- Statement of Purpose. At the outset (``The Beginning") state the
goals you wish to accomplish in your paper (``My goal is to describe how
language is depicted in the genre of movies that we might call `Planet
of the Ape' movies, i.e. films that depict apes having language akin to
- Methodology. Then state the method(s) by which you hope to
``I shall demonstrate that this tradition goes back to
early work rooted in the `Tarzan' books of Edgar Rice Burroughs and first
incorporated into talking movies of the [ ] period ..." or ``I shall
compare films made in French with films made in English to see how these
- In the Middle or Body of your paper, build your case.
Review the literature (see sample below) on the subject; do not reinvent
the wheel. Show that you are familiar with what others have said about this
situation. (This is a form of academic courtesy, and helps establish your
credibility. If you do not do this, people may think you are talking off the
top of your head, or have no respect for the work of other scholars, and may
lose interest in your project, and stop reading.) Describe, analyze, and
evaluate the previous work, and give those authors credit by citing
their work (see below for format). Then show how previous work could be
improved, or how others admit the existence of a problem but have not solved
it, or whatever it is you wish to show. If you find you are deadlocked, and
don't know what to say that is new, try asking yourself the following
- What have we discussed in this course about conceptions of language
that may be a different way of looking at this material?
- Is there a conception of language operating in this situation that
has not been well thought out by the filmmaker? Is it put in just to
give an exotic flavor, but with no consequences?
- Are there some aspects of the [my topic] that may be in conflict with
scientific views of the topic? (Nutty Professor syndrome?) (Are there
religious, historical, mythic, or other attitudinal factors that have not
been examined here?)
- Is there a tendency to use language tangentially, to create mood or
convince us of something else, then let it drop? Do they treat language
like a `black box' having no interrelationship with other aspects of
- Is there an Anglo-centric point of view, i.e. that English is all we
need to know? Is there ever a possibility that languages other than
English have some utility? If the `alien' speaks something else, does
any human ever attempt to learn it?
- Is language used to demonize some group, or some kind of
creature? Are we presented with an out-of-control person or group,
screaming in some un-subtitled language, waving weapons and threatening
When you have said all you would like to say, summarize what you
have done. One paragraph may be sufficient. You do not have to show that
you have done something revolutionary or earth-shaking; merely reviewing
the literature on the subject may be the most useful thing you could do,
if you do it systematically and present your review clearly.
- If you have more than one point to make, summarize and wrap
up the first before going on to the next. Try to stand back from your
writing and see that the ideas flow smoothly, and that when there is a
transition, that it is evident that you are shifting gears. Tell
us that you are now going to shift gears, or now going to contrast and
compare, etc. Use "transitional" words like hence, therefore,
nevertheless, moreover, however, be that as it may, etc.
- If it would make things clearer to your reader, sectionalize
your paper, with subheadings of various sorts that make it clear what you
are doing, just as I have sectionalized this and other documents.
- Remember that the focus of this course is on the popular conceptions
of language, and that we assume that there is no such
thing as no conception: that is, we always assume that there
is a conception of language , even if it is
not stated, and only assumed tacitly, i.e.
perhaps buried in linguistic culture. So instead of saying things like
'There is no conception of language underlying this film...'
we say something like...
``The conception of Language in this film is that English is the obvious
default language for all creatures in the universe, and all humans and all
sentient creatures either speak English, or by their failure to do so, can
be treated as a stupid, subhuman monster, worthy only to be blasted away
with a ray-gun."
- Final rules of thumb:
- Do not reinvent the wheel.
- Build on the work of others, and give credit where credit is due.
- Ask for help, even if you don't think you need it.
- Show your work to someone else to read; check for clarity,
transitions, whether you are making your points.
- Try to think of who your audience is, and write to that audience.
- If you are better at oral presentations than written, tape-record
what you have to say and then transcribe it onto paper.
- Give credit by
citations and attributions to ideas that are not yours. I prefer the form
``As Smith points out (Smith 1991:354)", with Smith 1991 spelled out
in full only in the bibliography.
Next: Review of the
Up: Helpful Hints for Writing
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Wed Mar 20 14:28:15 EST 1996