Holding Your Ground:

Your Thesis as Intellectual Property vs. Mere Summary of Primary and Secondary Sources

        Resist the urge to summarize sources for more than a sentence or two in your paper.  Summary can be an excellent tool as you are drafting your paper, but do not let it take over your paper.  Summarize in your notes, and write your draft by thinking about what you summarized.  If you fall into summary while you are writing, just stop, shift to the notes, and when you are ready to reason again, start writing the draft where you left off.  Use secondary sources to solve problems, not to tell you what to think.  Resist their authority by inventing a line of reasoning, your own intellectual property, before you contact secondary sources.

1)  In your introduction, foreground your original contribution to your readers' understanding of the topic, your "NEWS," against the background of what you borrow from the primary or secondary sources.

2)  Keep your body paragraphs focused on your thesis and your reasoning rather than primary or secondary source summary.  Make sure your paragraph order and paragraph transition are motivated by the logical steps necessary to bring your readers from what they believed before reading your paper to what you want them to believe after readingBefore revising your rough draft, outline your main points to make sure your paragraphs construct a complete and logically ordered pathway for the readers to follow.  Use explicit logical paragraph transition to explain to your readers why the paragraphs take up the evidence in this order.  Do not assume your readers will understand.  Remember that you are taking them somewhere they do not expect to go.

3)  Use the conclusion to re-emphasize the importance of your distinct, original addition to our knowledge about the topic, your "NEWS."  Be alert to other possible consequences if your conclusions are correct.  If a theme or technique affects one part of a work of art, it probably is related to other themes and techniques, or to other effects.  If your thesis helps point us toward a more complete view of these patterns where your thesis also might be used, you have done your readers a favor.