further while exploring the readings again. I thought it was hard to question my own work. If I wanted to change or alter an opinion I had to revise the entire paragraph which, eventually, I had to revise each following paragraph to adapt the new point of view that I had. I began to focus more on completing my thoughts so I could find it easier to question myself. Overall I still found it difficult to do this. During assignment seven I chose one more source that related to my topic to further develop my ideas within my paper. I also related my source to my two previous sources. I took into account my past assignments and criticisms while revising this paper into something new. While looking for more sources at the library I found it tedious. I believe it is because I was only looking for books that related to Loewen’s and Tompkins’ ideas instead of my own. I also found more books on my general topic of racism. The hardest part of finding sources was finding time to read through each to see if I could use any information. At this point I only found one credible source that helped me evolve more of my ideas.
While continuing my writing in assignment eight, I had to realize my weaknesses and my strengths of my topic within my own writing. I also had to think critically about what to develop further in my papers and work on my introduction and conclusion further. I expanded on my controlling purpose and started applying it to each section throughout my work. After reflecting and revising this paper after a classmate questioned my work and I, again, questioned it, I was able to pick out my weakest parts and eliminate those immediately and completely. I developed my strengths to make my paragraphs more coherent. In assignment nine I took into account the criticisms of another student on the previous assignment. I also included one more author to help me view my topic from another angle. While rereading my work I realized that it thoroughly gave the impression that the reader knew exactly what I was talking about. I had to revise a lot of my key ideas and explain the concepts to create a background for my opinions.
I started researching for these sources at my public library. I looked for books and articles pertaining to my subject. I chose to look at Race/Racism as a broad topic. This is difficult to find a specific research question because there is so much affected my race is our world. I found the article by Marika Sherwood where she talked about coexisting races in Britain. Her words connected to Tompkins on the subject that “historians choose what to write.” By that I mean that Sherwood wrote about the historian’s one-sided approach to history where they had belittled blacks. The difficulties I found in finding books/articles for assignment seven helped me find other books that I used for my research paper. I found books more specific on racism in education in the United States as well as books on the evolution of racism. These helped me develop a controlling purpose for my paper.
I liked this class for one reason alone: we started our papers about halfway through the course. In another class of mine we had our final paper, double in length to this, assigned four weeks before the end of the semester. I don’t think I have enough time to completely articulate my thoughts and be able to communicate them correctly. This class helped me learn to write a long, well thought out paper. I will use the skills I learned here and apply it to other classes that I have in the future that require long papers. I know how to revise my own paper more efficiently now.