How do I get and use quotes?

I’d love to say the answer is easy, but there are steps involved.   Questions to consider:

  1. How well do I know the  story/poem/play I am quoting from? 

If you answered not well, its time to get creative.  Consider what you are trying to prove, is it
a character trait, an event that may or may not have happened, a character’s
intent on doing something?

The best thing to do in this situation is to skim the book.  If you are looking for character traits, skim
the book looking for that character’s name in particular.  (for help skimming see my other blog post on
skimming). Figure out: what he/she did, what he/she said, or what he/she
thinks.  Try to find broad sentences that
can be manipulated or interpreted to what you want it to mean.

For example, If I am looking for a quote to prove that Adam is scared of little
kids, I want to find something general like this:  “I wasn’t incredibly nervous walking
into the nursery school, but with each passing child my nervousness
grew.”  I can interpret nervousness
to be a product of fear.  So this quote
fits right into what I want to say.

  1. Can I break the story up into different sections?

If you answered yes to this questions, your life is a whole lot easier.  Knowing different events and where they
happen in the story is incredibly important to finding quotes easily.  Novels, here might be the toughest to do this
with but with plays (which are already broken up by act) it is loads and loads

  1. Do I have a thesis and main idea?

Because you are writing a paper, having these two essential items is a must.

Ask yourself these mini-questions

  1. What am I trying to prove (thesis)?
  2. Does my main idea (opinion) help prove the thesis?
  3. What evidence will help prove my main idea actually exists?

Knowing what you are going to say before finding your quote is the only logical way of
going about looking for a quote.

  1. Does my quote prove my main idea?

It sounds like a simple question but the implications of the answer can have
pretty profound effect on your clarity and grade!

Check out this example from a paper I wrote in college:

“The Great Figure” is Williams’ poem that freezes the moment
of a fire truck moving through the city. The interesting movement of the poem
frames the timeless movement of the fire truck, “moving / tense / unheeded”

Does the quote support the main idea?  Well, we don’t have enough information to
prove that it does or it doesn’t; however, what we do have is evidence that
there is movement.  The quote obviously needs an explanation on how it relates to my thesis.

“The lines move as fast as the fire truck, with the same, unrestricted, intensity.”

Again, this sentence proves my main idea that “Williams’ poem…freezes the moment of a fire
truck moving through the city.”

  1. Can you
         explain the quote in other words or in relation to your main idea?

At this point, you should be able to do this.  Having already created a main idea and found
supporting evidence, this task should be the easiest.

For example, I wrote a college paper on The Crucible by Arthur Miller proving that “Honesty, accusations and judgments ruled the
way Salem society functioned and had yielded disastrous results.”

Here is my main idea supporting my thesis:

“John Proctor speaks with Abigail and sternly protests his involvement with her any further,”

Here is my supporting quote:

“‘Abby, I may think of you softly from time to time. But I will cut off my hand before I ever reach for you again. Wipe it out of mind.
We never touched, Abby’”

And here is my explanation:

“Proctor admits that he does, still, have a soft spot in his heart but having realized his sin, he tells Abigail he wants her total

Ask yourself this, does the explanation explain the quote well?  As a writer you are a commenter on the story, not the story teller.  Often times students fall in the trap of summarizing the story, when summarizing is unnecessary and verbose (wordy).  In fact, the more clear and concise you are in proving your point, the better.

Elaboration Explained by Mr. Severino

Ever wonder what teachers mean when they tell you to elaborate?

Sure, you could easily look up the word and see that it means “to write or say more.”  But, for most students, the problem is not one of understanding definitions:  It is a problem of knowing how to meet expectations.  This problem might be better expressed as:

I don’t know how to write more without repeating myself.

If this statement applies to you, don’t worry.  You are not alone; in fact, learning how to elaborate is a hurdle for any developing writer.  Luckily, this hurdle is easily jumped.  The following tips should help you get closer to that A+ paper.

Tip 1: Assume Your Reader Knows Nothing About the Subject

Students often fail to write enough because they assume their reader knows too much. Let’s say, for example, you were writing an essay analyzing the film Inception.  You might write the following:

The film ends with a shot of the top spinning. We see it start to wobble, but, just before we see whether it will fall over, the scene blacks out and the end credits roll. We are left wondering: Was it a dream?

Now, this paragraph might seem fine if you saw the film, but what if you didn’t?  You would be asking yourself questions like “What top?” or “What does a spinning top have to do with dreams?”

See?  By assuming your reader knows, you are actually wasting an opportunity for elaboration. This is one error students make.

Tip 2: Break It Down

Another way students may fail to say enough is by failing to break larger ideas into smaller components.  For example, if you were writing a paper for your biology class on the topic of cancer, you might write:

Cancer can spread throughout the body into various tissues and cause damage or death.

Notice that the big idea here is about the spread of cancer.  The sentence tells us that cancer can spread.  However, we are never told how cancer spreads.  In fact, it is a very complex process involving cellular division, DNA coding, circulation, etc.  An entire book could be written on the subject of how cancer spreads, but a student might dismiss the complexity of it with a single sentence.

And that is my point.  The bigger process of how cancer spreads can be broken down into smaller processes and examined.  That is elaboration at work.

Tip #3:  Provide and Analyze Examples and Data

Imagine you are writing a paper for your psychology course about the psyche of a serial killer.  One point you might make in your paper is that many serial killers come from backgrounds of neglect and abuse.  It is a valid point.  And that point begs for an example.

By providing your reader with an example of a serial killer who was abused or neglected as a child, you are supporting your ideas with evidence and elaborating on the matter.  This makes the point seem more solid for your reader and allows you to move closer to meeting your page requirements.

The only challenge in providing examples and data in order to elaborate is that it often requires either prior knowleedge of the subject or some research on your part.  Without prior knowledge or research, you will not have what you need to elaborate.


Tip #4:  Explain It Another Way

One of my favorite phrases in writing is “In other words…”  “In other words…” gives me an opportunity to explain something in another way to help clarify a point for my readrers.  Sometimes ideas are complex, and our ability to express them clearly in words may fall short.

In such cases, feel free to explain it again, to use other words.

Ethos, Pathos and Logos by Mr. Severino

Understanding Ethos

Ethos means persuading the audience through trust in the speaker.  When the audience trusts the speaker, they are more easily persuaded.  Persuasion, then, can be built on the reputation of the speaker.

Imagine, for example, two speakers are invited to your biology class to speak on the function of the human brain.  One speaker is a practicing brain surgeon who did her undergraduate studies at Harvard University and received her medical degree from the University of Washington (the top medical school in the country).  The other speaker is a homeless heroin addict your teacher found in a pool of his own vomit and invited to your class to give a lecture.  Which speaker are you more likely to trust?  Whose words would you give more credence to and be more persuaded by?

Obviously, the first speaker is more worthy of your trust on a subject as complex as the function of the human brain.  Her credentials establish her as an expert.  The homeless man is likely to make a fool of himself and be a subject of ridicule or horror to you.

Using Ethos

Now, there is no way for you to obtain a degree from Harvard overnight on the subject you will be writing about persuasively.  However, there are a few key things you can do to establish trust with your readers:

1. Avoid grammatical mistakes.  Readers naturally distrust a writer if he or she makes frequent grammatical errors.  To establish trust with your readers, it is important for you to write as correctly as you can.

2. Use a broader vocabulary.  Trust in a writer is often based on the reader’s perception of how educated that writer is.  A reader will naturally assume that if you use a varied vocabulary, you are well-educated.

3. Make it clear when you have firsthand experience.  Many of the subjects teachers or test creators will ask you to write about are subjects you have firsthand experience with.  For example, if the essay question is about air conditioning systems in schools, you have firsthand experience because you have attended many hot classrooms.  Your experience makes you an expert, and your reader will trust you more because of that, so make it clear that you have had experience.

Understanding Pathos

In its simplest explanation, Pathos means appealing to the audience’s emotions.  However, Pathos is actually more complicated than that explanation may lead you to believe.  Pathos relies on the audiences imagination and ability to identify with the speaker.  When you use Pathos in writing or speaking, your audience imagines what you are talking about and connects their emotions to yours.  In effect, you are trying to get your audience to experience what you experienced or what the person you are talking about experienced.

Using Pathos

It takes a bit of practice to really master Pathos in writing or speaking, but the three general techniques for evoking an audience’s emotions are fairly easy to understand.

1. Story Telling.  The most common way to bring about Pathos is to tell a story related to your subject.  Stories have the effect of making principles and ideas seem more concrete to your audience, which allows them to connect with their emotions on the matter.  A well-written story will also make the audience feel as if they were there, as if they had the experience.  Thus, your experience becomes their experience and your emotions become their emotions.

2. Metaphor.  A metaphor is a comparison between two things that are different in most ways but similar in one important way.  In a metaphor, we say one thing is or is equal to another.  This transfers our understanding of one to the other.

Metaphors are important to Pathos because they kindle the audience’s imagination.  They conjure specific images, and those images bring about an emotional response from the audience.  Consider the following quote from Shakespeare:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts…

The metaphor here is a comparison between the world/life and a stage.  Shakespeare uses something relatively easy to understand (a play) to explain something harder to understand (life).  It conjures a very specific image, and this image has an emotional impact on the audience.

3. Word Choice.  A speaker or writer can provoke an emotional response simply by choosing words with higher emotional value.  Imagine you were trying to write about a horrible loss you experienced.  Which word would bring about a stronger reaction from the audience:  bad or devastating?

Understanding Logos

 Logos is appealing to the audience’s logic or reason.  Everyone has an analytical side, a side that desires examples, data, and fact.  When you use Logos, you are fulfilling this desire for your audience.  By giving the audience what they desire, you are naturally more persuasive.

Using Logos

Logos is probably the easiest persuasive technique to use.  You simply provide your reader with facts, data, and examples that relate to your using Logos.

Examples of Ethos, Pathos and Logos persuasion