COMMUNICATION SKILLS IN WHICH ALL STUDENTS SHOULD BE PROFICIENT
BY THE END OF THE FRESHMAN YEAR SEQUENCE**
**The Freshman year sequence consists of Freshman Seminar, CATA 101, and English 110.
[This statement is taken from a document approved in 1987 by faculty who teach courses in the Language Rubric. We have included it so you will be aware of expectations the faculty have for your communication abilities.]
(Students should be able to ... )
1. FORM AND DEVELOP A THESIS. "Thesis" may be defined as the central idea of an essay. A thesis (most often an introductory thesis) should not only identify the essay's topic but assert something about that topic (your position). In other words, a thesis may be thought of as an arguable assertion coming at the head of an essay. "Thesis" then requires development: illustration, elaboration and support in the body of the essay. A thesis is generally not a statement of fact (self-evident). Nor is it a matter of pure opinion (inarguable). Responsibilities of a thesis statement may entail a series of topically focused paragraphs (the body of the essay) and a conclusion (restatement of thesis. final examples, implications of the essay's work, etc.).
Formation and development of a thesis statement may involve several or all of the following prewriting exercises:
a. identification of subject
b. identification of topic
c. analysis of assignment
d. determination of approach and audience
e. brainstorming for ideas; free writing, list-making
f. grouping and arrangement of ideas
g. tentative thesis
h. revision of thesis during drafting of the essay/speech
Faculty usually comment on the quality of the thesis and its development in EVERY assignment which calls for a thesis.
2. DETERMINE PURPOSE FOR A SPECIFIC AUDIENCE. Messages should be designed to accomplish some specific purpose (to inform...., to analyze...., to change belief/attitude...., to call for action...., to express personal "feelings"....etc.). The author's awareness of his/her audience should influence the message purpose and the technique used to accomplish that purpose. The parts of the message should be selected with the purpose in mind. For example, particular arguments are included because the author feels they will appeal to the audience; the vocabulary matches the audience's level of sophistication; the support material has some relevance to them.
3. ORGANIZE MAIN POINTS. Messages should be organized so that the main points raised to develop the thesis appear in an effective order (as opposed to the more common "stream of consciousness" approach). Typical organizational strategies used in developing the body of a message include: temporal, spatial, compare/contrast, problem/solution, pro/con, general-to-specific, weak-to-strong, etc. Some disciplines prescribe organizational patterns for particular scholarly purposes. Faculty often comment and base grades partially on the effectiveness of organizational strategies for all messages.
4. SUPPORT ASSERTIONS. The thesis is a "large" assertion which is comprehensive of the whole essay or speech. Similarly those points raised in developing the thesis take the form of "smaller" assertions (usually declarative sentences). An assertion is a statement which indicates what the author thinks is true. If the audience is not inclined to believe the author without question, an assertion alone is not sufficient to make them believe him/her (or, perhaps, even to understand what the author means). Students must provide support for all but the most obviously clear and correct assertions. Support material (sometimes called evidence) includes facts, illustrations, examples, reasoning, or statements from authority which will lead the audience to recognize that the author's assertion is correct and/or appropriate. The presence of good, clear assertions which have compelling, appropriate support material is the hallmark of college-level communication.
5. AVOID MECHANICAL ERRORS. Mechanical errors include all punctuation and grammatical mistakes. Of particular concern are those major errors we have called the Seven Deadly Sins of English: sentence fragments, comma splices, tense errors, case errors, run-on sentences, agreement errors, and barbarisms (e.g. "He don't have no ...." "ain't"). The elimination of these errors does not guarantee good writing but it is a minimum standard. Faculty mark these errors when they appear in student papers and indicate that competency in mechanics influences grading.
6. USE LIBRARY RESOURCES. Students should recognize that adequate research at the college-level demands more than the use of the card catalog and the Reader's Guide. They should be familiar with the variety of resources available in the reference collection including: specialized indexes (and the scholarly journals they include), abstracts, interlibrary loan, biographic, bibliographic and review collections, newspaper indexes, and microfilm materials. Faculty generally require that students go beyond the most basic sources in constructing bibliographies and often point out scholarly resources of particular value.
7. DOCUMENT SOURCES. Anytime a student borrows language or ideas, that student must acknowledge clearly the material borrowed and make appropriate source attribution. In addition to direct quotation, these borrowings may include paraphrase and summary. Faculty will explain documentation procedures to students and insist that proper documentation be used in all cases where it is required.
8. IDENTIFY ORGANIZATIONAL STRATEGIES. Students should be able to identify various organizational strategies and rhetorical models when they encounter them while reading. For some assignments in some courses students may be asked to make use of these strategies in composing their own messages. Some of these models are:
a) descriptive strategies (spatial arrangements, organization)
b) narrative strategies (chronology, anecdote, flashback)
c) definition strategies (denotation, connotation, examples, comparison, negation, operation, etc.)
d) classification and division (grouping the many; dividing into parts [analysis])
e) comparison strategies (block model, point-by-point model, similarities-differences, analogy)
f) process analysis (chronology, enumeration)
g) cause-effect analysis
h) argumentative strategies (induction, deduction, refutation, persuasion)
9. PRESENT IDEAS ORALLY. For informal situations students should be able to clearly state assertions and provide support material (without necessarily being asked for support). When giving prepared messages, the oral presentation should show evidence of skills 1, 2, 3, and 4.
All messages should be delivered at sufficient volume, with at least some eye contact, and with a minimum of distracting movement. Students should not merely "read" to the listeners. Faculty have a clear preference for answers which develop an idea (as opposed to single phrase answers or opinion only).