A Short Handbook for writing essays in the Humanities and Social Sciences
Copyright Year: 2019
ISBN 13: 9781466229105
Conditions of Use
The scope of this text is very clearly outlined in its title - it aims to guide students through the process of writing essays for humanities and social sciences courses. The Allossos succeed in creating a work that does just that, discussing... read more
The scope of this text is very clearly outlined in its title - it aims to guide students through the process of writing essays for humanities and social sciences courses. The Allossos succeed in creating a work that does just that, discussing techniques and strategies for writing well but assuming that readers will have a reasonable familiarity with English grammar. Contents included how to develop ideas, how to formulate effective arguments, how to identify weak points in writing, and how to revise effectively. It is worth noting that the authors are not concerned with formatting, emphasizing the writing process and not the finicky details of citation structure, title page layout, or font size.These issues are easily addressed on a great many websites and reference works; more concerning is that there is no real discussion of plagiarism or how to manage citations and references, which is an important part of any humanities or social sciences essay that requires research and not a single text. There is no glossary or index for this work, though the table of contents lays out chapter topics very clearly. An index would be quite useful for instructors and students wanting to use the book in its entirety. Similarly, a reference list with links to related works and websites might also be of use for those who would like more in-depth information on particular techniques not elaborated on in this short work.
The content of this guidebook is accurate, although its narrow focus does mean that is not comprehensive (and it does not intend to be). The strategies outlined in it are standard practice and are conveyed succinctly. Quoted authors are all referenced by name but not in any further detail; simple citations for these quotes would model best practices for the students reading the material.
The content of this guidebook is general enough in nature to remain relevant for some time. The examples given throughout the book reference works of classic Western literature or established understandings of history that American schools are likely to continue to teach - Shakespeare’s plays, the history of slave uprisings in the Americas, the Civil War, and Hemingway all feature. Notably, references are only discussed in the context of example passages, and so no knowledge of the events or plots is necessary to understand what the authors are saying.
The Alessos practice what they preach in this instance, writing directly and clearly. Jargon is almost non-existent, and where it does exist it is always defined and explained. Concepts are clearly illustrated with multiple examples and outlined step by step. The overall vocabulary and level of writing is appropriate for students in grade 11 or above.
Key terms are used continually throughout this work; in particular, the authors emphasize the importance of unity, coherence, and emphasis in effective writing. Vocabulary terms are introduced and used consistently, although alternative terms are listed to ensure understanding.
This guide could be easily divided into distinct sections useful for a wide variety of classes throughout the humanities and social sciences. History and English classes would find it particularly relevant, but introductory writing teachers, writing tutors, and academic support offices would also find much that is useful here. The sections on how to construct a thesis and the revision checklist are particularly applicable to me in my work as a writing tutor. I can see myself having students read specific sections of this book depending on what their particular roadblocks to writing are.
The organization of this text is logical, beginning with the process of note-taking and brainstorming, and moving on to persuasive argument building, thesis construction, essay structure, writing, and revision. The revision checklist at the end of the textbook is also organized in such a way that it leads students to look for major issues in their writing before the minor ones.
Overall, the guidebook displayed well and is easy to navigate. There are no images included, and although images are not strictly necessary for this sort of topic, I believe that the text would benefit from some formatting changes. Some of the lists could use better visual clues in their subdivision, and example paragraphs would benefit from being presented in a diagram format where specific portions could be highlighted and remarked on more directly. Unfortunately, this title is not available in PDF format, which would be useful for anyone wanting access to the book without an internet connection. Epub format would be useful as well.
I noticed no grammatical errors or typos in this text.
All references to culture in this text appear in example writing passages. Because of this, no deep understanding of the referenced work or work is needed, because it is the writing and not the content of the passage that is the focus. However, almost all of the references included are focused on classic works concerning Western literature and history (Kafka, Dostoyevsky, Beowulf, etc.). A broadening of examples would be welcome, but as it stands the text is inoffensive and reflects what is taught in many English classes in American schools.
Table of Contents
- 1. Analyzing Texts, Taking Notes
- 2. Discovering a Topic, Preparing for Discussion
- 3. Creating a Thesis
- 4. Ordering Evidence, Building an Argument
- 5. Coherent Paragraphs
- 6. Effective Sentences
- 7. Appropriate Words
- 8. Revising
- 9. Revision Checklist
About the Book
A retired master teacher of English and Comparative Literature teams up with his son, a History professor, on a new version of the writing manual he wrote and used for decades at the University of California, Davis.
About the Contributors